I can’t quite remember when my love for tea began. I’ve always enjoyed the matchas and senchas of Japan, the oolongs of China and Taiwan, and the Assam and Darjeeling of India, but I think the real “wow” moment came when my former boyfriend’s parents gave me a very generous and high quality vacuum-sealed pack of Dong Ding oolong tea from Taiwan. They had their own pack and steeped some for me to try, and before I drank it, they told me to take a good, long whiff of it. I did, and it completely blew me away. I smelled it again and again in awe. Never before had I smelled a tea that fragrant in my life. The Longjing oolongs of China, while famous, didn’t hold a candle to this dong ding (or tung ting) oolong tea. It’s hard to describe what it smells like, but it’s extremely fresh smelling, with a hint of sweetness and a slight roasted flavor. It also has a gorgeous golden color when steeped properly and not for too long. In that moment years ago, with my small view of the world, I decided Taiwan must produce the best oolong teas in the world. And one day, I was going to Taiwan to buy more of this special tea.
During this trip, I’ve already been exposed to multiple teas grown in the Nantou, Chiayi, and even Taipei areas of Taiwan. Maokong Mountain, which is the mountain we visited via a gondola today, produces multiple types of tea leaves and is studded with tea plantations all over it. When you reach the top via gondola, the entire area is decked out with tea houses and even shops selling special Baozhong green tea ice cream and Maokong black tea ice cream, or even tie kuan yin flavored ice cream. We went to a restaurant that served tea oil noodles and tea leaf fried rice. It’s like a tea haven up there.
Japan and India are famous for their teas. Even China is. But Taiwan needs to be on the “best tea” list, too.