Like many Asian cultures, tea plays a large role in the culture of Taiwan. In Dallas, we’re thankful for their contributions, including Bubble Tea which began there. Tea houses, also known as tea-arts shops are located in every major city and town all over Taiwan. Oolong style teas are the most popular in Taiwan.
History of Tea in Taiwan
Over 300 years ago, the first wild tea trees were found growing on Taiwan. Beginning 200 years ago, these wild tea trees were brought to estates and farms and the process of cultivation for consumption began. Today, many tea varieties are cultivated, but Taiwan remains most known for its oolong teas.
Tea ceremonies are an integral part of Taiwanese culture. They’re a way to slow down, enjoy the full experience of tea and connect with loved ones. Ambiance is important. Often flowers, incense and soft music are added to the tea ceremony space to create a truly peaceful environment.
Tea ceremonies are highly ritualized. Prior to brewing, a six-step preparation process is performed. The idea is to warm and sterilize the cup and teapot while giving participants an opportunity to inspect the leaves.
Traditionally, the first brew is discarded. There may be some flavor reasons behind this. The first brew generally releases a lot of tannins from the leaves. It can make the first brew quite strong and bitter. Discarding the first brew means that all following ones are full of oolong flavor and not overly bitter.
Once brewed, tea is served to guests in a circular fashion from a communal pitcher. Depending on the tea, this can be repeated eight times or more. Each brew requires slightly long infusion time to extract additional flavor.
Before sipping the tea, participants enjoy its aroma. Traditionally tea is poured into a scent cup and the drinking cup is inverted over it creating the “dragon and phoenix in auspicious union” which is often viewed as a prayer for prosperity and wellness. This is then inverted and the scent cup is removed from the drinking cup. At this point, the tea is drunk.
The ceremony is concluded by passing the used leaves around for guests to appreciate and compliment. It’s then time to clean up. Items are cleaned with hot water and left to dry naturally.
Our boba isn’t quite as ritualized as a Taiwanese tea ceremony, but it’s enjoyable experience in a different way. Come see us at any of our Dallas locations and try bubble tea yourself.