A Refreshing Trip to Shan Lin Xi Leads to a Promising Harvest

I arrived in Taiwan and was met by my friend Mr. Chang. This is the last leg of my trip before returning home. I was exhausted, feeling battered and abused by China's extreme prices and the seemingly unconcerned attitudes of the tea people I deal with. For example, Mr. Chen, a tea grower, told me: "Mr. Fong, I will give you a great price, only 500 yuan per kilo, a better price than anyone else I sell to!" When I told him we purchased that tea for 35 percent less last year, he shrugged and said, "That's the price." No one is surprised if prices go up every year; it is just a fact of life. Didn't anyone tell these people there's a recession going on?

Anyway, after a brief discussion about teaware at Mr. Chang's office, I retired to the hotel to lick my wounds. After an overnight break, I traveled to Nantou via Taiwan's high-speed train, which shortens what used to be a drive of about three hours to a little over half an hour. My friend Shing Wen picked me up at the train station and up the mountain I went. First, I visited a tea seedling factory to see what they have and get some pointers on how best to grow our own. Next I went to Shing Wen's tea factory to sample all the oolongs her family collected for me to cup. I was very encouraged by the samples. Normally I would have bought some of them, but since they're this good despite being from lower altitudes, I decided to take a chance and wait for the higher altitude tea. This year's more consistent weather and later harvest are likely to produce one of the better harvests in recent years.

I decided to go up to the mountain to see how close we are to harvest before making a final decision, so we drove to the Shan Lin Xi area where I've procured some excellent oolongs in the past. The scenic two-hour drive started to ease some of the pain from high prices and the "escape" from China. When I arrived at the garden at around 1 PM, the fields were still covered by rolling fog. However, the plants and their young buds are looking good. I estimate another week or two before full production begins.

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