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Tea Tasting in Taipei Savor a Sip in Dadaocheng

2017-07-17 09:05TAIPEI

Tea Tasting in Taipei

Savor a Sip in Dadaocheng

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Article|Wang Ruifen Photos|Wang Tea, Gao Chuanqi

In 1860, an open trading port was established at Tamsui (淡水), and Dadaocheng , just up the river, was connected to the outside world. Foreigners brought in new ideas and products, and local people started to explore the globe with wide eyes, discovering new business opportunities in the process. This is how the Dadaocheng tea trade started, and from 1869 to 1895, the industry was at its peak. Crates of tea were stacked high on the dock and stayed there only as long as it took the longshoremen to load them onto ships. At that time, Dadaocheng exceeded all other ports in Taiwan in volume of tea exported, which placed it at the head of the most important distribution channel in the country.

(Photo: Gao Chuanqi)
(Photo: Gao Chuanqi)
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The Tea Trade Brings Honor to Taiwan

When referring to the Dadaocheng tea trade, one can never omit two main characters: John Dodd and Lee Chunsheng (李春生). After the port of Tamsui opened, foreign businessmen came to Taiwan seeking goods, and among them was English businessman, John Dodd who first ventured into the northern mountains in search of camphor. But he noticed that the soil, climate and environment there were highly suitable for tea cultivation, so he hired Lee, who had worked in the Xiamen (廈門), China tea business to be his comprador, and together they started a new tea enterprise in northern Taiwan.

Sitting around the table packing tea. (P...
Sitting around the table packing tea. (Photo: Gao Chuanqi)
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In order to get local farmers to grow tea on a mass scale, Dodd imported oolong (烏龍) seedlings from the renowned tea county, Anxi (安溪) in the Chinese province of Fujian (福建省), and sold them on credit. He also offered the planters horticultural advice. Later on, when he wanted to improve the tea’s quality, he invested in special production equipment, hired tea masters from Fujian, and produced high-class oolong tea in Dadaocheng. In 1869, Dodd loaded almost 130,000 kilos onto two big sailboats and shipped them to New York, where the tea was a big hit and launched the Taiwanese market in the West. Formosa Tea soon became known the world over, attracting other foreign businessmen to come set up shop in Dadaocheng.

In earlier times, tea processing require...
In earlier times, tea processing required a lot of elbow grease. (Photo: Gao Chuanqi)
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The Scent of Tea Filled the Dadaocheng Air

Situated alongside the Tamsui River, Guide Street (貴德街) was built by two rich Taiwanese entrepreneurs, Lee Chunsheng and Lin Wei Yuan (林維源). It became known as a tea street, and was famous for its western-style buildings. Many foreigners settled here, but the western architecture was home to rich Formosans as well. With tea shops popping up everywhere, the air was always redolent with a delicate bouquet whenever tea was being produced, and that made Dadaocheng the most fragrant district in Taipei!

(Photo: Gao Chuanqi)
(Photo: Gao Chuanqi)
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After a few decades of active tea trading, Dadaocheng had made its name and business expanded rapidly. The neighborhood around Dihua Street (迪化街), Ganzhou Street (甘州街), and Minsheng West Road (民生西路) became the place for tea merchants to gather. At its peak, there were over 200 tea shops in the neighborhood, and this spectacular tea emporium carried on through the Japanese era. Today, the glory days are over, but there are still many old businesses producing leaves of the highest quality, and passing the culture of Taiwanese tea on to the next generation.

Selecting tea using a spinning machine. ...
Selecting tea using a spinning machine. (Photo: Gao Chuanqi)
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TAIPEI

《TAIPEI》英日文季刊每逢3、6、9、12月出刊,主要結合本府各局處推動政策,為旅居本市的外籍人士及前來本市的外籍觀光客提供有關臺北觀光旅遊、歷史文化、風土民情、社經發展等報導,是外籍朋友認識臺北市的窗口。

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