The particular natural conditions in the Sun Moon Lake area have given it numerous unique local products. The lake itself yields plump and tasty topmouth culter (Erythroculter ilishaeformis) and chili (Hemiculter leucisculu) fish, as well as lake shrimp, while the land produces an abundance of Assam black tea, mushrooms, orchids, water oats, and plums for processing.
This is Taiwan's main base for the cultivation of Assam tea, which was brought in from India during the period of Japanese occupation for a trial production in Yuchi Township, where the lake is located. The trial planting was so successful that Assam became the signature tea of the lake area, with a deep red color and a pure, full flavor that visitors find very satisfying. Taiwan Tea No. 18 is particularly favored.
Because of the combination of mountains and water, the cuisine of the area benefits from a rich variety of wild vegetables and animals, as well as lake produce, which the chefs of local hotels and restaurants have combined creatively into many unique and mouth-watering dishes. Among the most prominent culinary offerings are the “President's Fish Banquet,” “Thao Tribal Banquet,” “Dragon-Phoenix Cuisine,” “Cherry Blossom Banquet,” and “Assam Tea Banquet.”
The area is also known for its handicrafts, especially the pottery that was developed in Yuchi and Shueili in early years as a result of the high-quality clay available nearby. At first, pottery production concentrated on daily utensils and construction materials; today, the local pottery industry also provides tourism, educational, and cultural functions.
The Chi Li fish was recorded in Qing Dynasty documents. The Thao called the fish “kiluat”, and the Han Chinese adapted this name to become the “chili fish”. In recent years, an ichthyologist claimed that the chili fish is actually the same variety as the hemiculter leucisculus (Basilewsky) fish that grows in rivers and lakes of low elevation. However, because this fish has a special relationship with the Thao, it has more of a local characteristic here.
The relationship between the chili fish and the Thao is similar to the relationship between the flying fish and the Yami Aborigines. The chili fish is an important source of food for the Thao and it is mainly caught in the spring and summer. In the autumn and winter, the chili fish tend to hide in deeper waters, making it harder to catch them. Because they are small in size, they are usually fried. The Thao also preserve them, and this is one of their famous traditional meals.
The Aruzay's Chinese name makes reference to the fact that its belly is slightly crooked. This is one of the fish varieties that breeds extensively in Sun Moon Lake. When former President Chiang Kai-shek visited Sun Moon Lake, the locals presented him with some aruzay. President Chiang greatly enjoyed it, and from that time, it has also been known as “president fish”. Although aruzay is not unique to Sun Moon Lake, those found in Sun Moon Lake tend to be larger, and can grow to be over 30 centimeters long. They have a very delicious flavor, with a tender meat quality, which can be steamed or fried. They can also be steamed with bird lime tree fruit, a favorite among the tourists.
Many fishing boats with four-handed fishing nets can be seen at Sun Moon Lake, and these nets are mainly used for catching the aruzay. The bigger the aruzay, the better the taste, because not only is the meat quality good, but the bones are smaller. Artificially bred aruzay is worth NT$1 per gram. A half-kilogram of aruzay with a cooking fee is about NT$800. Another fish found in Sun Moon Lake is called the wuchang fish, but this type is less numerous; mostly artificially bred, it is larger than the aruzay. It is said that wuchang fish originated in the Songhua River in the northeast part of Mainland China. Due to Sun Moon Lake's depth and cold water, it was imported for breeding in this area.
Sun Moon Lake is Taiwan's major Assam black tea production area. In December of 1925, during the Japanese occupation, the Japanese imported tea seeds from Assam Province in India, and attempted to cultivate it in the Sun Moon Lake area's Yuchi Township. This experiment proved to have outstanding results, and was then promoted extensively, becoming the most famous of Sun Moon Lake's special teas.
Sun Moon Lake has a high, moist temperature, with a large volume of rain throughout the year, and a high level of humidity. This makes it very similar to the Assam tea production area of India. It has an average rainfall of 2,000 milliliters per year. The moisture content is 85%, and the average temperature is 19.7 degrees Celsius with an atmospheric pressure of 88.7. Every year there are around a total of 1,870 hours of sunshine. In this area, it is possible to produce 3,000 kilograms of Assam black tea per hectare. As for the quality of the black tea grown here, it is of a strong color, and has a rich flavor. It is mainly sent out of the area for marketing, but a small amount is sold locally. Nowadays at Yongshe Village on Maolan Mountain, close to Sun Moon Lake, research work on Assam black tea is still conducted at Yuchi's Tea Research and Extension Station.
A precious plant originally produced in the Heilongjiang River Basin and the mountain area of Siberia, Siberian ginseng is a member of the araliaceae (ivy) family. Because its medicinal effect is as effective as that of ginseng, and because the stem has thorns, it is known in Chinese as “five-thorn ginseng”.
In the “Compendium of Materia Matica”, written by Ming Dynasty scholar Li Shih-jhen (1518-1593), great praise was heaped on Siberian ginseng. He stated, “a vehicle filled of gold, silver, and jewelry is not as valuable as a bundle of Siberian ginseng.” The experimental cultivation of Siberian ginseng in Dalin Village, close to Sun Moon Lake, proved to be successful, and it was greatly promoted within the boundaries of Yuchi Township. Yuchi Township has already become one of the major production areas of Siberian ginseng in Taiwan. The hotels and restaurants in Sun Moon Lake produce meals of a light medicinal flavor to the tourists. Of these, Siberian ginseng is one of the best ingredients, and during your visit to Sun Moon Lake, if you have not experienced the taste of their famous Siberian ginseng, you are truly missing out.
The residents of the Shueishalian (Sun Moon Lake) area, regardless of whether they are Aborigines or Han Chinese, all enjoy eating “ailanthus prickly-ash”, which has the nickname “thorny onion”. The locals have developed a unique cooking, food, and drink culture. In addition to cold dressing, deep frying, stewing, and soaking it in alcohol, they also make cookies and cakes. The versatility of ailanthus prickly-ash is demonstrated by the fact that it can be cooked using all of these methods.
The tender heart leaves and the tender part of the seedlings are picked for cooking. The most common way to cook these young leaves and young seedlings are to wash them and use salt, to rub them into a soft vegetable. They are aromatic, delicious, and easy to add to food. The Thao have their own method of preserving these leaves. They first wash them in water, then place them in a green bamboo tube, and then add some salt, allowing them to become slightly acidic. This results in a superior flavor. Another cooking method involves pounding the leaves into a paste, which can then be used for seasoning. The Han Chinese prefer to deep fry ailanthus prickly-ash, and eat it with soy sauce. They also use it as a condiment when making soup. Its medicinal uses include neutralizing one's body temperature, reducing moisture, germicide functions, and relieving pain. It is mainly used for healing bodily injuries, and for treating rheumatism, colds, cold chest and abdomen, cold fluid retention, and for decoction. Folk remedies follow a “remove the wound, relieve the depression” concept, and in recent years the locals have used the roots and stems of the ailanthus prickly-ash to make wine, producing the famous “ailanthus prickly-ash wine”.
Nantou County's climate is ideally suited for flower cultivation. Flower growing takes a narrow second to tea cultivation in the county, and their annual production is valued at over NT$2,000,000,000. The top three flowers grown are lilies, orchids, and roses. The cultivation area extends from Puli to Renai, Sinyi, Yuchi, and Jhushan, and of these, Yuchi is the most famous for its cultivation of all different kinds of orchids. The numerous varieties of orchids that are found in the fields include Chinese orchids and dancing doll orchids. Of these, the most concentrated area of orchids can be found in the Dongguang flower area. Flower cultivation requires intense technology, and in the past, when the high output value of the unit surface area developed along with industry and commerce, economic prosperity, and the elevated national standard of living, both the national and international flower market initially experienced marginal growth.
In recent years, under the direction of the government, new measures have been introduced, resulting in improved flower-cultivation skills, advancements in flower-cultivation facilities and production support, developments in storage and transportation methods, and the opening up of new products. The flower quality has steadily improved, and their prospects are thriving. This has allowed Yuchi Township to have a new agricultural-products platform. Yuchi, with its beautiful orchids everywhere, will definitely become a new recreation and tourism place for people who love both scenery and flowers.
It is only through visiting an orchard area that one can experience directly picking the product. Through explanations provided, you can learn about the mushroom's cultivation, as well as its gathering method and process. You can also buy some fresh, delicious mushrooms to take home for sampling.
Most of the mushrooms grown in the Sun Moon Lake area are cultivated using the “outer-space bag” method (by means of long, tubular plastic bags filled with synthetic compost). The Dalin Mushroom Orchard Area, located about 2 kilometers to the east of the Yuchih administrative area, uses this method. It is the only mushroom tourist orchard in Taiwan, and has a surface area of around 7 hectares. The mushroom production season takes place from March to September. At this time, a constant stream of people involved in the mushroom business come from all over the country. This is also the time when tourists come to purchase the mushrooms.
However, the cultivation and harvesting of mushrooms is different from the cultivation and harvesting of fruit, in that it involves bagging, sterilizing, and inoculation, and these methods are new to the tourists. After being bagged for half a year, the mushrooms can then start to grow. Not only are they high in quality and quantity, they are also very clean. Tourists visiting the Yuchi and Sun Moon Lake area should try to stop by the only tourist mushroom orchards in Taiwan. Mushrooms are one of the best ingredients in Chinese cooking, and have high nutritional value. They are also uncontaminated by pesticides, and contain minerals, vitamins, protein, etc. A western scholar once called them “the steak of vegetables”.
In his research, a Japanese PhD agricultural scholar once noted that mushrooms have anti-carcinogens and reduce cholesterol. Regardless of whether they are fried, deep-fried, boiled, or used in soup, they always taste fresh and delicious, and are well received. Whether you buy them for your own use, or use them as a gift for friends and family, they make a great selection.
Words from the winery owner:
My family has lived in the Sun Moon Lake region for 4 generations, since my grandfather moved from Zhushan 60 years ago. Although we are not aborigines, we are profoundly familiar with their culture, especially in terms of making millet wine.
With our decade-long experience in traditional wine-brewing, we have been able to produce old and fragrant millet wine.
In an attempt to share with people our love for millet wine, we started preparing things three years ago to establish our business. With advice from peers and predecessors, support from friends and families, and professional techniques taught by senior experts, we worked hard to set up this museum-winery, and made all the decorations on our own.
Thanks to kind donations from people, the museum now showcases a variety of sophisticated collections for millet wine lovers.
We expect the museum/winery to contribute to the local industry and culture in the future.
|Address:||No.241, Zhongzheng Rd., Riyue Village, Yuchi Town, Nantou County|
While enjoying a life of tranquility in remote mountains, we dedicate ourselves to looking after the still-functioning historic black tea farm, and the sounds of tea manufacturing machines always remind us of the old days in which factory workers worked around the clock to produce tea to meet export demand.
Amid mountain fogs, the old tea farm witnessed the rise and fall of the industry. It gently awaits the right timing to come, to revive itself and make a come-back.
We have always felt that the farm calls for people to ponder on the meaning and choices of life, to cherish and be thankful to all living beings, and to develop faith and passion in life.
Thus we decide to renovate the tea farm and share with visitors our feelings and joy. You are welcome to take a guided tour on the history, space and ecology of the farm, to learn more about the re-creation of the historic place.
|Address:||No.38, Youshui Ln., Zhongming Village, Yuchi Town, Nantou County|
Yuchi County′s Assam tea was in fashion for thirty years between 1940s and 1970s, but also stayed anonymous for the following three decades. Having spent 60 years in the tea industry, Shi Chaoxing, a graduate of “Education Center of the Tea Industry” in the Japanese colonial period, was so deeply in love with Assam tea that he had always persisted on it, even when the industry became so degenerated that he could barely make a living out of it. When others made a fortune by growing betel nuts, he still clung to Assam tea, believing that it will come into spotlight again.
In 2001, Shi created a self-owned brand “Hugo Assam,” hoping that his tea will be loved by people again. The name “Hugo” in the local language means both “good fruit” and “Japanese delight”; Shi hopes that his business will fruit well with his Japanese skills.
In addition, it was the Japanese who helped Shi plant the tea trees. “Hugo,” therefore, also shows Shi′s gratitude to his Japanese instructors.
Shi has recently passed his tea manufacturing skills to his daughter—“Princess Assam” Shi Zhuhua. Together they aspire to make the farm shine again.
|Address:||No.5, Xiangcha Ln., Xincheng Village, Yuchi Town, Nantou County|
“No. 40, Xiangcha (Shiangcha) Lane” is not only the brand name of Shiang Shan Farm′s black tea.
In fact, it represents a real place. The farm is located at No.40, Xiangcha Lane, Xincheng Village, Yuchi Township, Nantou County.
During the Japanese colonial period, there used to be a large black tea factory on the present site. But as war devastated the village, what′s left from the 3,300-square-meter factory was only debris and ruins when Taiwan was returned to the nationalist government.
Luckily, the staff dormitory buildings were still kept intact, and tea farmer Hsu Tang-kun moved in with his family during the 1960s to establish this farm
Mr. Hsu has witnessed the vicissitudes of the black tea industry in Taiwan. With childhood memories kept to his mind, he joyfully looks after his farm, which now covers 20,000 square meters of land.
With profound love for black tea, the senior tea farmer with quiet charm, insists on picking tea leaves by hand to bake homemade, organic tea. His dedication is just like taste of old tea in a pottery jar—unique and mellow.
Our tea is organic and nothing else. We hand-pick all our “one heart, two leaves” tea. We bake tea on our own.
|Address:||No.40, Xiangcha Ln., Xincheng Village, Yuchi Town, Nantou County|
On a summer weekend, the sisters of my husband paid a visit to our farm. Back then, the farm had just been established, and we were talking about what to call this place. Suddenly, our children playing outside yelled, “Gugu! Gugu!” which in Mandarin means “Auntie! Auntie!” My husband’s eldest sister, on hearing this, replied, “yes, my good kids?”, but she found out that the kids were not calling her at all. The kids were actually marveling at the big Chinese mushroom decorations in the front yard—“Gugu” can also refer to “Chinese mushrooms” in our language.
Inspired by this funny interlude, we named our farm “Gugu.” Just now and then I′m asked by our visitors if I am the “Gugu” (auntie) of the farm, and I always tell them this enjoyable story. It always makes people laugh!
Our farm was established in 1985. Visiting the farm is free, and group visitors can book guided tours in advance, or participate in a mushroom-picking activity.
We produce both fresh and dried Chinese mushrooms.
|Address:||No.8, Jintian Ln., Dalin Village, Yuchi Town, Nantou County|
About the Yuchi Branch of Tea Research and Extension Station :
The branch, established in 1936, Showa Year 11 of the Japanese colonial period, was formerly called the “Yuchi Sub-branch of Black Tea Testing, Central Research Institute, Taiwan Governor-general Office,” and served as a research center of Taiwan′s large-leafed black tea.
In 1945, Taiwan was returned to the nationalist government as “the Province of Taiwan,” and the Yuchi Branch was taken over by the Department of Agriculture and Forestry of the provincial Governing Council. It was later named as the “Yuchi Branch of Agricultural Research Institute” under the Agricultural Research Institute. On July 1st, 1999, it became a central government agency and was renamed the “Yuchi Branch, Tea Research and Extension Station, Council of Agriculture.” It is now in charge of tea testing and research, manufacturing and marketing skills improvement, and tea education promotion in central and southern Taiwan.
The branch is located on the hills of Maolan Mountain in the north-west of Sun Moon Lake. Surrounded by neighboring verdant mountains, the branch provides scenery too wonderful to be true. In particular, when it drizzles, the branch gets so mysteriously misty that visitors tend to feel lost in paradise on earth.
750~1,000 meters above the sea level, the branch is quite suitable for tea trees to grow. The 30-hectare land is abundant with both large-leaf and small-leaf tea trees, which produce famous Sun Moon Lake black tea and Pouchong tea.
About Arai Kokichiro
Arai Kokichiro, born in Gunma, Japan, was the last Japanese director of Yuchi Branch. Due to World War II, Taiwan′s economy was severely affected during his term. Coupled with heavy soldier recruitment, the branch had neither money nor enough people to help, but the admirable director still marched on, in promoting the research of Taiwan black tea.
The chief died of sickness in 1947. Former president of Taiwan Tea Corporation Chen Wei-zhen, who was also the first Taiwanese director of the Yuchi Branch, set up a shrine in the branch two years later, to memorize his contributions to the research of Taiwan black tea.
The vision of Taiwan black tea
The Yuchi branch seemed unlucky when it attempted to revive the old industry in 1999. Not long after it developed a new brand “Tai 18” in June, Jiji Earthquake ruined the region in September. Because of the misfortune the locals felt more determined to bring the local tea industry back to life. After thirty years of silence, with efforts from local tea farmers and the government, along with improved manufacturing skills, Sun Moon Lake black tea has gradually become important again in the local market.
“Tai 18” has a unique “mountain tea” flavor that no other tea has. Thus it should sell well internationally as a featured Taiwanese product. The branch aims at producing more kinds of quality Taiwan tea in the future. In this way, not only will Taiwan become an island of top-end black tea in the world, but global black tea lovers will be able to enjoy the wonderful taste of Taiwan tea.