Tea Life

The gathering place: The tradition of teahouses in Asia

Throughout history, teahouses have been a fixture in the life and culture of Asian peoples, particularly Chinese. Like the cafes of Europeans, teahouses were places to enjoy a favorite beverage, consume small snacks, and to gather over tea and socialize — exchanging innocuous gossip or serious news. As their popularity increased, teahouses caught the attention of the Communist party, who worried the gathering places hosted the opportunity for the educated to congregate and instigate rebellious activities. Due to the Communists’ suspicion, teahouses were shut down for over 30 years. Tea farms went fallow when they no longer had an industry to sell their tea into. Today, however, cities across China are once again teeming with teahouses, now graced by government officials and businessmen of every kind. Tea culture extends into spiritual and formal dimensions in the Chanoyu, the tea ceremony of Japan. Here the elite gather to watch the refined…

The art of judging award-winning tea

How are award-winning teas selected? Surprisingly for most people, tea competitions are fun and exciting. Judges typically consist of tea farmers, tea shop owners, and tea scholars. These experts are known for refraining from drinking alcohol and coffee, smoking, eating spicy food, or anything else which could taint their palate. Gathered around a large table, with tasting spoons in hand, the group obnoxiously slurps down countless sips of the same type of tea, crafted by different artisans. Traditionally these teas are oolongs. With greater expertise and experience required for production, oolongs are said to be the “connoisseur’s tea,” containing the most complexity and fragrance. Judges debate taste, aroma, appearances of leaf, and quality of infusions. After several hours of heated debate, with judges literally shouting and screaming at one another, a consensus on which teas deserve which grades is finally reached. Judges award 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place honors. Unlike…

Step into the world of Artisanal Teas

How do you step into the world of artisanal teas? Some of you have experienced whole leaf teas, thinking that as long as it is not fanning in a teabag, you must be drinking artisanal teas. Others feel that there must be a richer experience out there than just scented or blended teas. In reality, the quality level a tea must reach to be considered artisanal is comparable to a restaurant qualifying for the Michelin star. The depth of flavor and breadth of aroma that artisanal teas offer is more than the world of connoisseur wine or cuisine.  Learning how to enjoy this realm is actually quite accessible — just follow these tips and step right in: Choose single origin tea: The great terroirs of the world not only produce the most suitable tea plants,  but have been doing so for thousands of years, and the tea bushes have adapted…

Commonly-used tea terms from Asia

Ming Qian:  Pre-Ming, literally, before the Ching Ming Festival. This is a Chinese term referring to the same grade of leaves as First Flush. Since Ching Ming Festival occurs around April 2nd to 6th of each year, the late March, early April teas are considered the utmost quality, and is priced by the day. The later the date of plucking, the less expensive. Generally, Pre-Ming is a grade designated for green teas like Longjing (Dragonwell), white teas, and some high value oolongs. Cha Qing:  Pronounced Ching (the Q is a ch sound), Cha Qing refers to the raw material green leaves that have just been plucked. It is very important what day, what time, what elevation, which side of the hill, and even who, picked these leaves, which determines the quality and grading and pricing of the finished product. King’s Grade (Cha Wang):  This grade has no solid definition, other…

Bringing Tea: Introducing Friends to the Practice of Tea

I hesitate to call it a practice. Truthfully, I even hesitate to introduce tea. With a reputation for being fussy or overly complicated or just foreign it always felt that it had to be the right place and the right time to bring tea to a friend’s house. Typically the intention is of having what is commonly referred to in the tea world as a “session”. This often consists of putting a kettle on, heating a gaiwan or yixing teapot, pulling out the really good tea, being willing to sip out of small tiny cups that look comical, taking some time to sit together, and then allowing  time and the conversation to unfold, keep pouring the hot water in, keep pouring the tea out filing cup upon cup until everyone is a little more relaxed and a little more awake. With a bit of courage, and with tea in hand, I drove…

For the Love of Tea: Seven Cups

From one of our regular customers: Recently I have been facing some challenging times at work, a long strenuous series of struggles that just have not been resolved. Noticing that it is finally taking a toll on me, physically, mentally and emotionally – it was becoming unbearable and my communication with my closest coworkers was becoming more unproductive and less humane. This morning I found myself sitting down in the corner of the small sunroom at my home enjoying a pot of silver needle white tea. As the rays of sunshine went back and forth, covered and uncovered by the clouds in the bright blue sky, nonstop random thoughts crossed my mind over and over. By the third or fourth cup of tea my body started to relax and my mind gently, slowing became more quiet. Leaning back against the wall settling in and putting it all down finally I am not trying to do…

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