What's so special about Taiwanese Tea? Where can you buy it? What are the most famous places to sample Chinese tea on Formosa?
Information About Taiwanese Tea
A while ago, a friend of a friend came to Taiwan and I showed him around a bit, taking him to Maokong and the like. He was a Canadian tea aficionado, who occasionally freelanced as a tea bartender at parties. His knowledge of Taiwan's geography was intricate, but only because of the drink. He knew the names of mountains, famous tea-growing villages, and he could say the Chinese words for dozens of obscure Taiwanese tea varieties but could barely slap a makeshift sentence of coherent Mandarin together otherwise.
Like many ancient Chinese customs, tea culture exists in a more pure and traditional form in Taiwan than in the mainland. Why? Mostly because Mao Zedong tried to destroy Chinese traditional culture, whereas Taiwan did its best to keep it alive. Still, the love of fine Chinese teas that is ubiquitous in Taiwan owes its history to China, but it has taken on a life of its own on Formosa.
Taiwan is Heaven for Tea Lovers!
Taiwan's geography, with the gentle roll of green sub-tropical mountains, makes it a perfect place for experimentation in the growing, selling and of course drinking of the world's first global commodity. Famous tea-growing hotspots in Taiwan include Alishan Mountain in Chiayi County and Maokong near the southeast of Taipei. Take a tour to either of these places and you can see firsthand Taiwan's tea cultivation being done by local Taiwanese farmers, and naturally you can get a taste of the fresh stuff as well.
Tea that is made in Taiwan is famous internationally, though particularly in Asia and mainland China. Varieties such as its baozhang and oolong black teas are known by tea lovers globally, and it has been shipped and sold around the world for over a century. (These are just some of the names that my aforementioned friend of a friend knew by heart).
Other famous Chinese teas in Taiwan are:
- pu erh tea
- jasmine tea
- tazo tea
- silk road tea
- matcha tea
- wu yi tea
Taiwan's Bubble Tea
Another huge part of Taiwan's world of tea is pearl milk tea, a.k.a. bubble tea, as seen in the picture on the right.
It inspires fear and disgust among many westerners, but the "plop-plop-chew-chew" of bubble tea is absolutely everywhere in Taiwan, and arguably one of the most famous things ever to be created on the island.
For those who don't know, Taiwanese bubble tea is this: starchy tapioca balls, which come in varying sizes, are tossed into the bottom of a plastic cup. Next, the cup is filled with cold tea, ice milk or milk powder and lots of sugar (you can ask for less). The cup is then hermetically sealed, shaken up and given to you. Finally, you take a comically large straw, jab it through the plastic seal and suck the bubbles through. Personally, I love it, but it must be tried for oneself.
More info about tea in Taiwan
Tea makes a terrific gift for tourists to Taiwan. Shops selling domestically-grown Taiwanese tea are all over the place, especially if you go somewhere like Alishan or Maokong. Even if you are an avid tea drinker, you might be alarmed by the difference in quality from what you drink in Taiwan to what you get elsewhere.
If you find yourself ordering at a tea stand in Taiwan, watch out for the sugar level - the default amount is pretty intense. If you don't want your tea to be too sweet, you can ask for ban tang (half sugar).
I hope you enjoyed this page about Tea in Taiwan!
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