Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tea Around the World – Taiwan

By Jess Hodges

Made in Taiwan is a common enough thing to see on almost any product and tea is no exception. Taiwan is an exporter of tea and has been one of it's great innovators. Some of the best green and oolong teas in the world come from Taiwan. Both Japan and China have influenced the history of Taiwanese tea and it's ideal growing climate has allowed the industry to flourish.

As so often seems to be the case in the east, Taiwanese tea drinking is a delicate mix of everyday practice, ritual and aesthetic pleasure. Many people collect teapots and a visit to a tea house is a common pass time. Taiwan has it's own tea ceremonies and traditions including 'raising the teapot' by brewing tea in them until they shine.

A particularly distinctive Taiwanese specialty is bubble tea or pearl milk tea. Bubble tea refers to a drink which has been shaken to create a frothy mixture similar to a milk shake. There are two main types, fruit based and milk based depending on the primary ingredient used. Often balls of tapioca are added, these are the pearls in pearl milk tea, they are sometimes substituted for gelatin.

Originating in the 1980s, bubble tea quickly became popular throughout the world. It is an extremely versatile drink which is made with various different types of tea, different fruits and fruit syrups and different substitutes for milk. The result is a fun, sweet, refreshing drink with chewy pearls to add interest.

This mixture of tradition and experimentation has made Taiwanese tea drinking both a treat for the modern palate and a tribute to a rich heritage. It makes you wonder what they'll come up with next.