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Summer with Cha: Journey to Our New Taiwanese Specialty Teas

Summer with Cha: Journey to Our New Taiwanese Specialty Teas

At Cha Community, our mission is to bridge cultures and to create community through premium boba tea and Chinese and Taiwanese food. Part of how we have sought to walk out in our mission has been in the realm of sustainability. We've been on a journey these past few years in featuring more direct-trade loose leaf tea options in our menu at our Cha Community boba tea cafes throughout Central Texas. 
Over the past few years, we've shared about tea and coffee businesses like Nepal Tea Collective and Nguyen Coffee Supply and the inspiring work they do in Nepal and Vietnam. We have talked about how direct-trade practices connect with sustainability in previous blog posts. We've been eager to share more Taiwanese teas on our menu as Taiwan is part of our ethnic roots and heritage (and the motherland of boba tea). We began introducing Taiwanese loose leaf teas by adding Us Two Tea's direct-trade Jasmine and Osmanthus Oolong Tea on our hot tea and teapot line. 

One dream of ours has been to source tea directly from Taiwan to share with our Cha Community. While we weren't able to begin this dream earlier on in our small business - as we were a smaller pop-up at the time and navigating through the challenges of the pandemic - we had opportunities to visit Taiwanese tea farms with our family during trips to Taiwan and kept these tea farms in mind as we continued growing our small business.

What Is Direct-Trade Tea and Why It Matters

What is direct trade and why does direct-trade tea or coffee matter? Direct-trade practices take a departure from traditional supply chains by establishing direct relationships between farmers and buyers. Direct-trade models not only ensure fair compensation of tea and coffee - by taking away middle persons and corporations from brokering tea deals - but also ensure that farmers have the empowerment to lead in farming practices that benefit their team and communities and to walk out in alignment with their values.

Supporting direct-trade tea farms is important because tea gardens and farms are small businesses and farmers need to have environmental and financial sustainability. Some larger corporations in the tea and coffee industry have been known to exploit tea workers, have had reports of poor working conditions, and have been found to sell tea bags filled with microplastics. Additionally, Arabica coffee, which has been favored in the coffee industry in America, is facing the threat of global shortage with ongoing climate changeas it is not as adaptable to changing weather patterns.

Direct-trade practices are significant as they empower farmers to adopt sustainable practices to combat climate change and preserve traditional and Indigenous farming methods. Asian-owned businesses like Nguyen Coffee Supply and coffee farmers throughout Vietnam are in the forefront of fighting climate change in the coffee industry by championing the often underlooked Robusta bean (which happens to be our favorite at Cha Community!). 

Supporting direct-trade tea and coffee is not only an environmental and sustainability concern but also an issue of equity and diversity. These practices honor and support cultural heritages by fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the origins and histories of tea and coffee.

These practices honor and support cultural heritages by fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the origins and histories of tea and coffee.

As immigrant and bilingual entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry, our goal is to bridge cultures and create community by showcasing premium loose leaf teas and sharing the narratives and stories associated with tea through our small business. The name "Cha" (茶 - chá - meaning tea in Chinese) carries a rich cultural heritage and tea originates from China. 

Our Spring Taiwan Trip: Visiting a Taiwanese Tea Farm

To uphold our commitment to sustainability and direct-trade practices, we embarked on a memorable trip to Taiwan this past spring. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had been unable to visit for four years, making this visit even more special! Our primary objective was to visit family. However, we also had opportunities to explore tea farms and enjoy the wide array of boba tea cafes, tea,  and coffee shops throughout Taiwan. Accompanied by our family, we had the honor of visiting a third-generation family-owned and operated tea farm in East Taiwan. There, we had a behind-the-scenes tour of their intricate tea-making process and savored the aromatic flavors of their oolong tea.

Taiwan is well-known for oolong teas because of the region's climate, coupled with its breathtaking mountainous landscape; the region provides for the perfect conditions for cultivating quality teas. As we stepped onto the tea farm in East Taiwan, the air was infused with a sweet and fragrant aroma. We gazed in awe as rows upon rows of freshly picked vibrant green tea leaves basked in the sun, naturally sun-drying by the mountains. We were honored to observe the drying racks at the tea farm and to appreciate the artistry behind each cup of tea.

Tea leaves being dried outside in a Tea Farm in Taiwan.
All true tea comes from the same plant - Camellia sinesis (shown in photo above and below). 

Whether it's black, green, white, or oolong tea, they all share a common origin in this extraordinary plant. During our journey to Taiwan, we explored a region of Taiwan renowned for its exceptional red oolong teas. This specific part of Taiwan, with its unique terrain and microclimate by the mountainside, has gained worldwide recognition for producing some of the most sought-after teas in the realm of oolong. Red oolong teas embody a depth and complexity in their rich, bold flavor that are reminiscent of black teas. Their intricate flavor profiles pair beautifully with milk and Taiwanese boba tea cafes oftentimes create Red Oolong Boba Milk Teas and desserts like ice cream or baked goods using the tea leaves.

Camellia sinesis plant

 

Summer with Cha Launch

Building on our unforgettable journey to Taiwan this past spring and our exploration of its remarkable red oolong teas, we are thrilled to announce the exciting addition of these Oolong Teas to our Summer with Cha menu. Our exclusive Taiwanese specialty tea line - brewed with Red Oolong and Jin Xuan (pronounced shoo-en) "Milk" Oolong Tea - directly sourced from our recent spring trip, is set to make its grand debut at both of our Cha Community shops on Saturday, June 17, 2023.

 

As we prepare to celebrate our 5-year small business birthday on June 17, we couldn't think of a better way to mark this milestone than by showcasing the flavors and aromas of Taiwanese tea. Our Summer with Cha menu will feature these specialty oolong teas, offering a refreshing cold brew experience that will bring you straight to the tea farms of Taiwan. We have curated a selection of unique preparations for our oolong teas, including Milk Tea and Cloud Cap options. 

Our Summer with Cha menu will feature these specialty oolong teas, offering a refreshing cold brew experience that will bring you straight to the tea farms of Taiwan.

We can't wait to share the unique flavors and aromas of Taiwanese tea with you! Your support for our small business means the world to us, and we're grateful to create community through our love for tea. Save the date and come celebrate with us on Saturday, June 17, 2023 at our shops. Let's raise a cup together, toast to five incredible years, and share the joy of Cha for many more years! Thank you for being a part of our journey and helping us turn our passion into a thriving community.

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