The Everspring Oolong Tea Subscription guarantees your at home inventory of approachable, master-crafted Taiwan oolong tea.
Everspring Oolong Tea is Grandma Ai’s blend of the Si Ji Chun cultivar from Yilan, Taipei, and Nantou counties of Taiwan. Tea makers pluck Si Ji Chun four times per year. Usually, tea only gets one or two harvests per year. Due to the increased output of four harvests, this tea is quite a bit less expensive. Because of this break on the price, we can offer the work of a truly expert tea-master, who is now over eighty. Regardless of her age, though, her intense energy keeps her whole team going strong through each three-week harvest cycle.
I first met the Ai family back in 2014, at the World Tea Expo. The undeniable excellence of their tea complimented the quiet kindness and humility that surrounded them. Fang, who is from the 4th generation of the Ai Family, happily shared her mother’s tea. She had several different teas to share. Impressively, each one was thoroughly delicious. We tasted teas from all of Taiwan’s most famous mountains. They specialized in Taiwan’s famous lightly oxidized, ball-rolled oolongs. This style is very similar to mainland China’s Tie Guan Yin (Tyeh-Gwan-In) oolong from Anxi (Ahn-Shee). And there began the story of her mother, Grandma Ai.
Grandma Ai was born in mainland China, in Fujian province. Her parents were tea makers, and so were theirs. They made ball-rolled oolong.
Chinese culture, and especially Chinese tea culture, was greatly affected by the Cultural Revolution. The ancient, traditional, patient and labor-intensive methods of tea production were shunned, and even persecuted. It was believed that China was prevented from modernization due to the whimsical, lazy, hippy-dippy ways of tea and poetry. Many of the old, traditional tea masters moved to Taiwan to avoid government interference in their craft. Grandma Ai’s family was among this group of ex-pats. She was just seven years old.
Grandma started working on tea making, immediately. She observed her parents and grandparents’ craft, and then practiced, developed, and grew. Soon, they found themselves observing her. She quickly learned the craft.
By the time Grandma Ai was in her forties, she was clearly in charge of her family’s tea production. And as the Ai Family’s company grew, Grandma Ai ventured into Taiwan’s higher mountains, in search of robust, organic, high-elevation tea gardens.
Upon finding these gardens, she also found an upsetting truth. Rural Taiwanese mountain tea farmers had never heard of a woman making tea. So, they dismissed the idea of a lady doing the incredibly labor-intensive work of tea making. However, once she understood this, she spoke to the owners of several gardens, and made a secret agreement with each of them. She would go to their gardens and make a small batch of tea as a test. Then, if it met the garden owners’ standards, they’d discuss pricing.
She actually made the same agreement, in secret, with over ten different tea gardens. Of course, this little lady (Grandma Ai is about five feet tall if she’s wearing shoes) blew them all away. She obviously knew what she was doing, and how to do it well. So, she told each owner to meet her at a specific date and time to discuss pricing. Unbeknownst to the gardeners, she invited them all to the same meeting. There, she told them that all of their gardens were up to her standards. So, she’d just go with whichever garden offered the best price. Grandma Ai walked away and let them discuss amongst themselves.
That’s some Khaleesi moves.
I met her for the first time in June of 2015, at about 2:30 AM. She was making tea. I had just made a small batch of Oriental Beauty by hand over the past few days. Now, Grandma Ai only ever drinks her own tea. Specifically, she downs about a gallon of Jade Mountain Oolong every day. To my great surprise and honor, she actually tasted it, and told me it was very good! That made my whole trip! It took me so long to make that little bag of 50 grams!
If you’re looking for more information on Taiwanese tea, the amazing Rie Tulali has a great blog called TeaCurious. Check out her Guide to Taiwan Tea! Rie has had many long visits with the Ai Family in Taiwan. Tea lovers, follow and patiently mine TeaCurious. You’ll come away with new knowledge and understanding.