In Ireland making tea is pretty simple. Boil water. Put Barry’s tea bag in cup. Pour water. Pour milk. Drink tea. Mmmm the sweet sweet, sweet taste of a cup of Barrys Tea.
On my trip to Taiwan last weekend, I discovered a whole new side to tea-drinking. In a city, and country, where tea drinking is more of a tradition or ritual than a, dare I say “drink”, the whole process takes a lot longer. Whether you’re in Taipei, Nantou or down in Taichung, Taiwan is a tea drinkers paradise.
First off, we took a cable car from Taipei to Maokong, the hills that skirt the sprawling city of Taipei, where our eyes were treated to panoramic views of the city skyline including the mesmerizing 101 story skyscraper; Taipei 101.
As the sun set on the city, nightfall brought with it a strong breeze which sent shivers down my spine as, at a height of 2,000 meters above ground level, out gondola began to shake as the wind whistled through the cracks which sounded like lost souls.
Happy to back on safe ground, we went in search of our first tea house, not really sure what to expect. We found a cute little tea house with a pretty amazing view down through the valley and sat down at some cute hand carved stools outside to taking full advantage of the warm spring breeze.
We were given a menu and decided on the “perfumed floral tea with reddish brown color”! Next thing we know we are confronted with a kettle, a tea pot, a strainer, a small serving pitcher, a bowl, a metal pan, 2 stirrers and 2 tiny tea cups. What to do, what to do. Well, as my Dad always says, if all else fails read the instructions! Well in this case, easier said than done Dad!
How to make Tea in Taiwan…(as far as I remember so bear with me guys!)
1.Heat water but don’t quite let it boil…when you see the big bubbles take it off the heat!
2.Pour hot water into tea-pot then into the tea pitcher. Pour tea into each cup then empty straight away. (This is just to warm the pots)
3. Fill tea-pot 1/3 full with tea leaves. Pour hot water in and leave for a few seconds then pour into pitcher and pour into cups but DO NOT DRINK! This is just to “awaken” the tea and unfurl the leaves!
4. (….can we drink some tea yet?? Nearly, nearly.) Re-fill pot with water and let steep for 30 seconds. Pour through strainer into pitcher then pour into doll sized cups. Sniff and enjoy the floral aroma and….enjoy the taste!
Then after only 2 sips you will discover your miniature cup is empty! Repeat step 4 a few more time over what will probably be an hour long period and you will be an expert at the fine art of tea- drinking in no time at all!
It may sound complicated but its the process that makes the whole experience well worth the trouble and perhaps the equally high price but sitting up in the Maokong hills looking down over beautiful Taipei drinking some of the most delicious and sensual tea that has ever touched my lips and I knew it was totally worth it!