Miss Lin's Farm
The elegant tea house at Miss Lin’s farm called Yi Ming, in Miaoli, central Taiwan.
Day two of the tea tour, and my fellow travelers declare: best to call it the ‘Food and Tea Tour’ in the future. The truth is, if you followed the tea buyer, and in this case, me, around buying tea from farms and producers, inevitably, you would be eating through the trip. All the local cuisines, produces, flavors, textures, are outrageously plentiful, colorful, and a feast for all the senses. One can not merely go on a tea tour with me; it will be a food tour as well. Hakka food was on the agenda.
Today, we ended up in Miaoli to visit with the Taiwan Beauty producer Miss Lin at her estate called Yi Min. This is a tea estate unlike any other. A playground, a paradise of sorts, a home, a business, an extremely personalized and quirky elegant compound with the scent of osmathus following you through mazes of oversize bonsai, beautiful roosters who gawk and fly around, a lily pond of sleeping lillies, a restaurant that the travelers declare to be the best Chinese food ever eaten (then I have to remind them this is Taiwanese Hakka territory, Chinese is way too broad a term), a tea house with antiquated furnishings from the 18th century. Miss Lin’s private paradise can be sampled exquisitely if you can taste that elegance in her tea, and vice versa. One can only truly understand why her tea wins so many awards when one takes in all of what she does, and all so well.
Called Pongfong cha by the natives, Taiwan Beauty is a unique oolong. Buds of smaller and smaller sizes compete for the nearly microscopic cicadas to come and chew on them, creating a symbiotic relationship. The bugs get the astringent juices from the tea they love, and we get bug bites that draw out the perfumes, the aromatic essential oils in the leaves, to the surface. The result is an intensely aromatic texture on the palate, a honey tone balanced with ripe apple syrup. No words can merely describe this tea. One can’t call oneself a tea drinker without having experienced Taiwan Beauty, and Miss Lin makes the most outstanding version we can find.