A bit of Tea history of Taiwan

Taiwan pictures digital archives – photo courtesy of

The Dutch East India Company, also known as the VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie), after being driven out by Chinese Ming forces near PengHu they arrived in Taiwan in 1623. Quick to recognize profitable sources they protected their trading interests and used the island as a base for trade with Japan and China. However they were later on expelled from Taiwan in 1662 which brought Taiwan back under control of Qing dynasty, now different tea varieties were imported from Fujian to be cultivated in northern Taiwan during the Qing dynasty (1796-1895). The VOC earliest mention of wild tea found growing  in the central mountain region of Taiwan was in 1645 (two wild, indigenous tea subspecies, Taiwan Mountain Tea and Red Sprout Mountain Tea).

China had severe restrictions on trade and Britain ignited the Opium War for tea in 1839 as a result China was forced to open five ports to foreign trade of which two were in Taiwan, Kaoshiung and DanShui. The Dutch built two forts; Zeelandia in Tainan and Antonio (part of the Fort San Domingo complex earlier built by the Spanish 1628). Fort Antonio is locally referred as “hongmao” Red Hair Fort 🙂 or Red Tower, due to the Opium War the British took over and made it their trade consulate. The former British consular residence is a popular tourist attraction since it is located at the DanShui (TamSui) river, during the weekends many locals are found to stroll around the waterfront, old street up to Fisherman’s Wharf relaxing and enjoying sea breeze to cool down.

Map of Formosa by Dutch, photo source


With the open port and trade consulate in DanShui, the Scottish merchant John Dodd arrived shortly during his visit to buy camphor he realized that the land in the region had superb qualities for tea exploitation. Most people have forgotten or not even realize that Taiwan during Qing dynasty was worlds major producer of Camphor. Camphor is used to make celluloid and one of the components to make film, as such you could say contributing to Hollywood’s success early hay days. John Dodd saw the potential of Taiwan Tea and provided loans to farmers to increase tea production. In 1867 he started tea company in WanHua, Taipei City together with Fujian-born Lee importing seedlings from Xiamen and bringing in skilled workers from FuZhou. Selling Taiwanese Oolong Tea as “Formosa Oolong Tea”, aware of British plans to develop a tea industry in India, Dodd’s successfully exported tea in 1869 to England and New York. Without a doubt Dobb and Lee were the front runners of successfully penetrating the global tea-market and sky-rocketing Taiwan’s tea industry together with the economic policy as a basis for the beginnings of Taiwan’s modern international trade legacy set up earlier by the Dutch VOC beginning with the port system facilitated at the time.

We moved to Taiwan in 2000 and in 2001 Taiwan Tourism bureau  launched a new campaign with the slogan “Taiwan Touch Your Heart”, the logo colours basically represented indigenous tribes people with the following text:


The “T” represents the sheltering eaves of Taiwan in a symbol of the island as a warm home. The “a” represents the host of this home, ardently welcoming travellers to Taiwan. The “I” is the traveller who has come to visit and is being received by the host. The “w” is the two people, host and visitor, shaking hands and greeting each other happily.The second “a” and the “n” represent the two sitting together, drinking tea and chatting casually. In the upper right corner of the logo is an image of the island that expresses Taiwan’s earnest and sincere desire to “Touch your Heart.”

We travelled on to our next destination, but our sojourn was absolutely amazing. The campaign was a beautiful and a well thought enterprise to market Taiwan it really embodied what we experienced. We can full heartedly confirm that visiting this ‘beautiful island’ is absolutely worth the discovery to plan as your next holiday destination.


Teatime stories: Gunpowder & Moroccan tea ceremony

It’s amazing how far tea has travelled from its origin China in the Far-East to the North-West of Africa to Morocco. The MingDynasty voyages of Chinese admiral ZhengHe, he commanded the treasure fleet for the expeditions and during his fourth voyage, he reached Hormuz in the Persian Gulf and from there on to the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa.

Although little is known about ancient relations, there is evidence of early trade connections and written record of the journeys of Moroccan scholar and traveller Ibn Battuta to parts of China. Who most likely has heard the first news about the fleet of Chinese Treasure Ships visiting Arabian peninsula or later on when he arrived in Somalia.

At the time Admiral ZhengHe was on his sixth or perhaps seventh voyage exploring Africa and Ibn Battuta’s travels are equally fascinating stories. He is most likely the greatest traveller who originally set out to complete Islam’s traditional “haji” pilgrimage to Mecca and wandered for nearly three decades travelling extensively before returning home to Morocco.

He recorded voluminous observations, notes, insights and lessons learned. Ultimately compiling his travel journal in the ‘Rihla’ which literally means journey, a very interesting and highly entertaining recommendable book to put on your must read list. Click here for a free download link copy.

Chinese tea has become ingrained in Moroccan culture with its own tea art form. With respect to the timely process of making the tea, Moroccans adhere to the saying “Insha Allah”, which means with God willing, all good things will come with time. Touareg tea, also called Tuareg tea, Mint tea or Moroccan mint tea is a flavoured tea prepared in Arabian countries, France, Islamic Africa and Spain. Mint tea is central to social life in Maghreb countries.

The serving of mint tea can take a ceremonial form, especially when prepared for a guest. As a rule, whereas cooking is women’s business, the tea is a male affair: the head of the family prepares it and serves to the guest, usually, at least three glasses of tea. The amount of time the tea has been steeping gives each of the three glasses of tea a unique flavour, as described in this famous Algerian proverb:

Algerian Proverb Tea

Tuareg comes from the word Targa, the Tuareg people of the North African Sahara, whose camel trains historically ran the Saharan trading routes. Ancient tax records show that Arabs were trading with tea as early as the 9th century, but in Europe, the trend did not take on until much later.  According to the Moroccan trade ministry, Morocco imported more than $56 million worth of Chinese tea during the first half of 2006. Morocco is considered the first importer of Chinese green tea worldwide and China its main provider.

With a preference for gunpowder tea (珠茶  zhū chá), a form of green Chinese tea produced in Zhejiang Province of China in which each leaf has been rolled into a small round pellet and derived its English name due to its resemblance of black gunpowder grains.

Maghrebi Mint tea Morocco Source: Wikipedia

Maghreb Mint Tea Wikipedia:  The method of preparation of atai is relatively complex and varies from region to region. It is normally sweeter in the north of Morocco than in the south, and in some places, pine nuts are added. In the winter, if mint is rare, sometimes leaves of wormwood (Chiba or Sheeba in dialectal Arabic) are substituted for (or used to complement) the mint, giving the tea a distinctly bitter flavour. Lemon Verbena (louiza in dialectal Arabic) is also used to give it a lemony flavour. An authentic recipe follows here below, for a variation on Moroccan Mint tea my style, click here.