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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19 July 2005

Special Day of Tea With Friends

On Friday, I was lucky enough to be joined for tea by two friends from Portland, Jan and Marilyn. We first met at a northwest Teamailers' get-together in Portland in April, and it was great to visit with them again during their trip to Seattle.

We spent quite a bit of time at the new Floating Leaves Tea House, where each of us took turns preparing the tea gongfu style. We were joined by two other sippers, including a man from Vancouver, B.C., who is in the planning stages of opening a tea shop. We had fun conversations and tried 4 teas: a bao zhong, ali shan, the house black, and a very special Oriental Beauty oolong that Shiuwen shared from her personal collection. Shiuwen said this tea makes her smile just to smell it, and I can understand why. I was blown away by the flavor of this special oolong. Each of us could strongly identify a slightly different fruit flavor – for me, it was like sipping a light and sweet grapefruit juice. Others suggested it tasted a bit like lychee fruit, although I found it more tart (but not bitter) than sweet.

I’m going to write a more complete review of the tea house soon, but now I turn back to my visit with Jan & Marilyn.

In addition to having tea at Floating Leaves, we visited the Artful Teapot Exhibit at the just re-opened Bellevue Arts Museum. If you are a tea lover who lives in (or will be visiting) the Pacific Northwest, I urge you to visit this exhibit before it leaves in October. The teapots are quite simply amazing. There are teapots from 20th Century artists and artisans around the world, in every color and theme imaginable. Some are huge and oddly shaped, while others look quite rugged and usable. Some are reinterpretations of traditional shapes by well-known designers (like Michael Graves), and some are beautiful art projects that stir one’s imagination. There is high art on display, as well as cultural collectibles (like the cute children’s pink plastic Shirley Temple tea set). I am always drawn to those with writing on them and was especially fond of an “old maid” pot with a rather funny verse.

Marilyn, also known as Marmalady, brought me an order of my favorite Darjeeling-Apricot jelly as well as a beautiful celadon Chinese teacup.

When I was in Portland this spring, she showed me one of these cups and told me she’d be stocking them soon. I was happy that she got some in before coming up to Seattle for the visit, and after using the cup today for the first time, I’m even more happy! It’s a beautiful cup, with a saucer, lid, and infuser. It is not fragile porcelain but a heavier ceramic – quite solid and sturdy in the hand, plus it keeps the tea warm (which is good, since it’s mug-sized and designed for longer sipping time). I think that this might make a good cup for the workplace, since it has a self-contained brewing system. It also might be a nice choice for men (I know that sometimes guys like chunkier things that fit large hands better).

This cup helped me unlock the flavors in a tea that has eluded me for a while – Black Piluochun from I’ve had a small amount of this tea for a few months, after it was recommended to me. The fragrance of the dry leaves is wonderfully complex, but every time I brewed it the flavor just didn’t come through. The tea obviously had more to offer, but my techniques weren’t working. Today, I put a teaspoon of the leaves in my new celadon cup, brewed it for a minute. . . didn’t seem dark or fragrant enough. . . continued brewing for another minute. . . PERFECT! The tea is really wonderfully complex, with some flavors that remind me of a good single-estate Assam. However, this is still distinctly a Chinese Black tea. It comes with a recommendation from me, but do be prepared to play with it a bit – it’s worth it!

After a wonderful Friday filled with tea-tasting and museum-visiting, I returned home with my bag of Marmalady’s goodies. My husband greeted me at the door with a big smile and a surprise – my tea from Stephane in Taiwan had arrived! That was a wonderful end to a very special day, and his box of goodies will get its own post shortly.


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