We stampeded the grocery stores and stocked up on every variety of insta-noodle, cancelled our plans for an exciting weekend getaway with our host families, and obsessively reloaded tracking websites as we prepared to battle the impending “super” Typhoon Soulik from the cozy confines of our dorm rooms. While lightening and thunder rattled the ground and stirred up a little bit of a frenzy the days before, the actual event was… a little disappointing. So, in the words of T.S. Eliot “This is the way the [typhoon] ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.” Thankfully, at least, it turned out better and not worse!
Here’s a panorama from my dorm – the skies essentially stayed the same throughout the whole ordeal!
Lightning from my classroom building 3 days before the Typhoon hit.
Hanlin Tea Room
Since the Typhoon has passed and the temperature and humidity index are once again soaring, life has returned to it’s usual busy routine. Today, we headed to the Hanlin Tea Room for a traditional tea ceremony and a taste of Taiwan’s most desirable and famous tea: Oolong. After a very riveting visual instruction series by a Taiwanese Tea Artist, we attempted to brew our own cups of tea. For your own tea-brewing pleasure, this is how it’s done:
1. Boil water in a kettle.
2. Clean tea cups. (& watch in awe as the Tea Artist endures scorching steam without a flinch!)
3. Add tea leaves into separate tea container. Make sure there are no “mountains” – spread the tea leaves out evenly. Porcelain is best for Oolong, because the pores in the material allow the tea to breathe and the flavor to seep through. Tea leaves are also best kept at cold temperatures, preferably in a freezer, refrigerator or at room temperature (in that order of preference).
4. Shock the tea leaves with hot water in the container. Drain with miniature strainer into separate container.
5. Fill the container that contains the shocked tea leaves with boiling water, cover and let sit for 60 seconds for the first pot. Let set for 70 seconds for the second container (if you wish to make more!) After 60 seconds, pour tea once again into separate container.
6. Hold the newly filled container carefully along the rim and securing the bottom with your palm. (Careful: extremely hot!) The first cup poured is the highest quality, the last is the least.
7. Enjoy! (Without sugar or milk!)
This was an absolutely amazing cultural experience! Soft lighting, bamboo wicker seating, lowered tables and a barefoot requirement created the perfect ambience for an afternoon tea. We were also given a bubble tea treat (tea, milk, and tapioca balls) as a farewell gift – even more special since this popular drink (throughout the world) was first created in this tea house.
Can’t wait for the adventures that still await!