Producer of the Moment: M. Chen
Mr. Chen Cong Cheng, wulong tea producer in Taiwan.
Each month, the Camellia Sinensis team presents one of its favorite producers, shares the story of their first encounter, and the producer’s story.
This month, we have Mr. Cheng Cong Cheng, wulong tea producer of Taiwan. In 2004, Hugo was travelling Taiwan in search of teas for the Camellia Sinensis collection. During a visit to Ali Mountain he reached the summit by train, he had had a really bad day sourcing and finally started the long bus journey down. On the way down the hill, he saw the tea gardens alongside the road. So he stopped the bus, jumped out and starting walking through the fields. This is when he met M. Chen, now one of our most longstanding producers.
When and how did you first step into the world of tea?
I have now been making tea for over 30 years. It all started when the factory I was managing with friends and family was shut down. I immediately thought I should go back home and plant some tea trees. This was back in 1986. At first, I managed my own garden while I also worked in other people’s factory. It took me 10 years to learn quality tea manufacture then in 1996, I built my own little factory called Xin Shang, meaning “New Ways of Tea”. I really put a lot of effort into my work and, in 1999, I participated in my first tea competition and won! This was great encouragement for me.
Are you the owner of your tea garden?
Part of my garden I now own, the rest I still rent. In general, a lease on a garden lasts 5 to 10 years, during which time you are free to manage and tend your garden as you wish to.
What is the size of your tea garden?
My gardens cover 1.75 hectares.
How many kilos of tea are you producing every year?
Our annual production is about 3000 kg.
How many staff members are working with you?
Aside from the seasonal employees during harvesting periods, we are 10 to 15 people.
Which aspects of your work do you prefer?
I like everything about tea culture and tea production. But the lasts steps of transformation are really my favourite moments. Taking care of your gardens is one thing, but giving the final touch to a great product is hard to beat. So I would say the final drying of the leaves is my favourite part.
Have you seen any changes since your beginnings in the industry?
Of course, over 30 years, many changes have happened both big and small. Garden management and tea production never cease to improve. For example, in the past, rolling the leaves was all by hand. Each person’s individual strength would create a different product. This variant had a major impact on the final quality of the product. Now that rolling is mechanized, I only have to adjust the machine’s parameters to get a stable tea. Techniques are evolving and we never stop learning in this line of work. Recently, I started making black tea out of my Qing Xin plants (plants that are normally used for wulong tea production). This is all new and exciting for me.
What is your favourite tea?
My favourite tea is Ali Shan wulong from Qing Xin cultivar. It is the most common and Hugo’s pick each year. It has an exceptional floral scent and a great feeling in the throat, sweet aftertaste and almost no bitterness.
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