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September 19, 2017

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A culture of excellence

There is no doubt that tea is one of the largest industries in Taiwan's food and beverage sector. However, less is known about Taiwan's tea culture and how it's different from other tea cultures in the Asia-Pacific region, such as the unique Japanese tea ceremony called "chanoyu" (茶湯). An equally fascinating tea culture can be found in Taiwan's various Hakka communities.

From the Oriental Beauty Tea (東方美人茶) that's worth up NT$1,000 per quarter pound to pounded tea (擂茶), oolong teas (烏龍茶) and high mountain teas (高山茶), to name just a few, there are many examples of Taiwan teas that exhibit the highest quality and creativity.

To promote Taiwan tea to the world, Alvin Lin (林逸群), CEO of LittoTea (茶水部), wants to highlight the country's unique natural farming plantations, where the fragile ecological balance is preserved through a sustainable farming system that bans all pesticides. Partnering with young farmers, he hopes to pass on Taiwan processing technology and classic tea flavor to modern tea lovers and to revive the glory of local teas grown at low altitude. Here is a transcript of our conversation.

What's your approach to tea?

First, I think high-mountain tea is already famous in Taiwan, so we have decided to focus on low-altitude tea growing in unique environments and processed using traditional methods. Taiwan is a place with stronger sunshine and higher temperature, so we can have different degrees of fermentation.

We also use full leaves in our tea bags so that you can experience the sweetness of tea leaves. If you chop leaves and brew them too much or at too high a temperature, your tea will become bitter. Besides, our tea bag, made of corn, is imported from Japan and sealed with ultrasound. This is toxin-free. We can use pyramid geometry to let the tea leaves completely release their flavors.

What about branding?

We not only focus on the location of the tea plantations but also on the group of farmers working with us. We work with a group of young people who quit their stable jobs to become farmers to make a difference in Taiwan's tea industry. We formed an alliance to help each other and learn to plant the tea without pesticides. My team focuses much more on marketing and branding, while the farmers pay more attention to growing and processing tea.

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