Afternoon Tea in Maokong, Taiwan
Discover and taste the best Taiwanese tea by traveling from a modern city to a natural landscape in Maokong in a matter of minutes.
Without doubt, Taipei is one of the most modern and sophisticated cities nowadays. It has tall ecological skyscrapers such as the Taipei 101, countless museums, and an efficient public transportation system. Travelers with a keen eye and and adventurous heart will be able to find other attractions that are popular among locals such as the night markets of Taiwan and the tea crops that reflect the country’s agricultural tradition.
In DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, we’ll take you to visit Maokong, the former largest tea region in Taipei. There, you will enjoy a spectacular evening full of flavors, scents and views that will delight your senses.
History of Taiwanese Tea Culture
In order to understand tea culture in Taiwan we must travel first to China. This is the country where they probably prepared the first tea plant infusion, around 250 B.C. From that moment on, the popularity of said beverage has grown increasingly, and it has become one of the most consumed beverages worldwide. It was around the 14th century when several prohibitions for the tea industry were established, since it had become corrupt and didn’t benefit the Ming Dynasty.
This led to the search for new sowing and production methods that complied with the norms the Ming Dynasty had established. That’s how in the 17th century, they started producing “oolong” tea (a term that means “black dragon” in Wūlóng). In order to elaborate this special tea, they cultivated the plant in very specific weather conditions. Apart from certain soil properties, the plant requires a high altitude in order to get the product’s best qualities. These geographical conditions are easily found in Taiwan, particularly in areas such as Maokong.
Nowadays, nearly 16,000 families cultivate tea in Taiwan, but their work is not only related with economic development. Tea production and consumption is a matter of tradition. It’s not only a delight for the senses; for the Taiwanese people it represents the opportunity to share moments with friends and family and to preserve local customs.
The best option you have to get to Maokong is via gondola or cable car. From Taipei, take the subway, line 1 (brown) to “MRT Taipei Zoo Station”. Walk toward the zoo entrance and, before reaching the entrance, you’ll find the first cable car station. Costs vary depending on the type of ticket you purchase: one stop 2.39 USD; two stops 3.42 USD; three stops 4.10 USD. Costs are accessible, so we recommend buying a ticket for three stops. This way you’ll get to enjoy all the attractions the site offers. In this link you can get more information about the stops in Maokong Gondola.
At the first station, the southern part of the zoo, you’ll find impressive views and a great place to take a walk. At the second stop you’ll find the Zhinan temple, an icon of Taipei that’s also the greatest expression of culture, art and spirituality in Taiwan. And at the last stop, you’ll reach Maokong. Here are some suggestions for visiting the village.
What to Do at Maokong, Taipei?
Once you reach Maokong village, you’ll find a vast offer of activities you can try. Don’t worry, here are several options of itineraries you can follow:
- If you want to enjoy local food, head to the eastern part of the village where you’ll find several restaurants and teahouses you’ll love. Also, at the Taipei Tea Promotion Center you’ll learn about the magnificent tea plant and about the types of tools and tea sets that exist. You’ll even see a demonstration about earth erosion that helps raise awareness of the right use of soil and water.
- If you have an adventurous spirit, head to Zhangshu Trail. At this area located west of Maokong you’ll get to practice hiking at any time of the day. The trails and routes are very well marked and receive constant maintenance so they are safe and easy to follow. Become one with nature as you walk across thick forests or even tea crops.
- If you decide to stay in the village until dusk, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most astonishing landscapes. The combination of nature, spirituality, great views and temples, together with the twinkling lights of the city of Taipei in the background, create a luminous and perfect contrast. You can’t miss an opportunity like this.
Maokong Tea House
Visit the most ancient tea houses in Maokong that are still open to the public. One of them is the Lioujisiang plantation (which means “fragrance of six seasons”). It’s located almost at the top of the valley and it has been working for four generations. There you can try several types of tea accompanied by small biscuits. You can also buy oolong varieties such as the dondgding.
Drinking Taiwan Oolong Tea in Maokong
There are several varieties of tea in the island of Taiwan. Probably, the most popular variety is the aforementioned oolong. It’s a fermented tea that may be described as the meeting point between green tea and black tea. Many have called it “the wine of teas”.
Drinking tea requires discipline and rigorous steps. In Taiwan this process is known as the Wu-Wo ceremony, and everyone can take part in it, regardless of age, gender or social status. Following the steps adequately is a sign of respect and spiritual values. The process goes as follows:
- Select the right tea; it must be natural and without any added ingredients.
- Boil the water at 205 ºF. In the meantime, place the tea leaves in a teapot (one gram per five cups, approximately).
- Once the water boils, pour it in the teacup and let it rest with the leaves so that they release their scent and flavor. Oolong tea must rest for three minutes.
- Then, pour the tea in small ceramic glasses and let the tea rest for one or two more minutes before drinking it.
When you taste this famous tea, you’ll reap the health benefits oolong offers. Oolong provides tons of antioxidants that will make you feel younger and healthier. Moreover, it’s will be a gift for your spirit. From the moment of the you prepare the tea, until you drink it, you’ll be taking part in an ancient tradition that will connect you with Maokong in a very special way.