春水堂 Chun Shui Tang: the bubble tea grail

The First 春水堂 Chun Shui Tang // flickr/Yuko M
The First 春水堂 Chun Shui Tang // flickr/Yuko M
 

Just like the chocolate molten cake, a culinary invention claimed by Michel Bras, bubble tea also took a life of its own without getting trademarked, and so two Taiwanese tea houses are to this day claiming its invention, 春水堂 Chun Shui Tang is one of them. Rather than feeling like they missed out on an opportunity to monopolize the bubble tea market, 春水堂 Chun Shui Tang feels confident enough about their brand and products to share the competition with others, “promoting Taiwanese tea and tea culture and to developing innovative products” is their main goal.

Reading up about the history of the company, I located the earliest outpost, still in business. Actually, the very first location, opened in 1983, on 24-1 Si Wei street, and fours years later, the tea house moved to 30 Si Wei Street, “Pear Milk Tea” was also invented during that year, that’s according to their website.

The original tea house is situated in what feels like a residential area, and at a walkable distance from the Taichung Main Train Station. As an ex bubble tea addict, I had to go there, as a matter of fact I even held out on checking out one of their outpost conveniently located near my apartment. I planned on having lunch there, and so was expecting an all-around great experience, but found myself somewhat disappointed right off the bat. The tea house has seating inside, an underground room next door, and outside tables on sunny days. I didn’t actually notice the underground room next door until I saw some waitresses going downstairs, and with deflated expectations, I didn’t bother having a peek inside. At first, I sat a table inside, but with the noise from all the big groups that day, and the dim lightning, the atmosphere felt somewhat stuffy and not conducive at all for chatting, so I requested to sit outside. Thankfully, a table under the shade freed up, and I was able to enjoy the sunny weather.

On to the food. To order, you need to get a menu from the counter, check what you want, pay for it, they give you a number and you return at your table. They do have an English version of the menu, but beware, because it shows only a quarter of what’s available in the Chinese menu. I don’t know if the staff was running short that day, but the service was a bit of a mayhem. When I returned to the counter to hand in my order and pay, the employee was frantically popping dishes in and out of the microwave, calling out orders, and finally took care of mine.  I’m well aware of microwave usage in restaurants, but coming from 春水堂 Chun Shui Tang, they really lost some prestige on that one.  With that said, the kitchen space is really small there, so I hope they do work differently in their newer tea houses.

Tastewise, I enjoyed their microwaved-reheated 招牌豆干 Specialty Dried Tofu, the tofu was served sliced, drenched in a gravy curry kinda of sauce, it was on the hot side, which I always appreciate. I also got my hands dirty with my usual 燒翅膀 roasted chicken wings, they were good, but nothing mind-blowing. Finally, an 珍珠茉奶 iced bubble jasmine milk tea to wash it all down. I restrained myself to a small size so as to avoid inconvenient bathrooms stops on the city walk I had planned for the rest of the afternoon, though the big jug was tempting as well.

All in all, with many other, newer branches available,  I wouldn’t recommend anyone to go out of their way for this particular shop, unless you want to brag about visiting  春水堂 Chun Shui Tang’s original tea house. They are even present at Taoyuan International Airport, at the international food court located at Terminal II, so you can even check that off your to-do list as you fly in or out of the island.

With all that said, I still think 春水堂 Chun Shui Tang is worth checking out. If you find yourself in Taichung and fancy the idea of experiencing the art of bubble tea, DIY classes are available at a few of their shops, with one branch located at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts.

Big Bubble Tea Mug // flickr/athenakuo
Big Bubble Tea Mug // flickr/athenakuo

春水堂 Chun Shui Tang
Website: http://chunshuitang.com.tw/
Address: 臺中市西區四維街30號 // No. 30號, Sìwéi Street, Xi District, Taichung City, 403

(last updated: 2016-12-04 日)

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