Maokong Tea in Taiwan served Gongfu style
Nelson @ Maokong: This area on top of a mountain just outside Taipei is reached by a gondola. It is famous for cultivating tea and there are many tea houses near the top with a spectacular view of Taipei. We of course visited one and had some tea.
I will explain this picture a little later, but I just wanted to lead with this because it looks so interesting.
The tea we ordered was called Golden Yuan Tea (High Altitude) or 高山金萱茶 in Chinese for NT$450/$15.50. This got us a bag of tea that was enough to serve all of us at the table of 6 and a bit of leftover. We didn't know exactly how to serve the tea, so we had to ask the wait staff to help us.
I will quickly outline the steps below, but first notice how many implements are used. A black clay teapot, a clay decanter with metal strainer, tea cups, tea scent cup (looks like a porcelain shot glass, a large cleaning bowl, towel, spoon, the actual tea, a hot kettle and a burner.
What is described below is called gongfu tea ceremony or 工夫茶 in Chinese. This is my interpretation of the steps as performed by the waiter, but the Wikipedia entry has detailed steps that I did not look at when I was writing this post.
- Clean: Put the wide cups into the large bowl and rest the black tea pot on top. Pour boiling water into the black teapot until it is overflowing and wets the cups below. Pour the teapot out and make sure the cups get wet from the boiling water.
- Fill: Put the appropriate amount of tea leaves into the teapot (not pictured). I'm not sure what the proper amount is, but it will vary depending on the type and size of teapot.
- Retrieve: With the provided tongs, retrieve the tea cups.
- Brew: put the teapot back into the bowl and fill with boiling water. Replace the lid and let stand. (not pictured) I'm also not sure how much time to let it brew for unfortunately. Once again probably dependent on the tea. (There may have been a step here where the leaves are cleaned by pouring out the liquid into the tea cups again, but I don't recall this happening despite many people mentioning it)
- Decant: When ready to serve, pour the tea through the metal strainer into the decanter.
- Pour: From the decanter, the tea goes straight into the tea scent cups.
- Serve: Place the tea cups on top, flip upside and serve.
- Smell: This takes us up to the first picture again. Now the drinker is supposed to take the tea scent cup and release the tea in the cup while bringing the tea scent cup up to the nose to capture the fragrance of the tea when it is strongest. That is, on the first pour tea drinkers will smell the tea before anything else.
- Drink: Drink.
We also ordered a few snack to go with our meal. This is some deep-fried tofu (黃金豆腐) for (NT$100/$3.50). This was snapped up fast, although I didn't like the sauce that much because it had a strong musty taste.
We also had some deep fried sweet potato (炸地瓜) for (NT$100/$3.50). Very hot and fresh!
And finally the tea! I am not a connoisseur of tea, but I definitely enjoyed drinking this. For subsequent pouring, just steeping in the teapot and using the decanter to pour straight into the tea cups is sufficient. There is no need for the scent cups again, although I think we used them again when we steeped our second teapot. Each set of leaves was good for 3-4 rounds of refills.
The novelty of having tea served this way was really fun and interesting, perhaps overshadowing the tea itself since my tea tasting skills are unrefined. A great experience overall!
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