亮點茶莊

四季‧品茗‧找茶趣
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2019 / 2月

文‧曾蘭淑 圖‧林格立


台灣茶遠近馳名,高低海拔、北迴歸線熱帶與亞熱帶交疊的風土特色,與成熟的製茶工藝,成就台灣茶的獨特風味。

如何發現台灣茶?除了茶行、茶館,新春之際,不妨來一趟茶莊之旅,有茶園導覽,製茶、評茶的體驗,品茗茶香,再結合茶區附近景點旅遊,親近茶山,享受生活的美好。

 


 

「千里之行,始於足下。」在一年之計在於春的凌晨,登上海拔1,250公尺高的阿里山隙頂,在微光中迎接日出,走在滿山茶園、竹林圍繞的二延平步道,可以遠眺綿延的山群,俯瞰全景碧綠的茶園。幸運的話,來自八掌溪與曾文溪上游的交會氣流,隨著山勢而攀升,瞬間雲霧飄渺,形成可遇不可求的雲瀑。「茶之步道」的終點則是「飲山郁」的阿里山茶評茶體驗。

評茶、品茶新體驗

隙頂是阿里山高山茶重要的產區,位於阿里山公路55.6公里旁的「飲山郁」,第二代茶農、梅山鄉農會阿里山高山茶比賽評委黃昶升叮囑著遊客:「拿起茶杯,深呼吸!只能吸哦!」辨識出茶葉的香氣:清香、熟果香或花香後,接著審外觀、觀葉底。

一杯接著一杯,品評完10杯不同的茶香後,再用審茶匙舀取茶湯,用啜飲的方式「吸入」茶湯,讓茶在口腔內停留一會後再慢慢飲下,清新或濃郁、鮮活或深沈,感受嗅覺與味覺對不同茶款的回應。這是飲山郁茶莊為來到阿里山的消費者,所推出的「一日品評師」體驗活動。先是茶山導覽,走入茶園間,各自採摘一片茶葉,認識金萱、青心烏龍茶樹的不同。沿途經由大小石塊堆疊而成的駁坎,教民眾辨識愛玉樹藤,盤根錯節攀爬在擋土牆之中,得以鞏固邊坡,原來阿里山種植愛玉子樹的緣由,還有茶農就地取材、綠色環保的智慧。

評茶體驗則是比照梅山鄉農會舉辦阿里山高山茶比賽的形式,每一杯茶以3公克的量,泡上6分鐘,並且必須放冷來品茗。唯一不同的是,比賽茶的現場每一杯茶只標上號碼,但在飲山郁的品評現場,每一杯茶前面,都標上茶的名字,方便消費者找到自己喜歡的味道。「消費者不用擔心得花高價才喝得到阿里山茶,一次200元的品評體驗,可以同時喝到10款不同的茶,從輕焙到重焙,從不發酵至全發酵。」黃昶升是在參加茶改場的評茶師檢定時,從茶葉拼對、苦澀味辨識的測驗中,意外發現自己有評茶的天份。「一日評茶師」的活動,則將比賽茶精挑細選的競爭精髓,轉化為消費者找茶的體驗樂趣。

花香、茶香齊發散

身為茶農的第二代,黃昶升2005年淡江大學畢業後選擇回鄉種茶、製茶。但不像外人所想像的成為輕鬆接班的富二代,2年後,父親給了他在阿里山鄉最靠近中央山脈南側的里佳部落2甲地。1,450公尺海拔的山丘上,與他哥哥「兄弟登山、各自努力」。雖然製茶的技術逐年精進,但無法分食老店的客層,同為淡江大學國貿系的太太王雅婷跑遍全台各地的食品展賣茶,牙牙學語的小孩不得不寄在台北的娘家,雖然創立品牌「飲山郁」,但也只能在網路販售。四、五年下來,兩人最大的夢想是在阿里山公路旁有個店面,不要再全台奔波。

或許「將苦難轉化為希望」的道理正如飲山郁的境遇。原本阿里山公路沿線一地難求,連阿里山國家風景區管理處想新闢停車場都不可得。但2009年八八風災造成阿里山公路封路半年,蕭條的景氣讓原本惜售的地主願意賣地,黃昶升不僅實現開店的夢想,還捐了一小塊土地給阿里山國家風景管理處作觀景台與停車場之用,並且「有捨必有得」,來到觀景台賞景的遊客,也為飲山郁帶來過路客群。

有了自己的店面,飲山郁以種植有機玫瑰、製作窨花烏龍茶,吸引年輕消費者賞花喝茶。同時想突破阿里山沿路茶莊經營的方式,藉由品評體驗,消費者不用擔心來茶莊喝茶,不買茶會有壓力。遊客也可以選擇單杯品茗,感受不同泡的茶湯所呈現不同的層次與韻味,尤其是高山茶的清香滋韻;消費者也可以共飲一壺150180元的阿里山茶,再去遊步道、觀象山。

紅玉、紅韻都相宜

南投魚池鄉則是台灣日月潭紅茶的故鄉。領略了日月潭的瀲豔湖光、山光水色之後,趁著十里春風晴方好之際,造訪省道台21線旁、香茶巷上的茶莊,橘紅色建築外觀的和菓森林。

「製茶體驗」提供自己動手做紅茶的揉茶體驗,每人可以親手採摘一心二葉的台茶18號「紅玉」,或是阿薩姆老欉的茶菁,親力親為,用雙手揉捻、解塊,再交由茶工廠發酵、乾燥,不僅了解製茶過程的繁複,最後還可以帶走一罐融入自己感情製作的茶。

不想這麼辛苦,在二樓的紅茶品味館,遊客也可以像品茗紅酒一樣來喝單品紅茶:5克紅茶、180CC的水所泡出的台茶21號「紅韻」,啜飲金紅明亮的茶湯,感受前、中、後的果香、蜜香與茶香;也可以品聞台茶18號「紅玉」,輕微天然肉桂與薄荷的香氣,亮紅甘醇的茶湯,層次豐富,曾被世界的紅茶專家喻為「台灣香」,也可嚐嚐紅玉茶粉所做的冰淇淋與鬆餅等茶點。

長年硬功夫,行銷軟實力

站在六十多年生的老欉大葉種喬木旁,和菓森林總經理石茱樺是讓日月潭「紅茶精品化」、「茶廠茶莊化」的主要推手。她透露,2005年返鄉接班時曾面臨紅茶滯銷的窘境,「想做『紅茶酒莊』,主要原因是當時沒有人要喝紅茶,我左思右想便認為把茶做成酒,這樣才可以增加紅茶的壽命與銷路。」

石茱樺當時面臨的困境,與台灣紅茶產業沒落的大環境有關。 她的父親石朝幸曾是台灣農林公司「持木紅茶廠」的茶師與廠長,歷經台灣紅茶的興盛與沒落。

日治時代,日本人看上魚池鄉的緯度和印度阿薩姆省相同,風土條件與微型氣候適合種植紅茶,也跟著帶動民國五十、六十年代紅茶外銷的榮景。滿山的紅茶,在民國50年種植面積達到最高峰,魚池加上埔里、水里共有1,700多甲。

「在我父親的年代,紅茶不是種來喝的,是要外銷、賺外匯的。但到了我接班時,台灣正值紅茶外銷的底谷,官方統計魚池鄉紅茶的種植面積只有100公頃。」家學淵源的石茱樺,原本不想再辛苦做茶,只因父親年邁,加上公務員家庭出身的先生陳彥權嚮往田耕生活,志願負起種茶的責任,才讓石茱樺決定回鄉。

因為921地震,日月潭遭受重創,經濟部中小企業處與魚池鄉鄉長致力扶植紅茶為地方特色產業;同時茶葉改良場陸續開發台茶18號、21號、23號等有「台灣味」的新品種,賦予紅茶新風味;加上茶農改以人工採摘一心二葉,取代機器採摘,讓紅茶有了從商用茶變成精品茶的契機。

石茱樺感恩地說:「我們也搭上了這班順風車,進行轉型與升級。」如今日月潭不但已經走出地震後的陰霾,魚池鄉種植紅茶面積,也增加至600700公頃。日月潭紅茶歷經轉型與華麗的變身,原本機器採摘的紅茶茶菁每公斤12元,只能作成絞碎型的紅茶;現在人工採摘的茶菁,每公斤價錢200250元,也讓北漂青年有了可以返鄉種茶的動機。

亮點茶莊,深化茶產業

擅長行銷的石茱樺不僅讓和菓森林得到雙品牌的認證,一是日月潭紅茶產地證明標章;另一是產銷履歷;她也透過精品化的品茗、茶莊的體驗與推廣,讓年輕族群或原本不喝茶的人能更簡單地進入茶葉的世界。連外國遊客喝到日月潭紅茶,不禁驚呼:「這麼好喝的紅茶!」紛紛反映回國後如何能再買到茶?

和菓森林因此在2018年底開始將日月潭紅茶上架至Amazon eBay等全球性的電商販賣,「我們吸引了全球的客人,包括直接寄送至俄羅斯。」石茱樺說。

阿里山的飲山郁與日月潭的和菓森林,均獲選為農委會20142018年評選的28家亮點茶莊之列。這28家亮點茶莊,涵蓋了台灣北部的文山包種茶、桃竹苗茶區的東方美人茶、中部的凍頂烏龍茶、日月潭紅茶、南部的阿里山高山茶,以及東部地區的蜜香紅茶、紅烏龍等不同茶區,消費者可以擇一茶莊,結合茶山附近的景點規劃茶莊之旅,到茶園採茶、親手製茶、吃茶點與茶餐,享受品茗鑑賞的樂趣,佇足茶山開闊碧綠的天地中,享受人文深度的旅行。

農糧署雜糧特作科科長鄭永青認為,台灣小農很會種茶、製茶,但是不懂行銷。亮點茶莊的概念,除了發揚茶農長年製茶的硬功夫,希望培力茶農行銷、包裝的能力,讓茶農從一、二級生產與加工產業,跨界整合至三級的服務業、旅遊業,朝向六級化產業發展,藉此提升台灣茶產業附加價值,讓茶莊成為銜接茶藝與功夫茶之間的媒介,並且透過茶莊的經營,帶動週圍的觀光產業,也讓台灣的茶產業、茶文化更加多元。

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近期文章

英文

Lighting Up Taiwan Cha

Esther Tseng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Scott Williams

Taiwanese tea is renowned far and wide, its unique flavor a product of Taiwan’s mature tea processing techniques and a terroir that spans tropics and subtropics, high elevations and low.

Where should you begin your exploration of Taiwanese tea? You could visit tea merchants and teahouses, or even take a Lunar New Year’s tea estate tour that includes a guided trip around a tea plantation, as well as tea processing and tea tasting experiences. Such tours allow you to sample fine teas, take in the nearby sights, and enjoy life.

 


“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” On an early morning planned long in advance, we ascend to the village of Xi­ding, 1250 meters above sea level, to watch the sun rise. Strolling the Er­yan­ping Trail through the tea plantations and bamboo groves that cover the mountainside, we can see an unbroken line of mountains in the distance and have a panoramic view of the green tea plantations below. The “tea trail” terminates at Ali­shan Win, a tea estate that offers a tea tasting experience tour.

Tasting and evaluating

Xiding is an important hub for the production of Ali­shan tea. Ali­shan Win is located near the 55-kilometer marker of the Ali­shan Highway. Estate owner Alon ­Huang, a second-­generation tea farmer and a judge for the Mei­shan Farmers’ Association’s Ali­shan high-mountain tea competition, urges the visitors on one of the estate’s tea tasting experience tours: “Pick up your teacup, and breathe in deeply! Keep on inhaling!” After identifying the scent, whether sweet, fruity or floral, he has them examine the steeped leaves.

One cup follows another. After smelling ten different cups of tea, we use a tea tasting spoon to scoop up some of the liquid and slurp it, holding it in our mouths for a moment before swallowing. Is it light and fresh, or rich and full-bodied? We make note of our olfactory and gustatory responses to each tea.

Alishan Win’s “one-day tasting master” program for consumers visiting Mt. Ali begins with a guided tour of the mountain tea plantations, then continues with the tasting experience. The format emulates that of the farmers’ association’s tea competition. Each sample cup contains three grams of tealeaves steeped for six minutes, and then allowed to cool before tasting. Each is also labeled with the tea’s name, to help consumers keep track of the ones they enjoy.

“Consumers needn’t spend a lot to be able to drink Ali­shan tea,” says ­Huang. “The NT$200 tasting experience provides ten different teas across a range of roasts and levels of oxidation.” The one-day experience simply takes the tea competition judging process, and transforms it into a fun way for consumers to find teas they like.

Floating fragrances

A second-generation tea farmer, ­Huang chose to return to his hometown to grow and process tea after graduating from Tam­kang University in 2005. But he wasn’t some rich kid who had the family business handed to him on a platter. After two years back at home, his father gave him roughly two hectares near ­Niae’ucna (Chinese name Li­jia), a south-facing Tsou Aboriginal village in Ali­shan Township. He works the plot, which stands 1,450 meters above sea level, himself, while his two older brothers each farm their own plots elsewhere around Alishan. Four or five years after beginning this endeavor, Huang and his wife were dreaming of opening a storefront on the Ali­shan Highway (Provincial Highway 18).

They had a hard time finding a piece of land there until 2009’s Typhoon Mo­ra­kot closed down the highway for six months. What was a disaster for many proved a blessing in disguise for ­Huang: the typhoon damaged the local economy, making local landowners less resistant to selling, and enabling ­Huang to real­ize his dream of opening a shop.

Alishan Win grows organic roses and makes floral oolong teas, attracting younger consumers with its combination of flower viewings and floral teas. Visitors can order teas by the cup to better appreciate the different layers of flavor that emerge with different brews, and the heady fragrance of the high-mountain teas. They can also share a pot of Ali­shan tea with their friends for just NT$150‡180 before strolling along a footpath and enjoying the views of Elephant Mountain.

Jade Black and Rose Quartz

Yuchi Township in Nan­tou County is the home of Sun Moon Lake Black Tea. After taking in the beautiful weather and the lovely lake and mountain scenery, you can visit Hugo­sum, a tea estate with orange-exteriored buildings located off Provincial Highway 21 on Xiang­cha (“fragrant tea”) Lane.

Hugosum’s “tea making experience tour” enables visitors to pick some Taiwan Tea No. 18, known as “Jade Black,” or perhaps some Assam tea tips from an old bush, and roll the tea with their own hands. You roll and twist it, break up any lumps, and then turn it over to the estate’s tea processors for fermentation and roasting. The experience shows you just how complicated the tea making process is, and also provides you with a tin of tea that includes some you made yourself.

Teas can be sampled and tasted the way you would fine wines. At Hugo­sum, you can steep five grams of Taiwan Tea No. 21, known as “Rose Quartz Black,” in 180 cc of hot water to create a brilliant red brew with hints of fruit and honey; or enjoy the cinnamon and mint fragrance, clear red color, and richly layered flavors of Taiwan’s world-renowned Jade Black. You can even sample ice creams and cakes made with finely ground Jade Black.

Experience and marketing

Denise Shih, Hugo­sum’s general manager, stands next to a 60-year-old Assam tea bush. A Sun Moon Lake native who was one of the key drivers behind the upscaling of the area’s black tea industry and turning tea processors into tea estates, Shih recalls the industry struggling with poor sales when she returned home in 2005.

The decline was related to a larger decline in Taiwan’s black tea industry as a whole. Her father, Shi Chao­xing, who was a master tea maker and later the manager at Taiwan Tea Corporation’s Mo­chiki Tea Factory, lived through the industry’s highs and lows.

“Taiwanese didn’t drink black tea in my father’s day. It was an export product. At the local industry’s peak, the Sun Moon Lake area had roughly 1,700 hectares in cultivation. But when I got into the business, Taiwanese black tea exports were at a low ebb. According to official figures, Yu­chi Township was down to just 100 hectares of black tea.”

When 1999’s Jiji Earthquake badly damaged the Sun Moon Lake area, the Small and Medium Enterprise Administration of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Yu­chi Township’s mayor worked hard to prop up the black tea industry and turn it into a local specialty industry. Meanwhile, the Tea Research and Extension Station introduced the “Taiwanese style” Taiwan Teas Nos. 18, 21, and 23, providing new flavors of black tea. With local growers also moving to hand picking of flushes, Sun Moon Lake tea had the opportunity to transform from a mass-­market commercial product to a high-end tea.

A grateful Denise Shih says, “We jumped on the bandwagon, using it to revamp and upgrade our products.” With Sun Moon Lake’s recovery from the earthquake, Yu­chi Township’s land in black tea cultivation has grown to between 600 and 700 hectares.

Light up Taiwan cha!

Shih does an outstanding job marketing Hugo­sum. She has not only obtained two certifications for its products, but has also used fine teas, the tea estate experience, and promotions to introduce young people and others unfamiliar with tea drinking to the world of tea. On sampling Sun Moon Lake black tea, even visitors from abroad have been heard to exclaim about its quality and ask how they can purchase it in their own homelands.

Hugosum responded to this enthusiasm by making its Sun Moon Lake black teas available on global ecommerce platforms such as Amazon and eBay in 2018. “We have customers from all over the world, and even send packages to Russia,” says Shih.

Alishan Win and Hugo­sum have consistently been among the 28 tea estates included on the Council of Agriculture’s “Light Up Taiwan Cha” list from 2014 to 2018. A visit to any of these 28 estates, which span the length of Taiwan, offers travelers a chance to take in the jade-green mountain tea plantations and enjoy a deeply cultural journey.

Cheng Yung-­ching, head of the Grains and Specialty Section at the Council of Agriculture, says that while Taiwan’s small farmers are adept at growing and producing tea, they generally aren’t very good at marketing. The idea behind Light Up Taiwan Cha is to help farmers further develop their tea processing skills, while also helping them cultivate their packaging and marketing skills with the goal of increasing the industry’s value-added by integrating services and tourism into their tea growing and processing businesses. He sees tea estates as potential intermediaries between the art of tea and its manufacture, and suggests that they can pave the way for other tourism-related businesses in their areas, bringing still greater diversity to the tea industry and to tea culture.

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