Cycle Touring and Eating in Taiwan – Day 1 Taking Tea in Taipei County
If you haven’t visited Taiwan the first thing you might think about this small island off the coast of mainland China is the infamous ‘made in’ label, that conjures up images of large-scale industrial operations and endless electrical goods. But with its rugged mountains, bustling cities, fertile planes and pristine beaches, Taiwan has to be one of Asia’s best-kept secrets. Enabling you to travel slowly around this fascinating island, as well as building your appetite, what better way is could there be for seeing and tasting Taiwan than from the seat of a bicycle? Here are six of the best pedal-powered culinary adventures from a recent trip to Taiwan.
Taking Tea in Taipei County
Following the Jin Gua Liao river that cuts through the steep hillsides and verdant tea plantations of PingLin, some 30 miles south east of Taipei, is hot, hard work. Sipping at small bowls of aromatic green tea with local farmer, Mr Chi, at his Boa Chung plantation, was the perfect antidote from a sweat-drenched mornings ride. But the steep hillsides and searing heat that make for challenging cycling also ensure that PingLin grows some of the best tea in the world. Mr Chi insists his tea will not only make me beautiful, but also aid my digestion. Which is just as well, because in the tea capital of Taiwan they don’t just drink their tea.
A short ride down the hill through sleepy villages where workers busily lay out freshly picked tea leaves to dry in the midday sun, I arrived in the bustling town of PingLin, its main street a vibrant centre dedicated to selling the regions famed product. Escaping the oven like heat of the afternoon to the Ten-Fun Tea House, the owners were soon ferrying their tea-flavoured specialties to our table.
Young tea leaves in golden tempura and dipped in soy sauce, were followed by chayedan, hard-boiled eggs stewed in salted tea with soy sauce and spices. Tofu steeped in black tea arrived garnished with tea-flavoured prunes and then thin cuts of wild pig, sautéed with fresh tealeaves were served with small bowls of sticky white rice steamed with tea. A refreshing broth of 80-year-old tea roots steeped in pig stock was followed by a cool bowl of emerald-green tea jelly. As an Englishman this was tea time on a whole new level.
Where to stay: With its Japanese style architecture The Hotel Royal Chiao is the perfect place to unwind after a hot day of in the saddle with each room boasting its own spring-water spa. Refuel on sashimi and sushi in the Zen Garden restaurant and then let the spas resident doctor fish eat the dead flesh off your tired feet. Rather them than me.