Eat This Drink That: Jioufen Teahouse

May 21, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Green, organic brain-shaped patterns on a meticulously groomed tea farm in Xiding, TaiwanTea Fields in TaiwanGreen, organic brain-shaped patterns on a meticulously groomed tea farm in Xiding, Taiwan

In the foggy mountains of Taiwan lie vast swathes of land, covered with the fluffy dark green bushes of the Camellia Sinensis, also known as tea. Taiwan is famous for its teas, especially for its Oolongs, of which it produces twenty percent of the world's supply. To many, tea is just a bag of powder to be dunked into boiling water and sipped. Add more boiling water and repeat until flavor is no longer detected from the lifeless sachet. This version of tea has been adopted by modern society as a result of cost and convenience; think cup of joe or two buck chuck.

 

On the flip side, we know that all plant-based beverages are rich in complexity and nuance. Coffee, wine, and tea all undergo a strict process from plant to cup to mouth. From the quality of the soil, to the quantity of sun, from the way it's wilted to the way it's roasted, all along the way, tea is meticulously raised, reaped, and relished by the world. As one of the oldest beverages, tea is the second-most drunken beverage in the world, topped only by water.

Shipments coming from town to the isolated village would bring supplies for the nine families that lived in Jioufen, hence the nameShen-Ao Harbor from JioufenShipments coming from town to the isolated village would bring supplies for the nine families that lived in Jioufen, hence the name

One of my favorite teahouses sits among the northern mountains of Taiwan, in an old gold-mining town called Jiufen. Its name? Jioufen Teahouse, of course. You'll find it on the main alley path from the bus stop. Just head straight in, through the mass of tourists, and keep your eyes peeled; it's easy to miss the teahouse's unassuming doorway in a dense, moving crowd that pulls on you like a river current. On top of this, many people seem to confuse Jioufen Teahouse with A Mei Teahouse, also off the old street. That being said, I won't tell you exactly how to get there, because that's half the fun!

Charcoal-fired kettles and pots of precious teas in a rustic wooden teahouseEntrance at Jioufen TeahouseCharcoal-fired kettles and pots of precious teas

Hanging ivy and ceramic displays in the entrance lobbyA Natural SettingHanging ivy and ceramic displays in the entrance to Jioufen Teahouse

Inside Jiufen Teahouse, you'll find a rustic scene filled brick and wood, steaming, charcoal-fired kettles, and displays of fine ceramics. The atmosphere exudes a sense of passion -- for tea, for art, for contentment. The walls, painted with mineral powder, surround the two floors of the natural wooden structure. Vintage clocks on the walls, ivy on the rails. Thin porcelain wares and heavy brass cats. The teahouse is owned by a couple who, in addition to sharing and selling tea, opened a pottery studio and gallery downstairs to celebrate their love for art.

Charcoal-fired kettle set in a wooden table within the brick wallsThe Rustic DecorCharcoal-fired kettle set in a wooden table within the brick walls Like I said, Fine Porcelain and Brass Cats!Table WaresLike I said, Fine Porcelain and Brass Cats!

After choosing a tea, you are brought one of the large earthenware kettles with a fresh batch of charcoal, along with a set of tea wares for your own personal gongfu tea (工夫茶) enjoyment. If you've never done gongfu tea, the staff will kindly show you the way. You warm up and clean the tea set with boiling water, then scoop the proper amount of tea into your gaiwan (蓋碗). Add water, steep, and pour into your chahai (茶海) decanter. Pick up the gaiwan lid and enjoy the volatile aromatics coming off of it, then pour from your chahai into your teacup(s) and enjoy.

Explaining the Gongfu Tea process, beginning with the heating of the cupsGongfu ChaExplaining the Gongfu Tea process, beginning with the heating of the cups High mountain tea, steeped and poured into the chahai, ready to pour into teacups and enjoyReady to EnjoyHigh mountain tea, steeped and poured into the chahai, ready to pour into teacups and enjoy

After a relaxing afternoon, steeping and sipping High Mountain Oolong, nibbling on various tea snacks, you can head downstairs and explore the art gallery and pottery studio before taking off on the rest of your journey.

The wooden walls and tile floors set the stage for a relaxing afternoon at Jioufen TeahouseThe AmbianceThe wooden walls and tile floors set the stage for a relaxing afternoon at Jioufen Teahouse Lots of in-progress handmade items in the pottery studio below the teahouseBisquewareLots of in-progress handmade items in the pottery studio below the teahouse The potters enjoy their own tea time down in the studioBeauty Need Not Be FancyThe potters enjoy their own tea time down in the studio

 


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