Profile: Tea Masters, Taiwan
Ronald sources his teas from Tea Masters and I was curious to learn more about the background of this company, who publish a wealth of information online including over 400 educational videos on YouTube and a series of blog posts all about tea going back to 2004.
Stéphane started blogging about tea in 2004 after taking classes with Chih Jung Sien (aka Teaparker) the foremost Chinese tea master of his time and author of more than 30 books on the subject. Most of these books are only available in Chinese, however, The Tea Sommelier is in English. In July 2005, he began selling teas and accessories selected with care. Based in Taiwan, he has direct and privileged access to many Oolong plantations and tea ceramics manufacturers.
He fills orders worldwide and Airmail shipping is free for any order above $100 to most countries (Europe, North America and Asia).
Tea Masters has a huge variety of loose leaf teas available for order, ranging in price from $1.50 for 1 gram of broken loose puerh from Menghai Factory that “comes from the bottom of the bags” to the most expensive: 8 grams of Famous 100 years old Puerh which will set you back $9,999 (!)
More typical, at $18 for 25 grams, is the 2021 Spring Concubine Oolong from Shan Lin Xi that is described as:
Cultivar: qingxin (ruanzhi) Oolong
Harvested: May 9th, 2021
Origin: Shan Lin Xi (1200 m)
Process: jassid bitten leaves with strong oxidation and medium, slow roast. Also called Mixiang Oolong (Honey scent Oolong) or Guei Fei Oolong.
The dry leaves are rolled and have a dark brown color. The brew is shiny and clear. The color is a dark orange with shades of brown. The leaves open up well and show signs of insect bites.
The dry scents are subdued and like sealed inside the leaves. The brew’s scents remind me of dark, syrupy molasse. There are still ripe, honey and red fruits: currant, cherries. The oxidation level seems even stronger than in 2020.
Very pure, clean and sweet. No bitterness or sourness. Just some drying sensation in the back of the throat. The impact on the body is very warming. This tea resonates thanks to a sweet coating in the whole mouth. It lingers in a very deep and slowly building aftertaste. The high mountain origin of this tea adds a lot of power, sweetness and clarity.
Pairing advice: This aromatic and powerful tea is an ideal candidate for pairing with a meal or dish that would call for a fruity red wine. A good example would be Thai cuisine.
There is a companion video where Stéphane explains the provenance and preparation of this tea.
Tea in Literature
Stéphane has explored the influence of tea in literature, such as How tea helps us understand the 3 major themes of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time:
At the end of the Search, we come to understand that for Proust, turning your memories into art (a book, a music or a painting…) is a way to attain eternity, because the same moment, the same feeling can be lived again and again. His first experience of such a reminiscence comes from a madeleine that he ate with some tea. The combined flavors of the brew and cookie recreated the environment he grew up in his childhood. This ‘madeleine and tea’ experience is of such central importance in the book that the narrator brings it up on several occasions. That’s how he starts to link his memories with a desire to create art in order to preserve these memories. His ‘search’ is to find a way to preserve the time that flies away. For a long time, he pursued an idle life of pleasures, but one days he figures out that he has to write this book in order to preserve all his memories and gain a feeling of eternity. The memories were buried deep in himself. Tea was just a way to access them and enable him to turn them into literature!
On a more contemporary note, he has analyzed how the well-known Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is relevant for tea lovers:
The seventh and last habit of the ‘7 habits of highly effective people’ book is ‘Sharpen the Saw’. It is about taking time to renew and refresh oneself in four areas: physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual. The habit emphasizes the importance of self-care and self-improvement to achieve long-term success and happiness. Sharpening the saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas mentioned above. It’s interesting to note that tea can be used to improve all four areas. Tea has an impact on your body, on your mental state, on your social life and it can even have a spiritual dimension.https://teamasters.blogspot.com/2023/08/the-7-habits-of-highly-effective-tea_18.html
Listen to the podcast to hear what Stéphane has to say about Tea Masters.