Sourcing Trip 2018 - Taiwan

From inception, my mission for Silver Needle Tea Co. is to share my favorite teas from Asia, the origin of Camellia sinensis, and highlight the land, terroir, and people that nourish them. I hope you glimpse a sense of place and wonder at the elements at work that cultivate some of the best teas in the world, from the rolling hills and pristine waters to multi-generational family farms at elevations so high you feel like you could almost touch the sky. These annual pilgrimages encourage vital remembrance and reconnection with our tea partners and the sacred natural forces and alchemy we honor with every sip.

View of our Pingling tea estate in Taiwan.

Here’s an intimate view of the verdant tea gardens from the owner’s home. The pure air, water, and rich soil infuse earthy elements into our High Mountain Oolong.

Here’s an intimate view of the verdant tea gardens from the owner’s home. The pure air, water, and rich soil infuse earthy elements into our High Mountain Oolong.

Mrs. Gao, tea estate owner

Mrs. Gao, tea estate owner

After a mountainous two-hour drive from Taipei, we arrive at our newest tea estate for High Mountain Oolong in Ping Ling, Taiwan. The tea bushes flourish along the Gaoping River, a major source of drinking water for the city due to its purity. In the photo, the tea bushes sit on the terraced hill on the left while across the river to the right, the estate owner lives in the farm house with the orange tinted roof. Over 80% of residents are tea growers or involved in the tea business.

Meet the tea estate owner, Mrs. Gao. As a fourth generation tea farmer, she is a tea expert, connecting through land and family knowledge. With six daughters, she’s continuing the tradition, rarely short of help on the farm. She happily notes that now that they’re all married, each with two children, they rotate to pitch in with her 18 laborers throughout the year. Everyone comes together during harvest season.  

Mrs. Gao’s farm house.

Mrs. Gao’s farm house.

Here’s our newest tea, award-winning Oolong, Oriental Beauty, from Sanxia District in New Taipei. The International Taste & Quality Institute (iTQi) in Brussels, the world's leading independent Chefs and Sommeliers based organization dedicated to certifying the taste of food and drink products, presented this distinction.

Looking out at our Sanxia tea estate, you may notice that these bushes look different. The bushes are spaced with more distance from each other to allow farmers to move between them and hand pick. This estate does not use tea picking machines. Tea machinese were invented in the 1950’s and by the 1970’s, most tea farms utilized them in some capacity to cut costs and expedite the harvest. However, the highest quality tea leaves must be hand picked to ensure the top three leaves are intact.

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Mr. Lee works in the tea house, a few steps from the processing center. He’s the face of the company, communicating with vendors, while his brother is the tea master, overseeing the processing center, monitoring the production, and ensuring every batch is made to the highest standard.   

Mr. Lee’s tea pluckers head to the mountains. Their days often begin early and conclude by noon because the leaves moist with morning dew ensure the best state for production of unmatchable flavor.

Mr. Lee’s tea pluckers head to the mountains. Their days often begin early and conclude by noon because the leaves moist with morning dew ensure the best state for production of unmatchable flavor.