Taiwan has a thing for concentrating certain specialties in certain areas. A woodcarving town? Taiwan has one. A mountain famed for its pears? Got it. A city known for specific confections? Yes, that too.
Yingge is Taiwan’s ceramics town. Located just outside Taipei, Yingge is a bustling little commercial center with a few quaint, old, cobblestone streets and some more car-friendly areas, as well. It is frequented by tourists of all kinds looking for (and finding) all sorts of products.
It is also a magnificent place for tea lovers to go, and that’s why I love it.
In Yingge, you can find some of Taiwan’s best tea shops. You can buy antique Japanese tea ware. You can select from an astounding range of tea pottery, most of which was made in Taiwan and some of which was made by artisans with unsurpassed skill in their areas of expertise. You can even buy all sorts of tea accoutrements, such as cloth bags made especially for carrying tea ware and handcrafted bamboo scoops and tea utensils. In other words, if you love tea like I do, Yingge is likely a dream come true for you.
But beyond tea, there’s something special about Yinngge that’s hard to define. There’s a certain openness and friendliness to people there when you open up to them and share your love of tea with them. It could be that someone serves you incredibly rare teas (such as a 100-year-old oolong that one shop owner was so generous to share with me both in Yingge and on a boat party he threw). It could be that they give you a great price on something because they can tell that you will love it and treat it well (as several shop owners have done for me and my tea friends here). Or it could even be that they give you something for free, simply because they are feeling generous (as a shop owner recently did when she gifted me a gorgeous and very valuable stone necklace over Chinese New Year).
Until recently, I thought that Taiwan’s tourism slogan (“Touch your heart”) was cheesy. And I still kind of do think that. But I’m starting to understand where it comes from!