If you are in Taipei, November 15th – 18th, 2024 and are looking for a fun activity or event to attend, the Taiwan International Tea Expo is the place for you! This annual exhibition brings together tea producers and companies from around Taiwan and allows visitors the opportunity to sample a wide range of teas while interacting with some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry.
November 15 – 18, 2024
10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Ticket price: 200 NT$
Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center, Hall 1,1F
“It was maybe around my 25-27th cup of tea when I realized I needed to slow down a little. My head was starting to feel a little ‘floaty’ and my spirits were soaring.”— Notes from one tea addict’s journal following the Taiwan International Tea Expo 2023.
One of the first impressions of the Nangang Exhibition Center is that it was large AND that there were far more people at 10 am on a Friday than one might anticipate. Like old friends or grinning concert goers, we waited in line before piling through the 1st floor exhibition doors — straight into the welcoming stalls of the tea venders.
The first few cups were a blur, a few high mountain oolongs showcasing their character with wonderful vegetal and floral profiles. Next came a palate cleansing black tea that bordered on sweet followed by a white tea that felt as though it held both rainfall and sunlight in the same cup. All around, people were drinking tea, talking about tea, smiling, admiring the sellers and their work before them, extending their small paper cups for another pour. It was akin to a fair or a festival with gallons on gallons of free tea!
There’s a reason that tea is consumed by so many people in so many forms around the world. All it really takes is one cup to remind us of this.— Reflections on the beverage
In the west, we don’t really geek out about tea in the same way, but if you imagine a micro-brewery beer festival you can get an idea of the scene. Everyone from grandparents to business executives were wandering through the stalls, sitting down, chatting, laughing, and drinking tea. Some were clearly tea sellers, others appeared merely the avid tea hobbyist. Some had brought their whole families, and many more were there simply to taste the wide array of different teas on hand.
Ruby oolongs and black/oolong blends were prominently displayed (in keeping with the recent trends in the Taiwan tea scene). Other companies were selling Pu’er out of Yunnan while certain stalls specialized in roasted oolongs or black teas. One company even came from Chiang Mai, Thailand, and was working to create a white tea that could compete with those out of Mainland China. Judges walked around with event lanyards and notebooks and multiple people were purchasing packages of dried tea to take home.
The representative from the Pinglin Tea Museum knew how to drink tea. He wandered into the stall where I was sipping from my cup and started getting things going. Like someone out of an ancient Daoist legend, he was completely unencumbered. He would say something in Chinese too fast for me to fully catch, laugh, and then pour me another cup — the owner had turned the cha hai (茶海) or small pitcher of tea over to him when he had to attend another customer — before pouring himself one as well. Everything stood out in sharp relief on account of the amount of quantity tea I had already consumed, but I found myself getting swept along in his wave. In the span of 15 minutes we consumed more than 10 cups of tea together. He was kind of rough around the edges but it was clear to anyone with a pair of eyes that tea and an appreciation for tea was in his core. Eventually, he looked at his watch and thanked the owner and stood up. He then looked at me and motioned that we should hit the next stall. I was so chazui-ed (茶醉), or tea drunk, by that point that I felt almost liminal. I apologized and told him I needed food if I was going to make it through the afternoon. Again, he just laughed, eyes twinkling, and then patted me on the shoulder before stepping to the next tea stand — likely to repeat the process all over again.— Witnessing a tea master in action
When living in Taiwan, or visiting Taiwan as a foreigner, it can sometimes be challenging to know where to start or how to taste and buy tea. It’s like foraying into the world of wine or whiskey but having little sense of what the “good brands” are, what flavors you prefer, or where is the best place to purchase these teas.
In most cases it requires a certain level of Mandarin, a willingness to pay heftier tourist prices, or a friend who speaks the language to begin to start steeping in the tea culture of Taiwan. This is part of why the Taiwan International Tea Expo and other tea events in Taiwan are so incredible and worthwhile to visit. One can try many different types of tea, made by different companies, all in the same afternoon. It’s a low stakes taste testing paradise and an opportunity to see a small part of Taiwan’s tea industry in action. All you really need to do is hold out your cup.