The Man Behind the Beauty – Long Yaoyuan Interview
When it comes to tea from Hsinchu, whether one drinks it or not, people refer to it as the Oriental Beauty. Besides its allusive name, many know that the fresh honey in the tea allows people who normally do not love tea to dismantle their defenses.
For this time´s farmer introduction, the Arttime team drove to Hsinchu City´s Emei for the first time in order to meet the master of making Oriental Beauty tea, Long Yaoyuan.
Walking along the road that afternoon, in the time of citrus harvesting, the tea plantation was nowhere to be seen, as one could only see the fruit trees and stones. Being curious, we asked: "where exactly is your tea plantation?"
- "Our tea plantation is playing hide-and-seek".
Long Yaoyuan´s tanned face expressed a shy smile.
Yaoyuan is a third generation tea-maker. His grandfather started studying tea-making, and set up a factory in his home as early as 1976. For the past 40 years, the Long family has managed their tea plantation together as a joint effort; everything from cultivation and harvesting to consumer sales.
"The pickers who currently help us, started back in the times of my father´s generation. Most of them are in their sixties or seventies and work through the season as one affectionate family."
The topic changed as Yaoyuan mentioned that the Beauty is gradually withering.
"To some degree, this is a sunset to the tea estate, as we are not a large-scale plantation which can provide stable working opportunities for all four seasons. The workers are also old, and it is difficult to say if we can go on like this in the future."
Yaoyuan, who has now been in business for 5 years, originally returned home to help his aging father with the hard work. At first, his father did not endorse Yaoyuan´s decision: whilst taught by his father, Yaoyuan would often have trouble learning. He signed up to a tea industry reform course organized by the Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan, which helped him to better comprehend his father´s teachings.
"In the process of learning, the most profound impression was when I messed up with high quality tea leaves, and father headed straight out to fertilize the field. You know how much the fertilizer had cost?"
After repetitive attempts and non-stop exploration and talks, Yaoyuan slowly got the hang of it, which, together with attending the Hsinchu County´s Oriental Beauty tea competition and the national level competition, drove him continuously forward.
"I´m not saying that I want to make the best tea. Given the limited time, I simply want to make the tea well. I´m good at making tea, but I haven´t thought about creating my own brand, and I leave marketing to the professionals".
When the Arttime team met with Long Yaoyuan, the young tea master born in 1989, he spoke not fast nor slow, not mild nor fiery. Presumably, the past five years with tea has honed him greatly.
As to why the interview started off by him telling about the tea plantation "playing hide-and-seek", the thing is that the plantation is actually in hiding from the lingering pesticides coming from the fruit plantations.