Come Tea with Me: Exploring Pinglin’s Rich Tea Culture

September 06, 2023 Travel

There is a saying in Taiwan: “You have friends, and you have tea – so you’re rich.”

The practice of tea drinking is deeply embedded in the daily life of most Taiwanese. It is a time for them to slow down, savor the brew, and enjoy the company of friends. However, in the past few years, this social practice has been overtaken by the conveniently available tea bags and widely popular bubble teas. 


During our last visit to Taiwan, we went to Pinglin to sit down with a tea master for an authentic tea experience.

Master Huang with our group in his tea house

Learning the art of tea

71-year-old Master Huang of Xuan Zi Ju Tea House has been mastering this craft and conducting tea ceremonies for more than 50 years now. 


He said what we did is already considered a luxury. These days, when everything is so fast, people do not have time to relax. 


A Taiwanese tea ceremony is an elaborate ritual that takes over an hour. First, tea leaves are presented. Guests take turns to smell them. Tea leaves are then brewed. Pots and cups are warmed by pouring the first brew. Cups are distributed to guests. And then, the teas are poured. 


What’s unique about a Taiwanese tea ceremony is the sniffer cup. Guests smell the brew using this cup. After, the cup is placed on top of the drinking cup, and then quickly flipped over. Then, it is time to enjoy the tea.


There are slight variations in the ritual depending on the tea used.


Our first tea was, of course, Pinglin’s Baozhong Oolong Tea. It was followed by honey-scented black tea, and finally, Alishan Oolong.

Pinglin is one of Taiwan’s top tea-producing spots. Some even consider it the hometown of tea. It is located in a mountainous area and in a water-source conservation area, so the air is fresh and the surroundings green and definitely not polluted.


Master Huang’s tea house is located in old Pinglin Street, a century-old street that exudes a rural Taiwan vibe. Diverse tea products, aside from tea leaves, are available here, like tea ice cream, tea eggs, and tea desserts.

Pinglin Old Street


Sadly though, its popularity is on the decline. Master Huang tells us that before the pandemic, throngs of tourists visited the street. But now, very few come. 


The old street was the final stop of our Pinglin Tour. Our tour started at Thousand Island Lake, a picturesque site that is neither a lake nor a group of islands. 

Thousand Island Lake


Thousand Island Lake is the catchment area of the Feitsui Reservoir. The climate and natural terrain make it an ideal farmland for growing tea. So, amidst its endless rows of verdant peaks, we could see terraced tea plantations. 


The journey from our hotel in Taipei to Thousand Island Lake took less than an hour. It was scenic, so it was not boring at all. Along the way, we could already see tea plantations, and our guide, Roy, discussed Taiwan’s tea culture with us throughout the drive.


After our sightseeing at Thousand Island Lake, we went to the Pinglin Tea Museum. 

Pinglin Tea Museum


The museum not only shows, through its displays, the processes of growing, gathering, drying, and brewing tea but also features lots of fun and interactive exhibits. 

From drying to brewing tea

Tea Museum

Cute display at the museum


After the tea museum, we had a tea-themed lunch at the He Huan Tea Banquet Stylish Restaurant. Everything served was tea-based. The meals were marinated, scrubbed, and mixed with tea, topped with mayonnaise-based tea, and cooked with tea as one of the ingredients. We had goose, noodles, pork, bun, fish, shrimp, and veggies. 

Bamboo Shoots with tea mayonnaise

Tea Noodles

Our group’s favorite was the pork bun, which we had to assemble ourselves. The bun itself is a winner.


After that, it was tea o’clock with Master Huang.


About our Trip


Our tour was sponsored by Clark International Airport, Starlux Airlines, Plaza Premium Lounge, Genesis Transport, and Dar Chiu Travel Service.


Clark International Airport (CRK) is one of the most convenient ways to visit Thailand. The airport itself is a destination. It’s less crowded than other airports, it counts plenty of different spaces, and there is no need to fight for your chair. Plus, it has good dining options.

Beautiful and spacious terminal

If coming from Metro Manila, there are point-to-point buses operated by Genesis Transport, located at Trinoma Mall and Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Travel takes more or less two hours, which can be less than the time we need to queue at NAIA. 


At CRK, there is also the option to wait at Plaza Premium Lounge, which has designs and amenities that offer a premium experience for airport passengers. No need to book business class tickets; access is available to everyone for a minimal fee.


Our airline, Starlux, offers a more luxurious option for travelers flying to see Taiwan’s tourist attractions at a fare that is almost similar to budget airlines.

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