Taiwan celebrates the Paulownia Blossom Festival – the island’s biggest flower festival part of the culture of the Hakka people. The Hakka people are Taiwan’s second largest ethinic group making up about 20 per cent of the population. Found mostly in northwestern Taiwan, the Paulownia tree stands as a symbol of the Hakka heritage. It used to serve as an important source of income for the Hakka community in Taiwan.
“The wood can be used to make furniture, so the Hakka people planted many Paulownia trees. The tree seeds can be used to extract oil, so they had high economic value to the Hakka people,” said Mr Liu Tung Lung, deputy minister of the Council of Hakka Affairs. Over the years, the trees may have lost their value as economic crops, but they’re still dearly cherished by the Hakka people and regarded as a symbol of their culture. The Hakka community celebrates the Tung Hua Blossom Festival every spring, as a way to honour the tree and remember their roots.
Another symbol of Hakka culture is Lei Cha – meaning “pounded tea” because of the way it is made. To make Lei Cha, ingredients such as tea leaves, sesame seeds and roasted peanuts are grounded with a guava wood stick for 15 minutes. After it becomes a paste, hot water is poured into it. “Lei Cha is a high calorie drink that can detox and warm your body. It’s a healthy drink. No added preservatives… The tea gets rid of the oil from the seeds, so it tastes very good,” said Mr Chuang Chung Cheng, Hakka Cuisine expert. As Taiwan’s largest floral festival, the event attracted more than six million visitors, and close to US$800 million in tourism revenue last year.