Stories About Tea welcomes a new international guest writer, who will contribute once a month! Meet Cortilia Lin from TeaTalk Academy Taiwan, who contributes to the Academy by bringing her international business background. It is her goal to give people the warm atmosphere ‘that tea creates for families and friends’. Read our introduction interview!
Who are you and what do you do within the tea industry?
I work as a tea lover for TeaTalk Academy where we aim to bring systemized tea knowledge from growing, manufacturing, roasting, cupping, and brewing to anyone who shares the same passion. In addition to the tea education, we also support restaurants and bars to create non-alcoholic tea-based cocktails as healthy alternatives to the regular recipes.
When did your passion for tea start and how?
My grandmother always made tea for me when I was really small. Tea has been always part of my life. However, with a modern life style in Taiwan and my 13 years abroad in the US, Europe and Singapore, tea started fading away from my life. Hence, I have made a goal to bring tea back into my life and I want to share the warm memories that tea has for me with other people, so they can enjoy it too.
Can you tell what you do at the TeaTalk academy?
TeaTalk academy first started as a family owned tea farm back in 1950’s in Taiwan, specializing in Roasted Oolong tea. After Tommy Tang took over the business, he realized the importance of tea knowledge at all levels which is not obvious to most of tea experts in Taiwan, because the monetary value of Taiwanese Oolong tea remains high. Tommy, however has spotted the need for systematic training in the tea business. TeaTalk Academy is a certified B Corporation (social enterprise) where people bring in their own expertise. I am one of the contributors to the TeaTalk academy by bringing my international business background.
How did the TeaTalk academy start and how big are you now?
TeaTalk today has more than 15 trainers and hosts courses in agricultural departments of several major universities. We are also officially certified to train on Japanese tea in Taiwan. More importantly, you see us in most of major professional training courses in Taiwan with our own designed international cupping kit (the set with transparent glass pot and ceramic cup).
What is the goal of the TeaTalk academy?
TeaTalk academy is inspired to bring the Taiwanese tea knowledge to the world. To be exact, we believe that the majority of tea industry relies heavily on the knowledge systematically passed on by different generations. Taiwan today still preserves the precious roasting techniques, one of the key differentiators to the Oolong tea making. The three dimensions of tea – oxidation, roasting and time – give a unique perspective on how tea is being made and should be appreciated in the modern days. All tea growers can benefit from this knowledge.
What is one fact of tea that people don’t know but need to know?
Tea is actually meant as a conversation starter, enriching the conversation. In Taiwan, families drink tea when getting together and when enjoying great companionship. At work, workers drink tea together during the break to share their life outside work, and their everyday struggle. Tea helps to break the ice with newcomers and visitors by pulling tea conversations like whether the tea is enjoyable, whether the tea hits the spot and so on. Tea offers a variety for conversations.
What is your personal favorite tea and why?
There are many great teas, but the one tea that stands out for me is a special Taiwanese black tea made by small leaf tea variety. We call it ‘Tommy’s Red’. Many people mistake the categorization of black tea and oolong tea as the strain difference of tea plants. Hence, it is rare to find black tea made out of small leaf tea strain. Tommy’s Red brings the excellence of black tea manufacturing process through this much smoother and implicit form by using the tea strain.
Is there a favorite food pairing with a tea you would like to recommend?
If you have a chance to try Wu Tang, which is a bit heavier roasted Oolong tea, it is great to go with aged Dutch Gouda cheese. Some of my friends would like to pair it with Brie instead, but both combinations would surprise everyone!
What is the tea culture like in Taiwan?
Tea is an integral element in Taiwan. When Taiwan was under Japanese ruling, we exported tea as ‘Formosa’, one of the largest tea exporter in the world. We also believe different teas match different times of the day. When we start the day, we go with green tea to give us a bit more caffeine and then we turn to lightly roasted tea after the meal to help with digestion. Also because tea is very well integrated, we started the innovations on tea like Bubble Tea which is greatest hit now in Japan, China and South East Asia where you can see bubble tea being a luxury item. But Taiwanese never stop food innovations, as we always want something new and something fun. So, tea has also become part of our ‘cocktail ingredient’, and of course an important contributor to Taiwanese cuisine, both meals and dessert.