Many of you may have watched Hayao Miyazaki’s award-winning Spirited Away and been blown away by the film’s creativity and beautiful artwork. If you loved the movie and happen to be in Taiwan, then you definitely have to make a stop in Jiufen, especially A Mei Tea House, which purportedly is the inspiration behind the lantern-lit bathhouse in the animation.
Lantern-lined narrow stairways and wooden furnishings
Jiufen’s old streets has lots of nooks and crannies and A Mei Tea House is located in the tourist hot spot where famous red lanterns line the narrow stairways. This is where many tourists flock to snap their iconic Jiufen shots and where most pictures of Jiufen you see on postcards are taken. It is hard to explicitly state where exactly the tea house is, so remember to watch out for the signboard “阿妹茶楼"（A Mei Tea House).
As you proceed up the wooden stairs to head to the tea house’s entrance, you will spot several creepy looking masks hung on the walls, adding a slightly sinister atmosphere to the tea house, much like the I’m-not-sure-what-to-expect vibe from Spirited Away.
The owner of the teahouse is quick to bank on its relation with Spirited Away and there are several figurines of Spirited Away’s characters placed on a shelf near the entrance, highlighting that this teahouse is the inspiration behind the famous movie.
Sip tea on the top floor with a great mountain view
The top floor of the tea house has both an indoor and outdoor area, with the outdoor area being a good choice if you are visiting during the cool season as you get to breathe in the fresh air and peer down at the mountain with nothing blocking your view. Ask for a window seat if it is available because then you can have unparalleled views of the scenery.
A Mei Tea House is very popular among tourists, especially among Japanese tourists as over half of the customers were Japanese when I visited. This is not surprising given that Spirited Away is a Japanese animation and director Hayao Miyazaki is a household name in Japan. Most of the servers are thus able to communicate in Japanese to cater to the Japanese crowd.
Afternoon tea set at 300 TWD (about 9 USD) per person
A Mei Tea House serves a standard afternoon tea set at 300 TWD (about 9 USD) per person. It comes with a small pot of tea, one mochi, 2 sesame crackers, two sugared plums, and one small bean cake. Definitely exorbitantly priced for one person’s serving by Taiwan’s standards, but this is what happens when you go to a tourist hot spot. This is probably a necessary expense if you are a die-hard Hayao Miyazaki (director of Spirited Away) fan who wants to witness the tea house first-hand.
Fortunately, the set tastes pretty good, despite the small portions.
A postcard as a souvenir
You will also be given a postcard of A Mei Tea House as a souvenir before you leave to wrap up the relaxing afternoon.
Commercialised but fun for a *Spirited Away* fan
Honestly speaking, the afternoon set is very expensive for Taiwan’s standards. For 300 TWD (about 9 USD), you could probably enjoy 3 meals in a street market or a filling scrumptious meal in a restaurant. If you have no interest in Hayao Miyazaki or have never watched Spirited Away, you might not enjoy the experience because the price might not seem justified to you.
Even though A Mei Tea House is slightly too commercialised for an authentic tea-drinking experience, it is a must-do if you are a Spirited Away fan because you will probably regret it if you visited Jiufen but left without entering the tea house.
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