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Ai Fang


During the peak season of tea making, every family member, young and old, had to get involved and help. Making tea was not an easy task. In fact, it was labor-intensive. At the break of dawn you had to go up to the mountains to organize the tea leaves picking crew. It usually took four to five trips every day to the mountains to gather the fresh-picked leaves and tea sprouts. Before fresh-picked leaves are made into ready-tea leaves, they go through the process of withering and fermentation in the small home factory. During this season, there is no time for a break, not even to have meals at regular hours.


I am the oldest child. Growing up, my younger brothers and sisters offered helping hands, mostly during the process of withering. But my parents usually urged them to prepare their schoolwork for the next day. As a night school student I did not have to worry about school the next day but my parents only allowed me to do the simplest work--panning and firing tea.


During the exhausting tea-making period, my parents only got four hours of sleep every night. In spite of this, they never neglected us or failed to care for us. What I usually did every day during this time, from dusk until dawn was pan and fire tea.


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I was very tired and sleepy panning tea every night yet I can still distinctively remember what the sky looked like after I finished panning tea. I saw the morning light slowly spreading through the entire sky. It was at this point, when the morning breeze was gently blowing on my face that I could not wait to make, taste and analyze the freshly made tea, made from the tealeaves I just panned. This is the tea I remember from my senior high school days. This tea was filled with the love and care that I had for my family and the reverence I held to the ever-changing conditions in the process of tea making.


The first time I discovered my interest in tea was around 1982. I was 18 years old. My parents put me in charge of the tea that was commissioned by a client, who later held its quality in very high regard. Because of my parents’ support and the external recognition, I personally became interested in tea making for the first time. Making tea was no longer a sheer obligation.


My parents enrolled me in programs to advance my knowledge of tea. They also entered me into competitions to enrich my tea-making experience and enhance my mastery in tea making. I was still a fairly young adult, and the diverse methods of making tea overwhelmed me. From then on, I was drawn to the world of tea with all the humility I ever had.


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Seasons change and I make various teas accordingly. Teas have shown me so much and nurtured my family greatly in the past five decades. At first, I made teas that pleased people. Now I follow my ideals. I make teas according to their individual nature so that they can present their best qualities. I want teas to “be themselves”--the green, beautiful beverages that are mild, yet still holding their original fragrance. I want to share my ideal teas with all of my tea-loving friends.


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