When I asked my cousins about Taiwan and what their favorite destinations where, Jiufen Old Street 九份老街 was one of their recommendations. To be exact he called this place the shopping mall on a hill and then showed me a picture.
I had to do a little bit of searching before I finally figured out what he was referring to. And I sure was glad to find it and made the trip out to Jiufen Old Street 九份老街 after a morning at Yehliu Geopark 野柳地質公園.
Getting to Jiufen Old Street 九份老街 from Yehliu Geopark 野柳地質公園 via Bus:
- Take the Keelung Bus #861 or #790 to Keelung Station
- Transfer at the Keelung Station. NOTE: cross the bridge for the next bus
- Get on the Keelung Bus #788 to Jiefen
- Each route is approximately 40 minutes long.
These buses were quite packed during our trip, but we were lucky to grab a couple good seats. It was during this trip where I met a few locals who were really nice to share more info about the area making the 40 minutes much shorter. Be prepared to enjoy a very very curvy bus ride from the Keelung Station to Jiufen. By the time we arrived, it was already starting to rain.
Jiufen九份 literally means nine portions because it was once occupied by nine families and when shipments arrived in the town everything had to be divided into nine portions for them. It later became a bustling mining town from the Qing Dynasty through WWII to the early 1970’s. Today, it is a unique tourist destination, as described by my cousin it’s a mall sitting on a hill (overlooking the Pacific Ocean).
We wandered the quaint but crowded old streets and stairs where we picked up lunch from the street vendors and did a little bit of shopping while looking for A Mei Tea House 九份阿妹茶樓.
This was something I really really wanted to try out. And it sure took us a while to find it.
I kept telling my friends about how Jiufen 九份 is the inspiration behind the movie Spirited Away and that we just had to get some tea at A Mei Tea House 九份阿妹茶樓. This article from Rocket News 24 was one of the many blogs I read that shared comparisons between Jiufen 九份 and the movie. Do you think this place was the inspiration?
I have to confess I’ve never seen Spirited Away and I don’t know why I was so excited about that. But at least it got my friends interested.
A Mei Tea House 九份阿妹茶樓 was packed when we arrived and the host couldn’t tell us how long the wait was. But lucky for us we only 10-15 minutes.
We were seated on the patio, but it was covered because of the rain. Their menu was a traditional bamboo menu with engravings. The one above basically said that the tea fee was NT$100/person, then lists various types of tea with a different price. I love that the numbers are actually written out in old traditional Chinese.
We went with the afternoon tea option. For NT$300/person we were served Oolong tea (I don’t remember getting to choose what kind of tea we wanted) and snacks (mochi, sugared plums, green tea cakes, and sesame crackers) to go with the tea. With the tea, snacks, and view (though we couldn’t see much because of the rain) we quickly understood why the host couldn’t tell us how long we were going to have to wait to be seated. We just wanted to hangout there with our tea and snacks for the rest of the evening.
When our tea was served to us, we were given “Taiwan Tea Party 101” (in Chinese). We figured out enough from the little Chinese we know and her demonstration to do it again ourselves, but that sure was interesting:
- Scooped some tea into the clay pot
- Fill the clay pot with hot water
- Poured hot water all around the outside of the clay pot
- Don’t drink and pour out the first pot
- Pour more water into the clay pot and let it seep for about 10 seconds
- Pour the tea into the white pot with the strainer
- Serve it into the tall tea cups
- Place the smaller cups over the tall tea cups
- Flip the cups (warning: skills and practices needed)
- Slowly remove the tall cups allowing the tea to flow into the short cups, at this point you warm your hands with the tall cups and enjoy the aroma of the tea thats lingering in the tall cups
- Enjoy the tea in the small cups.
- Each batch of tea leave you place in the clay pot can be enjoyed 4 to 5 times but note that you will need to seep the tea for an additional 10 seconds after each water refill. Repeat until tea leaves are done.
There is a pot of hot water on the ground near our table on a little stove for us to use. This is where you go to get more hot water for your tea. So its pretty much all self service after “Taiwan Tea Party 101.”
We watched the rain from the covered patio and enjoyed our afternoon. By the time we were done, it was already getting dark and off we went to our next and final stop for the day: Shifen Old Street 十分老街 to release some Sky Lanterns 天燈 on train tracks.