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September 26, 2010

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Oolong tea ceremony from Taiwan

THE tea master, a woman my age, bowed to me as we sat down at the small table inside the Taiwan Pavilion. The feeling was a bit mysterious in the room where dimmed lights cast shadows on the plaited straw walls and gently plucked notes from the traditional instruments guzheng and yangqin filled the space. The tea ceremony was an open show for all visitors and as the "tea woman" started to tell me about the famous Taiwanese tea, the visitors gathered around us.

The tea is called gaoshan cha. Gaoshan means "high mountain." It belongs to the group of Oolong teas, the main type of tea produced and consumed in Taiwan. Gaoshan tea is the most highly praised among tea connoisseurs, and the most costly. It is grown at an altitude of more than 1,000 meters and only a limited amount is produced.

The tea woman let me smell the tea that looked a bit like coiled dried flowers; the aroma actually reminded me of moss in a Swedish forest in a hot summer day.

As soon as she poured some hot water over the tea the fragrance got much stronger and changed character a bit. After another few minutes it was time to pour it into the cute tiny cups.

When drinking tea in China, it is usually said that the third cup is the best one. The first one is too strong in the taste, the second one can still be a bit bitter, but with the third one you know how the tea is supposed to taste.

The taste of the Gaoshan tea was very good with a very slight creamy, almost milky texture and a rich and sweet taste. Apparently most Gaoshan teas are lightly oxidized and minimally roasted to retain their fresh, crisp flavors. Maybe the idea is to give a feeling of being high up in the mountains when drinking the "high mountain" tea.

After the tea ceremony was finished the woman bowed to me once again and I did the same. Then we walked around the pavilion and ended the tour by sending digital lanterns into to the sky with wishes and hopes for the future. A nice way of saying goodbye and thank you to the Taiwan Pavilion and the Gaoshan tea.

Keep munching and keep watching for more Munching Matilda!


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