There’s a Chinese proverb,「吃得苦中苦、方为人上人」meaning that you need to endure the hardship of whatever life throws at you to become successful. And literally, it means you need to take “bitter” taste, the more bitter the better. Hence I have the habit of drinking bitter tea.
Yes, it’s kind of a weird association, but herbal tea 凉茶 in Hong Kong or bitter tea 苦茶 as they are referred to in Taiwan are what I will drink whenever I have a chance to balance the “yang” or heat in the body.
Chinese believe that the body needs to be balanced to be well, so you need to balance between the “yin” and “yang”, represented by coolness and heatiness in the body. Certain food and drinks promote heat, like durian, the king of fruits and king of heatiness, so you would balance it with mangosteen, a cool fruit. And sometime you over compensate to one side, example having several late nights and then have fried chicken, you will need a potent drink to bring it all back to balance.
Enter the House of Bitter Tea. Bitter tea, known as 24 herb tea 二十四味 in Hong Kong, is considered to be a powerfully effective cooling beverage.
Although I’ve been to the House of Bitter Tea at least a dozen times, I’ve never seen anyone order the bitter tea. Well, except me.
In Hong Kong, bitter tea stands dot the streets of Central. Each cup is poured from a large metal canister into a small porcelain bowl and consumed at the counter. When things aren’t so very busy, bowls of tea are pre-poured and covered with a thin pane of glass. It’s the same here in Taipei, where you are served the bitter tea in a bowl with a couple of capsules of sour plum to neutralise the bitterness.
Most of the tourists come for their desserts ironically. They are very famous with several classic Taiwanese old-school 古早味 dessert, like taro and honey 蜜芋头 featured here. Creamy local taro is cooked in syrup until they become equally sweet and then the candied and thoroughly cooked taro is served on a bowl of shaved ice with a drizzle of honey. Very sweet and reminded me of the Teochew yam paste with gingko. Other popular desserts included candied gingko nuts, candied lotus seeds, white fungus in syrup and roselle tea.
Highly recommended, especially if you come in summer months. If you come in winter, the desserts are served hot.
The House of Bitter Tea (Chang’an Road Branch) 苦茶之家： 長安總店
244 Chang’an Road (corner of Chang’an and Chongqing roads)
Dated Visited : Sep 2016
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