Monday, February 28, 2011

My adventures in tea culture

For years, I'd watched my tea sensei, Shortchenpa, fix a cup of tea during meetings, but I never dove in. I was strictly an English/Irish tea drinker, black teas, orange pekoe, on adventurous days, maybe some Earl Gray. And of course, milk. Then, a couple of years ago, on a trip to San Francisco, I stopped in at the Vital Tea Leaf:

Vital Tea Leaf, San Francisco (2008)
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I was there with by BHL fellow traveller, Chris. We had just finished up some good meetings at the Internet Archive and walked from the (old) Presidio offices of the Archive, down Lombard, all the way to Coit Tower, and then up through North Beach (stopping in at City Lights were I picked up an autographed Lawrence Ferlinghetti volume), and then to China Town. That's quite a walk (If I may say so) and we took advantage of the extensive tea tasting offered by Vital Tea Leaf. I was hooked.

Chris and me, Vital Tea Leaf, San Franciso (2008)
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My next chance for some good tea time was on a trip to Taiwan (February 2009). For my excursion, I'd planned to go to the tea growing area near Taipei, but ended up on an even more exciting trip to the north coast of the island to the artsy village tucked in the mountains, Jiufen. There, in addition to my first experience (positive) of stinky tofu, I had my introduction to Taiwan's famous Tie Guanyin Tea ("Iron Goddess") at the Jioufen Teahouse.

Jioufen Teahouse, Jiufen, Taipei (2009)
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Just a few months ago, while in Beijing, I had lots of great tea (including the bottomless cup of tea served by the "tea ladies" during meetings at the Chinese Academy of Sciences/Institute of Botany). I also needed to bring some oolongs and Jasmine pearls home, so I did a tea tasting at Ten Fu's Tea / right near my hotel.

Ten Fu Tea, Beijing (2010)
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I go back to Vital Tea Leaf in San Francisco whenever I have a chance and enjoy Uncle Gee putting on a show. Of course, right here in Washington, we have a very nice tea store, Teaism, that also has a nice restaurant attached.

Vital Tea Leaf, San Francisco (2010)
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Vital Tea Leaf, San Francisco (2008)
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