Saturday, January 30, 2010

Yeliu Rocks!

Yeliu (野柳) is a wonderland of cool stones, fossils and beaches located on Taiwan's beautiful north coast. Its many bizarre rock formations were naturally shaped by wind and water over millions of years.

Yeliu park is easily worth its small entrance fee and is a worthwhile day trip if you're ever in Taipei.

On January 15, 2010 I was lucky to visit this special place with my Hong Kong friend's John and Rose. Here is a gallery of my Yeliu photos:

An alien mushroom army!

A cool fossil.

Yours truly having fun at Yeliu!

These "candle formations" really blow my mind.

Cleopatra maybe?

Another cool fossil.

Stone dimples.

A palm tree maybe?

This little cutie is called "the ice cream cone."

This one was my favorite photo!

This is your brain on drugs.

Yeliu cliffs.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lishan Ming Gang Tea Garden

One of the highlights of my most recent Taiwan trip was tasting tea with the proprietress of Lishan's Ming Gang Tea Garden (梨山明岡茶園). In my opinion, this little garden, about 3 kilometers outside of Lishan town, produced some amazing tea in November 2009. I bought only three jin (mainly because I didn't bring enough cash up to Lishan and there were no ATMs that took foreign cards).

Of course I really love all of the high mountain oolong teas that I chose to import during this month's buying and learning trip... but my two personal favorites were this Da Yu Ling and this Lishan.

For today's review I used my small gaiwan (100 ml) with about 5 grams of dry leaf. I steeped it many times using boiling water. In between the later steeps I played with the beautiful limp leaves. I recorded the following tasting notes during this session: fruity (mostly peach and pear), rosy, sulfur (as in natural hotsprings), buttery, and mineral.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Da Yu Ling

On January 18th, I bought five jin of winter 2009 Da Yu Ling high mountain oolong tea from a nice little tea shop in Yingge, Taiwan. I was with my new friends Jeremiah and Allison from Oregon and we were sampling some great teas with a woman named Lin Xiu Hong. Although Miss Lin was a bit heavy handed in her brewing (it was strong!), I fell head over heels for this tea from my very first sip.

Da Yu Ling (大禹嶺) is located near Lishan (梨山) in Taiwan at around 2400 meters elevation. It produces small amounts of very highly esteemed oolong tea in the spring and winter.

For this review I used a small gaiwan with about 5 grams of dry leaf. I infused it 10 times using boiling water. To me this tea drinks like nectar. Its soup is fragrant with a thick orange-yellow color and very lively. My tasting notes included spirited, candy, clean and violet.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Taiwanese Tea Sale!

This morning I picked up my tea from US customs at Sea-Tac airport. Needless to say, I am so happy to finally have my tea back!

isn't it lovely?

The following is a quick rundown of what I got, how much it costs and where you can buy it. More detailed information and descriptions of some of these tea will be posted in the next couple weeks but in the meantime, feel free to ask me any questions via email ( or leave them as comments on this blog post.

茶 茶 茶

These 3 teas are available immediately from Black Dragon Tea Bar (aka me)*:

1. Lishan Ming Gang Tea Garden (梨山明岡茶園) Winter 2009 High Mountain Oolong
An unopened 150 gram bag in a cool green tin = $45 (or you can pay $9 per ounce).

2. Mei Shan Bei Huo (梅山焙火) Winter 2009 High Mountain Oolong -SOLD OUT-
An unopened 300 gram bag = $80 (or you can pay $8 per ounce).

3. Da Yu Ling (大禹嶺) Winter 2009 High Mountain Oolong
An unopened 150 gram bag = $45 (or you can pay $9 per ounce).

茶 茶 茶

These 3 teas are available starting Friday, January 29, 2010 at Teacup**:

1. Shan Lin Xi (杉林溪) Winter 2009 High Mountain Oolong = $160 per pound

2. Alishan Zhang Shu Hu (阿里山樟樹湖) Winter 2009 High Mountain Oolong = $160 per pound

3. Lishan (梨山) Winter 2009 High Mountain Oolong - $160 per pound

茶 茶 茶

These 2 teas will be available at Teacup in 2 to 3 weeks**:

1. Wenshan Baozhong (文山包種) - This is same tea I blogged about here.

2. Wenshan Baozhong Hong Bei (文山包種烘焙) - A medium roasted Baozhong tea from Pinglin.

*Please email me at if you're interested in buying one of these first three teas. Payments can be made via cash, Paypal or check. The tea can be shipped (add $5), delivered or picked up depending on your individual needs. All orders over $40 will include a free gift. 謝謝您!

**Please call Teacup at 206-283-5931 (or stop by) in Seattle if you want to buy any of these teas.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

10 things I learned at Lishan

1. Lishan (梨山) (pear mountain), in Taiwan's Taichung* county (台中縣), is not easy to reach. Highway 8 is closed for repairs between Ching Shan (青山) just east of Guguan (谷關) and Deji (德基) just west of Lishan. Only a couple of daily buses are available from Yilan (宜蘭) or one from Taichung (台中) and they take many hours because the roads are narrow and broken. Check out my friend Josh's blog post for a couple photos of the highway.

at the intersection of highways 7 and 8 near Lishan

2. Once you make it up to Lishan it is kind of hard to get around. There are no regular cabs or buses around Lishan, but I was able to walk and hitchhike to a few nearby tea farms. I wanted to go to He Huan Shan (合歡山) but I decided to stay within 5 kilometers of town. I'll have to come back someday with my own car or scooter.

3. There is not a lot of tea being grown within 5 kilometers of Lishan town. I went to Fushoushan
farm (福壽山農場) and did find a handful of other tea farms during my alpine hikes but for the most part I'd say Lishan is surrounded by fruit, fruit, fruit, cabbages, and fruit. I probably found only one tea garden for every twenty orchards!

4. With an elevation of around 1900 to 2200 meters, Lishan and the surrounding area can get really cold. I was lucky to have brought enough layers but I was shivering in the morning as I hiked along the frosty trails. The afternoon sun was glorious but it faded quickly.


5. Mid-January is not a great time to hunt for high mountain tea up in Lishan. According to my new friends at the Ming Gang Tea Garden (明岡茶園), Lishan has only three production seasons per year, which they described as: Spring Tea (春茶) around May, Second Season Tea (二季茶) around August, and Winter Tea (冬茶) around October or November. By mid-December most of the good tea has already been bought up.

healthy Lishan tea bushes on January 19, 2010

6. Lishan tea is expensive. I learned this from all of the working class people I hung out with up on the mountain. When I told them that I loved Lishan's high mountain tea and that it is what had inspired me to visit their part of the world, most would reply "the tea up here is too expensive... one jin (600 grams) usually costs between 3000 and 6000 NT$!" Maybe I'd have had better luck if I'd been there during actual tea production but my mid-January explorations only served to confirm their rants.

7. The folks at the town's visitor center are so kind and welcoming and they will even hook you up with some amazing tea to sip while you chat.

one cup of love poured from a steel thermos
into this cute little mug

me and my visitor-center homies

8. Besides tea and fruit, Lishan has a lot of other cool stuff to see. Such as...

... a scenic pagoda ...

... a talented painting tire man ...

... and a lovely temple ...

9. Lishan's fruit lives up to the hype! I had a few big, plump, juicy asian pears and a gooey, sweet tomato-passionfruit from the fruit vendors around Lishan and Fushoushan farm.

roadside fruit vendors

10. Lishan is absolutely gorgeous. I'm so glad I made it up to this beautiful alpine area. I greatly enjoyed my windy, sunny hikes among the pear orchards and seeing the many dramatic (sometimes snowy) peaks that surrounded this welcoming little town. I look forward to going back (but I may wait until the highway is fixed).

*I usually use the Pinyin system to spell Chinese words, but for this post I used the Taiwanese spellings when they differed.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I'm Back

Yesterday evening I returned from a wonderful 8-day trip to Taiwan. I'm just now starting to sort through all of my new photos and I'm brainstorming many ideas for future blog posts.

Unfortunately the following is being held by US customs at Sea-Tac airport:

About 30 pounds of various high mountain oolong teas (which is actually a bit less than I carried home during my 2008 trip).
5 clay teapots.
30 small teacups.
12 tea towels.
12 misc. wooden tea utensils.

As with all of my previous trips, I noted that I was carrying items for resale and described them on the provided form. I also didn't have many receipts, because much of the stuff was purchased with cash at small businesses or tea farms.

In the past, the good folks at Sea-Tac airport's US customs have always just breezed me through, but this time they said I needed a broker to file a "formal entry registration" to import items for commercial purposes. That is all common knowledge to many of my importing friends and colleagues, but it kind of surprised me, because I was just expecting (read: "hoping for") another easy-breezy customs experience.

Oh well, I'm not going to get too hung up about all that. After I get my tea back I'll begin to post some reviews (read: "advertisements") on my blog and I'll let you know whether it will be for sale directly through me or at Teacup.

I'll tweet the results of this "customs caper" early next week and in the meantime I'll start to write some fun posts!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Taipei Gallery #1

I love Taipei (台北). It's a cool city filled with great tea, fantastic art, delicious food, and welcoming people. Here are a few photos from some of my past trips to this vibrant city.

Lane 5 of Lin Sen N. Road (林森北路)
(the elevator up to the Taipei Hostel is in the back left)

The roof top deck at Taipei Hostel

Entrance to a metro station with Taipei 101 in the distance.

My friend's shot of Taipei 101 dwarfing a
massive hotel in the bottom right corner

Looking down from Taipei 101

Longshan temple (龍山寺) built in 1738

At the National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院)

Dude playing Disney songs on his koto

Big J. getting ready for some hot spring action up at Beitou (北投)

Don't let this Seattle boy's whiteness blind you!

Ximending (西門町) at night

The pretty old brick building in Ximending

Cute girl eating breakfast in Ximending

Cool mouse art

More cool mouse art!

Some elephant art for any of my sewing fans

Outdoor indie rock
(w/ this guy two necks are better than one!)

The Maokong Gondola (貓空纜車)
(I heard it's currently closed due to safety concerns)

D.W. brewing up some oolong tea at Maokong (貓空)

Posing in a Taipei park