In Taiwan, loose leaf tea was first used as a medicinal plant. However, over the years it has developed into much more than that. The main reasons why tea has developed into something meant for relaxation is mainly because of who inhabited Taiwan in its early days. The Taiwanese tea culture can be traced back hundreds of years and has similarities to Dutch, Chinese and Japanese tea cultures.
The Dutch occupied Taiwan for about forty years in the 1600’s. They used the area as a trade post between China and Europe. Importantly, tea was introduced to Europeans by the Dutch and simultaneously left an impression on the people of Taiwan. Tea was grown by the Dutch on a very small scale in Taiwan during the time that they occupied the area but most of the tea that the Dutch consumed in the area was imported to them. At the time of the Dutch occupation, it is thought that there were a large number of Chinese immigrants that began to move into the area. These immigrants were believed to bring with them a good supply of tea seedlings in addition to their unique tea culture. Mass production of tea did not begin in Taiwan until the mid to late 1800’s. The local Chinese farmers began to grow the tea in large volumes and even established a tea factory in 1868. Believe it or not, shortly thereafter tea was exported to New York in the United States. Because of this, tea was one of the most important export commodities for the people of Taiwan. Tea simply became a daily beverage and way of life to the people. Like in other cultures, it is always offered on special occasions such as family gatherings or birthdays.
Much of the current tea culture in Taiwan comes from Japanese influence. The Japanese occupied the area from around 1900 to the end of World War II. While there, the Japanese organized the production of tea as well as the industry as a while. They were responsible for the promotion of Taiwanese tea to the world and expanding its market. At this time the Japanese inhabitants developed testing facilities for tea that were responsible for developing some of the world’s most popular flavors. To this day many of them are still very popular all around the globe. At the end of the war the Japanese had to give control of Taiwan back to the people of China. The Chinese further developed the tea culture from that point in time until present day. This unique culture is what has helped to make Taiwanese tea as popular as it is today.
In Taiwan, the typical family owns a minimum of one set of teaware that is used at home. In fact, many families own more than one set for use depending on the occasion. The teapots are used to brew tea until the surface area of the pot becomes a bright color. This is raising the teapot, which is all part of the culture. Raising the pot is a tradition that is believed to add beauty to the process. A nice collection of teaware can generally be found at any store in Taiwan. It is important to note that there are many other pieces of teaware that are important in addition to the pot.
Things such as a decanting vessel are necessary and used to make sure that the tea has the proper flavor as well as level of consistency. Other things such as a tray should be present in order to hold spills should there be an accident. All of these items are necessary in order for tea to be served properly. Since the tea culture is so important it is necessary to get the process of making and serving tea correct. In fact, serving tea in Taiwan is thought to be something that is done to show respect to your guests. That said, getting the process correct is of the utmost importance. Depending on who your guests are it may even be necessary to serve the tea with your finest teaware as you want to make a good impression on them.
Tea culture in Taiwan is something that has been influenced by other cultures all across the world. These influences have helped create a totally unique culture that is valued by the people that live in this country. The culture of tea in Taiwan is ever developing and will remain strong for years to come.