Time for tea

Tea in Taiwanese culture

Time for tea

Tea is central to Taiwan’s history and culture but the practice of drinking tea is one that has been influenced by many other countries. Tea is indicative of the Taiwanese psyche, as a country which has fed off so many influences to make it the fascinating and diverse place it is today.

In this article you will learn more about the history of tea in Taiwan and discover how this leaf - originally used for medicinal purposes - has become such an important part of Taiwanese culture.

The history behind Taiwanese tea

Tea has been part of Taiwanese culture since the 1600s when the Dutch began growing it on a small scale on the island. However it was not till the late 1800s with the influx of Chinese settlers that tea began to be grown on a mass scale.

The Japanese who occupied Taiwan from 1900 to the end of the Second World War ramped up the tea production industry and brought global attention to Taiwanese tea, known as Formosa teas. During this time, some of the world’s most popular varieties of teas were developed in In Japanese testing facilities in Taiwan.

Fortunately tea grows in abundance in Taiwan’s subtropical climate meaning there is no fear of any imminent shortage to the supply. Due to variation in weather and geography, Taiwan produces a very varied range of tea plants, the most popular of which is Oolong, the premier cru of the tea world. Taiwan’s plantations of this aromatic, fruity and nutty tea account for 20% of the world’s production. Black, red and green teas are also widely popular.

Pinglin tea museum

Pinglin, located in the South East of New Taipei City, produces the highly prized Pouchong  tea. The best time to visit Pinglin is in spring when the tea is being harvested.

Pinglin’s museum is the largest of its kind in the world, where you will discover the historical and cultural importance of tea in Taiwanese culture. You can see an eclectic selection of teas in the making before your very eyes.Displays give visitors more information about the tea making process and there are artifacts relating to the production and enjoyment of tea.

Learning all about tea is bound to make you thirsty, so why not complete your visit by experiencing a Taiwanese tea ceremony in the museum’s traditional Chinese garden in their very own teahouse. The traditional Chinese garden features rockeries and pavilions.

Tea ceremony

Tea ceremonies should be performed in a relaxing and tranquil environment to aid the appreciation of the tea. A large space is required for all the utensils to avoid an uncluttered and relaxed environment. There are numerous stages to the ceremony which all must be performed with great respect.

The first stage in the ceremony is the warming of the cups and the heating of the water. Next the tea is first emptied into the tea pitcher (cha hai) before being served to the guests. There is a great emphasis on appreciating the smell of the tea. The tea is poured into scent cups, or sniffer cup, which guests use to inhale the aroma of the tea before drinking it from a separate drinking cup. It is good etiquette to drink the tea in three sips.

Many classical artistic practices are linked to the tea ceremony such as calligraphy, flower arts, and incense arts which form part of a greater tea culture. Hopefully you can see that for the Taiwanese tea is not just a drink, but is an important and deeply rooted part of their culture.

Further reading

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