12 years. 12 years is a long time. I even remember the date, October the 2nd, 2005. That was the day I arrived on this beautiful island. Best 12 years of my life so far.
Taiwan is a tiny place compared to where I grew up. It is only 394km long and 144km wide. We used to drive further than that to get to our cottage back in Canada! In that space, though, Taiwan has mountains that brush 4000m, beautiful sandy beaches, authentic, friendly people, huge modern cities, excellent health care, fantastic food, world-class river canyons and some of the best tea growing regions on the planet.
Why am I still here and still enjoying myself after all these years? Taiwan is the best place in the world, for me. I am based on the beautiful East Coast in a small town called Hualien. After years of doing everything from teaching, selling fruit on the streets and running outdoor schools I now have a great business, Hualien Outdoors, where I take guests into the world-class mountains and rivers of this area on adventures. And every year I am here this place surprises me as I can pull back ever deeper layers of the culture, the people and the landscape that never disappoint. The depth of the history, both Han Chinese and Aboriginal, and the way that that history plays itself out with the people and on the landscape never ceases to amaze and challenge me, in a good way! The relationships that I have built and the wilderness that I have explored have kept me content and happy for my entire time in Taiwan.
And why am I writing on the Mad Monk website? Well, a couple of years ago a friend of a friend visited Hualien on a tea sourcing mission. A true 'tea missionary' if I have ever seen one. This 'Mad Monk' of 'Tea' introduced me to the world of sustainably farmed, single origin, chemical-free tea. To the idea that enjoying a tea grown sustainably actually makes the world better. I was hooked and pleasantly surprised to find some of this same tea in my backyard! For the past few years, I have been studying tea seriously on the farms and in the mountains where it is grown, with some help from a visiting tea master named Taylor a couple of times a year.
Tea has become a new personal passion and a place where my years of studying Mandarin, wildcraft food, organic farming and Taiwanese culture have found a place to flourish together. I am also very excited about using my skills as a tour guide and the possibilities of taking tea lovers on trips into the mountains to those rarified places where the next level tea is growing! In many ways, I view myself as a cultural translator for tea here at Mad Monk. I try to create a way to make the history and cultural context of the wonderful leaf better understood in the western world. To make the appreciation, evaluation, and enjoyment of high-quality tea more accessible to the aspiring tea-masters among us, myself included. That, and I help source the best tea on the planet!
Taylor and I are working on the upcoming Tea Tour that will launch in the new year. Stay tuned.
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