Well, it’s a Sunday. It’s before my work starts in earnest here in Taiwan…. so I figured, why not, let’s go tea hunting.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a Maliandao here in Taipei, as far as I’m aware. There’s an area with more older teashops, but for the most part, they’re scattered around the city. Searching around, I found a few places near me, so I tried those first.
I first went to a place that sells only Wenshan baozhongs. I was pretty quick there — bought a few things and moved on. Basically, one ounce of a good grade, one of a bad one, and two of a high roasted variety. I look forward to the high roasted stuff the most, as it looks positively cooked. It might be a bit on the charcoal tasting side of things, but we’ll find out. It was in such small quantities (and thus relatively low prices) I didn’t even bother to taste — it’ll be weird to taste them and only buy one ounce.
Then I walked along the street — which was eerily quiet, because most stores are closed on Sunday — to the next destination. This place sells mostly puerh, but as I discovered, they also deal in Taiwanese teaware. There are some pretty interesting looking cups there, fired by their own kiln. Some of the ones look very metallic-ish, and not very cheap, but might be quite nice to drink large cups of tea from. Interesting, regardless.
I only tried one raw puerh there, since we then proceeded to drink some cooked stuff as a friend of the owner arrived. I was informed that they normally close on Sundays, and it is only because yesterday was a typhoon day that the owner was there today — he was there to check on the store.
I ended up taking that one cake with me home. It was an interesting specimen, claiming to be Menghai but I think it’s not. The owner said it’s a “special order”, which I think is a euphemism for “fake” in this particular instance. Menghai cakes just don’t look like this. Whatever it is though, the tea itself is fine — a bit bitter, but the bitterness goes away pretty quickly, and there’s definitely strength in the tea. Aged a few years already — 5-7, I’d guess.
What’s most interesting about the whole thing was the way the owner made this tea for me. It started out quite normal — leaves in gaiwan, water in gaiwan, dump water, water in gaiwan again…. and then…. he poured about 1/10 of the liquid into my cup, and maybe another 1/10 into his. The rest were left stewing in the gaiwan as I drank my first cup. He then repeated… so the liquid got progressively stronger. It was quite strong in the end, bitter, a hint of sour (keep in mind this is very concentrated tea!), but still quite drinkable. Good consistency. It was certainly not an enjoyable drink anymore, but it was not too bad. Interesting way to test it — slightly like a 5-minute standard brew, but not really. This was even more concentrated because usually for those 5-minute tests you don’t use a lot of leaves. This one, though, he used a “normal” amount of leaves but brewed it long.
Needless to say… the caffeine buzz was obvious.
It was an interesting first trip to teashop on this visit to Taipei. I’ve been here before, but not that long, and the teashops I went to were mostly Taiwan oolong shops. I probably won’t go back to these for a while, and search out for other places to buy tea… it should be an interesting few months.