Tea picking has always been a dreamy job to me. Imagine being surrounded by tea trees every day and working in the sun, who wouldn't want to do that everyday?
Do you know what tea pickers do?
Tea picking is a physical demanding job, in the past and in the present too. Premium Taiwanese teas are hand picked so the leaves are wholesome instead of missing the stem or missing half the leaf. The tea pickers carry big bamboo baskets on their back, get up to work before dawn and then spend entire mornings working up and down the hilly tea farms. Sometimes the pickers also help with oxidizing the tea leaves on bamboo trays and sorting out the quality of the leaves in the afternoon and evenings.
Did you know Taiwan had tea picking competitions?
In early and mid 90s, Taiwan held annual tea picking competitions. It gathers all the best tea pickers in Taiwan. They competed on 3 things:
1. Cleanly pick all the good leaves from the section they are assigned.
2. Two leaf one bud standard with first leaf 70% of the second leaf.
3. The weight of the leaves they picked.
Let's hear it from a retired tea picker...
My grandma was a professional tea picker. In mandarin it's called "採茶女" which means "picking tea lady". One weekend afternoon, she sat down and told us all about her passion.
She use to attend tea picking competitions every year. There's one summer she'll never forget. She picked long and hard under the summer heat along with the other contestants. She was so confident her teas would be the best thus winning the grand prize however, all the contestants were asked to put down their tea baskets to take a few photos. When she return to find her basket, she realized the tea baskets were all mixed up! No one knew which is which anymore. Grandma was so upset about what happened she remembered till this day.
Next time you sip tea, treasure it and appreciate it! Every single leaf was picked by by hand with passion and dedication for tea. It's an essential element to amazing Taiwanese teas.
That's all for now everyone! Thank you for reading, next week, we'll talk about the different kinds of Taiwanese teas!