Cup of Tea and a Blog

Welcome to my spot for musing about all things tea. Here you'll read reviews of quality teas, click through comments on tea rooms and shops I've visited, and see photos of leaves and cups. You’ll also find things I might talk about over a cup of tea, like philosophy, literature, current events, or fun ways to pass the time.

Location: Pacific Northwest, United States

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31 May 2005

Visiting Seattle?

I sometimes hear from fellow tea lovers who are planning trips to Seattle and want to know where to find a good cup of tea in such a coffee-laden land. To help, I've put together a list of suggestions called Spots for Tea in Seattle and the Puget Sound

Included: guide to tourist spots, best places to take a thermos, tearooms & shops. I'll be updating the list regularly as I explore more.

2 Tea Journals

I've been visiting these this week:

Puerh, A Westerner's Quest: a web site devoted to a man's pursuit of tea. Tons of great links, and quite a few photos of his personal collection.

Tea Posur: another blogger like myself, posting her thoughts on (and reviews of) various teas. Lots of fun!

Chinese Garden Planned for Seattle

The Seattle Times reports that construction begins in July for a new Chinese Garden in Seattle: Elaborate 4.5-acre Chinese garden planned.

"The 4.5-acre garden, with a view of downtown, the mountains and Elliott Bay, will include a lake the size of Husky Field and an 85-foot tower visible from Interstate 5. Its master plan also calls for a 200-seat banquet hall, an education center, a teahouse, exhibition building and other pavilions, along with covered walkways, calligraphy art and sculpture."
(emphasis mine)

It will be interesting to see how the teahouse will be used. Demonstrations only, like the teahouse at the Japanese Gardens?

Also of note, the Chinese Garden in Seattle will be different from the (few) others in North America because it will be built in the style of the Sichuan province in honor of its sister city, Chongqing. I wonder if that will have any influence on the teahouse?

21 May 2005

Review: Teapot Vegetarian House

The Teapot on Capitol Hill (Seattle, Washington) is a well-known vegan restaurant. It’s often included in votes for Seattle’s Best, and I’ve been curious but rarely get to that neighborhood. Recently, I was excited to notice a new Teapot Vegetarian House on the east side of Lake Washington. It’s even quite close to home, located on NE 24th Street in Redmond.

The tea there is of a decent quality, served loose leaf in a tsetsubin pot. There are two sizes of pots, and about 12 teas from which to choose. The Teapot really is more about food and less about tea, but it is wonderful to have a restaurant which offers fine tea while you dine. Tea is also featured in a few menu items, like one of my favorites, the popular Rose Chicken (it comes with sauce made from rose tea).

It may sound odd to have a “chicken” dish at a vegan restaurant, but this is a Chinese/Pan-Asian restaurant that uses mock meats in several dishes. For some vegetarians, this can be a bit off-putting. I find it that way sometimes, but at The Teapot I didn’t mind at all. The spices permeate the food, meals are filled with fresh vegetables, portions are large enough to be shared, mock meats aren’t in every dish, and there is a full menu from appetizer to dessert.

There were roses and rose petals scattered throughout recipes and the restaurant. There were even roses in the women’s restroom, which was, by the way, very clean and spacious (always important to have a good restroom when you’re sipping tea).

This is close enough for me to become a regular, and I’m thrilled!

Tea in Vegas

I didn’t go to Las Vegas for the tea, and I didn’t even go for the gambling. I went to have fun in the great hot beaming sunshine of the desert southwest.

Being of firm conviction that a nice tea service makes pleasant visits even better, I tried to make reservations at the Bellagio -- struck out (should have made reservations a week ago). I called around to several other places, working from tips and reviews. Most hotel-casino operators didn’t know where to direct me, and it usually took 3 or 4 forwardings before finding which restaurant had the tea service. In person at the brand new Wynn Hotel, it only took two people and one phone call before we found out that tea will be served (near the garden area) starting in a few weeks. I imagine it will be very special and very expensive.

Not all was amiss, since I’d brought tea and tea-making supplies along. Which teas? I brought Teaspring’s Bao Zhong Classic and Floating Leaves’ Yunnan Gold. We could brew these any time in our hotel room, but we only had Triscuits and sliced cheese for snacks. :)

Next time, I’ll plan ahead and contact some of the Teamailing locals down there (Lady Patricia, I’m sorry we missed each other – you were in my neighborhood while I was in yours!).

Yixing, Puerh, and Dental Work

My New Yixing Pot

As some of you know from a previous post, I’ve just begun my exploration of puerh teas. I’ve now sampled a few more at tea shops, and I’ve been paying special attention to preparation methods. Finally, it was time to revisit puerh, and I wanted a special pot for this. There are many web sites that sell Yixing ware, from cheaper mass market produced pots to hand-crafted artware, to expensive antique pieces. However, for this first one I wanted to touch before buying, to see what it looked like and feel how fragile it was. Fragility scares me, since I tend towards clumsiness.

My first attempt to get to a teashop with a nice selection was a bust. Unfortunately, our trip to to Bremerton, WA didn't go well when we found the shop closed (time to update the web site information!). I’ll go back across the Puget Sound to Bremerton sometime soon, since I’m always looking for an excuse to take that gorgeous ferry ride. I’ll remember to call first, though.

Afterward, I continued to surf web sites and learned to recognize recurring patterns and themes. I tend to like the simple squat fat pots, but I also enjoy the stark geometric shapes of some. The pots with figures or fake wood gnarls seem too child-like to me, but I must admit that I want one with a lizard/salamander on the lid. If I ever find the perfect tea for that tiger-stripe salamander pot, I’ll buy one. Please post if you have any suggestions for teas that might match!

My next attempt to get my hands on some tiny pots was at the tea tasting by the owners of Floating Leaves. Luckily, they had some wonderful yixings, and I learned about subtle differences in weight and the type of filter to the spout. I was happy to purchase a small-but-stately pot that seemed to be just the right color for puerhs.

Forest Floor, a loose puerh
During the tea tasting, several attendees mentioned a favorite: Forest Floor Puerh. One person said that often when she brews it at work, someone will ask "is it raining outside?" That description made me smile, and it made me take some home. I waited a few days while Shiuwen seasoned the pot with the Forest Floor puerh (see the Teamaster's excellent blog on preparing new yixing teapots). Once my pot had arrived, I was ready to go. I have a makeshift gongfu setup, and I prepared water then began the brewings of this tea.

leaves before brewing

yes, that's my mac laptop behind it (needed something white)

As you can see, a very nice reddish-brown liquor is produced from this brewing. The tea is not aggressively fermented, but it has that characteristic flavor I’m beginning to appreciate. The flavor holds true even after several brewings. There are quiet notes that make me think of walking off the path and into the depth of a natural, untended forest floor. I like how this goes into the pleasant side of decay; the expanded brewed tea leaves are lacey and look like those you’d find months after the autumn fall. I suppose that’s how I think of this tea – like a winter forest.

What does this have to do with dental work?

The thing that has surprised me most about the Forest Floor puerh is that my husband loves it. Right now, he is especially fond of the comforting aspect to this tea. He’s in the middle of some tough dental work, taking lots of antibiotics and pain killers, and the puerh is calming his stomach and soothing his nerves. I don’t drink tea for the health benefits, but you can’t get any better than tea that tastes good while being good for you.

So, Floating Leaves’ Forest Floor puerh comes fully endorsed by my husband with his swollen cheek, antibiotic-gauze-stuffed tooth, and numbed-but-still-just-a-bit-painful jaw.

16 May 2005

Back in Town

I've been out of town since last Wednesday and have fallen behind in updating my blog. Thank you for the several posts and email messages that have come in the past few days. I appreciate your taking the time to comment and ask questions (and provide some great information). I'll respond soon -- promise I'm not ignoring you, just need a few days to catch up to things! :)

Check back Tuesday and Wednesday for new posts.

Coming soon: reviews of a few teas, photos of my brand-new-beautiful-little-yixing, comments on tea in Las Vegas, a review of tea and food at a fun Chinese-vegan restaurant.

10 May 2005

Links of the Day, 5/10/05

I don't know much about Panyaro, the Korean Way of Tea, but now I want to know more. The web site also has wonderful photos of Tea Making (preparing the leaves).

It's always good to learn more about the techniques for brewing tea. Bruce Richardson wrote a nice article about Making Good Tea Time after Time (check out his other articles while you're at the web site). Tea Time World Wide has a good resource for beginners: Tea Tasting 101.

This week I've been browsing web sites that look at tea history and tea culture.I started my search by looking at the entry for Tea in Wikipedia. There's a ton of stuff there, so for contrast here's a quick and simple look at the history of tea. For a nice chronology, click through to Important Events in the History of Tea.

I haven't read the entire thing yet, but I found really interesting excerpts from a graduate thesis on Tea and Sri Lanka. The work focuses on "the culture surrounding tea, and the different meanings affixed to the commodity by different cultures."

I've been drawn to sites that look at tea philosophy. There are several extensive resources, both online and in print. The Book of Tea is available from The Cat-Tea Corner. I've got a few books to check out of the local library, and I'll review those as I read them.

06 May 2005

Tech Note: Commenting

I've changed the settings on this blog, so now anyone (not just registered users of should be able to comment on posts. If I start having problems with spam, I'll set things back.

05 May 2005

Dorothy Parker & Tea


In the pathway of the sun,
In the footsteps of the breeze,
Where the world and sky are one,
He shall ride the silver seas,
He shall cut the glittering wave.
I shall sit at home, and rock;
Rise, to heed a neighbor's knock;
Brew my tea, and snip my thread;
Bleach the linen for my bed.
They will call him brave.

(make sure you add a wry little twist of sarcasm to that last line)

Other Works Featuring Tea
Afternoon: It reveals my middle-aged-ness, but I like this voice of a person on the verge of aging. It's a bit more reassuring than the Prufrock take on the process; perhaps that's the wry nature of Parker's poetry. It is interesting to note that each of these poems relate tea with aging (now that's something to ponder as my roots turn grey).

The Last Tea: a short story.

This excerpt from Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin, by Marion Mead, tells a great story about Parker being fired over tea and scones at the Plaza Hotel Tea Court.

Floating Leaves Tea Gathering

Last weekend, I was lucky to be able to attend a tea gathering that turned into a wonderfully relaxed tea-tasting event. The owners of Floating Leaves tea (Rob and Shiuwen) were gracious and opened their home to a nice group of tea-lovers. We shared tea stories, learned about culture and language, and watched while tea was prepared with the formal Gongfu method.

I sipped many teas, including a special Baozhong (fabulous!) and a nice Puerh. I also bought a small, black Yixing pot. Shiuwen is seasoning the pot for me, but once it’s in my hands I’ll post photos. She’s also going to keep her eyes open for a somewhat larger pot for my golden yunnans. Rob and Shiuwen are heading to Taiwan in a few days, and I’m excited to see what new teas (and pots) return with them.

Things I absorbed while sipping:

  • I still need to lower the temp of my water just a bit, especially for oolongs.

  • I definitely need to get that Chef’s Choice teapot that I’ve been drooling over (and yes, I did get it – see below).

  • Pronunciation: I’ve been slaughtering the pronunciation of tea names and terms. It was good to actually hear the words instead of just reading them.

  • I’m starting to lust after Yixing teapots

  • Gongfu Method: this is really beautiful and the result is a tribute to tea. I’m going to start working my way toward this method (lots of utensils and trays and cups to buy). It's definitely a great way to enjoy oolongs with other people.

NEWS FLASH! Floating Leaves will be opening a new shop this summer. Look for it coming to the Ballard neighborhood soon.

My New Teakettle

I’ve been wanting an electronic kettle, particularly one that turns off when it boils, for a while now. The good ones can be expensive ($70-125US), and I had been feeling guilty for wanting something that seemed excessive when compared to a stovetop kettle.

This past year, several things happened that made me change my mind. First, my neighbor’s house caught fire.

My brother and I spotted the smoke and my husband called the fire department within seconds, but the house was still severely damaged (luckily, no one was inside). The neighbor told us later that she’d left her teakettle on the stove and that is what started the fire.

Hmmmmmmm, maybe there's a good reason for that automatic shut-off. I started looking at Russell Hobbs kettles, but they weren’t appealing to me. So, I did some research on what people really liked in a good kettle:

  • cordless kettle that removes from a base
  • heating element that does not come in contact with the water (these tend to rust and suffer from chemical build-up)
  • automatic shut-off when water boils
  • good ergonomic shape, preferably with a handle that sits to the side of the lid (rather than above it)

This spring, I kept running into tea lovers who use the Chef’s Choice electric kettle. Even a hotel I stayed at had the kettles in their rooms (and I greatly appreciated it!). Finally, last weekend, the wonderful owners of Floating Leaves used just this kettle to brew up a variety of fabulous teas. Time for me to stop putting it off and finally buy the darned thing. Here’s my pot:

Chef'sChoice®-International, Deluxe Cordless Teakettle #685. Click to see photo and information.

It’s only been a few days, but I really like this kettle. The water brews in about half (or even a third) of the time it took on the stovetop, the heating element shuts down when the water boils, and it removes from the base effortlessly (becoming a cordless kettle). It comes with a strong recommendation from me.

Review: Teavana Store

It takes a lot to get me to big indoor shopping malls, since they’re just about my least favorite of all public spaces. So, when I read that a new tea store had opened in a nearby shopping mall, I groaned a bit but still decided to head over and check it out. Teavana, was. . . well I’m not going to say it wasn’t worth my visit, but it certainly didn’t do anything to make me want to return to the mall. The shop, one of a chain of stores, really is geared toward people who are just starting to try loose teas, especially those who are interested in the health benefits (aside: why is it that so many teashops are touting health benefits first and taste/comfort second?).

The quality of the tea leaves was just okay, and it was not even close to the quality I get from online vendors and other smaller local tea shops. Employees wore lab coats (?!?) and seemed to have a passing knowledge of tea, or at least of what they’ve been told about tea – again, all great for a new loose tea person, but not for someone who’s already a tea-phile. For example, when I asked to look at the puerh, their eyes went big and in hushed tones they said, “this has been aged for 15 years” and “people drink this for weight-loss.” Sheesh, is that really all they’ve been taught about what some think is the most royal of all teas?

Teavana does have a large selection of pots -- actually more pots than tea. The yixing are about what you’d find in online stores like decent quality for being mass-produced, and in an interesting variety of shapes. They also carry tetsubin and other Japanese pots, along with a few electric kettles.

In the end, that is what made my trip to Teaveana worthwhile – I bought a new electric teakettle (see related post). I’d been pricing them online and in other shops, and Teavana’s cost was as low as any I found online (minus the shipping).

Would I recommend Teavana? I think it is probably a nice place for those who are just starting out. The staff is pleasant, and the store is very open and clean (even hygienic). The store is obviously geared toward high-end mall shoppers, and it’s an appropriate target consumer. However, for those living in the Seattle area, local tea shops stock MUCH MUCH MUCH better quality tea and are owned and staffed by very knowledgeable and friendly tea lovers.

Here are my favorite places in or near Seattle:

The Tea Cup (on Queen Anne hill just north of Seattle Center): assams, oolongs, greens, darjeelings, and a few flavored teas. Saturdays at 1 there are usually informal tea tasting and learning opportunities.

Floating Leaves (currently only online, but coming soon to the Ballard neighborhood, Seattle): oolongs, golden yunnan, puerhs, greens. They’ll have Asian-styled tea service as well as selling their gorgeous leaves. I attended a tea gathering at the owner's house this past weekend and am really looking forward to becoming a regular at their tearoom. :)

Everything Tea (north of Seattle, in Snohomish): quite a large stock of many types of tea, plus a good selection of tea paraphernalia. Snohomish is a tea and antique lover’s paradise. There are about 450 antique vendors, 2 tearooms, and 1 tea shop all in a 3 or 4 block stretch along the riverfront. It’s a great place to spend a Saturday or Sunday!