土地的滋味

茶山保育,生態永續
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2019 / 2月

文‧曾蘭淑 圖‧林格立


基於「慣行農法」對土地造成的破壞,台灣愈來愈多的茶農改以「自然農法」來種茶,展現對土地的尊重。友善對待土地,大自然也會回以厚報。

我們隨著茶山保育協會創會會長蔡奕哲,走訪阿里山太和村的茶園,從復育的生態茶園,發現與大自然共生共榮的美好;從坪林有機耕種的茶園,看見保護水源的理想,採自生態茶園的茶菁,經過發酵、烘焙做出來的茶,喝得到土地的滋味。

 


 

從台18號公路經奮起湖,繞行在蜿蜒山徑裡,在阿里山森林特有的靜謐與幽微的氛圍中,總覺得筆直蒼鬱的杉木林,慢慢圍攏而來,來到海拔1,445公尺的太和村,大片茶園映入眼簾,頓時豁然開朗。

山間產業道路深處,一間沒有對外開放、只招待友人的「食野」茶屋主人、茶農簡嘉文的「森林系茶園」,大大翻轉了我對茶園的認識。自然野放的茶樹,茶湯清香、蘊含豐富風味,到了第七、八泡,還能喝出茶湯中的甜味,令人驚豔。

簡嘉文的台灣山茶、烏龍茶樹,隱身在山黃麻、牛樟樹與烏心石樹林中。五爪金英與阿里山油菊野花肆意綻放,地衣爬滿山茶的樹幹,長到6公尺甚至13公尺高的山茶樹,要透過攀岩支架才能採摘。這些茶樹與大自然的森林交互感應,形成特殊的山頭氣。

不剪枝、不施肥、不用農藥,用這種野放方式種茶,土地經過十年的復育,茶園中可以看到對棲息地十分敏感的莫氏樹蛙、食物鏈上層的掠食者蜘蛛,聽得到黃胸藪眉、白耳畫眉的鳥叫聲。

「多樣性的鳥類、昆蟲與植物,是對生態茶園最好的認證。」一襲棉布衫,倡導生態茶的茶人蔡奕哲如此說。

讓土地自己說話

對採取自然農法的茶農簡嘉文、葉人壽來說,這一切都要從2009年重創阿里山區的莫拉克風災(又稱「八八水災」)說起。5天之內降下全年一整年的豪雨,造成土石流、崩山,甚至走山。太和村供奉土地公的振興宮,整座宮廟完整地掉落到下方100公尺外的山谷中,一株上百年、已十多層樓高的老樟樹在走山之際,瞬間埋入地心之中。

風災帶來對家園的巨大破壞,讓人開始思考人與土地的關係。簡嘉文不顧家人反對,用野放的方式來種茶,並整修老屋,成立自然茶手作坊。

「我知道自己朝著正確的方向,最好的管理就是不要管理。」簡嘉文前兩年由於茶園沒有噴農藥,像小綠葉蟬等單一蟲種橫行肆虐;不用除草劑,只用手工除草,有時較弱的品種例如青心烏龍,容易罹患枯葉病枯死,只能狠下心來當成「自然地淘汰」。

經過四、五年之後,茶園形成完整的生態系,吃蟲的掠食者多了,加上茶樹經過多年的野放,植株形成自我保護機制,土壤中的微生物有助形成腐植層與養份,讓茶樹更有抵抗力,種出來的茶,表現出土地的味道,這是順天應人,「大自然真的很神奇!」簡嘉文說。

另一位茶農葉人壽的起心動念也是因為風災,而採取自然農法。葉人壽在八八風災時,目擊親朋好友在眼前罹難,卅多年的老茶園被土石流沖到200公尺下方,這塊因天災現已在他人土地權狀中的茶園,在疏於照顧的情況下,茶樹卻依舊茂盛,引發葉人壽省思,開始在自己的茶園嘗試以粗放的方法,從二分地到一甲地,生產生態茶。

然而茶葉被蟲咬、長得醜,茶樹下都是雜草,在百分之九十都是茶農的太和村民眼中,簡直不可思議。「廢人」、「他失志了」種種對葉人壽的議論,葉人壽只能自己心理建設:「我是正常的。」

然而,對採取自然農法的茶農來說,產量減少是一項挑戰。「但產量少才是正常的,以往靠化肥來增加產量,才是不正常。」萎凋等製茶技術又是另一項考驗,因為每季茶菁的特性都不一樣,如何拿捏,轉化茶菁的香氣與滋味,更加考驗著茶農。

但對簡嘉文與葉人壽來說,從野放、自然農法等尊重自然的實踐中,領略了與大自然和平共處之道,他們發現大自然的力量不是只有摧毀與失去,也有生機與恩賜。

以葉人壽2018年冬茶為例,許多慣行農法的茶園由於面臨極寒氣候的干擾,紛紛減產。但他的生態茶園,產量不減反增,拜多年培養土壤地力之賜,茶樹本身亦產生對季風的抵抗能力,葉人壽說,生態茶園反而更能夠抵抗微型氣候變遷的影響。

陪伴茶農,復育茶山

「喝茶就是在喝環境。」陪伴茶農廿多年的茶人蔡奕哲不疾不徐地說:「用自然農法來種茶是一個進行式,面對環境不斷的變化,不同海拔、日照、植被,都有不同對待茶園的方式。」

1996年正在南投信義鄉筆石地區找茶的蔡奕哲,因賀伯颱風導致陳有蘭溪頓時河水暴漲,土石流瞬間沖毀他身旁的草房,死裡逃生的他,困在山間,十多天音訊全無。

這個深刻的生命體驗,讓蔡奕哲認識到水土保持的重要,也讓他體會到茶山的保育刻不容緩。「喝茶本身具有怡養心性、解心靈的毒之寓意,有機茶則有解環境生態的毒之意。」在茶山四處推廣不用化學資材種茶,蔡奕哲雲淡風輕地說:「一開始被茶農轟出來,四處碰壁至少十年。尤其2000年後的一段時間,台灣有機認證制度混亂,『有機』成為廣告詞與業者的宣傳手法,導致業者與消費者之間互不信任。」

「茶山保育是用消費者參與及陪伴茶農的方式開始」,蔡奕哲經過多年的摸索,2010年先結合台灣25位喝茶的同好,到大陸武夷山認養2畝的茶園,以先付清款項的方式要求茶農依照有機方式種茶。捨棄慣行農法,不噴藥、不灑化肥,歷經茶樹枯死、茶葉掉光的慘境,再經過3~4年的復育,收成逐漸回復先前的6成,多年下來,茶園表土豐沃,生態豐富,產出的肉桂茶在2018年獲得中國大陸正岩茶區的銀牌獎,證實有機茶的香味與滋味不比慣行農法的茶差。

蔡奕哲同時將陪伴茶農、復育茶山的經驗,一畝一畦地推廣至台灣茶園,從坪林到石碇;從南投民間至日月潭;再從阿里山區到台東高台。「說是陪伴,就是喚醒這一代茶農恢復阿公、阿祖時代種茶的記憶,同時讓土地回復不用化肥、不用農藥的自然狀態。」採行自然農法來耕耘茶園,經過考驗,便能在生產與環境中取得平衡點。

有機茶園,生態保育

原來,捨棄慣行農法的茶農,都具有「自反而縮,雖千萬人,吾往矣」的勇氣。拜訪新北市坪林區茶葉產銷班第七班班長余三和、藍鵲茶的創辦人黃柏鈞,都有相同的膽識與傻勁。

「我不種茶,我只是維護環境!」2010年開始實踐自然農法的茶農余三和,拿出剛採收製好的冬片,眼露光芒地說:「我轉型作有機,不只維護環境,還讓我豐收珍貴的冬片。」

余三和解釋,剛開始轉作生態茶園,除了減產,最麻煩的是「鄰園感染」。「四、五年前一位農友無意間說他噴了3次農藥,茶葉才長出來,我發現原來他農藥噴得這麼凶,蟲全跑來我的茶園,難怪我的茶園全被吃光光。」為了對付鄰園噴灑農藥的問題,余三和特意八月不採茶,等到隔壁茶園九月噴農藥時,因為茶樹葉子已老,鄰園跑來的茶蟲不喜歡吃老葉,再待十月發新芽,正好是採冬片的時機。

走過減產、虧損,向農會貸款度日的堅持歲月,余三和苦盡甘來,正如他作出來的茶內歛、持續,尤其是他的白茶與黃茶,清淡的茶湯裡,回甘湧現、後韻十足。

翡翠水庫集水區上游一千多公頃的茶園,分布於坪林與石碇區,仍有九成為慣行農法,長期使用過量肥料與農藥,造成土壤酸化,更會隨著暴雨流入水庫,造成水中藻類過度生長,進而加速水庫的優養化隱憂。除了余三和,坪林第七、八班有機班30位的茶農,努力復育生態茶園,減緩慣行農法對翡翠水庫的危害。

還有藍鵲茶的創辦人黃柏鈞,以「流域收復」的概念,從2013年說服坪林的3個茶農到現今14位茶農,加入不使用農藥、化肥的行列,旗下一位茶園第二代謝佳妤所製作的東方美人茶,2018年還得到歐洲比利時風味評鑑雙星的肯定。

坪林是台灣特有種「藍鵲」的重要棲地,黃柏鈞以「生態」為品牌,推出企業認養、產地旅行的行銷方式,透過盡企業社會責任的公司、消費者的公眾參與,在喝茶這件事上,一同為友善環境盡一份心力。「我希望坪林能成為台灣第一個沒有農藥汙染的生態茶園。」黃柏鈞說。

飲茶是自然風土的再現,更是一種生活美學與態度,透過茶山保育,友善環境,大自然回報的,是一杯充滿生命力的好茶。

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近期文章

英文

Capturing the Flavor of the Land

Esther Tseng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Phil Newell

Due to the harm caused to the land by conventional farming methods, in Taiwan more and more tea farmers are turning to natural farming techniques, showing their respect for the land. When you treat the land well, nature will generously reward you.

We go with Tsai Yi-tze, founder of the Tea Mountain Preservation Society, to visit an eco-friendly tea plantation in ­Taihe Village on Ali­shan (Mt. Ali), where we discover the beauty of living in harmony with nature. And at an organic tea plantation in Ping­lin, we see in practice the ideal of protecting water resources. In the tea brewed from leaves picked on an eco-friendly tea farm, you can taste the flavor of the land.

 


After passing Lake ­Fenqi on Provincial Highway 18, we drive along winding mountain roads. Amid Ali­shan’s atmosphere of quiet seclusion, we have the feeling that the bolt-upright, verdant Chinese firs are gradually closing in around us. But when we arrive at ­Taihe Village, at an altitude of 1445 meters, suddenly the broad panorama of a large tea plantation opens before our eyes.

At a “wild foods” teahouse in a “forest tea garden” deep in the mountains—a teahouse owned by tea farmer Jian Jia­wen that is not open to the public but only receives friends—my understanding of tea plantations is totally overturned. The tea brewed from the leaves of tea plants left to grow free in nature is fragrant and has a rich flavor, and it is very striking that one can still taste the sweetness of the tea even on the seventh or eighth steeping.

Jian Jia­wen’s tea plants, including Taiwan mountain tea (Camellia formosensis) and oo­long tea cultivars of Camellia sinensis, are hidden amidst a forest of pigeonwood (Trema orientalis), stout camphor (Cinnamomum kane­hi­rae), and Formosan michelia (Michelia com­pressa) trees. Wild Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia diversifolia) and Alishan chrysanthemums (Dendranthema arisanense) blossom riotously, and the mountain tea trees, their trunks covered with lichen, grow six to 13 meters high, so the leaves can only be picked by climbing up scaffolding set up alongside the trees. The mutual interaction between these tea trees and the natural forest gives their leaves a unique local fragrance.

Jian does not prune his tea trees, nor apply fertilizer, nor use pesticides. After ten years of using this natural method of farming, the land has recovered so much that in the tea garden one can see Moltrecht’s green tree frog (Rhacophorus moltrechti), which is highly sensitive to habitat degradation, and predatory spiders that are high up in the food chain, and one can hear the song of birds such as Steere’s liocichla and the white-eared sibia.

“A diversity of bird, insect, and plant species is the best authentication of an eco-friendly tea plantation,” says tea master Tsai Yi-tze, who is an advocate for eco-friendly tea farming.

Letting the land speak for itself

For tea farmers Jian Jia­wen and Ye Ren­shou, who have adopted natural farming methods, everything started back in 2009 when Typhoon Mo­ra­kot devastated the Ali­shan area. Torrential rains brought a year’s worth of normal precipitation in the space of five days, creating debris flows, rockfalls and landslides.

The enormous destruction caused by the typhoon caused some people to rethink man’s relationship with the land and the soil. Ignoring the opposition of his family, Jian Jia­wen decided to grow his tea using “wild” methods.

After four or five years, his tea plantation had become a complete ecosystem, with many insect-eating predators. Through these years of “wild” growing, the tea plants developed self-defense mechanisms, and the tea acquired a flavor that reflected its terroir. This really was a case of “using the ways of nature to meet the needs of man.” Jian Jia­wen says: “Nature is truly miraculous!”

For Ye Ren­shou, the initial motivation for adopting natural farming methods also came from Typhoon Mo­ra­kot. Ye saw friends and family killed before his very eyes, and his tea plantation of more than 30 years was carried 200 meters downhill by a debris flow. But the tea trees that now stood untended on someone else’s land still flourished. This opened Ye’s eyes, and he began to try out “wild” growing methods on his own land. Since starting his experiment on 2000 square meters of land, he has since expanded his production of eco-friendly tea fivefold, to one hectare.

However, his tea leaves were chewed on by insects and were ugly in appearance, and the ground beneath his tea trees was full of weeds. In the eyes of the people of ­Taihe Village, 90% of whom are tea farmers, this was simply incredible. In the face of comments like “he’s a useless person” and “he’s lost all ambition,” Ye could only keep his spirits up by telling himself: “I am normal.”

But through practicing respect for nature through “wild” and natural farming methods, both Jian and Ye came to appreciate the value of peaceful coexistence with nature. They discovered that the power of nature is not only destructive, but can also be life-giving and generous.

Take for example Ye’s winter tea crop in 2018. Many farmers who used conventional methods on their plantations saw yields fall as a result of the extremely cold weather. But in Ye’s eco-friendly tea plantation, production actually increased! Thanks to years of building soil fertility, the tea trees had grown more resistant to the cold weather. Ye says that eco-friendly tea plantations are better able to resist the impact of changes in local microclimates.

Side by side with farmers

“Drinking tea is drinking the environment.” So says Tsai Yi-tze, a tea master who has been working side by side with tea farmers for over 20 years.

In 1996 Tsai happened to be looking for tea to buy in the Bi­shi area of Nan­tou ­County’s ­Xinyi Township when Typhoon Herb caused the Chen­you­lan River to suddenly overflow its banks, and in an instant a debris flow washed away the hut he was standing next to. Fleeing for his life, he was trapped in the mountains, with no outside communication, for more than ten days.

This profound life experience taught Tsai the importance of soil and water conservation, and awoke him to the urgent need to practice it in mountain tea plantations.

“This conservation effort began with consumer participation and working side by side with tea farmers,” says Tsai, who went through many years of trial and error to arrive at a practical approach.

He promoted his ideas to Taiwanese tea growers one patch of land at a time, from Ping­lin to Shi­ding in New Tai­pei City; from Ming­jian to Sun Moon Lake in Nan­tou; and from Ali­shan in ­Chiayi to Gaotai in Tai­­tung. “It was all about working with them and reminding this generation of tea farmers to revive their memories of the tea growing methods of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers, while at the same time restoring the soil to its natural state by not using chemical fertilizers or pesticides.” By adopting natural farming methods, with experience it would be possible to find a balance between production and the environment.

Organic tea plantations

The tea farmers who abandoned conventional farming methods were all people with the courage to follow their own convictions, and therefore did not fear to go against the grain. Tea farmer Yu ­Sanhe, head of the seventh tea production and marketing group in Ping­lin, and ­Huang Bo­jun, founder of Taiwan Blue­Mag­pie Tea, both had the same courage and enthusiasm.

“I don’t grow tea, I just maintain the environment.” Yu ­Sanhe, who started to apply natural farming methods in 2010, brings out some recently harvested and processed winter tea and says, eyes shining, “Since I shifted over to organic farming, not only have I protected the environment, I have been able to get a rich harvest of precious winter tea.”

Yu explains that when he first went over to eco-friendly tea growing, besides a drop in production, his biggest headache was “infections from neighboring plantations.” “Four or five years ago a neighboring farmer said unthinkingly that the only way he could get the leaves on his tea bushes to grow was to spray pesticides three times per growing season. I realized that he was using so much pesticide that the insects were all driven into my plantation, so it’s no wonder that my tea was all eaten up.” To address this problem, Ye did not harvest his tea in August, but deliberately waited until after his neighbors sprayed their pesticides in September, so that his tea leaves would be old and therefore unpalatable to the insects driven over into his plantation. Then he waited again for new buds to form in October, which was precisely the time to harvest winter tea.

The difficult days that Yu went through, when reduced production caused him to operate at a loss, so that he could only get by with the help of loans from the farmers’ association, have ended in sweetness. He is understated and persevering, just like the tea he makes—especially his white tea and yellow tea, in which the light infusion has a powerful sweet aftertaste.

In the more than 1000 hectares of tea plantations located high up in the catchment of the Fei­tsui Reservoir, spread across Ping­lin and Shi­ding Districts, more than 90% of growers still use conventional methods, and their long-term overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has led to acidification of the land and to concerns about accel­er­ating eu­trophic­ation of the reser­voir. Besides Yu Sanhe, there are some 30 tea farmers in Ping­lin’s organic­-only seventh and eighth production and marketing groups who are working hard to restore eco-friendly tea cultivation, and so to moderate the damage being done to the Fei­tsui Reservoir by conventional farming methods.

There is also ­Huang Bo­jun, founder of Taiwan BlueMagpie Tea, who since 2013 has used the concept of “river basin recovery” to convince 14 tea farmers to join the ranks of those who do not use pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Huang uses “eco-friendly” as a branding tool, and promotes marketing techniques like corporate sponsorship and travel to tea growing areas, working through companies with a sense of corporate social responsibility and through consumer participation to together do whatever they can on behalf of environmentally friendly tea drinking.

Drinking tea is a reconstruction of natural local conditions, and also a kind of life aesthetic and attitude. When we practice conservation and environmentally friendly cultivation techniques in mountain tea plantations, nature rewards us with a truly revitalizing cup of tea.

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