Tea in Taiwan: A Complete Guide

I’ll be covering a lot in this article, including varieties of Taiwanese tea, how to order tea from Taiwan, where to buy tea in Taipei and Taiwan, Taipei tea houses, how to brew Taiwanese tea, tea tours in Taipei, and tea-related attractions around Taiwan. Get a pencil and notepad ready!

 

I’ve been living in Taiwan for over ten years, and I’ve fallen in love with all kinds of Taiwanese foods and drinks, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I first developed a true appreciation for Taiwanese tea, especially Taiwan’s oolong and black teas for which the country has developed an international reputation.

I’m not talking about pearl milk tea (珍珠奶茶), which of course was invented in Taiwan, nor do I mean the sickly sweet iced tea concoctions sold from Taipei tea shops at every corner (which mostly use cheap imported teas). I mean real Taiwanese tea.

If you’re planning a trip to Taiwan and need travel advice, I’ve got a huge amount of Taiwan content on this site. Start with my 50 favorite places in Taiwan and my 50 favorite places in Taipei!

 

Here’s a discount code for my favorite Taiwanese tea provide, Eco-Cha! If you use this link to select any purchases from Eco-Cha, a 10% discount will be applied at check-out. Eco-Cha supports small-scale farms using sustainable methods and can mail internationally.

 

A leaf of tea in Taiwan
Taiwanese tea leaf (shot at the Pinglin Tea Museum in New Taipei City)

 

Taiwan produces some of the finest oolong teas in the world, and Taiwan’s high mountain teas (a term specific to Taiwanese teas) have even been called the “Champagne of oolong tea.”

Please note, if you are working in a tea shop outside of Taiwan and looking for connections to tea farmers or organic teas in Taiwan, I’m sorry that I don’t have any specific leads. (I often receive emails about this).

 

Best Tea tours in Taiwan that I recommend:

– To organize a full-scale tea tour in Taiwan, I strongly recommend the tours offered by Life of Taiwan, such as their 7-day tea tour, which can be customized to any number of days. If you send them an inquiry, please let them know that Nick sent you over!

– For shorter options, this Taipei tea tour includes a visit to Taiwan’s largest tea museum and a tea plantation with phenomenal views in New Taipei City

– This similar tea day tour also includes the Maokong tea growing area in Taipei City

– This night tour to Maokong only includes Maokong, which as a very different atmosphere at night.

– Learn about the different types of Taiwanese tea and how to brew them in this 1.5-hour tea tasting class (recommended for newbies), or in this slighly longer class more focused on tea ceremony.

– If you prefer being on your feet, try this customizable walking tea tour, which takes place in one of my favorite Taipei neighborhoods, Dadaocheng.

 

Handmade teacups, perfect for drinking Taiwanese tea
Handmade teacups in Yingge, the best place to buy tea ware and ceramics in Taiwan

 

Some Tea Basics

Despite all the varieties available, all true teas are brewed from cured leaves of the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Tea originated in Southwestern China, becoming a popular recreational drink during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-904), then spread to other parts of Asia. Tea didn’t become big in England until the British began cultivating it in India in the 17th century.

The two main varieties of tea are Camellia sinensis var. sinensis (Chinese tea) and Camellia sinensis var. assamica (Indian tea). Caffeine levels vary in tea, but contrary to what some say, your typical cup of tea has less caffeine that a cup of coffee. Tea may be higher in caffeine by volume, but quite a bit less tea leaves are used than coffee beans to brew a single cup.

In China and Taiwan, tea is traditionally consumed hot and with nothing added. It is more commonly enjoyed as an afternoon refreshment for social gatherings, either at home or in traditional tea houses. The tea is prepared according to some very particular steps that have been perfected over centuries, which is sometimes called kung-fu tea, or Chinese tea ceremony, but is not as “ceremonial” as the Japanese tea ceremony. It’s merely the process for preparing each tea in the manner which best brings out its aroma and flavor.

While the majority of Chinese and Taiwanese teas are unflavored, you may encounter some with flavors, which may be real or artificial. Popular ones include jasmine (茉莉) and lychee (荔枝). Herbal (花草茶), fruit (水果茶) and flower (花茶) teas are also common in China and Taiwan, but are not true teas.

Many factors affect the characteristics of a tea, including climate, altitude, water, and soil, but what separates them into the main varieties is the method of post-harvesting production.

Many Taiwanese teas have been transplanted from China, but with a new terroir, they take on new characteristics, and some varieties have been developed only in Taiwan. Typically, they are named after the place where they are grown, for example, Alishan High Mountain tea comes from the area around Ali Mountain, but in some cases when seedlings from the original place are grown elsewhere they may still be given that name.

 

A Short History of Taiwanese Tea

Old Formosa oolong tea poster at the Taiwan Tea Museum in Pinglin
Old Formosa oolong tea poster at the Pinglin Tea Museum

 

Taiwan actually has an indigeous tea that early settlers found growing in the mountains and being used by the aboriginals. Some believe that it may be a tea variety of its own, Camellia formosensis.

Camellia sinensis (Chinese tea) was first brought over to Taiwan in the 19th century from Fujian province in China, where the famous Wuyi tea region is located. Many of Wuyi’s teas are known as yancha (rock tea or 岩茶) after the distinctive rocky terroir they are grown in). Oolong tea was fround to grow particularly well in Taiwan after it was planted in the Lugu area of Nantou and in northern Taiwan.

Following the First Opium War and Treaty of Tianjin, Taiwan was forced to open its ports to trade with the West. Tea became a major export, and around the time the capital of Taiwan was moved to the north, a thriving riverside port called Dadaocheng developed around the tea trade. The neighborhood remains one of the best places to experience Taiwan’s tea culture. See more details in my walking guide to Dadaocheng neighborhood and see some of Dadaocheng’s incredible temples in my guide to the best temples in Taipei.

After Taiwan became a Japanese colony in 1895, the Japanese shifted from oolong to black tea production in Taiwan to compete with the British. They planted Camellia assamica (Indian tea) in the Sun Moon Lake area (see my complete article on Sun Moon Lake’s incredible black teas).

The Japanese also established the Tea Research and Extension Station in 1903, which sought to develop new cultivars and improve or perfect existing ones. To this day, the instition has developed 22 or more new cultivars, some of which are internationally sought and even grown in other countries, such as Thailand. Since more details in my guide to tea in Thailand.

After the Japanese left in 1945, production of black tea dwindled, but a small industry remains, with Ruby Red (TRES tea #18), which is a cross between native Camelia formosensis and Camelia assamica from Burma, pretty much universally accepted as the best black tea made in Taiwan, thanks to its very unique minty and cinnanmon notes.

The Push to Go Higher

High mountain tea field at Alishan
Typical fog that covers the tea fields on Alishan

 

Starting in the 1980s, the TRES and Taiwanese government began encouraging local farmers to experiment with growing tea at higher altitudes. Little did these early pioneers know that they were onto something that would have a massive impact on the Taiwanese tea industry.

The oolong tea grown at higher altitudes was found to have an incredible flavor. Lower amounts of oxygen in the air meant that the tea plants grew slower, with flavor chemicals becoming more concentrated in the leaves. Damp air from the sea and misty slopes of the Central Mountain Range were found to produce teas so fine, the name High Mountain Tea was coined. The Alishan region was the first testing ground, and even today, Alishan High Mountain Tea remains the most famous. See more details in my complete guide to Alishan’s teas.

Teas grown at 1000 meters of higher are considered high mountain, and most of Alishan’s teas grown around 1000-2000 meters. However, farmers have tried to go even higher in other parts of Taiwan, under the assumption that the higher you go, the better the tea will test. Some of Taiwan’s most expensive teas are grown as high as 2600 meters at Dayuling.

High mountain tea farming is known to be bad for the environment, as it leads to deforstation and soil erosion, so the government is even dismantling some of its high mountain tea farms. What’s more, demand for Taiwanese teas far exceeds production, which has even led to the phenomenon of counterfeit Taiwanese teas, which are typically grown in Southeast Asia.

In fact, Taiwan produces such a limited amount of tea that almost none of it is exported, and the country has to import a large amount of tea to meet local demand, particularly for bottled and iced tea beverages, which are massively popular among all ages in Taiwan.

This is why you may find that tea from Taiwan is quite expensive by international standards, and export is mainly limited to small artisanal distributors like Eco-Cha. It’s just really damn good, and there isn’t much of it.

 

Main Varieties of Tea from Taiwan

The amount of oxidation, or fermentation, that tea leaves undergo after being harvested determines the variety of tea. The following are in order from least to most oxidized.

White Tea (白茶)

This is the least processed of all teas and has an extremely mild flavor and light yellow color (the name “white” comes from the tiny silvery-white hairs found on the unopened buds of the plant). White tea comes from Fujian province in China, and as far as I know it is not produced in Taiwan.

 

Green Tea (綠茶)

Like white tea, green tea is totally unoxidized, but has a stronger flavor. Green teas tend to be sharp and possess citrusy or vegetal undertones. It is believed that by roasting or pan-firing the leaves immediately after harvesting, they retain much of their natural flavor.

China and Japan produce most green teas. Taiwan produces some green teas, but they are far less common than oolongs. A flavored green tea I’ve come across often in Taiwan is sweet osthmanthus green tea (桂花綠茶).

 

Oolong (Wulong) Tea (烏龍茶)

Oolongs are semi-oxidized teas, generally ranging from 10% (lighter, closer to a green tea in characteristics) to 80% (darker, more robust, closer to a black tea). As such, oolongs are highly varied. They can be steeped multiple times, and each steeping produces different flavors. Taiwan’s oolong teas are prized by tea connoisseurs around the world and can fetch astronomical prices.

 

Black Tea (“Red Tea” in Mandarin) (紅茶)

Black tea leaves are fully oxidized, giving them the most robust flavor. They are the most common kind of tea consumed in the West, and produced mainly in India and Sri Lanka, though China does produce some as well. Many of them are blends, and sometimes flavors are added (for example the addition of oil of bergamot to produce Earl Grey tea). Sun Moon Lake’s black teas are the best in the country.

 

Pu Er Tea (普洱茶)

Pu Er tea is a fully fermented, aged tea that is unique to Yunnan province in southwestern China. Pu er is truly “black” tea, being extremely dark, earthy, and robust in flavor, and it often comes packed in large dense round cakes like in the picture below.

It is very easy to find in Taiwan but it is not produced here. You can even find mini one-pot sized balls of it (center of below image) in Dadaocheng tea shops.

 

Puer (Pu-erh) tea cakes
Varieties of Chinese tea for sale around Dihua Street

 

Varieties of tea on display at the Taiwan Tea Museum in Pinglin, Taiwan
More than 25 varieties of northern Taiwanese tea on display at the Pinglin Tea Museum

 

Taiwanese Oolong Tea: Taiwan’s Best Tea

The high altitude, humid, and misty mountains of Taiwan provide the perfect growing conditions for oolong tea. Taiwan’s oolong teas account for 20% of world production. More than 25 varieties of tea are grown in northern Taiwan alone, and most of them are oolongs.

Taiwan hosts annual tea tasting competitions, and the winning teas can fetch prices as high as 1000 USD per kilogram or more. The following are some of the most common varieties found in Taiwan:

 

Baozhong (pouchong) tea field in Nangang, Taipei, Taiwan

 

Baozhong (or Pouchong) “wrapped variety” (包種茶)

This Taiwanese oolong tea is lightly oxidized (15-25%) so it is light, floral, and has a melon aroma. It is produced mainly in the Pinglin (坪林) and Nangang (南港) districts greater Taipei. Baozhong originated in Fujian province and is named after the unique square packages that it comes wrapped in.

You can tour Baozhong tea-growing areas from Taipei. Baozhong tea is a personal favorite of mine.

 

Iron Goddess (Tieguanyin) (鐵觀音茶)

Named after the Goddess of Mercy, this tea also originated in Fujian, but is now commonly grown in Taiwan, especially in the Maokong area of Taipei city. There are many varieties, and they vary from light to medium bodied.

 

Alishan High Mountain (阿里山高山茶)

Alishan is not only famous for it’s misty mountains and sunrises above seas of clouds. Traditionally revered by locals as Taiwan’s best tea, this tea deserves it’s own article here.

Alishan tea is usually around 40% oxidized, so it is light to medium in color. The tealeaves are usually rolled into dense little balls that unfold when you add hot water. It has a creamy mouthfeel that seems to coat the mouth, and a sweet, long-lasting aftertaste.

Alishan high mountain tea is sold for as high as 400 USD per kilogram. Also see my comparison of Alishan and another Taiwanese oolong tea, Dong Ding.  

 

Dayuling (大禹嶺)

Near the famous mountains of Hehuanshan and Lishan in the Central Mountain range, Dayuling’s insanely high prices are related to the mountain’s remoteness, high altitude (2200+ meters), and the small quantity that is produced as much as it is to the fact that it frequently wins tea competitions.

This is the most expensive of Taiwane’s teas, at up to 1000 USD per kilogram. I’ve had the honor of trying it, and can whole-heartedly confirm that this this stuff is good!

 

Oriental Beauty (東方美人 or Dongfang Meiren)

60% fermented, this unique tea has an amber color and earthy characteristics. Little bugs called tea grean leafhoppers are intentionally left on the leaves when harvesting, as their bites initiate early fermentation that lends that tea an incredible honey flavor.

Dried oriental beauty leaves have white tips, so it is sometimes called “white tipped oolong”. In a market where high mountain oolongs reign supreme (which personally, I kind of get bored of sometimes), Oriental Beauty is refreshlingly different.

 

Taiwanese baozhong tea, 15-25% oxidized and closer in characteristics to a green tea
Baozhong (pouchong) Taiwanese tea

 

Alishan High Mountain tea
Alishan high mountain tea, 40% oxidized and rolled into little balls, considered by many locals to be Taiwan’s best tea

 

Oriental Beauty tea, a variety of Taiwan oolong tea
Oriental beauty, with its signature white tips, about 60% oxidized

 

Puer (Pu-erh) tea
Chinese Pu Er Tea, the blackest of teas, 100% oxidized and aged, only grown in Yunnan, China

 

How to Order Tea from Taiwan

A solid choice for buying Taiwan tea online from anywhere in the world is Eco-Cha, which sells artisanal teas from producers that practice sustainable farming, and has a great tea of the month program. Use this link to browse their teas and get 10% off your Eco-Cha tea order or enter the discount code NKTEA when you check out!

Another choice for buying Taiwanese tea online is Ai Want Tea, which sells a number of interesting Southern Taiwanese varieties on their English website. They ship teas internationally from Formosa Tea, a family-run tea operation in Nantou, Taiwan.

Last but not least, Global Tea Hut, an international meditation and tea center run by an American monk and tea expert and headquartered in Miaoli, Taiwan, also has a great tea of the month + tea magazine program. The magazine is extremely information and I would highly recommend it for tea (and meditation) lovers who want to take their love of a tea to a higher level. I wrote a whole article about an inspiring visit that I had to the Global Tea Hut’s meditation center, Tea Sage Hut.

 

Where to Buy Tea in Taiwan

One interesting method for buying tea in Taiwan is to visit a tea producing area and buy tea directly from the growers or in local shops in that area. Easily accessible tea growing areas include Sun Moon Lake, Alishan, and Luye. Buying tea in this way creates an association in your mind between the tea and your experience in that area, making it all the more enjoyable when you brew it later. See more details about these regions below.

You can find many stores specializing in Taiwanese tea in all the major cities, many tourist centers (especially Alishan and Sun Moon Lake), and even at the airport and in most grocery stores. Just beware that with such high demand for certain Taiwanese teas, like Alishan High Mountain tea, some tea that is now sold as these varieties is actually grown outside of Taiwan, such as in Vietnam.

If you are not in Taiwan or able to travel to around the island, try ordering Taiwanese tea online from the sites I mentioned above, or see below for the best place to buy tea in Taipei. Truthfully speaking, though, I can’t imagine any teas sold in Taiwan are ever really ‘bad.’

 

Buying tea in Luye at Yong An Tea Garden (永安茶園)
Buying tea from a tea shop in the tea growing region of Luye in Taitung County. You can always taste before you buy!

Where to Buy Tea in Taipei

My favorite place in Taipei to buy tea in Taipei is the Lin Mao Sen Tea Co 林茂森茶行 (195-3 Chongqing N Rd, MRT Daqiaotou 重慶北路195-3號,捷運大橋頭站). The clerks speak impeccable English and can describe all the characteristics of the teas to you before you buy. There are dozens of varieties on display in large metal barrels, and the main local varieties are sorted according to quality, ranging from very cheap to very expensive.

Right next door, and owned by the brother of Lin Mao Sen, is competing Lin Hua Tai Tea (林華泰茶行). The shop isn’t as fancy looking, but the product seems to be almost identical, with a similar range of qualities and prices.

Tea, just like most dried goods and produce in Taiwan, is sold by the jin (斤). One jin is equivalent to 600 grams. For most of the varieties mentioned above, the highest quality goes for NTD4000 (120 USD) per jin, the second goes for 2400 per jin, the third for 1600, and so forth, with the cheapest ones going for as low as NTD60 per jin.

The lowest quality ones are mostly stems and powder, while the highest ones have the largest concentration of perfect leaves. If you want even lower than the lowest quality, go to your local supermarket and buy a box of teabags. The minimum purchase at Lin Mao Sen is a quarter of a jin, or 150 grams (150 公克). They are also familiar with Western units of measurement.

It’s interesting to compare the size of a 150g bag of, say, light fluffy baozhong to the same amount of Alishan High Mountain, which is rolled into dense little balls. The bag of baozhong will be about three times as big!

Personally, I always go for the third highest quality. This is still VERY good tea, and I think only a true connoisseur would be able to tell the difference between the top three qualities, yet the price drops enormously between each of them. NT400 (12 USD) gets me a decent-sized 150g bag of tea that lasts me for at least a few months, and if I get a few different bags, I’m good for a year.

The bulk tea sold here comes in simple plastic bags. If you want to buy some overpriced tea of questionable quality in a fancy container there are many tea shops in Taipei, but at this shop you are paying for quality and you will know exactly what you are buying. They do sell some fancy containers separately if you really need one, though.

 

Lin Mao Sen Tea Co., the best place to buy tea in Taipei
Buying tea in Taiwan at bulk tea bins at Lin Mao Sen Tea Co

 

Chinese Tea set
Tea pot, cups, and tea tray. just some of them equipment commonly used for brewing tea in Taiwan

 

Another very interesting place to buy tea in Taipei is Wang Tea (有記名茶) (#26, Lane 64, Section 2, Chongqing North Road, 大同區重慶北路二段64巷26號), which is only a few blocks away from Lin Mao Sen and Lin Hua Tai in historic Dadaocheng area. This tea shop was established over 100 years ago and specialized in Baozhong and high mountain oolongs.

But the coolest part is that they are the only remaining shop in Taipei where the tea leaves are roasted in the traditional manner over hot coals, right inside the shop!

You can visit the back room where they do this, and if you are lucky enough to visit during one of the roastings, there will be a wonderful smell. If you want to buy tea there, you can sit down to a private sampling session with an expert.

Wang Tea faces Chaoyang Tea Park (朝陽茶葉公園), around which there are several other old tea shops.

 

Wang Tea, Dadaocheng, Taipei
Roasting tea leaves in the traditional manner over charcoals at Wang Tea.

 

Maji Square Yuanshan Farmer's Market, Taipei
Tea vendor at the Taipei Expo Farmer’s Market at Maji Square, Yuanshan

 

Another interesting place you can buy good tea in Taiwan is the Taipei Expo Farmer’s Market, which takes place beside Maji Square at Yuanshan MRT station every Saturday and Sunday 10am to 6pm. Most of them will let you taste their brews before buying.  They aren’t there every time, but sometimes there is a stall that specializes in Pu Er teas imported from China.

 

Looking for a place to stay in town? Don’t miss my guide to the best hostels and hotels in Taipei.

 

Taipei Tea Houses

Traditionally, tea drinking is a relaxed, social affair in Taiwan and can last for hours. In old times, people would head to the local teahouse (茶館), or brew tea on their living room table or in front of their homes. These days, coffee is way trendier in Taipei and cafés serving quality coffees are popping up everywhere.

In terms of day-to-day consumption, most busy Taiwanese drink bottles of iced tea from 7-11 or pearl milk tea-type concoctions from tea shopsstalls these days. These days, coffee is way trendier in Taipei and cafés serving quality coffees are popping up everywhere, However,but most families and especially elderly people will still bust out the tea set when they have friends or relatives over.

Since it’s not easy for travelers to get invited to have tea with a family, your best way to take part in this unique experience is to visit a traditional tea house. Traditional teahouses are dying out in urban areas of Taiwan, but luckily, the Taipei tea house scene hasn’t totally vanished, and you can find several in the Yongkang street area.

If you only have time to visit one Taipei tea house, make it Wistaria Tea House near Yongkang street and Da An Park. This famed establishment is housed in a Japanese era home that was an underground meeting spot for artists, intellectuals, and dissidents during the later days of the White Terror period of martial law in Taiwan. The staff on hand speaks English and is highly knowledgeable. It is often full so you will want to make a reservation.

Another good Taipei tea shop option in the Yongkang street area is Stop By Tea House (串門子茶館). In eastern Taipei, yet another good option to try Taiwanese teas is 7 TeaHouse, and you can save a few dollars by pre-purchasing your tea experience online.

Maokong (see below, in Tea Tours section) is also a great place in the Greater Taipei area with many traditional tea houses in rural natural surroundings overlooking Taipei.

 

How to Brew Taiwanese Tea

A typical Chinese tea set like this one you can order on Amazon includes a surprisingly small teapot (茶壺) with a strainer , a tea pitcher (公道杯) for actually pouring the tea (transferring from the pot to the pitcher helps to achieve consistency), miniature drinking cups (茶碗), tongs for removing infused tea leaves, and a large tea tray (茶盤).

For the absolute best choices of teaware and tea sets in Taiwan, you must head to the Pottery Street in Yingge, New Taipei City. You can find anything there from dirt cheap functional ware to authentic traditional sets and modern ceramics artworks. The Yingge Ceramics Museum is also really impressive!

 

Tea set from Yingge, Taiwan
Gorgeous teaware for sale in Yingge, Tawan’s pottery capital

 

Fine pottery from Yinngge, New Taipei City
Fine pottery and tea ware from Yingge, New Taipei City

 

Most locals perform a somewhat simplified execution of the traditional Chinese gongfu tea ceremony (功夫茶) or “skilled tea”. The first step, after bragging about how good your shit is, is to boil some water and add it to some leaves in the small pot to “rinse” or “wash” them, usually for 30 seconds or less.

The “liquor” from this first round is then poured into the cups and then discarded into the tea tray, which typically has drainage holes. This is done to warm the cups, and after the tea is discarded, drinkers can stick their noses into the empty cups to experience the tea’s aroma. The main purpose of rinsing the tealeaves is to get rid of the bitterness.

Next, more water is added to the pot and the leaves are steeped for about 1 minute (or up to two minutes for some darker oolongs, such as Oriental Beauty tea). Also note that the ideal temperature for brewing tea varies according to the tea. The ideal water temperatures for various teas are as follows (according to the Pinglin Team Museum; information online varies slightly):

Ideal brewing temperatures

-Iron Goddess, High Mountain Oolong: 100°C

-Black, Pu Er: 95°C

-Baozhong: 90°C

-Green Tea, Oriental Beauty: 85°C

 

Oolong teas can be steeped a few times, while pu er tea can be steeped ten or more times. For each subsequent brew, the leaves should be steeped longer. Supposedly, each round brings out different flavors in the tea.

 

Taipei Tea House in Jiuzhuang, Nangang District, Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei Tea House, Nangang District, Taipei City, which showcases Taipei tea

 

Tea Attractions around Taipei

Terraced tea fields are highly photogenic places, and there are many places in Taiwan where you can get up close to admire their simple beauty. Taiwan is also home to several interesting and informative tea centers and museums.

There are a few tour operators offering tea tours across Taiwan (a simple google seach will help you there, but I can’t recommend one personally). The below tea-related attractions can all be visited on your own, but I’ve mentioned organized tours where they do have them.

 

Taipei Tea House, Jiuzhuang (舊莊)

In the foothills of Nangang district, eastern Taipei City, Jiuzhuang is the first place that grew Baozhong tea in Taiwan. In early 2014, a new tea center called the Taipei Tea House (台北找茶園) was opened here to showcase local tea.

The modern, zen-like facilities feature large wooden tables, Western- and Japanese-style private rooms, and great mountain views in the distance. Tea processing equipment and educational exhibits are also on display. On weekends the center also leads eco-tours and holds tea-themed activities.

Across from the Taipei Tea House, there is a restaurant called Guanyun Residence Tea Plantation (觀雲居茶莊), with a patio surrounded by trees. They serve a variety of tea-infused dishes, such as tea oil noodles and tea stewed chicken. You can also visit the family-run Qinming Tea Plantation (欽明茶園).

Overall, Jiuzhuang makes for a pleasant 2-3 hour trip from the city and offers a good introduction to Taiwan’s tea culture. There are some nice walking trails in the area with lovely views over terraced tea fields. The Taipei Tea House is quite new and as far as I know isn’t in any travel guidebooks yet, so you are unlikely to see any other foreign visitors there.

 

Getting There: Catch small bus #5 from just in front of Funan Temple (富南宮) near exit 5 of Nangang Exhibition Center MRT. Buses are infrequent, and if I remember correct, the ride takes about 20 minutes.

 

Terraced tea fields, Jiuzhuang, Nangang, Taipei, Taiwan
Terraced rice fields, Jiuzhuang, Nangang District, Taipei City

 

Tea room at the Taipei Tea House in Jiuzhuang, Nangang, Taipei, Taiwan
Western-style tea room, Taipei Tea House

 

Bridge with tea pots in Jiuzhuang, Nangang, Taipei, Taiwan
Cute tea pots and suspension bridge, Jiuzhuang

 

Pinglin Tea Museum (坪林茶業博物館)

Pinglin is Taiwan’s mecca for tea lovers. You can enjoy the best Pinglin has to offer on the Thousand Island Lake and Pinglin Tea Plantation tour, including the tea museum and visiting a gorgeous tea plantation nearby (see below).

Located southeast of Taipei, all Taiwanese know it as the midway point on the old mountainous highway #9 from Taipei to Yilan. Drivers used to stop here to enjoy a cup of local baozhong tea and lunch, until the freeway was opened in 2006, bypassing Pinglin with a series of tunnels.

But now Pinglin has made a comeback by cleaning up Beishi Creek, the waterway which runs through town, and lining it with bicycle paths from which cyclists can admire pools filled with large catfish, and fields of tea (Giant bicycles can be hired in town).

One reason why there are so many fish in the river, and also why the baozhong tea grown in the area is considered so fragrant, is that the entire area is protected as a special water resources zone given the fact that Pinglin is just upstream from the Feicui Reservoir (翡翠水庫), one of two main reservoirs supplying water to Taipei.

Most of the shops in the one-street town sell tea, tea derived products, or foods infused with–you guessed it–tea. Personally, I really enjoyed the deep fried tealeaves, and you can never go wrong with matcha ice cream or tea eggs. Walking down Pinglin’s little old street, note the cute little teapots on the lampposts.

Pinglin also boasts the world’s largest tea museum, in which you can learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about local tea, and entrance is totally free. A good place to go if you just want a single cup of tea is the little teashop on the outer wall of the museum near the entrance.

If you want to cycle a little further than the easy paths along the river, peddle to the Jingualiao Fish and Fern Trail (金瓜寮魚蕨步道), a lovely one hour ride. There are also multiple riverside campsites in the Pinglin area.  

 

Getting There: Bus #923 and green #12 go to Pinglin from just outside Xindian MRT station. The ride takes about 40 minutes. Bicycles can be hired in Pinglin town.

 

Tea oil noodles in Pinglin, a mecca for Taiwan Tea lovers
Tea oil thin noodles in Pinglin

 

Square shaped package of baozhong (pouchong) tea, Taiwan
Signature square-shaped packaging of baozhong tea, the “wrapped variety”

 

Cycling in Pinglin
Cycling past Taiwanese tea fields in Pinglin

 

Shiding Bagua Tea Plantation (石碇八卦茶園)

Shiding Bagua Tea Plantation, Taiwan
Stunning views over rice fields and the Feicui Water Reservoir from Shiding Bagua Tea Plantation

 

For absolutely stunning panoramic views over the Feicui Reservoir (翡翠水庫), one of two main reservoirs that provides water to greater Taipei, get yourself to this fantastic little spot. The reservoir is also called Qian Dao Hu or “Thousand Island Lake” (千島湖), named after a lake with similar scenery in Zhejiang province, China.

You can get here by taking the bus towards Pinglin, getting off at the nearest stop, then hiking down to find the trail. A much easier way to visit is by taking the Thousand Island Lake and Pinglin Tea Plantation tour, this tea day tour that also includes Maokong, or this hiking and tea-focused tour.

The picture-perfect terraced tea fields rolling down to the turquoise waters of the reservoir with mountains rising straight out of the reservoir form a commanding backdrop. It’s worth the trip!

There’s also a hike in the area that takes in similar views called Yong An Scenic Trail (永安景觀步道).

 

Shiding Bagua Tea Plantation, Taiwan
Shiding Bagua Tea Plantation

 

Maokong (貓空) Tea Houses

Maokong offers Taipei folk (and lots and lots of tourists) the chance to get up into the tea fields via glass-bottom gondola directly from the Taipei Zoo MRT station, and offers dozens of traditional teashops to choose from.

If the crowds are too long for the gondola, just hop on a bus across the street to get to the top in 15-20 minutes. If you do take the gondola, make sure to stop at Zhinan Temple stop along the way to see the impressive temple.

A word of warning: most of the teashops in Maokong are set up for groups, so you typically have to buy a whole bag of tea plus pay a “water fee” per person. It can actually get quite pricey, at least for budget travelers. However, many shops allow visitors to bring their own tea and only pay a water fee on weekdays.

There is a collection of shops and food stalls near the Maokong gondola station at the top, but for me, the main reason I go up there is for hiking. There is a network of trails, and the Silver Stream Cave and Waterfall (銀河洞和宮) makes for a great destination.

It’s a little tricky to find the first time you go, but once you know the way it only takes about 40 minutes to get there from Maokong station, taking you past a number of tea fields.

A great way to visit is on this Maokong night tea culture tour or on this full-day tea tour that also includes Pinglin. If you plan to ride the double decker bus between the sights in Taipei, you can also get this Double Decker and Maokong Gondola combined pass to save a few dollars.

 

Silver Stream Cave and Waterfall, Maokong, Taiwan
Silver Stream Cave and Waterfall, Maokong

 

Visiting Tea Areas around Taiwan

Interest in tea tourism seems to be growing in recent years (based on the number of tours offered and also emails and questions that I get from readers). However, the tea tourism industry in Taiwan is young, and it is not very easy to visit or stay on tea farms around Taiwan. I have spend a lot of time researching this and trying, and below are what I consider the best options.

 

Shizhuo, Alishan

Chia Yuen guesthouse, Cuiti B&B, Shizhuo, Taiwan
Chia Yuen guesthouse and tea farm viewed from Cuiti B&B, Shizhuo, Taiwan

 

If you want to actually stay on a tea farm, the best (and only?) options I’ve found are in Shizhuo, a small tea growing village near Fenqihu railway station, about half way between Chiayi city and Alishan, and also the current end point of the Chiayi to Alishan Forest Railway line.

I had an incredible experience staying at Cuiti B&B (see prices / read reviews), a legit Alishan High Mountain tea farm, pictured above and below. There is a network of trails you can hike among the tea farms, and the scenery is phenomenal, so this is truly a paradise for those who are interested in tea tourism.

See my complete article on Alishan for more information about traveling to Shizhuo, Fenqihu, and Alishan, and my complete article on Alishan High Mountain Tea and why it is so popular.

 

An Alishan high mountain tea farm
Field of Alishan High Mountain tea, shot from my hotel in Shizhuo, half way up to Alishan (see below)

 

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake tea, Ruby Black Tea
The most famous Sun Moon Lake tea: Ruby Black Tea

 

Sun Moon Lake is a gorgeous and popular tourist destination, but the region north of the lake, between Sun Moon Lake and Puli, is also famous for its  black teas, especially Ruby Red #18.  

Here you can find multiple tea-related sights and activite, most notably the Antique Assam Tea Farm. There is even a tea themed guesthouse, and if you get off the main road and drive up some mountain roads, you can find some beautiful terraced tea farms.

See my complete article on Sun Moon Lake tea for all the details about these tea-related attractions. Sun Moon Lake can even be visited as a day trip from Taichung

 

Luye, Taitung

Real iced tea in Luye, Taitung
Real iced tea from Yong An Tea Garden (see below)

 

Another place to see beautiful tea fields or buy tea in Taiwan is Luye, a tiny town (more like a rural area with a train station) in Taitung County.

The best way to see the tea fields is to rent a scooter near the train station and then drive up to the Luye Highland. The main teas grown here are jinxuan (milk oolong), red oolong, and honey scented black tea.

See my complete article on Luye, Taitung for all the details.

 

Learn more about tea in Taiwan, including the best Taiwanese teas, how to buy tea from Taiwan, how to order tea from Taiwan, tea attractions in Taiwan, how to stay on a tea farm in Taiwan, and more #tea #taiwantea #taiwanesetea #oolongtea

 

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. These are products and services that I personally use and recommend. If you click on one and buy something, I get a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

 

 

8 thoughts on “Tea in Taiwan: A Complete Guide”

  1. My mother in law always gives us so much tea when she comes to the USA from Taiwan! She’s like a traveling tea saleswoman.

  2. This is a great post! I just came back from a recent trip to Taiwan and I’ve been craving the tea culture I experienced over there. Luckily I picked up quite a few loose leaf teas (Alishan and Dong Ding Oolong specifically) to hold me over until I visit again. But I did hear from people in Taiwan that dumping out the first brew isn’t as common as it used to be. I think some people believe it’s a waste of the tea’s flavor. It’s not totally a dead custom but there are definitely two kinds of traditional tea lovers: those who pour the first brew and those who don’t.

  3. Thanks for sharing this informative and enlightened article. I’m from the US visiting Taipei and was shopping some tea to bring back home. Per your suggestions, went to the Expo Fatmer’s Market and the Lin Mao Sen Tea Co, a great experience for both. The Lin Mao Sen Tea shop was very helpful in getting the tea for my flavor preference.; though, it’s disappointedly that they only allowed you to try one tea in the shop. They’re ok to send tea overseas, so a good thing to refill my Oolong later on.

    • Hey Troy, I’m glad to hear that were able to find some good tea and enjoy good tea experiences in Taipei. Thanks for reading and getting in touch!

  4. Your site is such a big help for our first-ever trip to Taiwan this July. In fact, its my main reference. Thank you for your generosity. More power to you and your beautiful family!

    • Thank you so much Joy! It’s great to get feedback like this. I hope you enjoy your trip, and let me know if you have any questions!

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