Taipei Day 2: Temple of Love, Noodles, and Oolong Tea

Burning incense with monks in the Temple of Love

It’s Sunday. A day of rest. But not for tea people. (It’s actually November now and forgot to upload this post!)

I kicked started my second full day here in Taipei with a beautiful Asian breakfast (rice, bok choy, eggs)  good conversation and some Oolong tea. It gets better. I decided not to join the group that was going to a eco-garden and instead continue to wander around Taipei. Karen Hartwick joined me. We left the Dong Wu and walked over to where they sell dried herbs, teas, flowers, fruits, Chinese medicine etc… On route we ran into David, the nephew of Jackson Huang and Thomas Shu (2 of our leaders for my 2nd Taiwanese Oolong Study Tour.) David was on his way to find a temple where one of his friends visited last year and told us the story of how only  1 month later his friend met a woman and they were married. Evidently, people go to the temple to pray for love. So, we’ll call it the Temple of Love. We followed him to see what it was like.

With David Huang, Karen Hartwick and our love charms

So many people in and out of the temple, burning incense and praying. Karen and I were snapping tons of photos. David asked us if wanted to participate in a ceremony. We were game. David was our translater to our guide, who walks you through this elaborate process which involved chatting with 5 different Gods, introducing yourself (ie: Hi. My name is… and Im looking for…) burning some incense and then eating some candy to seal the deal. We were given these special amulets to keep with us so that the “energy of the Gods” could work its magic. We shall see. Of the 3 of us, one is seeing someone, one is seeing someone but may want someone new, and one has no interest at the moment in seeing anyone.  I’ll let you figure out who is who. One of the nicest parts of the experience was being in the temple at the right time while monks chanting with their melodic voices. Incense burning. People praying. It was really quite magical. I felt I was in the right place at the right time.

One of the oldest street in Taipei

Once we left the temple, we meandered the streets, peeking into windows taking in all visual and aromatic sensations that is Asia. We stumbled upon what David said was one of the oldest roads in Taipei. Simply charming! David happened to be standing in front of a building with an open door that turned out to be an art gallery. We decided to go in. Quite spectacular to see the modern art just inside the oldest part of Taipei. Afterward, he takes us to the oldest and apparently Best Noodle Shop in Taiwan. We enjoy a local lunch in a hot spot for a mere USD$1.

Noodles for lunch. For $1.00

Karen and I then hopped in a taxi and headed over to Wisteria Tea House to sit, relax and talk tea. Wisteria is where director Ang Lee shot “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman” and I could see why. It’s gorgeous. We enjoyed the spectacular entrance into this private little world of tea and then found some of our own teapeeps sitting on mats in the back room dining and sipping. Karen and I enjoyed 2 oolongs that were on the menu. One was an aged oolong. Tasty, but admittedly my 1980 Aged Oolong that I purchased last year trumped theirs. We also shared a pot of milk oolong.

A page in the menu at Wisteria

I noticed on my way out of the tea house that there was the teapot and burner set that Ive been searching for all year! Tempted, I almost broke down and purchased it retail.  Im glad I held my fire because I would end up finding a much better, higher quality version later in the trip.

I look back at these last 2 days prior to beginning TOST and realize what a good idea it was to come a few days early. We officially kickstart the tour this evening with a welcome ceremony at TTMA. That means that tomorrow all systems are GO! and we’ll be moving at the speed of light as we wind our way through the Alishan Mountains and make Classic Tung Ting Tea. Tung Ting is also known as Jade Oolong and is one of my favorites.

I’m sipping tea in Taiwan. I’m happy!

Taipei Day 2: Temple of Love, Noodles, and Oolong Tea

Taipei Day 1: Tea and Friends

My first official 24 consecutive hours in Taiwan. I feel like Ive been here a week.

I left DC on a Thursday afternoon and my first day here is Saturday? Long trip. But Im rested and ready to roll. Today is the birthday of one of our hosts: Josephine Pan. Our plan to spend the day at a hot spring fell through so we will shop and walk around. We had other tea friends join us for the day: Lisa Bolt-Richardson, Lynayn Mielke, Karen Hartwick, and Bob Bowie.

Our first stop was walking through the old market. We wandered through taking in all the aromas that crashed together. We stopped to watch a man make what I called “taiwanese crepes”. These are made of rice flour which perked me up since Im a gluten-free girl now. It was fun to watch him spin the dough and flatten it out on the hot round pans. We didnt eat any – just watched. The best part of the market was when I spotted the fruit Ive waited a year to eat again: PASSION FRUIT. Last year the hotel had it every day for breakfast. This time it didnt, so I was on a quest to find some. I bought out the ENTIRE amount of fruit the farmer had. For $3.00. Though I was reluctant to share with my peeps, I finally gave in. But it wasnt easy.

After the market we went over to a Taoist Temple. People were milling around, praying, offering fruit to the different Gods and asking questions with what looked like a half moon piece of wood, painted a bright red. The idea is to ask a question to the God of Business and drop the wooden pair. It needs to fall with one upright and one down, three times in a row and that means the answer is yes. I had to try it. I asked my question and I didnt expect the answer I got.  It was an astounding YES. Im keeping the question a secret for now. I enjoy visiting these kinds of temples in Asia. There is just nice  and peaceful atmosphere to it. No one is speaking. Incense are burning and there is a lot of fruit being offered.

Lisa, Lynayn, Josephine, Bob, Karen

After all that shopping and praying, or watching people pray we headed out for lunch. Josephine picked a cute local place were I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the vegetable dumplings were made with rice flour. Happiness. Pure happiness. I ordered them and an interesting soup. No tea was served though. Odd.

After our feast, we continued to walk and shop and taste local street food and just enjoy each others company. In some cases we were making new friends, in others, we were catching up with old friends. Ive known Josephine now for a few years and I was on the TOST 2009 trip last year. Ive known Lynayn and Lisa for a few years now through out training at STI, and Lynayn happens to live in Annapolis which is a short distance from DC. I made 2 new friends that day: Bob from Kansas, who own The Spice Merchant and Karen from Canada who owns Stratford Tea Leaves.

Sushi dinner on the sidewalk

By this time in the day I was in need of a nap but I resisted! We all went back to the hotel and Karen come over to my room and we shared a pot of High Mountain Oolong. There is just something about tea with a friend – especially in a foreign country. Especially the country where the tea came from. Later that night, after giving in to a nap from heaven, Karen and I ventured out for a light dinner and found a cute Japanese place around the corner from the hotel. What was cool about it was that the “restaurant” was open to the sidewalk and you could sit at the sushi bar on the sidewalk or the one table with 2 chairs next to the curb by the cars. We chose the table. The menu arrived in full on mandarin and the waitress spoke not a word of English. It was interesting. Next thing we knew there was this woman at the table translating for us. She didnt work there. She was a customer! It was quite funny. This woman, with her husband and child is standing at our table helping us order. Pure comedy. After our funny meal we headed to CarreFour the local department store thats open until 2am. Its not a department store like in the US. Its got everything from a full grocery store on the bottom level to electronics on the top. She had never been to it before so I dragged her over to it.

One the way back to the hotel, we stumbled upon this little tea shop (Jo Shun Tea Co.) that was still open. It was about 9pm. We went inside, sat down and sampled some oolong teas. The girl who helped was named Janet and she happened to know Thomas Shu! She was in Las Vegas at the World Tea Expo this past spring. Small world. After trying a few oolongs, we spotted some puerh on the shelf. There was a brick that just smelled really good. We asked to sample. Im not a huge fan of puerh, but admittedly, this one was fabulous. It is a 20 year old puerh from Yunnan. I bought it on the spot for $40 USD. Karen did as well. Great find.

The night ended with a little birthday party and cake for Josephine at the DongWu Hotel.
Great day.
Great people.
Great tea.
I’m happy.

Taipei Day 1: Tea and Friends