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Tea People: Thomas Shu

Thomas Shu on Facebook (screen capture from site)
Thomas Shu on Facebook (screen capture from site)

Because I spend a lot of time writing about tea for this site nowadays I post a lot of tea commercials and other videos at my own site. It was while I was seeking out tea videos that might be worth passing on (and from an email from my Esteemed Editor) that I became aware of Thomas Shu. Who was the “star” of a short video there that featured him singing a Taiwanese tea song. Taiwan, as you may or may not be aware, is an island off the coast of China. It’s most notable to tea people as a place that produces mostly oolong tea, much of which is quite exceptional.

As it turns out, you can find a number of these interpretations of Taiwanese tea songs by Mr. Shu at his web site, where he has a section devoted to tea music. But beyond his interest in these songs Shu also has a rather strong interest in Taiwanese tea, in general. Which is actually something of a understatement. Then there’s basketball, or, as he notes on his LinkedIn profile, “I love tea, I love Taiwan, and I love sharing Taiwan Tea. I am a die-hard Lakers fan for 30+ years.”

But Shu is more than just a tea lover, singer and basketball fan. He’s also a third-generation tea specialist from Taiwan whose family has been in the tea business for more than 70 years. For the last 37 years Shu has headed the family business, ABC Tea, and further describes himself as a Tea Specialist, Projects Organizer, and Tea Culture Promoter.

The last of these is particularly noteworthy, given Shu’s strong ties to Taiwanese tea culture. In 2007, he received the honorary title of Ambassador of Taiwan Tea, from the Taiwan Tea Manufacturers’ Association and also organizes oolong tea study tours to Taiwan. Shu is one of the founding members and board directors of the Specialty Tea Institute, where he has also served as an instructor. He was a presenter at the World Tea Expo and the Los Angeles International Tea Festival, too.

For more on ethnic Hakka traditions, including their tea songs, refer to Sam Gup Shui Studio, where Shu is one of the participants who have joined “as a team to work on Hakka Music and Culture promotion.” For more about Thomas Shu, from the mouth of Thomas Shu himself, here’s an in-depth interview. In it, Shu sums up his life in tea by saying, “I believe that tea is in my blood and it is my destiny to be in the tea business. It is my mission to bring the best Taiwan Oolongs to the world.”

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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