Some things come to us in a flash, but most things take time and effort before great results are revealed. In Chinese, they use the word “kung fu” to refer to this slow dedicated practice. For example, if you’ve been practicing, daily for 5 years, eating with chopsticks but you still can’t handle a bowl of noodles, I could say to you, “Your chopstick kung fu sucks!” But I wouldn’t say that, because that would be mean. Instead, I would give you encouragement to not give up. “Keep practicing that chopstick kung fu. 加油!!”
Would you have the willpower to dedicate 5 years of your life to a single pursuit? What about 50 years? Or how about 150 years? That is what Jhentea has done. Their tea kung fu is strong! And is a story that embodies patience, perseverance, and passion.
Jhentea is a family of tea makers that have spent 4 generations cultivating more than just tea plants. They have been integral in cultivating Taiwan’s tea industry, tea culture, and tea craftmanship. They were one of the firsts in Taiwan to bring over the Wuyi cultivar of tea trees from China’s Fujian province, and are now models of organic farming and living naturally. Having survived wars and political upheavals, they never lost sight of their vision to create the best tea possible in the most natural way possible.
The success of the company is largely due to the incredible women behind it. Tea Master, Fu Chen, grew up in her family’s established tea business. As a young girl, she looked at the life around her. Days were spent with the hard work of growing tea, and in the evenings the adults were playing mahjong. She had no opportunity to go to school, but she knew she wanted to be more than her initial surroundings. She wanted to be useful, and thus devoted herself to tea. In her pursuit to coax the most liveliness into each cup, her tea has won many competitions, and her efforts brought Jhentea to prominence.
Her definition of good tea is similar to her definition of a good life: keep it simple, and keep it natural. Know your place and do your best wherever you are. Not every tea tree planted will be in the most optimal spot on the mountain, but each tree is giving their best. Each leaf will be ready in its own time, and with her wisdom and craft, she knows what each leaf can become and how it should taste when it reaches your pot. For Fu Chen, being in tune with nature, and enjoying this peaceful simplicity equals happiness.
The fourth generation of Jhentea is being led by Tea Master Fu Chen’s daughter, Ai Fang. She grew up in the business and chose tea as a way of life, sharing the same values as her mom. Good tea is all natural and good for the body. Her skills in firing and roasting tea has won her many competitions, and she knows exactly how to bring out all the varied notes in a tea leaf, keeping any astringency and bitterness at bay. For her, the best part of tasting tea is tasting the story of the leaves. Her experience can tell her if the leaves grew with the help of fertilizers, pesticides, or additives. (That is not good tea.) The way the tea tastes will also tell her how the tea was handled during processing. Her favorite and ideal tea to drink is one that tastes like it was grown and processed with love and care, in a natural environment – which means she likes to drink the tea that she makes! Even better is that Jhentea is so happy to share their tea kung fu with all of us. A world of knowledge sits in that little sip of tea.
Scroll down to watch a video of these 2 tea masters analyzing tea with a tea tasting.