Producer of the Month: Mr Gao
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. Gao Shi He, wulong tea producer Taiwan. Hugo met Mr Gao in his Pinglin gardens over 10 years ago. They have kept contact since then and you can find Mr Gao’s excellent Gaba Cha in our selection each year.
When and how did you first step into the world of tea?
Tea has been my family’s main source of revenues for a long time now. When I was young, my father was in charge of the whole production. But when he fell sick and my family risked losing its main income, I took over. It’s been more than 30 years now since my career started. Since then, I have developed a specific taste for the natural floral aromas of tea.
Tell us a bit more about your gardens.
The gardens my family owns cover just over one Jia in area. This is about two and a half acres with an annual production of roughly 1000 kilos. Recently, we have developed another plantation with an area of two Jia, so a little less than 5 acres.
How much Gaba Cha do you produce annually?
More or less 200 bags of 600g each.
Gaba tea is seasonal. The best period to produce it is one week before and one week after Duan Wu (dragon boats festival). This is when the insects called Jacobiasca Formosana come to the gardens and start biting the tea leaves. If you harvest when their bites are still on the leaves, the tea quality will be optimal.
How many workers do you hire?
Three permanent employees take care of managing the gardens. To this we add eight to ten seasonal employees for harvesting the leaves.
Which aspects of your work do you prefer?
What I prefer is managing and tending the gardens. I like to witness the growing of the trees, observe the different changes at every stage and see the leaves flush. This is my favorite place to be. I always feel relaxed and happy in a natural landscape on the mountain.
Who’s buying your teas? Local or international clients?
Right now, most clients are Taiwanese buyers, with a few travelers coming freely from China, Japan, Europe, America, etc. Other than that, you are certainly our most important international clients!
Have you seen any changes since your beginnings in the industry?
Today, the tea industry is greatly affected by abnormal meteorological environments. The growing cycles of the trees and leaves are often disturbed and unpredictable, making the intervention of technology increasingly important in the fabrication process.
Luckily, as scientific and technological progress marches on, so do the machines we use. Better in performance than before, they are very precious allies to maintain the tea quality we need. I don’t think this industry would still be viable here without them.
Regarding clients, the majority of consumers are middle-aged people, with only a small portion of young people drinking our tea.
What is your favourite tea?
I like many styles of tea: Baozhong, Laocha, heavily fermented teas, black teas, Mixiang teas… but my favorite is still Gaba tea.
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