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Getting Close to Native Crops, “The Story of Coffee” Told by Coffee Connoisseur Hsu Bao-Lin

Article/Senior Editor Liang-Liang
“When do you usually drink coffee? Is it in the misty morning or in the lazy afternoon?” Either you get used to waking up in the midst of rich aroma of the freshly brewed coffee and taking a sip of the strong, aromatic espresso, or prefer to drive away fatigue by drinking a cup of pour-over black coffee which carries a slightly sour yet mellow fruity flavor in the lazy afternoon, it is believed that coffee has played an essential role in the life of many people.

If you happen to be a person who is enthusiastic about travelling, then the production areas of coffee may just become the index tab of your journey, pointing out the right course to be taken.
Getting Close to Native Crops, “The Story of Coffee” Told by Coffee Connoisseur Hsu Bao-Lin
Coffee Connoisseur Hsu Bao-Lin

Would you like to learn more stories about the production areas of coffee? Hsu Bao-Lin, who has travelled to two hundred countries of origin, more than one thousand coffee estates in the world, is the only qualified candidate. He has begun his quest for coffee producing area ever since 2002. For the past fifteen years, Hsu Bao-Lin, known as “the bean seeker”, has flown ten thousand miles to search for the top specialty coffee beans in every corner of the world.

According to Hsu Bao-Lin, “It is only by visiting the producing area and stepping into the coffee estate can we truly know the deposit of coffee and the story behind: where exactly does its charming flavor and variant aroma come from? Does it have something to do with the microclimate, the variety, the mode of processing? Or some cheat codes developed by the coffee farmers that can never be revealed?” He insists on paying direct visits to the coffee plantation for coffee cupping and quality testing, “These are small tips to establish close relationships with coffee farmers. It is direct, plain and simple.”

Finding Taiwanese Coffee

Even having flown across half of the planet, the affection he has towards the land and produce chain of Taiwan never disappear. “Taiwanese coffee has drawn greater attention in recent years. The beans have achieved good results in several international coffee tasting competitions. With the rise of coffee culture over the past ten years, people tend to be more particular about drinking coffee and become aware of the how of determining the quality of coffee,” Hsu Bao-Lin tries to explain the reason why Taiwanese coffee has been gaining popularity in recent years.

In addition to the factors of weather, expert bean seekers will often differentiate the coffee beans based on “coffee farmers”. The main reason lies in the approach the farmers apply to their coffee plantation: non-toxic, organic, soil texture cultivation and harvesting periods, for instance. These factors will directly determine the quality of the coffee beans. If you are not an expert in the field of profession, it is suggested that you try to segment according to different coffee plantations.

“In terms of Taiwanese coffee, there are three coffee farmers whom I highly recommend,” said Hsu Bao-Lin, “From north to south, Kuo Zhang-Cheng of Songyue Coffee Manor in Yulin, Fang Zheng-Lun, also known as the ““Coffee Prince”” of Zouzhuyuan Coffee Planting and Xu Jun-Rong of Zhuo-wu Mountain Café in Chiayi Alishan area. These three are the coffee beans I have sampled and would like to recommend to everybody. The production areas are not far away from one another. It is suitable for everyone to visit, go ahead and give them a try.”

Songyue Coffee Manor
Located in Caoling Village Shibi Scenic Area, Gukeng Township of Yunlin County, Songyue Coffee Manor is within the extent of Alishan Range at an altitude of more than one thousand and two hundred meters. As the temperature varies much from day to night plus it takes two more months from flowering stage to maturity than those at lower altitudes, one can still get the chance to see the view of common coffee blossoms if visiting later than the puberty in summer.

Kuo Zhang-Cheng, the owner of Songyue Coffee Manor, actually had the experience of planting coffee back in the year of 1980, which makes him the pioneer of Taiwanese coffee farmer. Having won grand awards in domestic and international competitions several years in a row, Kuo Zhang-Cheng is praised to be the producer of “premium Taiwanese coffee”. The coffee beans planted by this outstanding master are hard with high density. The cupping comment gained during national competition is “floral fragrance, honey, tea scent, roasted hazelnut, berries, endless aftertaste, long-lasting sweetness and moderate acidity”. The coffee is with a fully-developed flavor and mellow and rich texture.
Getting Close to Native Crops, “The Story of Coffee” Told by Coffee Connoisseur Hsu Bao-Lin
Getting Close to Native Crops, “The Story of Coffee” Told by Coffee Connoisseur Hsu Bao-Lin
▲Songyue Geisha Plantation under Jianan Yunfeng.
Getting Close to Native Crops, “The Story of Coffee” Told by Coffee Connoisseur Hsu Bao-Lin
▲Songyue Coffee Manor is shrouded by clouds and mists all year round.

Shibi's Fairy Valley, which is one kilometer away from the manor, is one of the nearby scenic spots recommended by Kuo Zhang-Cheng. It is recommended that tourists visit the attraction in the morning and continue their trip to the coffee manor surrounded by green forests and moutains for drinking a cup of Taiwanese high-mountain specialty coffee after bathing in the myserious splendid landscape of the valley. If arriving with perfect timing, visitors will be able to enjoy the scenery formed by small white flowers that carry the fragrance of jasmine on coffee trees and spend a romantic, tranquil afternoon upon getting close to nature.

Getting Close to Native Crops, “The Story of Coffee” Told by Coffee Connoisseur Hsu Bao-Lin
▲Shibi's Fairy Valley is about one thousand meters away from Songyue Coffee Manor. It is recommended that tourists visit the sightseeing spot on the way.

Apart from coffee beans, Yunlin Gukeng also produces other types of crops. Many varieties of fruits, such as orange, litchi, grapefruit and guava are grown on Dahu Villa Leisure Farm. Every year around Dragon Boat Festival is the season of Yuherbau Litchi. Being extremely lucsious and sweet, the litchisa are deeply favored by the tourits. If time allows, you should spend a night there and enjoy the pleasure of fruit picking in the fields during daytime and mountain landscape viewing at night in the company of the murmuring of running water and the chirps and whirrs of insects and birds.

Alishan Lalauya Zouzhuyuan Coffee Planting

Recommended by Hsu Bao-Lin, Alishan Lalauya Zouzhuyuan Coffee Planting is located in Alishan in the vicinity of 64K on Taiwan Provincial Highway No. 18. One can perceive the café villa owned by this Tsou prince by following the direction up to Alishan Township Office, turn right and continue to go downward for about two hundre meters. According to the statistics, most of the coffee beans on Alishan are planted inside the Tsou community, with a coverage of more than thirty hectares. One of the planatation that grows coffee trees on Alishan situates right within Leye Village. It is run by Fang Zheng-Lun, the “Coffee Prince” who tries to grow his own coffee in the first place.

“The beans planted by Alishan Lalauya Zouzhuyuan is indeed good in quality. They are gaining favor with many master baristas and large enterprises,” Hsu Bao-Lin -Lin added.

Do not miss the valuable beauty of Formosan nature when visiting Alishan. The “winter jasmine” which blooms at the end of winter and the beginning of spring, the” Taiwan Pleione”, which is the endemic indigenous orchid species of Alishan, the endangered protected bird species “Taiwan blue pheasant”, the “black-winged firefly” that can be observed during summer and “snow firefly” which appears in winter can all be discovered on Lang Yun Leisure Farm. In addition to appreciating the breathtaking scenery of nature and rich biodiversity, visitors are allowed to harvest seasonal vegetables in vegetable gardens and ask the hostess to assist in cooking, or follow the host to the tea garden and realize the toil of tea-picking farmers if time permits. Come and experience the wonderfulness of natural life and simplicity in this quiet and undisturbed mountain wreathed in mists and clouds.

Zhuo-wu Mountain Café

Among the three manors recommended by Hsu Bao-Lin, Zhuo-wu Mountain Café is located in southern Taiwan where temperature is high throughout the year. Due to its high altitude which reaches up to 1200 meters above sea level where the temperature can drop dramatically at night, an ideal environment becomes available for coffee beans to grow. “My father applied mechanically the mode of tea management on the operation of coffee. Both the spacing and depth of coffee cultivation is enlarged and deepened, which allows fresh and airy growth of coffee beans,” explained by Xu Jun-Rong, the owner of the manor whose father had once been an oolong tea farmer. A farming production area which puts an emphasis on “non-toxic management”, the idea of “coexisting with the insects, autogenous natural enemy” and the adoption of organic fertilizer is undoubtedly suitable for conducting food agriculture education while going on a family trip.

The beans produced by Zhuo-wu Mountain Café transpire all kinds of chic flavors to satisfy the preference of different customer groups. Whereas the sweet and aromatic scent of black sugar and caramel given off by the washed, medium roasted coffees, the washed, light roasted coffees carry the fragrance of citrus, berries and grapefruit. Unwashed beans, emitting particular smell like nut and butter aside from the sweet and pleasant aroma of passion fruit and sucrose, are rich in diversified flavors.

Getting Close to Native Crops, “The Story of Coffee” Told by Coffee Connoisseur Hsu Bao-Lin
▲Though situated in southern Taiwan, Zhuo-wu Mountain Café still possesses a high cooling environment suitable for coffees to grow thanks to its elevated location.
Getting Close to Native Crops, “The Story of Coffee” Told by Coffee Connoisseur Hsu Bao-Lin
▲The fruits of coffee are red. You can see them by visiting the manor after summer vacation.

Come to Alishan and allow the master to brew you a cup of native coffee that can undoubtedly rival the flavor of other international specialty beans. First smell the aroma, then observe its color, and finally sample the savor. Keep it in the mouth for a while, try to feel the various flavors the coffee exhales inside your mouth and listen carefully to the growth of coffee beans shared by the owner of the manor. Experience the extraordinary richness and mellowness of Taiwanese coffee while bathing in the inviting redolence that drifts during the process of coffee brewing. After you finish with your coffee, you can carry on expanding your travel territory and probe into the indigenous culture of Taiwan: “visit the nearby sightseeing spots including cayamavana tribal community (Chashan Village), Danayiku Ecology Park and Namasia tribal community,” Hsu Bao-Lin suggested.

In general, coffee trees will come into bloom around Chinese New Year every year. The fruits begin to turn red after summer, and are ready to be collected at the end of November. If your wish to learn more about the growth of coffee, bean roasting or listen to short farming stories told by coffee farmers by visiting the production area, it is not necessary that you wait until the flowering or fruiting period of coffee. Small experience trips to the place of origin are without time limit. The landscape and appearance of the manor and its nearby attractions vary along with the change of seasons, and it is definitely worth savoring and exploring.

Songyue Coffee Manor

Address: No.70, Shibi, Caoling Vil., Gukeng Township, Yunlin County, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Contact Number: 0937-292176 (it is required that reservations be made in advance for tourist visit)

Dahu Villa Leisure Farm

Address: No.42-5, Dahukou, Yong Guang Vil., Gukeng Township, Yunlin County, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Contact Number: (05)582-6639、0928344693

Alishan Lalauya Zouzhuyuan Coffee Planting

Address: No.71, 2nd Neighborhood, Leye Vil., Alishan Township, Chiayi County, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Contact Number: (05)256-1118

Lang Yun Leisure Farm

Address: No.1, Shizhuo, Zhonghe Vil., Zhuqi Township, Chiayi County, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Contact Number: (05) 256-1054

Zhuo-wu Mountain Café

Address: No.194, Minsheng N. Rd., West Dist., Chiayi City, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Contact Number: (05)222-5896

About Hsu Bao-Lin

◆ General manager of ORSiR
◆Executive director, technical committee convener of Taiwan Coffee Association (2007-2010)
◆First international coffee competition judge in overseas Chinese community: CoE, Best of Panama and Ethiopia Limited Cup, for instance.
◆First Chinese judge in World Coffee Events (WCE)

◆Professional experience in coffee:
-Judge of world coffee competition organization, Cup of Excellence (CoE): Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Ruanda and Brazil. From 2006 to 2011, 16 times of serving as CoE international judge in total.
-Invited to attend Ethiopia Global Coffee Forum in 2006 and Brazil Global Coffee Forum in 2007.
-Serve as the international judge of 2008 Ethiopia Limited Coffee Auction, the international judge of The Best of Panama from 2008 to 2011, 4 times in total.
-Serve as the head judge of Taiwan Barista Championship in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009.
-Serve as the judge of China Barista Championship in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
-Serve as the international judge of Taiwan Latte Art Championship in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
-Serve as the judge of Coffee In Good Spirits Championship in 2009, 2010 and 2011.