To me, there is something almost magical about tea. I have started to travel the world in search for the perfect cup of tea already a couple years back. I am not expecting to encounter that one perfect taste-bud-tickling experience, but to rather indulge myself into different cultures, traditions and customs. To truly experience the world and its people around me. I still have a lot to roam, but I want to share with you the four most memorable tea encounters I have confronted around Asia.
1. That one time I wandered around tea plantations in Taipei
Let’s be honest here. The actual reason I first travelled to Taipei, was so that I could fly on Eva Air’s Hello Kitty themed aircraft. I had absolutely zero expectations of the city itself, but ended up falling in love with the place. Taipei just happens to have some of the world’s kindest locals, tastiest street eats and the city is surrounded by the most alluring nature.
If you are spending a few days in Taipei, I suggest taking a daytrip to Maokong. Maokong is located on a hill in the southwest of Getou Mountains in Wenshan District of Taipei outskirts. It’s easy to reach from the city, taking a 15-minute metro ride to Taipei Zoo and then jumping on to a gondola – where you can enjoy magnificent views over the city and tea plantations!
I spent my day in Maokong walking around the tea plantations, picking up tealeaves with the locals and visiting a tea museum. In the afternoon, it was time to enjoy locally grown Jasmine tea with noodles cooked in tea oil!
2. That one time I finally got to drink a cup of green tea in Tokyo
As a tea drinker and a devoted consumer of green tea, I had long-awaited for the day I could enjoy my perfect cup of green tea in Japan. Finally last fall I was on a plane to Tokyo. Japan is well-known for its tea culture and over there, tea is no joke. The locals highly value the health benefits of these magical plants, but also immerse in long ceremonies to celebrate the brilliantness of tea.
In Tokyo, I had the chance to participate in a tea ceremony, where the Japanese ceremonially prepared a cup of sencha, which is a green tea leaf. The more common tea to ceremonially prepare though is matcha, which is a powdered green tea.
3. That one time I tasted eggs boiled with green tea in Shanghai
Tea eggs are sold everywhere around Shanghai, from street vendors to 7elevens – it’s the perfect protein rich snack on the go, which perfectly suits the busy lifestyle of the Shanghainese. Tea eggs are first pre-boiled, then cracked and boiled again in tea and soy sauce. While the scent may be funky and the eggs look a bit rotten floating in black liquid – I was left wanting more!
In Shanghai, I also got to experience a more negative tea encounter. It’s good to be aware of the tea ceremony scam where a small group of friendly locals (pretending to be visitors from elsewhere in China) will kindly ask you to join their tea ceremony. If you are a silly tourist like myself, you will end up loosing a lot of money. The scam is done in such a clever way, I had to do research to be sure I was actually scammed.
4. That one time I enjoyed the world’s best chai in Delhi
I had just arrived to New Delhi, India. After two days of culture shock, I wanted to go on an adventure. I had long dreamed of setting foot on the marbles of Taj Mahal. I hired a driver for the day to get me from Delhi to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located. The drive took 5 hours, but every second was like watching a scene of an interesting movie, called life. We drove through small villages, slums and richness’s. In just a couple of hours I experienced all the ends of today’s society.
On our way back from the Taj Mahal, we stopped at the driver’s friends marble shop. The owner of the shop boiled some milk, threw in exotic spices and offered me a cup. At this moment, so far from home, I felt such warmth going through my body and eventually my mind.
I was far away from my comfort zone, but for a minute, I felt right at home. And that to me truly is the magic of tea.
Where did you sip the perfect cup of tea?