Yi Tiao Long

At some point during my recent trip to Taiwan my tea karma seemed to take a big leap forward.

I think it was at the point where I was offered the chance to buy a few grams of 1920’s Song Pin at a price that was so low that it was pretty much a gift in disguise.

I thought about it for a while (since it was still relatively a fair amount of money) and decided it would be a nice gift to drink with my host who had been very generous to me.

And so I made the purchase – 8g of Song Pin Blue Label. Now the question was just how to drink it. Should we blow the whole lot in one session, or have 2 or 3 sessions in smaller pots? Once again, the middle way seemed the way to go and we opted for 2 sessions in a small qing pot.

Wanting to get the best from our session we decided to make the trip up a mountain to get some of the best water available in Taiwan.

Temple of the spring goddess
holy water

There’s a temple devoted to a goddess who lives deep within a mountain and blesses the water which emerges from a spring about 2000 steps up the mountain. Locals bring their sick relatives to climb the mountain, make offerings to the goddess and drink the water which is reputed to cure many ills.

For us, we brought 2 water containers – a plastic jerry can (for ease) and a heavy glazed clay pot (for quality – this is the water we’d use for the Song Pin). The trek up was fairly quick and felt like good exercise, and upon arriving at the top, the water was some of the best that I’ve tasted. Cool, smooth, clean and nourishing to the body.

We filled the containers, taped on the lids and began the tough part – carrying these heavy containers down the mountain, much to the amusement of the locals – these two foreigners struggling to carry heavy water containers down the mountain, pausing every 20-30 steps of so to rest.

I have no pictures of the tea session, since I have no wish to intrude on such a special occasion with a camera, but all I can say is that is was amazing. The taste was clean and smooth and more importantly the qi was strong and refined… this is the reason I love to drink old tea.

Since then, it seems my tea karma has opened up and I’ve met people who had a lot of antique teas and who have been happy to drink them relatively freely. In the past 2 weeks I’ve drunk around 12-14 pre-1950’s teas. It’s true what they say that some of the best teas in the world can not be bought for any price, but can be drunk for free.

Another person I met in Taipei treated me to a day drinking old tea in an apartment he keeps for entertaining guests. In a room at the back he showed me his collection of ‘YiTiaoLong’ (The Spine of the Dragon) – these are all the major teas of the Masterpeice & Chi Tse eras. A few pieces were missing from his collection, but most were there, and many of these teas he has tongs of safely in storage.

Dragon's tail

Below are some pictures of sections of this collection – you can click on them to view higher resolution pictures

dragon's tail1 dragon's tail2

dragon's tail 3 dragon's tail 4

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