Are you a Starbucks lover? Do you love experimenting with fun, new, refreshing caffeinated drinks? When traveling to Taiwan, it’s very important that you spend some time trying as many delicious iced tea (or coffee) drinks as possible. Believe me, Taiwan does refreshing, caffeinated drinks better than anywhere else, at about a third of the price of a decadent Starbucks drink. Read on to learn of the endless combinations of taste sensations!

Delicious Tea Time in Taiwan

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A popular tea chain in Taiwan. Photo Credit: Katrina Jakola / Southeast Asia TravelingMom

Taiwan often gets overlooked when people are planning a holiday in Asia. This is unfortunate, because it’s a wonderful place with a lot of educational, or just plain fun, experiences to offer. Enter the tea experience in one of the tea capitals of the world.

Taiwan has a long history of growing and producing some of the best teas in the world. Tea making is considered an art form here and the ritual of a tea ceremony has deep cultural roots. Tea is prepared differently in Taiwan than it is in China, where tea plants were originally transported from. The better the tea and preparation, the better the aroma, pure taste and clear colour of the tea. Tea connoisseurs will tell you there are way more kinds of tea than you’ve ever imagined and they have probably paid a pretty penny for some of their highest quality teas. I’m not going to drop any names, but I do happen to know some people that have enjoyed some pretty expensive cups of tea here in Taiwan.

Taiwan’s Fun Tea Shops

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The best! No sugar, just freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and green tea. Photo Credit: Katrina Jakola / Southeast Asia TravelingMom

Although I have tried and enjoyed some good quality oolong and green teas myself, I’m not that classy on an everyday basis. The tea shops on the street are more my thing, and really what I’d like to share about today.

From April to November, Taiwan is a hot and very humid place. Refreshing, caffeinated drinks aren’t so much an indulgence, but a necessity. Thankfully, tea shops are everywhere. And being conveniently right on the street makes them like a mini drive thru for bike riders.

If you stay here for an extended period and start drinking the teas, you WILL become addicted – it’s only a matter of time. It’s a modern, convenient and delicious way to enjoy a traditional drink.

And, most often, it’s an experience shared with friends. Did you know that bubble tea (also known as pearl milk tea or boba milk tea) was invented in Taichung, Taiwan in the eighties? Yes, that’s right, old meets new, in a beautiful way. And the drinks have come a long way since then! In this brave new world of tea making and drinking in Taiwan, the options to satisfy your thirst are endless.

The Many Wonderful Kinds of Taiwanese Drinks

The 3 main teas to choose from are black (referred to as red in Mandarin), green and oolong. From there, there are some major decisions to make about what else should be included in that tasty cup. Do you want something creamy or more fruity? Want chewy bits included? (Chewy bits are not limited to the classic tapioca balls, but can also be different types of jelly, fruit, noodles, aloe, basil seeds and more!) Or how about a scoop of ice cream? Once you’ve FINALLY decided on what you’d like, then you must choose your sweetness and ice levels, on a scale of 1 to 10. Yes, it’s very specific. These tea shops aim to please.

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Classic bubble tea. Photo Credit: Katrina Jakola / Southeast Asia TravelingMom

Some of my personal recommendations are the classic bubble milk tea, black tea with ice cream, grapefruit green tea, plum kumquat green tea, coffee milk tea and strawberry black tea and the oh-so-satisfying, freshly squeezed orange/passionfruit juice green tea with coconut jelly. On hot days, we don’t mess around. I’m barely scratching the surface with these choices and I didn’t even talk about options without tea. (Think amazing fresh fruit juices and smoothies.)  Did I mention that all these delicious drinks are available for about $1-$3 USD?

Coffee Has its Place in Taiwan Too

There are smaller chain and independent coffee shops popping up all over Taipei. They are trendy, air conditioned and a fun place to get the little jolt that will help you survive the midday heat. A big favourite is Cama Cafe, where they roast their own beans on site. The aroma hits you a good block away and leaves coffee lovers in a trance like state as they stumble the last remaining steps to the store. Again, the drinks are delicious, highly customizable and a fraction of the price of more well known chains.

In my travels, I have never come across a place that does delicious and fun drinks as well as Taiwan. If you visit (again, Taiwan is definitely worthy of a visit) I encourage you to try as many as possible. There’s no shame in having two in one day! And for each new drink, try a new experience too. A chocolate milk tea pairs quite nicely with an afternoon Taiwanese hair wash.

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