Taipei is a massive city, but just a short metro ride will take you to a totally different world; Maokong. I went out there to look and walk around. The gondola takes you up to an area covered in green. It is also known for the tea houses. Since the weather wasn’t great I decided a tea would be a good start of the day and warm me up a bit.
I passes all the tea houses near the tourist area and stepped inside a white building. I hesitated in front of the door and a woman came to open it for me. I was greeted Taiwanese style, so obviously I didn’t understand a thing. I received a menu in Chinese characters and with a few English words a somewhat younger woman tried to tell me what I could drink.
Eventually a whole tray came my way, accompanied by a man whose English was much better. He walked me through the whole ritual of drinking tea. In the tea house nearly every table had a gas cooker. Firstly the tea bowl was rinsed with hot water, and that was then poured over the little tea-pot and then over another tea-pot. After that he put fresh tea in the pot and the ritual was repeated.
The bowls were washed with the tea to get the flavor in it. It wasn’t until the third time that he was making tea to drink. There was a little bath of hot water in the tray so everything would stay hot. It was fascinating to see this whole ritual. Honestly, I wouldn’t have known what to do if someone didn’t do it for me.
The man stayed as I drank from my tiny tea-cup. Every time it was empty he gave me a refill. Then the ladies of the house came with different nuts and snacks. The man said I could eat the whole nut, shell and all, but as I was eating it the lady felt like she had to show me how to crack the nuts (by slamming it with a jar). The man laughed: “No, you just eat all of it.” And he put some nuts in his mouth. Everything was ‘eat, eat, try’ and I felt very welcome.
After an hour in the tea house I was stuffed. I guess this house wasn’t reached by all the tourists coming to the area. It was too far back. My luck. The man, who was just a friendly neighbour who happened to speak English, said the tea was on the house. I guess I would be the local gossip for the week. It was an amazing experience!