Just before leaving Taiwan I took the opportunity to meet for the last time (well, for about 1 year) with one of the farmers that Innofarmer Organic Tea works with and a close friend who also shares a love for tea. Sean, our farmer and Alex (who lives in Taipei) met my wife, son and I at a local tea shop that dates back a dozen decades if not more. The setting could not be more perfect to try yet another wonderfully delicious and silky smooth tea that I just know many people will come to enjoy sometime in the near future and beyond.
As you will gather from some of the pictures below, we were allowed the opportunity to sit in a very quiet, calm and relaxing environment. What was considered to be traditional and the environment necessary to enjoy the company of friends, we were surrounded by coy fish, wooden spacing and an intricate layout of private dining areas. All that would be required to make the morning complete was some fresh water boiled to perfection. Oh, and some wonderful tea leaves to infuse in Sean's favorite tea pot.
Sean, who has been farming on his family tea plantations for many years, is always on the hunt (in a creative sort of way) for the excellent tasting tea and more attractive tea leaves. Tea isn't just a wonderful tasting beverage that offers a laundry list of benefits, but it also attracts a sense of artistry and beauty. The leaves that he produces - along with the flavour - is unlike many other types of tea that I have had the opportunity to explore over the years. So it was with this initial eye-catching pleasure that I tried the tea which he calls Hang Mei Ren Tea, Red Beauty Tea (or Black Tea).
This Black Tea has a slightly stronger flavour than traditional Black Teas. The colour is a spectacular auburn that resembles a deep rosewood, offering up a wonderful fruity smell. As always, enjoying this tea with close friends in the proper setting makes this tea - and just about every other - something very special and incredibly desirable.
After a laid-back and easy morning it was time to head back out into the world to complete our packing and final arrangements before our quickly approaching departure date to Toronto on August 8. As is often forgotten in times of stress and busyness, "With the old and departed comes the new and delightful."
We are on our way!
I have been living in Taiwan for nine years and during most of my time on this beautiful island I have been an English teacher. In fact, it was July 24, 2004 that I landed on Taiwan and quickly got to work as an English teacher at the Kindergarten level. Nine years have passed now, and along with cherished memories and an ever growing collection of names and faces of some fantastic students, I will be taking home a love for tea and a new memento from one of the friendliest students I met along this fantastic adventure.
May, a mother of two teenage boys and wife to a local mechanic, has been my student at Spontaneous English School for nearly two years. Always prompt - and rarely missing a class - she enjoyed our in-class conversations, topics and assisting other students whenever they needed clarification on a specific word or topic of interest. (She was also a great help when it came to correcting my spelling!)
On the eve of my final "adult" class May approached me at the beginning of the class with a large plastic bag and thrust her hand toward me as if to say, "Here, take this. You'll love it without a doubt!" Well, I did..and without even opening the box I knew exactly what it was: A very old, well-kept and maintained tea set. I was not only shocked but my breath was quickly taken away by the generosity and honour of this gift she extolled upon me.
See, I don't just simply open up a book, stagger to a page and start teaching. No. In fact, in our classes we never used books and only read articles to help the students with their reading ability and comprehension. While considered unconventional to some, my classes were all about daily life, current issues and a collection of conversations from day-to-day experiences. Again, daily life. And this is how May (and all the other students) found out my true, deeply held love for (Taiwan) tea.
So, without further ado let me present this little piece of history. A thoughtful and cherished gift that I will use for an eternity, remembering my good friend, my hard-working student and my unending affection and love for Taiwan: The Tea Set!
Thank you, May. With each and every tasty cup of tea that I brew, share with others and sip myself, I remember this tea set and the wonderful energy you brought to our classes.
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”