Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Taiwan Food Culture

While Taiwan is well known for its teas, food too, as can be expected, is exceptional. To some extent this could have been the result of cooks and food masters migrating to Taiwan from all the provinces of China after the communists took over the mainland. That led to all the provinces of a giant sized country being literally squeezed into and represented in a small area creating a remarkable food culture 

Japanese cuisine is my favourite so I cannot give that a miss here! Japanese food in Taiwan is generally outstanding and delicious. Is it due to its recent Japanese heritage? Or is it perhaps because of a much longer historical maritime exchange as exemplified by the story of Zheng Chenggong / Koxinga 國姓爺.  

As can be seen here, Japanese food is presented very well and was truly a sight to behold. Tasted even better actually.

Images: At Restaurant Mitsui Cuisine, Taipei. (January 2013). 

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Way Of Health

Green foam on fresh, unfiltered rice wine,
on a little terracotta stove.
It’s getting late, and looks like snow;
might you like to drink a glass?

白居易: 問劉十九
Inviting Liu Shijiu
- Bai Juyi (772-846) 

The Way Of Health  無著健康之道 is an organic shop in Taichung, Taiwan run by my friend Tsai Su-o 蔡素娥. In this really beautiful shop, the aesthetically pleasing "tea corner" is given the prime position. Apart from selling teas from Taiwan and China, Tsai, her staff and her family perform their tea ceremony for guests and customers. 

Each step of the tea ceremony process, from selecting the exact amount of tea to be brewed, to pouring the hot water, opening the lids of the tea pots and decanting the tea is performed with delicate precision and elegantly refined movement of the hands that is choreographed to perfection. 

Here everything is relaxed, beautiful and pleasing: the shop, the teas, the ceremony, my friend Tsai and her family. The entire experience leaves me in a zen like tranquility. Drinking the exquisite teas prepared with so much dedication and love, I am transported into another reality.

Top two images: The interior of The Way Of Health, Nnumber 81, Chiao Ma Road, Taichung, Taiwan  台灣台中市朝馬路 81 號
Bottom six images: Tea ceremony by Tsai (also called Ming Jiou 明究).
January 2013, Taichung Taiwan 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Old Woman And The Tea


Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (1951) 
PIndong 屏東 in south Taiwan is perhaps the most untouched part of the Taiwanese tea scene. Some would say the undefeated part of the Taiwanese tea. There is just a small patch of tea growing totally isolated from the main tea growing areas of Taiwan.

It seems that the tea gardens were established during the Qing dynasty 清朝 period when the governor of the area allowed some tea farmers from Fujian 福建省 to establish tea gardens there. As per the matriarch who showed us around, the tea plants were brought over from Wuyi mountains 武夷山. She is the 5th generation tea farmer.

Till now the tea farmers of Pindong have shunned all new varieties (cultivars) of tea plants. They still plant new tea from seeds from the original tea trees from Wuyi Shan. No cuttings or clonal plants for them.  They tried the clonal technique 30-40 years ago but gave it up because the tea bushes became too weak. 

What makes it a unique place is that just a kilometer or so away is the Pacific Ocean blowing all the salty air to the tea gardens. 

As for the tea, it has a strange and unique taste and may not be everyone's cup of tea.

Top two images: The matriarch and her tea garden in Pindong, Taiwan
3rd and 4th images: The garden is organic and there were lots of insects and bees. The two buds and the shoot / leaves were small to tiny.
Bottom image: Taiwan rises dramatically from the Pacific Ocean on the east coast at Pindong not far from Eluanbi 鵝卵鼻, the southern most point of Taiwan. 
All images from January 2013