全泰茶莊 (Chuan-Tai Tea Co. Ltd.)
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Recent Tasting Notes
Got a good cup out of this at last. It’s been a month since I first bought this tea, and it’s finally acclimatized to my surroundings. Either that, or I was using off-boiling water, when I should have been preparing this like the lighter oolong that it is.
Leaves to loosely fill up 1/4 of my gaiwan, with water that was boiled and left to stand for a few minutes. Quick 7 second rinse, also to warm the cup. (I don’t usually rinse but the tea shop looked a bit dingy. More on that later.)
First steep about 2 minutes. Wonderful, buttery, sweet. Second steep 2 minutes: Whoops, I oversteeped. Too astringent. Faint insecticide aftertaste. Will bump down to a minute and a half next time. 3rd steep: blah. Worn out by my inept 2nd steep.
For a cheap tea (about 200 NTD for 50 grams), I didn’t expect much, which made it a pleasant surprise to find it was decent. Makes me hungry though.
About the shop:
We found this shop just across Ten Ren, in the Ximending area. It had a forgotten-place kind of atmosphere, with a waxed stone floor and poor lighting, and I wouldn’t have gone in had I not been lured by the yixing teapots displayed in the window. Inside there was no air-conditioning, just an electric fan in the corner, in front of which sat an old lady (in her 50s?). Along one side of the shop, there was a flight of stairs leading to the second floor, and I thought maybe she lived there. We had to call out a few times before she heard us and wobbled over. One wall of the shop had large shelves with large (maybe as tall as my fingertip to my elbow length) metal canisters (the word “industrial” comes to mind) of tea.
I’d already purchased Dong Ding from Ten Ren, and had already gotten a few baggies of Alishan tea from, well, Alishan, so the only Taiwan tea left on my list was Baozhong. Ten Ren had some but only sold it in large quantities, which I couldn’t possibly consume in a year. So anyway, I saw she had some pouchong, and I got some, and added I think just 20 NTD more to get a nice cardboard canister to put it in.
I wanted to see her teapots, and to my embarrassment, as apparently those were the only pieces in stock, she creaked up to the window, opened the panel behind it, and climbed in. So here was this grandmother picking her out across tea trays in the store window, and there I was outside the shop pointing at the teapot I wanted, which was an adorable red clay shi piao, that looked to be about 100mL in capacity.
But when I got the pot, I wasn’t so happy with it for some reason, I think it was that the lid didn’t fit as nicely, or just a general meh feeling about it. I know it’s silly but most of my pots, when I see them, there’s that almost swooning moment, and know in my gut that “This is the one!” So I handed it back, just telling myself with its thick walls it might be better for puerh, which I didn’t drink much of, if at all, anyway.
I asked if I could look at the other pot. I had several shui ping pots already, so I passed over those. There was another xi shi one, but somehow it didn’t appeal to me (the spout seemed too long, and it wasn’t, um, the perfect breast shape. Gorgeous xi shi pots I’ve seen elsewhere made me ache to hold them. I’m not a lesbian, but there you go). So what was left was a pear-shaped pot in purple clay, which I got.
It’s a $20 pot and I don’t expect it to do miracles, but I’m happy with my purchase. I know there are cheaper pots, but with the shipping, they’d cost almost as much. Or so I rationalize.
So my Taiwan tea check list was done, and I got a pot, too. Oh, and also from Ten Ren, I got three small gaiwan at only 200NTD each! What was important was that they were about 60mL, which I couldn’t find online in a design I fancied. There were three colors available: red, black and white. I couldn’t decide on one, so I just bought all three.
Sorry for the length, and that’s the end of my tea-shopping story in Taiwan.