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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

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.

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

Hosted by Teahouse Kuan Yin

On April 21st, we experienced the wonders of brewing teas Gong Fu style - a style ubiquitous in Taiwan and common in China. Gong Fu Tea is a ritual of brewing tea that not only produces the most flavorful cup, but is also calming and meditative, promoting a holistic way of experiencing tea. Attendees learned about the history and techniques of Gong Fu tea, and why it is the perfect way to brew oolong and puerh teas. We demonstrated and explained the pieces behind this brewing style in an interactive process, as well as sampled a number of high quality Taiwanese oolong and Chinese puerh teas. 

Tea tasting is about sharing tea, sharing conversation, sharing the table. Expand your communication and get to know your neighbor. The second of the World of Tea series events, sponsored by the NW Tea Festival, took place at the TEAHOUSE KUAN YIN, in Seattle. Led by Alice Lee, it was an adventure through one Oolong and three Puerh teas. Alice is entertainment: telling stories, taking questions, enjoying herself along with the tea tasters. 

First tea was Oolong-Li Shan High Mountain Winter Harvest (a mouthful), the least full body of the four tasted. Light and floral tasting, it has a Spring flower smell. Through later infusions, it tasted of almonds and cashews, and no! I am not taking drugs and making this up! That was the consensus of the group.

We moved on to a raw Puerh, Mountain Mist Cake 2004. Ok, it’s Puerh time again, and not my favorite tea, but nobody asked me, so I kept quiet. Still, this wasn’t bad. It gets stronger, more astringent, more bitter, and darker with each infusion. Everyone liked it. Puerh is a developed taste, like Scotch. Or texting while driving.

Then a ripe Puerh;  Jin Ding 2009. Here the group began to split, some liking the stronger tea, others not so much. Although the two previous teas were light in color during the first infusion, this one was the color of mahogany. Each infusion brought it closer to coffee color. Taste characteristics were smoky, earthy like dried fig, and a slight leather taste. 

The fourth tasting was another ripe Puerh, Date Fragrance 2009. First infusion was dark, harboring a peat smell and feeling a little more gritty in the mouth. It also had tastes of leather, mushroom, dirt, and chocolate. Chocolate? And where’s the dates?

Alice Lee’s teahouse stocks traditional and exotic teas and accessories. Her shop sits right smack in the middle of Wallingford, a great place to stop for a pot of tea and a snacketto. No cups to go, you have to pause your life, sit down, relax, enjoy. Get over yourself; we’re already moving too fast in life. Slowing down is challenging, and refreshing. 

TEAHOUSE KUAN YIN, 1911 N 45th St, Seattle WA, 98103, 206-632-2055

If you grew up with Lipton Tea, you know that the most popular tea in the world in black tea, and the primary growing regions are India, China, and Sri Lanka, which used to be called Ceylon until 1972. We think of Ceylon tea, but not Sri Lanka tea. It just does not roll off the tongue. Dang! To develop black tea, the leaves are allowed to oxidize (exposed to air), thus darkening the leaves as well as adding flavor, color and body. Black tea has been around for, well, forever. 

What makes tea, tea? Tea is a plant, specifically the Camellia Sinensis plant. If your drink contains this, it is a tea. If it does not, it is a tisane. Herbal teas and rooibos teas are tisanes. Herbs, roots, flower petals, etc. No camellia sinensis. Tisanes flavor water, but lack the properties and benefits of teas. No matter. They certainly add to the taste of water, making it easier to guzzle more during the day. More water in the system means less wrinkles, and body systems run smoother. I am in favor of that, especially the wrinkle part.

Green tea, which primarily grows in China and Japan, accounts for 14% of tea drunk in the United States, according to TeaUSA. It certainly has become much more popular since my childhood with Lipton Tea. Tea leaves are heated or steamed directly after harvesting, thus halting the oxidation process. Green tea is filled with antioxidants and amino acids, primarily Theanine. It is this amino acid that increases the levels of GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, which are feel good drugs for your brain.

Oolong Tea hails from Taiwan and southeast China. The leaves are partially oxidized, then fired to halt oxidation. In strength and color, oolong tea is about half way between green and black tea. 

That leaves White Tea, which mostly comes from China. It is minimally processed, with no oxidation. The tea buds are plucked one day before they open, thus producing a slightly sweet, almost transparent taste. 

Ok, who has the job of knowing when to pluck tea buds? And if you are wrong, who drinks all the“bad”tea? 


On Tuesday evening, I had the opportunity to attend the first World of Tea Series event of 2013, a Cheese and Tea Pairing workshop hosted by Perennial Tea Room and Brian Gilbert of Beecher's Handmade Cheese (both businesses are located in Seattle's famous Pike Place Market).

World of Tea Series: Cheese and Tea Pairing Workshop