Chinese New Year Day is not a day of rest for everybody in Taiwan. Commercial activity thrives on that day. This is particularly the case in our small tea-making village of Songboling up on the western edge of the Bagua ridge in central Taiwan. Many families from the surrounding cities flock-up to our village making the population swell 10 folds. And on beautiful sunny days like this year, if feels more like 20 times! What are they here for? To visit our famous temple, first and foremost, but at the same time enjoy a leisurely stroll on the main street of our picturesque village while nibbling on the many street food offerings from all the vendors lining up the street, or maybe perhaps trek down the 400 m ridge to go and visit the colony of Formosan macaques that inhabit the escarpment. Whatever brings you here on that day, our shop owners and other enterprising folks are happy to find a way to get you to spend some of the money received from those red envelopes handed out the night before.
Our family is no different. Every year we park our street vending trolley along the front of the brother in law’s house who happens to live right smack in the middle of the action. What do we sell? Dare I say tea?… but ready to drink this time! As soon as the trolley is set-up, line-ups start to form in front of the cart and shakers start shaking our famous recipe of refreshing and tasty house black tea. Yes, black tea folks, not oolong! Very simply: black tea makes the most flavourful iced tea and possibly the most popular one on the island. At least, no one at our stand seems to complain! Our marketing is simple: one little sign on the corner of the cart says: 紅茶, 20 元 (hóngchá, 20 yuán) black tea, 20 NTD. One product, one price. Your options are limited to the amount of sugar you want. I like mine 半糖 (bàn táng) half sugar, just enough to take the smack out, as my English auntie would say. And, at around 70 cents USD for 500 ml it’s not only a bargain, it’s delicious!
I realise this may not be the perfect season for iced tea in your hemisphere right now but you may wish to remember this simple trick I am about to reveal for when your local weather is more favourable to try it:
- Prepare your tea hot.
- Make it as strong as you usually enjoy it hot, or maybe a tad stronger.
- Mix in the amount of sugar you like, if at all.
- Get your shaker out and shake it until cold (10 – 15 seconds) using 1/2 the volume in ice cubes.
- Pour in a tall glass, add fruit slices if you wish, and enjoy!
Shaking your ice tea will also create a nice froth. It’s up to you to discard it or not. And of course, to make the best tasting black iced tea use Taiwanese blacks! Any black tea of our selection will do but Taiwanese Assams seems to be a classic choice. Taiwanese black teas have tons of flavour! They are generous, very fruity and well-balanced. In fact, your iced tea will be much better than the ones we serve on the street these days, since what we use is a low grade tea that is not in our catalogue…
Now, that you’ve got your refreshment in hand, would you like me to show you around, meet some of our friendly neighbours, perhaps taste some of their delicacies, and get to visit the temple down the street? Simply click on any picture below to activate a picture carrousel with comments to witness the views. If anything you see inspires comments or questions, don’t hesitate to use the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!
Don’t forget to visit these pages soon as we continue to explore our village and its surroundings during this Chinese New Year holiday. Our next installment will showcase the splendour of our village temple. Surprisingly, we will be very much in the theme of tea during the visit. Find out more very soon!
Oh, and of course: 新年快樂！(Xīnnián kuàilè!) Happy New Year !