Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Flight of Rare Teas & Black Dragon Notes

Hi Tea Friends!

I want to let you all know that Cinnabar and I are hosting a Flight of Rare Teas at our tea shop, Phoenix Tea, in Burien, Washington. This will be our third year presenting this fun and popular event. On Saturday, July 12th at 7:00 pm we will taste some delicious, special, and rare teas. This event is only $25 per guest and limited to 12 people so please contact us to RSVP or if you have any questions. You may purchase tickets in store or on our website. You may also check out the event page on facebook. 

In other news, I've started writing a monthly blog post and newsletter for Phoenix Tea. To receive my newsletter "Black Dragon Notes" please join the Phoenix Tea mailing list here. If you'd like to check out my first post "Tea Region Spotlight - Darjeeling, India" you will find it here.

Happy Sipping!

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Visit to the Seattle Chinese Garden

One of the many great things about living in South Seattle is that the Seattle Chinese Garden (西華園) is not too far away. Since 2008 I have presented many wonderful tea tastings at the garden but it has been over a year now since my last visit. Earlier this month, on a drizzly cool Sunday, my family went back to SCG to attend an open garden event. Here are a few photos my wife took from that lovely morning. 

Young magnolias trees bloom outside the entrance to the 
Knowing the Spring Courtyard (知春院).

Yellow bamboo around a pretty pond.

Song Mei Pavilion (松梅亭)

My kids and friends on a Giant Fish!

My son and I watching the little fish.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dancong Haiku

Old tree with deep roots,
red halo on twisting leaves,
like sipping honey.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Welcome the Year of the Wooden Horse!

新年快樂 - Xīn nián kuài lè
恭喜發財 - Gōng xǐ fā cái
Happy New Year !

Friday, January 10, 2014

Clay Lined Tea Tumbler

This Christmas my generous friend and mentor Mr. Chen gave me a very special gift. It is a small tea tumbler lined with yixing clay.

As is often the case with Chinese gifts, this tumbler came in a very handsome silk-lined box. The package also included a pretty little booklet providing some history of Yixing clay and some information about the company that produced the cup. The design is titled bai jia xing (百家姓) and features over 500 golden words printed on a red background. For me it was love at first sight.

I've never used a cup like this before. On those rare occasions when I take my tea-to-go I usually just use a mason jar. Mason jars get the job done but the tea gets cold so fast and they will not fit in my car's cup holder. I also have a polycarbonate Chinese tea tumbler (seen here) which I use during longer trips or vacations but I was never crazy about that plastic teacup. 

Since Christmas I have used my clay lined tumbler many times. It has become my vessel of choice when I take my son to preschool on these cold winter mornings. First I brew my tea in a small teapot, usually it will be a Chinese black tea like dian hong, qimen, or bai lin gongfu but I've also tried it with dong ding and shui xian oolongs, then I decant the liquor right into the cup. To me, the flavor from this cup is much better than tea drunk out of an all metal tumbler. It is noticeably smoother, richer and sweeter.

Right now I'm not overly concerned about mixing different types of tea in this cup. I realize the clay will continuously change and that will affect the flavor of the teas, but as long as it tastes good I'll be happy. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Yixing Ming Cha

Recently my family and I visited my wife's aunt Mel. Mel is a wonderful person, an incredible chef, and a connoisseur of spices and coffee.

One afternoon, Mel showed me a pretty tin of Chinese tea that a friend had given to her. She had no idea what kind of tea it was or how best to prepare it. She had tried several times to enjoy it but unfortunately she was never able to brew it well.

I recognized the four Chinese characters displayed on both sides of the tin. They said Yixing Ming Cha (宜興茗茶) which I translated as "young and tender tea leaves from Yixing." A close inspection of the dry leaf indicated to me that this is a green tea with lots of fuzzy silvery buds. It looked like it was already a year or two old but the combination of a foil bag packed inside of a tin seemed to have benefited the leaves as they still had a nice aroma. I told Mel what I knew about Yixing, and their famous clay teapots, but I admitted that I didn't know too much about teas from this area.

The dry leaf.

I made a noble effort to brew the tea using Mel's six cup stoneware teapot and tap water boiled in a sauce pan (we couldn't find her tea kettle). Mel, my wife, and I all tried a mug and agreed that it was flat, boring, and grassy. When I suggested that this tea might taste much better if it was brewed in a gaiwan using spring water Mel gave me the tea.

Today I'm giving this Yixing Ming Cha my full attention. I used fresh spring water at 170° F, one rounded teaspoon of dry leaf, and a small gaiwan. My first infusion was ~1 minute.

Turns out this is a good tea although it is getting stale. It was probably picked in the early spring of 2012. The liquor is light with medium body. It is not at all nutty or roasty but it's a little bit sweet with a clean aftertaste. During four satisfying infusions I got some subtle notes of honeydew melon and a brightness in my throat that reminded me of decent white tea.

This session inspires me to keep a look out for Yixing tea in the future. Have you had any experiences with, or do you have any more information to share about, teas from this fascinating part of China? Also, what is the difference, if there is one, between Yixing (宜興) and Yang Xian (陽羡)?