Ambassador Mr. Lu
For most of the past 10 years or so that I have known Mr. Lu, he’s always been one of the most truly culturally avid tea professionals I have ever met. His knowledge, taste, and tea making skills are at such high levels that just being able to sit down with him means tasting the best of the best of Taiwan. He curates Li Shan teas in particular, and sells them out of his shop in the pottery district of Yingge. However, what he really does is travel and talk, admonishing producers everywhere to mind quality over quantity. Why, he just came back from the Tea Trade Fair in Xiamen, and led a symposium for professionals. His speech? Don’t just blindly engage in ‘organic’ farming, maintain quality in everything you produce. ‘Organic’ is rather fuzzy in China anyway, says Mr. Lu, and yet when certain farmers rush to bill their teas as organic so they can gain export advantages, often, they forego quality. But then in America, organic is often misunderstood to be automatically clean, and automatically quality. Not so, and I would agree. In my travels, often, the organic teas are usually the least flavorful. Traditional farming using old styles (pre-chemical fertilizer and pre-pesticide use) that produce much less quantity and require much more labor, are definitely the superior. Yet, faced with dramatically reduced available labor and blind demand in the market for organic, what should the poor farmers do? Mr. Lu explained that sadly, the farmers don’t benefit much from the organic billing anyway, it’s the merchants who market them to the consumers. We tasted some teas with Mr. Lu, and none of us wanted to leave his shop to board our planes back.