Hidden in a small alley right behind the fancy Sherwood Taipei, the Is Tea Restaurant is a place full of traditional Taiwanese elegance. The lighting inside the restaurant gives the place a warm atmosphere. The wall along the walkway by the entrance is decorated with elegant teapots. Pottery decorations are designed by the proprietor's artist friend. There is also refined Chinese calligraphy and graceful Chinese paintings.
The Chinese name of the restaurant was adopted from the title of a poem written by Wang Wei (王維), a well-known poet from the Tang dynasty.
The owner Steve Huang (黃德昌) set up the restaurant in 1996.
After much trial and error in creating new dishes using tea, the hard work paid off when his restaurant started to gain popularity in 1999. The restaurant is popular with Japanese tourists. Japan Asia Airways includes an introduction to the restaurant in a film shown during Taiwan-bound flights.
"My restaurant enjoys a bigger name in Japan than in Taiwan," Huang said.
His words can perhaps be verified by the fact that the restaurant is packed with Japanese patrons almost every weekend.
Huang uses his extensive knowledge of Chinese tea to create unique cuisine. He uses green tea to cook seafood, Oolong tea with chicken, black tea and Pu-er tea with red meat.
Methods used in the preparation of the food includes smoking ingredients with tea leaves or marinating them overnight in tea infusions.
The tea leaves that Huang uses for consumption in the restaurant are all supplied by award-winning tea farms in Taiwan.
From these top-quality tea leaves, around 40 gourmet dishes are made.
In fact, the restaurant is like a common tea house which provides a wide variety of teas to drink, served in covered white teacups.
Huang's signature dishes include bai-hao tea chicken roll (白毫玉葉雞米), diced chicken cooked with black tea (紅茶雞丁), skewers of mushroom deep fried with black tea (