阿里山產茶區座落於北回歸線南北兩側，海拔高度由1200公尺至1600公尺以上，除了有高山茶的茶韻味外，這樣的條件 “北回歸線南北兩側” 讓阿里山茶 有了其他茶區沒有的獨特味道。
北回歸線北側 : 山區常有濃霧，猶其是午後兩三點後高山霧氣籠罩，導致茶葉成長緩慢，葉片生長厚實、芽心呈紫色。茶葉酯質含量高、葉脈肥厚，入口茶湯溫柔滑順香氣清雅，猶如阿里山的少女一般神秘、迷人！
I’ve been thinking of a design for a tea table. One idea is that it should be made out of wood slabs. For sustainable reasons, I didn’t want to cut down a new tree, so I began my design by searching reclaimed wood. Functionally, a tea table needs to seat a minimum of 8 people for tea tasting. There should be a dishwasher under the table top, a storage area for tea ware and space for tea plates that hooks into a drainage system.
My childhood guitar teacher has a building material business. In his warehouse, he had cut piles of wood to be used as wood flooring material. Also inside are huge piles of wood logs, 14 of which are from Teak trees that had been laying there for more than 20 years. I just can’t believe how lucky I am to find this tree laying there waiting for me. Although this particular tree is not in any way perfect, it is really ideal for what I am looking for. A 3-meter (118 inches) long Teak tree ended up costing ONLY $400. Somebody’s junk is my precious stone! How incredible that is!
Our town was a major wood harvesting area during the occupation by Japan. The Japanese would cut down trees thousands of years old and shipped them to Japan to build temples and houses. They had built an entire transportation system and factories to do so. As a result, there are still numerous old wood production factories here. I probably would have never known such productions existed had my guitar teacher not tell me. There is a factory in the middle of a rice field that looked like it had been there for centuries. Even the workers there are all in their 50s. Here in Taiwan, you talk and negotiate right when you first meet. I simply asked him to cut the wood I selected into 3 pieces… 50 dollars, done!
This cutting machine must be the coolest old machine I have ever seen. They hefted the tree on to a train, where it was secured and measured into the thickness that I requested. The cutter then drives the train over a huge chain saw. I was extremely nervous, because even though I designed hundreds of furniture before, I had never had my own tree cut to measurements. I was worried if the cut is not in the right place, I would have ruined this beautiful tree. I didn’t have a lot of time to think long on this. The workers were there, measurements were made and in 10 minutes my tree was in 3 pieces.
The left over slabs I’m saving for a later day to make something else out of it.. stay tuned… J
This is why I really appreciate small mom and pop shops. There are still so many highly skilled wood finishers in our town. We found this shop that as it turns out knew my college professor really well. I had majored in Forestry. Our professors are pretty well known in Taiwan. They have been associated with many workers in the field. This old Master must be 70 years old or so and he is still doing wood finish for a living. He quickly decided how we should assemble these 3 pieces together and how to fill the imperfections.
The production time is 2 weeks!
Each slab had to be fastened together, then the finisher will sand, stain, and apply the finish coats. A natural lacquer was applied on top to give a subtle but rich sheen.
I also had a local metal shop made the table legs and storage components. It was a lot of visiting shops and discussing design ideas. There were very minimal detailed drawings that had to be done since I was able to work around the workers’ skill set. Their experiences had taught me a different way to doing design and I love the way it came out!
The deadline for tea submission is 7:00 am next day. All tea masters had gone home to rest after 24 hours of working. The organizer take 40 tea submissions, and randomly assign a new number for each tea which is different than the number that is assign to each tea masters. This way the judges would not be able to influence by tea masters.
8:20am Pour first hot water. 100 degree Celsius, 4.5mins.
8:25am Pour first tea out and begin judging process. The first run is judging Aroma. One main judge and one secondary judge. The third person is recording the score for each tea.
8:27am Judges smell the aroma second run. Temperature now is not as high, so tea aroma might change. This is to confirm that the first aroma stays the same.
8:42am Jude tea flavor- first run. Swirl couple times, then spit out.
8:50 am. Second taste run. Main judge pull out tea counter clockwise around tea cup to decide the tea is to hold or to eliminate. If second judge agreed, the cup stay the same. If not, they both taste the tea again.
8:58 am. Third taste run.
9:00 am. Final taste run.
9:05 am. Giving out the number rating and eliminating 21 competitors.
9:20 am. With 19 competitors left, repeat the same procedure.
9:42 am. Eliminating another 5 out of 19.
9:45 am. Group different grades to judge.
10:08 am. Final tea judge begins. Repeat same procedure with previous steps. Some tea masters start to show up at this point to observe the judging process. You can tell that most of them are pretty anxious.
10:25 am. Winners are decided after 2 hours tea tasting.
Results: Uncle Cien won the third place. We are so proud of him.
Note: Ai didn’t continue her win from previous competition. Her tea flavor is great, but the aroma is not what judge is looking for. Judge wants to have tea with milky flavor.
It was fun event for 3 of our family tea masters from 3 different tea shops to enter competition. In the end, we all sit down and have our own tea tasting of what they made. They discuss the pros and cons of each one’s tea, and noted what to do next time. Judge’s taste might not be the same as consumer’s taste, but in the end of the day, only the well balance tea can win the competition. END.