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During the first weekend in October, I attended the 7th annual Northwest Tea Festivalin Seattle.  The weather was beautiful and perfect for those of us who lined up outside awaiting the festival opening.

Northwest Tea Festival 2014

My daughter, who is now 17, became very interested in tea when she was in middle school. It started with tea bags. Every opportunity she took to influence my generosity, another box of tea would find its place in our pantry. I didn’t think much about this, other than how wonderful it was that she enjoyed tea and not teenage drama.

One day on a treasured girl’s day out, we happened upon a tea ceremony. A whole new world opened up—-we learned to tap our fingers to signal “thank you”; we learned about puerh, oolong and fermentation. She brought home her first bag of loose leaf tea. 

A few months later, Roberta Fuhr opened her tea shop in Issaquah, Experience Tea. I remember thinking how fortuitous it was to have a local source of this interesting elixir. Madison, my daughter, took Roberta’s classes. Not long after, my friend asked me to thank Madison for all the boxes of tea. My daughter had given away all that “dust” in favor of whole leaves.
Moment after moment of tea began to happen. Madison poured tea for visitors in our home, a comforting way to find something to chat about for my dear, shy child. My husband became curious and Madison taught him, gave him cups to savor and over time, they rekindled the bond that had abruptly disappeared during her early adolescence. Our younger son, as bouncy and kinetic as you might imagine, would sip tea with Madison on winter evenings, foregoing his cherished hot chocolate. 

These days, we all drink tea when it’s time to read, time to garden, time to relax or perk up. Madi and her friends are often at our table, sipping and giggling. Tea draws us out of the corners of our house and into the common spaces. It’s much more than a drink. It’s an experience in each and every sip and it is all the better when it’s shared.

… Sara, a patron at Experience Tea,

195 Front St, N. Issaquah, WA 

I am drinking tea like crazy. Having 87 different teas on my shelves is not conducive to buying more at the NW Tea Festival, coming up in October. I have to get rid of some tea, or I will not be buying any tea.

Well, ok, drink up. And that is exactly what I am doing. Black tea, green. White tea, yellow. Rooibos. Herbal. Puer. For heaven’s sake, where did I get all these teas? Oh wait, maybe the last NW Tea Festival.

This is a blessing and a curse, having 87 teas on my shelf. I am just one person, drinking tea. I invite friends over for tea. I now know my neighbors, because of tea. My clients are now drinking tea. And I am drinking tea.

In October, I will be drinking different teas. Hello NW Tea Festival. October 4th & 5th, at Fischer Pavilion, at the Seattle Center. 

See you there. I will be sampling, and buying, everything.

Think the face of tea is a blue-haired lady with a purple hat?  Think again…or walk into a tea store and look at who you find: Expect to see kids, men, women of all ages, young boys—especially teenagers.

As a tea store owner, and as a teacher of true tea, I have observed the growing fascination with tea and watched how it takes hold of people to sometimes become a captivating interest (would I dare say obsession?).  That may sound like a bad thing, but when you think of tea as having the same complexity and craft of fine wine, it’s not unusual, and, in my mind, beneficial.  There are after all, proven health benefits to consuming tea*.

What I love most about tea is its age neutrality: every age can enjoy tea (ideally together) and other than some consideration to caffeine, it doesn’t have a compelling downside.  Parents and kids can enjoy and explore tea together, any time of day, in many different settings.  Just bring out a tea pot and some loose leaf tea and watch the conversation unfold and develop.

In the US, we think of tea as a “women’s drink”, yet in many countries around the world tea is the primary beverage enjoyed by all.   The variety and natural flavor spectrum of tea goes far beyond black tea: white tea, green, oolong and an aged and fermented tea called pu’erh all come from the same plant as black tea—it depends how the leaves are processed after they’re plucked.  Once people get a taste for some of these other types of true tea, their interest and respect for tea grows—which then naturally connects people to history and cultures.

The face of tea in the northwest is really the face of tea in the world.  Next time you’re in your company’s break room and find a co-worker steeping tea, ask what kind it is, where it comes from and you might just get the offer to share.  Seek the opportunity to learn about this unique beverage—it will serve you all your life.

Roberta Fuhr

Experience Tea Studio, Issaquah, Washington

I was in the mood for coconut tea. I love the smell, and the taste is refreshing. 

Spying a tin on my tea shelf, I made some hot tea, 185 degrees, for 3 minutes. Wrong Move. It was too hot, weather wise, for hot tea, but my habit of making hot tea kicked in before my brain realized that it was hot outside, and humid. Hot tea just made me feel worse. And sweaty. And cranky.

So I iced it.

Cold, the tea smelled just as wonderful, and I managed to drink a lot more fluid than I thought I would. Core temperature in the body goes up when it’s hot. We feel fatigued, brain fogged, lethargic. We forget to hydrate.

That’s an ideal time for cold tea, and the reason? To keep your brain sharp, and your body functioning. 

Golden Moon’s Coconut Pouchong comes from the South Pacific. Young coconuts instill a sweetness that allows it to be subtle, smooth, and elegant. I thought that it was an Oolong, but the website lists it as a green tea. Actually, because the oxidation level is so low, it can be considered green or Oolong. The thing to remember is: the caffeine content is low, for those for whom it matters.

Hot or cold, this is great tea. 

You can find all sorts of tea at the NW Tea Festival, Oct 4th & 5th, at Fischer Pavilion at the Seattle Center.

Make your own tea discoveries.

My sister teaches 5th grade. Those children are about 10 years old, and they have a lot of imagination, energy, and the attention span of a gnat. Every year, she teaches about the American Revolution, and she begins with a challenge to the hyper-active kids about uses for tea bags. She arrives with English Breakfast tea bags (this is a hint of what’s coming) and the kids work in groups to come up with novel and interesting uses for the bag of tea. They may include the packaging in which the the tea comes. They are not allowed to use the obvious, which is, making a hot or cold drink, with or without honey and lemon.

Ok children…….ready?


Here is the 5th graders uses for tea bags:

  1. a pillow for your pet mouse
  2. use the inside aluminum packaging to signal when you are stuck in the mountains taking your 92 year old grandma on a hike, and you have lost your way. Oh, where are those boy scouts?
  3. yo-yo replacement string
  4. cat litter. You will need more than one bag of tea unless it is large.
  5. cleaning windows. Once again, you may need more than one bag, unless you are really efficient. 
  6. air freshener. Really????
  7. a lasso for a mouse. Is the mouse being lassoed or is the mouse the perpetrator, lassoing his fellow mice?
  8. half a pair of earrings
  9. toothpaste, or is that teeth-paste? That’s a sister joke. 
  10. use the tea bag string to floss your teeth.

Then my sister announces one last use for bags of tea: overthrowing a government, and with that, she begins her chapter on the American Revolution and the Boston Tea Party.

Tea and tea bags are so versatile, like Duct Tape, WD-40, and staples, for hems that sag. History is pretty versatile as well.

Not a straight water fan (no taste), I drink cold tea. Especially in the summer. As I have an East facing kitchen window, I make sun tea: cold water, tea, and time. The tea sits overnight, the flavor is absorbed by the water, and in the morning, voila! cold, all-day-sipping tea. No heating water, no timers, no mess. 

But I was interested to know, taste wise, if there is a difference between sun tea, and hot tea with added ice cubes. Turns out, there is a huge difference.

Starting with Assam black tea, and any tea will work, I poured some into a glass container, filled it with cold water, replaced the lid, and wandered off until the next morning. Black sun tea has a beautiful color, and smells strongly of flavor. The taste is subtle, with no aftertaste, no bitterness, no astringency. 

Anticipating the comparison, I brewed the tea hot, then added ice cubes. The taste test was a no-brainer. The ice cube tea didn’t smell as flavorful, and the taste was mildly flat and diluted, like ice cubes had been added to it. 

Because I thought that this might happen, I also brewed hot tea, and allowed it to cool to room temperature. It fared only moderately better than the iced tea. 

Chemistry changes the taste between hot and cold water brewing methods, and for my taste, I prefer the easy-peasy-lemon-squeezie version of cold water, tea, patience, and wonderfulness.

The great thing about Steven Smith’s teas are how subtle they are. Smooth doesn’t begin to describe them. White Petal #72 is no exception. It is a white tea, full leaf, with osmanthus flowers from China, and chamomile petals from Egypt, though it doesn’t taste at all like chamomile. Enough with put-me-to-sleep chamomile teas. The tea leaves of #72 hail from the Fujian Province of China, one of the most productive areas for tea growing in China. The number 72 refers to the number of chamomile petals in each ounce of White Petal tea.

White teas are high in antioxidants, having exceptional health benefits. Who doesn’t want to live well for all of their life?

And white teas don’t need such hot water. Although any tea can be drunk at any temperature, including the standard 212 degrees, this tea is better served at 190. It brings out the full subtle, sweetness when it isn’t scalding your mouth at the usual 212.

For this and other interesting teas and tea facts, come to the NW Tea Festival, Oct 4th & 5th at the Fischer Pavilion at Seattle Center.

Mango SunshineThe smell alone is heavenly. I don’t even care that there is no real tea in it. It’s a tisane with mango, orange, strawberry, tangerine, and pineapple pieces. It is definitely an iced tea summertime drink. Hot, it’s nice; cold, it’s unbeatable.

Run to the Perennial Tea Room on Post Alley, near the Pike Place Market and check this out. They have real teas, too.

And visit them at the NW Tea Festival, Oct 4th & 5th, at Fischer Pavilion at the Seattle Center.

Perennial Tea Room

Jasmine Silver NeedleIf you visit the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco, there is a Tea House. You can spend an afternoon gazing at the koi ponds, the cherry blossoms, and the landscape of the Garden while sipping Jasmine Green Tea. Surprise to me, not all jasmine tea is green tea. As in everything, there is variation.

I purchased some Jasmine Silver Needle tea, from Silk Road Teas. This is a white tea, harvested in Fujian Province of China, in the early spring. The buds are marginally oxidized to better absorb the delicate jasmine scent. Both dry and wet, the leaves are pungent with the smell of delicate flowers. As a perfume, jasmine is sickeningly sticky sweet, and should not be worn by anyone older than eleven, but as a tea, it is subtle and soothing. This is another one of those Emperor’s Teas, those which were not available to the common man until the world of the Emperor was gone. Now, anyone can drink any of the teas, as there is no one to tell them that they cannot. I have a new understanding of the Boston Tea Party.

I was interested to taste the difference between Jasmine White Tea, and Jasmine Green Tea, so I purchased Jasmine Pearls, also from Silk Road. Pearls are created by rolling the tea leaves into small balls, or pearls. While steeping, the pearls uncurl, leaving a fresh scent and a pleasant taste. While the green leaves are picked earlier, the jasmine scenting doesn’t happen until later in the summer. Flower petals are introduced into the tea, then removed. This is a hand process that can happen up to seven times: introduction of jasmine, removal of jasmine. I wonder if that works with kids and spinach.

Silk Road Teas has a wonderful selection, and you can purchase much of it at the Perennial Tea Room, on Post Alley, up the street from the Pike Place Market. 

Both the Perennial Tea Room and Silk Road Teas will be represented at the NW Tea Festival, Oct 4th & 5th, at Fischer Pavilion, at the Seattle Center. You can make your own discovery.