Greeting from Antwerp, Belgium
This is Mei Lan Hsiao from Belgium Chinese Tea Association.
My journey started when I was about 8/9 years old. As the eldest daughter in the family, it was my duty to prepare tea during the weekend when I was home for my parents.
My Mom has very difficult troublesome physical conditions, she could have different chronical problems in different seasons. Also since I was young along the way, I noticed that she needed different kind of attention, from time to time. That’s reason why when I chose tea for her, when I made tea for her, I have to pay extra attention to what kind of tea she could drink and how to brew that tea to make sure the tea did not upset her stomach and sleeping quality. So you can say my Mom was my first inspirator to learn about tea, but my learning point was not about tea itself, as matter of fact, , I started to learn tea with health according to Chinese traditional Yin-Yang wisdom.
Then in 1985 I was nearly burn out, I stood on the cross road in life; I started to question myself who am I , what am I doing, what is the future to be; at that moment I have no answer; all I knew was that I like to drink tea, I wanted to go the nature to enjoy a cup of tea; that’s the voice to me. So I started to learn tea with a tea farmer in MaoKong, the tea region in Taipei. With this tea farmer family, not I enjoyed not only good quality tea, with them I have the pleasure to see how they took care of tea farm, how did they pick tea and how did they make tea. Then all in sudden I realized what attracked me to tea was not just about fine flavors and good tastes, actually I was inspired, moved and touched by those people who I did not know their names, who worked very hard in their life to show respect to the nature, also traditional wisdom, hand picked quality tea manually produced. I was moved and touched by the humane values behind tea leaves, I started to fall in love with tea even more without knowing.
In 1991 because I married to a Belgian, so I moved to Belgium. Left family in Taiwan behind was a very difficult decision but I was very very happy, because it gave me a chance to stand out my comfort zone, and I have chance to see tea and engage tea, to learn and appreciate teas from all over the world, certainly from mainland China, so I could learn tea by drinking tea. Often people asked me who was my teacher, who I learned tea from. I always said, the first person is my Mom and the 2nd is tea. Tea provides us a lot of freedom to choose and tea provides comfort to the heart.
Living in Belgium, from time to time I feel homesick so what I do is to invite friends for Chinese food and, of course, share tea with them. A Belgian friend encouraged me and asked me to teach tea. With the first group of Belgian ladies, I realized that they did not know about tea, they did not know is tea, what and how to choose tea, how to brew tea and how to appreciate tea. So when I stared the journey, I said to myself it’s not about business, it’s about helping people to appreciate tea. Because there are so many good people in the world are looking for good teas; and vice versa there are so many good teas are looking for good people to appreciate them.
That’s what I am doing. That’s my vow to tea. Tea can not speak, tea simply provides. As long as you have an opened mind, as long as you are willing, when you have a cup of tea, tea talks with you. When you fall in love with tea, what you fall in love with is not tea itself, as matter of fact, it is you in the reflection in tea.
I do hope one day, I can welcome you to visit the Belgium Chinese Tea Centre in Antwerp for a cup of tea.