Josephine & Thomas: A Match Made with Oolong
Fun-loving Thomas Shu holding a tea shoot above the pinnacle of his spouse, Josephine Pan, on the Wang Ding Tea Garden, Alishan, Chaiyi County, Taiwan, throughout TOTST 2017.

Text by James Norwood Pratt • Photograph courtesy of JT & Tea

We didn’t like one another once we first met,” stated Josephine Pan of Thomas Shu, her fellow Taiwanese immigrant to Los Angeles. There should not an incredible many Taiwanese in L.A., and even fewer who, like Josephine, belong to the island’s Hakka minority; but right here have been two of them serving on the identical committee—a businesslike Josephine and warm-as-a-teddy-bear Thomas, exuding as a lot good nature as vitality. She’s nonetheless amazed that in the present day they type a partnership that may be a merger in addition to a wedding: Josephine, Thomas, and Tea or, legally talking, JT & Tea. The firm is the couple’s love baby and life’s work, and no person has extra enjoyable of their working life collectively. They are, past doubt, the primary cause an increasing number of Americans are having fun with oolong in the present day.

Oolong, after all, is that household or sort of tea in-between inexperienced and black. Black tea is totally oxidized leaf, whereas oolong leaf is incompletely oxidized, typically greenish—what Thomas has taught us to name “Jade” oolong. With Josephine’s genius for outreach, he has initiated many 1000’s into the pleasures of this most flamboyantly fragrant and deeply flavorful of all sorts of tea. Let me say no extra simply now in its reward, omitting an incredible deal, besides that the advanced and time-consuming technique of manufacturing oolong was found in China however dropped at perfection in Taiwan. Taiwan is to oolong tea what Bordeaux is to French purple wine.

For greater than 70 years, Thomas’s household have been honing their tea-making abilities, data, and buying and selling experience and, over the generations, have turn into the First Family of Taiwan tea. The numerous oolongs his household and their associates rigorously develop and expertly course of vary from the world’s most delicately perfumed, barely oxidized, oolong known as Bao Zhong, to Jade oolong, Classic Tung Ting, after which to the dark-roasted Amber, Oriental Beauty, Taitung, and the newly developed, fragrant, and nearly hearty Formosa Bonita oolongs. After Thomas immigrated to the United States in 1982, it was nearly inevitable that the Taiwan Tea Manufacturer’s Association ought to title him the official Ambassador of Taiwan Tea.

Settling in Los Angeles, Thomas established a department of his household’s enterprise to import and promote all of the oolongs of Taiwan and did effectively sufficient—after which Josephine got here alongside. Working aspect by aspect on volunteer initiatives, Josephine slowly started to get to know Thomas. On a go to to his places of work, the wealthy oolong aromas introduced again glad recollections of rising up in Taiwan and made her glad once more. “Suddenly I looked at him with new eyes,” she says. “It was tea that brought us together.” 

The tea life the 2 have shared since becoming a member of their lives, fortunes, and sacred troth has by now touched 1000’s. Every yr, they conduct maybe probably the most gratifying and instructive of all tea excursions, Taiwan Oolongs Study Tour (TOST), to present these concerned within the tea commerce an in-depth understanding of Taiwan’s extraordinary oolongs. This outreach extends from professionals to the general public at massive, however with a focus on the younger. They make tea for teams massive and small, typically schoolchildren, and educate them songs. Thomas sings, and Josephine performs public relations miracles with assistance from oolong from Taiwan. “Tea is fun,” Thomas likes to say, smiling broadly, “and children especially love having fun with tea.” They have little doubt created extra preteen tea lovers than anyone else alive, and their enterprise regularly grows as their college students develop up. Thomas’s repertoire of tea songs additionally grows, as he makes up new lyrics to go with conventional melodies he remembers. Except for being Taiwanese and sometimes singing in Hakka dialect, he may be known as an exceptionally gifted Irish tenor, and each time tea folks collect, they beg Josephine to make Thomas sing. Those little leaves his songs describe make all people glad, and no person greater than Josephine and Thomas.

To study extra about JT & Tea or TOST, go to For info on the place to buy JT & Tea’s Taiwanese oolongs, e-mail [email protected]

TeaTime Contributing Editor James Norwood Pratt is also called America’s Tea Sage. In upcoming points, he’ll proceed telling the love tales of dedicated {couples} for whom tea has been a bonding agent, you would possibly say, and who’ve made a life collectively inside the tea commerce. For extra about him, go to

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