Photos by MJ Klein
We residents of Hukou are fortunate enough to have our very own Tea Master – our good friend Mr. Gan. Hui-chen and I visited Mr. Gan’s shop in downtown Hukou and interviewed him about his history, family and profession.
Mr. Gan’s early career was with a bottled gas company. He used to deliver gas bottles himself, and he proudly proclaims that the gas bottles never touched his shirt because he didn’t want to cause laundry problems for his wife. This required considerable strength and effort to accomplish. The gas company for which he worked eventually merged with another gas company and to this day he is still a stock holder. The appeal of delivering gas soon wore off, and Mr. Gan began to investigate the inner workings of the Taiwan tea business.
Mr. Gan’s father was keenly interested in tea and his love for tea is what fueled Mr. Gan’s interest in tea culture as a youth. Mr. Gan began to study the ways of tea and eventually opened his shop in downtown Hukou, 27 years ago.
A Taiwanese of Hakka decent (like many people in this region), Mr. Gan is a recognized authority on local history and culture, having contributed articles to many historical publications. Mr. Gan has brought his son into the business and he plans to retire next year when his daughter completes her studies in Japan.
When you visit Mr. Gan’s shop you will see this unassuming teapot that he has been using for years. It has a “dent” in the side of it that just adds to the character of the pot. Mr. Gan is a humble man, extremely generous and is very well read on a variety of topics. One thing that I really appreciate about this man is that he can converse authoritatively on so many different fields of interest that one never feels bored in his company, nor the need to be particularly interested in, or educated about tea. You may sit down in Mr. Gan’s shop and talk about just anything and everything, over a cup of his legendary oolong.
Mr. Gan is a Taiwan government licensed Tea Master. This means that he is qualified to teach courses on all aspects of tea. As I said before, he is a humble man and didn’t really want to hold these certificates for a photograph. In fact, these certificates are not even on the wall in public view, but rather in a folder on the shelf.
In Taiwan, “DIY” means that you can do something yourself. In this case, this particular certificate says that Mr. Gan is qualified to actually ferment and produce his own tea. I have had the pleasure of drinking tea made by Mr. Gan for one of his classes and I found the flavor to be excellent. Of course he brushed it off as just something he did for his class and nothing special. Keep in mind that Mr. Gan had given me a huge bag of this home-brewed tea and it lasted for months. In that time I didn’t buy any new tea from him. What I found interesting is that the tea he made was a hybrid with an extremely interesting aroma. Very enjoyable!
Oh, please note that I chose to not use flash on these photos of Mr. Gan because I just don’t like flash portraits outside of a studio or a well set-up location shoot. There are some deep shadows of course, but when you are sitting in Mr. Gan’s tea shop you will have the same visual experience as seen in these photos.
This photo shows a government publication that Mr. Gan contributed to. Mr. Gan is a noted amateur historian on the Hukou area, where his family has lived for generations.
Mr. Gan proudly showed us this page in the publication, which shows the original Gan family home, and the Gan family tomb. Much of what is written in this section was personally authored by Mr. Gan.
This bottle is some kind of special alcohol that Mr. Gan makes. All I can tell you is that it tastes very good!
Mr. Gan has a wide range of items in his shop. This teapot is worth approximately US$3,500! The script is real and all done by hand.
Let’s take a look at his shop:
View of his shop from the front door
If you happen to travel near Hukou, be sure to visit Mr. Gan’s tea shop. You won’t be disappointed!