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2012/05/24 第48期 訂閱/退訂看歷史報份DiscoveTaipei
本期主題 Your Guide to Taipei’s Heritage Tea Shops
Your Guide to Taipei’s Heritage Tea Shops
文/Discover Taipei
Early in the 20th century, Taiwan was the world's premier exporter of tea, and the Dadaocheng (大稻埕) area in Taipei was the industry's key commercial center. In its heyday 200 tea enterprises were spread throughout the community, most along Guide Street (貴德街), Xining North Road (西寧北路), Yanping North Road (延平北路), Chongqing North Road (重慶北路), and Minsheng West Road (民生西路). Each year from March through October, during the separate spring, summer, and autumn harvest and processing seasons, women would fill the arcades of these enterprises, picking through tea leaf. The air of the district would be permeated with the leaf's perfume.

Today the Dadaocheng tea-industry boom is long over, but a number of the old-time enterprises remain. Scattered through the city, they preserve and pass on the character and the culture of the industry.

Fengpu Tea Co. – Two Decades, Same Price

On one occasion, when a Japanese customer came to buy tea at Fengpu Tea Co. (峰圃茶莊) with a 10-year-old price list in hand, he was pleasantly surprised to find the list was not at all out of date – the prices had not changed.“Old shops grow old by winning the customer's trust.”The company's 81-year-old chairman, Jiang Bingzhao (蔣炳照), points to the“One Price Store”(不二價商店) accreditation hanging on the wall, given to the shop by the government long ago.“We haven't once changed our price list in 20 years now,”he says. This policy of honesty and reliability is also shown in the many works of calligraphy hanging on the walls, presented over the years by such acclaimed calligraphers – and loyal customers – as Yu Youren (于右任), Jiang Menglin (蔣夢麟), and Wang Yunwu (王雲五). These witnesses to history demonstrate how an old shop builds life-long relationships.

The business, established in Dadaocheng in 1922, had its own plantations in the early years. This was the first tea enterprise in Taiwan to produce teabags and to market them overseas. All its leaf is sourced from Taiwan's premier tea-producing regions, among them Alishan in Nantou County and the Wenshan District (文山區) in Taipei's hilly south. Its best-selling varieties with foreign customers are Pouchong (包種) and Dongding Oolong (凍頂烏龍). Fengpu's packaging emphasizes straightforward, honest simplicity. Fancy flourishes are eschewed in favour of an attractive shanshui (山水;mountain scenery) landscape painting presented to Fengpu many years ago by a key customer. The firm's packaged teas are consistently rated among Taipei's 10 best gift choices, and the firm itself has been rated among Taipei's best gift shops and its most representative stores.

Wang Tea – Celebrating Tea Culture's Intimacy

Located beside Chaoyang Park (朝陽茶葉公園), the Wang Tea (有記名茶) Dadaocheng operation was opened in 1935. A place of venerable refinement, its Japanese-era baking room has been lovingly preserved, the over 40 oven cavities and many other old-style tea-roasting facilities are still in full use. In the display area at the front of the shop are charts and illustrations explaining the history of tea and the many leaf varieties. Guides explain the production process to visitors in Chinese or English. The pride and craftsmanship so central to the culture of producing tea is readily apparent here.

The shop continues to sell classic teas, yet at the same time is actively engaged in developing fresh, innovative tastes. The signature tea is Chichong Oolong (奇種烏龍), a charcoal-roasted Wenshan Pouchong. The roasting is done at a low temperature over an extended period, calming the flavor and adding rich texture. This tea, which has hints of fruit and honey, is a favorite with old-time customers. Thanks to owner Wang Lianyuan (王連源), a man steeped in the scholar-gentleman ideals of the world of traditional tea production, great care and fastidious attention is brought to all Wang Tea offerings. Wang has transformed the 2nd-floor tea-selection room into a stage for nanguan (南管) performances, with free shows for visitors each Saturday 2 to 5 p.m. Nanguan (literally“southern pipes”) is a classical style of music originally from mainland China's Fujian (福建).“In the early days, most of Taiwan's tea companies were originally from Fujian,”says Wang,“and preserved their nanguan musical traditions. By building this stage I hope to reproduce a picture of the lifestyle of yesteryear, which will help people better understand the local tea culture.”

Wang is an avid advocate of“Drinking tea as part of life, and simplifying the brewing of tea.”He seeks to make his heritage business a place of history, art, and culture, a place of warm intimacy, and a place where people can fall in love with the local tea culture.

Geow Yong Tea Hong – an Old Shop with a Culture of New Ideas

Geow Yong Tea Hong (嶢陽茶行) was founded in the town of Lugang (鹿港) in Changhua County way back in 1842. Its Dadaocheng branch opened for business in 1957, with sixth-generation descendant Wang Duankai (王端鎧) in charge today. The shop adheres to the firm's long-standing“Three Roasts, Three Coolings”(三焙三退火) tea-roasting approach. The firm's Tieguanyin (鐵觀音; Iron Goddess) tea, is a favorite among many European customers and also popular with customers in Southeast Asia. Care must be taken that this tea, which requires a heavy roasting, is not too intensely roasted and thus browned. On the other hand the roasting must also not be too light, which would allow a degree of astringency to remain and cause a taste and mouthfeel akin to coffee.

Wang has brought new life and new ideas to the venerable old business. In 2004 Geow Yong was moved to Changchun Road (長春路), and reopening in a more chic and stylish space that attractively complements the elegant packaging and designer tea implements. His idea is to bring a more youthful and metropolitan spirit to the tea-culture experience.“The essence of tea is Oriental and ancient,”he says,“and by blending in modern design elements deep meaning and symbolism of tea culture is in no way weakened.”In another move, in which he seeks a synthesis of tea culture, art, and the humanities, Wang has opened a display space for Taiwan tea-utensil designers on the second floor. Visit Geow Yong and savor the beauty of good design while also sampling the beauty of well-made tea.

Lin Hua Tai Tea Co. – Steadfast Pride in Traditional Packaging

Lin Hua Tai Tea Co. (林華泰茶行), opened in 1883, is one of the oldest and most respected names in Taipei's tea-industry. The interior of the century-old heritage building in which the company is housed still looks very much like it did in the past. Metal drums are filled with tea leaf, and customers' tea orders are measured with old-fashioned scales then packaged with metal shovels. This remains very much an old-style tea enterprise, with a carp pond in its central courtyard and an antique baking room.

The firm started as a tea grower and processor in Shenkeng (深坑), east of Taipei, and the owners decided later to set up shop in Dadaocheng. It has always had a reputation as a seller of quality goods at fair prices. The shop has long packaged its teas in simple plastic bags, and this down-to-earth approach has stood the test of changing times and tastes, for it is the quality of the leaf that is important and its customers are invariably more than pleased. The head of the fourth generation, Lin Shiowchuan (林秀全), says the firm's reputation has spread far beyond the island's borders, and that a French musician and a Russian businessman have been among his recent foreign customers. He declares Taiwan's Dongding Oolong tea (凍頂烏龍茶) to be the best value for money; possessing a rich fragrance, firm texture, and sweet taste, and is especially popular with Japanese clientele.

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