Friday, July 9, 2010

Taiwan’s tea – more than just a drink

Tea production technology was introduced to Taiwan from Fujian province (southeastern China) in the late eighteenth century. During the Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945), tea was Taiwan's largest export item. Today, it is an important part of people’s daily routine in Taiwan.

Well before science discovered the many health benefits of drinking tea, the Taiwanese people were drinking tea to satisfy their thirst or when spending time with friends. These days, tea has been shown to combat all sorts of ailments (cancer, heart disease, lower cholesterol, burn fat, prevent diabetes), converting more Americans to the taste of tea.

Taiwan’s teas can be classified into three broad categories: non-oxidized tea (green tea), fully oxidized tea (black tea) and semi-oxidized tea (including Pouchong tea, Oolong tea, Tie Kuan Yin tea). Among the three, Oolong tea is the most unique and popularly cultivated on the island. There are 20,700 hectares (51,150 acres) of tea plantations in Taiwan, with a total output of 20,300 metric tons (22,377 American short tons) of tea per year. Taiwan tea was originally cultivated for export, but in the 1980s, that began to change. Now only 10 percent is exported and the rest is cultivated for domestic consumption.

With the rise in Taiwan’s living standards, drinking in tea houses has become popular as a leisure activity, a place to rest, drink tea and socialize. The quantity of tea consumed per person per year in Taiwan has increased from 577 grams in 1980 to 1,500 grams in 2000.Taiwan’s tea industry has also undergone plenty of changes, with the popularization of cold and sweet tea drinks, and in particular, with the introduction of bubble teas. Originating at the Spring Water Ice Tea House (Chun Shui Tang) in Taichung, Taiwan, bubble tea is a frothy drink that includes small tapioca pearls, tea, condensed milk and syrup. Introduced in 1988, bubble tea has become a well-known Taiwanese drink. Its popularity has spread from Taiwan to Hong Kong, China, Southeast Asia, Japan and the United States. Today, tea houses serving bubble tea can be readily found on both the US east and west coasts.

(Courtesy of the Government Information Office, Taiwan Tourism Bureau and Ten Ren Tea)

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.