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a(Credit: Sakuma Brothers Farms) Among countless acres of berry vines and apple trees in Skagit Valley, you’ll find Richard Sakuma tending to his tea

There are only 4 tea growers in the United States: two in the South, one co-op in Hawaii, and this guy……………….Richard Sakuma, in Skagit County. He was at the NW Tea Festival last year, and we hope to see him again this year.

The NW Tea Festival is just around the corner: Oct 5 & 6th, at Fischer Pavilion at Seattle Center. 

Hope to see you there.


Although I am not much for herbal (medicinal) teas, I will try anything once, maybe three times. So when one of my friends brought me herbal tea from Iceland, I smelled it (twigs), said thank you, plopped it on the shelf, pushed it to the side, and ignored it for a month. 

You have to let these things age, don’t you? 

 The tea stared back at me, begging to be tasted. I could stand it no more. With a certain amount of“hail-ho”spirit, I made a small pot. 

Let me tell you what’s in it: Iceland moss, birch, angelica. No tea leaves, this is an herbal (medicinal) tisane. Healthy. Helpful for respiration, digestion, circulation. Guards against gout, rheumatism, and water retention. Promotes liver function. 

Yipee!

 All good reasons to drink herbal (medicinal) teas except………I drink tea for it’s taste. I don’t need a doctor to drink tea. It’s all well and good that tea helps the body function better, but first and foremost, it has to taste good. This tastes like twigs and moss, which is what it is.

I am taste testing it against pu’erh tea, my least favorite type of real tea, to see if it improves my feelings for pu-erh. Guess what? The Zen Dog (www.TeaHouseGallery.com) Moonlight Pu-erh isn’t so bad after all. It’s a white pu-erh, and it doesn’t smell, and taste, like most pu-erh’s, which is to say, dirt.

If the choice is moss tea or pu-erh tea, I think it’s clear which one wins. Moss tea is not happening in this house unless I have respiration, digestion, or circulation issues. If and when I do, I know where to look: up on the shelf, pushed to the side.  

Meanwhile, should I visit Iceland, I’m taking my own tea.


Driving home one day, I noticed a new tea shop where an old coffee shop had recently closed. As we already have 18 places to buy coffee in 6 blocks, I was relieved to see that this wasn’t going to be another coffee establishment. 

Instead, it’s tea. From South Africa. Yes, yes, they have teas from other parts of the world, and coffee as well, but as the owners are from South Africa, their interesting teas, tea blends, and tea concoctions are made with rooibos. Ok, rooibos isn’t technically a tea. It’s an herbal infusion. Picky, picky. 

The owner, Natasha Robson-Lovato, made me a latte with 2 shots through an espresso machine of rooibos and steamed milk, then drizzled honey and cinnamon over it. A skeptic by nature, I smiled and said I’d try it, though not entirely sure that I would like it. She made my friend something called a Rooibos Fresh, which was shots of rooibos and apple juice. 

Not a huge rooibos lover (I overdid it several times when I was younger), I was somewhat surprised at how pleasant the taste was. In fact, it was rather on the yum side. 

Additionally, we treated ourselves to a Pineapple Fridge Tart, which Natasha makes daily. It melts in your mouth, and slides down your throat. Oink! It was good. They also offer a Peppermint Crisp Tart, another of Natasha’s creations, who could soon be my new BFF. They have sweets, savories, and tea sandwiches daily. Go early; they sell out.

The Cederberg Tea House people are a family from South Africa: the parents, Cecile and Howard; the daughter, Natasha, and her American husband, Jason. Everyone works in the shop, and they regale you with tales of South Africa, tea, world travels, and the difficulties of becoming an American citizen. We who were born here, take our citizenship for granted, forgetting how appealing this country is to other cultures. 

The tea house is so different from any other tea houses around that that alone is worth a visit. Then there’s the creative teas and the snacketto’s, which are original sin. Go, already!

Cederberg Tea House, 1417 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

cederbergteahouse.com, 206-285-1352


We were already on our way to the donut palace, assuming we would drink coffee with our treats. By happenstance, we decided to try a tea/donut pairing. We’re very cosmopolitan, you know. 

I had some teas that were quite suitable, and after perusing our choices, we decided on a couple that just might work. Here was our criteria: the tea needed to be lighter rather than heavier, so no puer. Nor did we want  strong black tea or an oolong, like Golden Moon Coconut Pouchong,  purchased at the Tea Lady, in Olympia. What we wanted was a green tea or a white. Silk Road Teas sells Jasmine Silver Needle (purchased at Perennial Tea Room, Seattle), but I wasn’t sure that jasmine wouldn’t compete with the donuts. We considered Sugimoto’s Sen Cha (purchased at Uwajimaya in Seattle), but that might be a little more flavor than we wanted. 

That left three choices: Silk Road Teas White Peony, Phoenix Tea Huo Shan Huang Ya (purchased at Phoenix Tea, Burien), and Chado Tea White Champagne Raspberry (chadotea.com).  

The Silk Road Teas White Peony was quite nice. The flavor was subtle, with a slight floral flavor, indeed complementing the donuts: glazed and sugared. We quite enjoyed it. We then brewed a pot of Chado White Champagne Raspberry. Although the tea is wonderful by itself, it needs no competing food. It was too floral, too sweet. Donuts need contrast, not competition. Finally, we decided to try one more: Phoenix Tea’s  Huo Shan Huang Ya, a yellow tea. It was the right amount of astringency to offset the sugar of the donuts. We were quite pleased with our experiment, and learned new things about tea. 

Which is how it should be.

This whole of idea of pairing tea with food is an old idea. You are just objecting because you don’t think of donuts as food. Tea makes no distinctions. 

Buy different teas, try different teas. It’s how you learn.   


Excerpt:

On June 15th, Phoenix Tea hosted A Flight of Rare Teas, a tea tasting event featuring rare, single-origin teas from 6 unique growing regions.  
 

World of Tea Series: A Flight of Rare Teas at Phoenix Tea

 


Think of The World of Tea Series as a season of programing, sponsored by the NW Tea Festival folks. The season ender was A Flight of Rare Teas, held at Phoenix Tea, in Burien. Burien? Isn’t that near the Mexican border? Well no, it isn’t. It takes less time to arrive in Burien (think airport) from downtown Seattle than to Capital Hill, now that we seem to have major construction projects happening all over Seattle. It’s a more pleasant drive as well.

 

The event was held at night, and hosted by the elegant Phoenix Tea owners Brett Boynton and “Cinnebar” Virginia Wright, dressed in evening wear. 

Eleven people and Baxter the dog attended. We tasted six rare teas, chosen by the owners from their extensive collection of loose-leaf pure teas from four distinct tea growing regions. 

 

First tasting was Compressed Junshan Yellow, a 2012 tea from Hunan, China. It was delicate and subtle like a white pu’er, smelling of peach and apricot. What was interesting was that water temperature was 165 degrees, which almost seems too cool. In fact, it was exactly right, as anything hotter created a bitter, flat tasting tea. 

 

Next tasting was Mei Gui Dan Cong, exhibiting a rose aroma during the  earlier infusions, then changing to smokiness during the later infusions. Boiling water is the norm for this oolong.

 

Then came Jiri Mountain Hwangcha, a rare and yellow tea from Korea. Brewed at 170-180 degrees like the Junshan Yellow, it was delicate with a fragrance of apricot in the first infusion. Later on, the fragrance was pomegranate, which lingered in the cup.

 

We moved on to Hand-Crafted Purple, from the southern slopes of Mount Kenya, which is (you guessed it) in Kenya. This fragrance was of blueberries or lychee. Because boiling water was used, it was more astringent than what we had been drinking, and was a nice change from the sweeter teas. 

 

Roasted Oolong Stem was the next offering. It was exactly what you are thinking; tea from twigs, brewed with boiling water. You might think that it would smell and taste earthy, but you would be wrong. It had a buttery caramel taste and great mouthfeel, with a toasty aftertaste. Based on this, do not pick twigs from your backyard and make tea. You will be so disappointed.

 

Rounding out the six teas was Kang Zhuan, a 28 year old tea from Sichuan, China.  I thought that it might remind me of a pu’er, and happily, I was wrong. It had a high spicy note in tasting, similar to ginger, and the fragrance was of ginseng. It reminded me of the wet, humid South: Florida, Georgia. As we tasted more infusions, the tea changed and mellowed, and the ginseng fragrance

toned down.

 

None of these teas were available for purchase, but I did not go home tea-less. I purchased some Huo Shan Huang Ya, which Brett suggested when I expressed interest in the Junshan Yellow. 

Phoenix Tea works hard to find teas to your taste. Both owners know their teas and are patient with us mortals who are not so knowledgable. Visiting Phoenix Tea is always an education and an adventure, and guess what. It’s closer than you think. A couple of turns off the freeway, and you’re there. 

Phoenix Tea, 902 SW 152nd St, Burien, Wa 98166, 206-495-7330

www.phoenix-teashop.com


Drinking tea is great for weight control, but not in the way you are thinking, unless you are thinking about snacks.

All the ramifications of what is in tea, and how it suppresses appetite is not what I mean.

Here’s my logic, and the habit.

When I go out for coffee (and this is only when I go out), I get a snack. Coffee plus pumpkin bread. Coffee plus donut. Coffee plus croissant. Coffee demands a snack, for me, when I am in a coffee shop. However, if I am at home, I can drink coffee all by itself. I don’t need the snack. What’s up with that?

When I go out for tea, on the other hand, I never get a snack. I get just the tea. Most tea houses that I frequent serve tea in a pot, from which you pour, after it has steeped. Maybe that’s it: I need a distraction when I drink warm drinks; either the visual of the teapot and the pouring of the liquid, or eat a snack.   

I suspect that it’s more. I grew up a tea drinker. We drank tea at home. It was habitual. We did not include snacks. When I became an adult and drank coffee, it revolved around going out somewhere to have a cup of coffee. Hence, what the heck! There’s that snack in the case, or on the plate, or in the refrigerator. That’s a different habit. 

Now that I am losing weight, on purpose, I find that I don’t want to go out for coffee. The pull is too strong for the snacketto.

I will stick to tea. It’s safer, healthier, and less calories.

Another gold star for tea.


Who knew anyone grew tea in Hawaii? Sugar? Yes. Pineapple? Of course. Vanilla? Wow, yes. Tea? Really? Really!  The Experience Tea afternoon soiree, on Front St, in Issaquah, was another tasting in the World of Tea Series, sponsored by the NW Tea Festival

I have this friend Sam. We have lunch together every month or so. The talk is big business, small business, no business, and neuroscience. While conversing, we drink a lot of tea. 

Recently, we began having our own tea tastings, just the two of us. We gather teas with which we are not overly familiar, and try three or four, as an experiment. We try to keep an open mind. I have a little trouble when he shows up with pu’er tea. Most of them taste like dirt, although a few of the white pu’er’s are passable. I am still working on my drinking-dirt-is-yummy attitude.

Usually Sam and I like at least one of the teas. This month, it was an oolong, a green, and that white pu’er. None were great, but all were drinkable. Having a buddy helps with tea tasting. It gives you another perspective, and that person bring teas that you might not buy on your own. And, it continues the conversation.

In addition to the usual topics, we talk about tea, changing tea culture, tea businesses, and tea people. This has become so interesting that I have started having tea tastings with other friends as well. Instead of having a lunch date, we have a tea date, and we meet at a tea shop. Animated and snappy conversation ensues with adventures in tea.  

Most folks learn better with the buddy system. We bring our own perspective, and we honor the perspective that someone else brings as well. It opens possibilities for new choices, in tea and conversation. 

Several tea shops in the area sponsor tea tastings. It’s a great way to learn about tea from people who actually know something. But tea tastings with your pals aren’t bad, either. If you experiment with different kinds of tea, you discover your likes and dislikes. And you may not end up talking about your in-laws. There’s merit in that.


A TASTING TOUR OF NEPALESE TEAS
Hosted by Roberta Fuhr (Experience Tea)

On September 22nd, we explored the spectrum of teas grown and processed in Nepal. We tasted and experienced aromas of the teas while talking about their history and current trends. There were several teas to taste in this class--several of which were purchased while our source was on tour in Nepal and still with their original cultural packaging!
 


Who knew anyone grew tea in Hawaii? Sugar? Yes. Pineapple? Of course. Vanilla? Wow, yes. Tea? Really? Really!

The Experience Tea afternoon soiree, on Front St, in Issaquah, was another tasting in the World of Tea Series, sponsored by the NW Tea Festival group. If you want to increase your knowledge about tea, or add to known knowledge, the World of Tea Series is fabulous and fun. 

Now, about the Hawaiian teas: there are 17 tea gardens (farms) on the Big Island, plus one each on Maui and Kauai. It’s a new industry in the Islands, about 10 years old. Tea has been grown since the 1800’s. A tea tasting is a great place to learn about and experience new teas.

Roberta Fuhr, the whip-smart owner of Experience Tea, hosted a tasting of 8 Hawaiian grown teas, which included white, green, oolong, and black tea.  Roberta is good with research and detail, and her passion is educating tea drinkers, and non-tea drinkers, about the variety of teas available. You are sure to find something that you like, even if you are sure you hate tea. If you have any curiosity, Roberta will rise to the challenge of finding something you will like. She gives Tea Discovery Classes on a regular basis. You don’t have to feel uninformed about tasting something new. Just have fun.

We tasted a white tea that exhibited hints of pear, green teas that didn’t smell and taste like grass (for those who don’t want to drink their lawn), and black teas that tasted like butterscotch and smelled like spun sugar. 

When you get away from Lipton, you find new experiences. 

Roberta is a great educator with a shop full of teas to smell and taste. It’s a great way to share an experience. And Issaquah is NOT in Idaho. Go check it out.

Experience Tea,  195 Front St, Issaquah, Wa, 206-406-9838

http://experience-tea.com


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