Monday, October 27, 2008

League of Pots #010

Code Name: "Vortex" (漩渦)

Material: "Salt Fired" Pottery
Height: 12.5cm
Length (handle to spout): 17.5cm
Weight: 532 grams
Volume: 425 ml

Brews: All types of tea
Specialty: First Flush Darjeeling
Story: He was a gift from a Santa Fe artist and tea friend
(thank you Arthur) in September 2008.
Vortex was made by a talented Oregon artist named Ginger Steele.
Super Powers: Hypnosis

League of Pots #009

Code Name: "Double Dragon" (雙龍)

Material: High Fired Stoneware
Height: 19 cm
Length (handle to spout): 25 cm
Weight: 1075 grams
Volume: 1250 ml

Brews: All types of tea.
Specialty: To date Double Dragon has only had the opportunity to brew up one tea, some Spring '08 Lishan High Mountian Tea (春2008梨山高山茶), but she did a really nice job. Just ask anybody who saw her debut at my second annual Chinese Tea Appreciation Festival!
Story: My boss Elisabeth, at the Teacup, bought a few amazing teapot sets directly from the artist Liz R. at Seattle's 2008 Folklife Festival. Because I'm a sucker for dragons and because this pot is just plain beautiful I had to have it in the League!
Super Powers: Double Dragon can breathe fire.

League of Pots #008

Code Name: "Mr. Big" (大先生)

Material: Red Clay
Height: 9.5 cm
Length (handle to spout): 20 cm
Weight: 371 grams
Volume: 450 ml

Brews: All types of Puer tea.
Specialty: Rich, smooth, "black" (aka "shou", aka "ripe", aka "cooked", aka "") puer.
Story: Sometimes I need to make puer tea for over 15 people. That's why I bought Mr. Big, because he will "get the job done." I bought him a few years ago from my friend Jason Chen, here in Washington State. He has the same stylish bamboo leaves on him and the same chop as his little sister "Goldy."
Super Powers: Mr. Big is indestructible!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Seven Great Years at Teacup!

Today marks my 7 year anniversary at the Teacup. The Teacup is a wonderful teashop on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. It was started in 1990, which makes it one of Seattle's 3 oldest teashops (along with our friends at Teahouse Kuan Yin and Perennial Tea Room.)

I didn't know very much about tea when I started back in 2001, but thanks to my first tea mentor Donna Fellman (then manager) I really got bit by the "tea bug!" I can still remember when Donna brought in a small gong fu tea tray, a clay pot, and some special Tie Guanyin oolong to teach me how oolong is traditionally brewed. Once I had a taste of Chinese tea culture (中國茶文化), there was no turning back! I knew I was beginning my life-long quest to promote tea drinking in America, and I felt that Teacup would be the perfect "home base" for me to achieve my goals.

Teacup has always been a great place to work and my coworkers and customers (both past and present) are like family. COWORKER SHOUT OUTS (in no particular order): Elisabeth (Teacup's owner), Sara, Mary, Tiffany, Jessie, Robert, Heidi, Darald, Krissy, Brian Keating, Anastasia, Ariana, Heather, Monica, Laura, Dan, Jim, Norelle, Victoria, Avery, M-Jo, Zen, Anton, Jessica, Aja, Donna, (I'm sure that I'm forgetting some folks. Sorry, I really didn't mean to, it's just that I've worked with so many people, so please let me know and I will add you!)

September 2002
Check out that old floor, and those old white walls:

January 2004
Closed for a Snow day!
(Yes, those are dread locks under my hat.)

Summer 2004
Check out those old wooden shelves:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chinese Tea Appreciation Festival 2008

On October 12, 2008, Black Dragon Tea Bar hosted its second annual “Seattle Chinese Tea Appreciation Festival.” This year’s theme was a “Tea and Garden Tour” in collaboration with the Seattle Chinese Garden (西華園). This garden is still under construction and it is being built in stages by a team of dedicated locals and Chinese artisans from our sister city of Chongqing (重慶). We in Seattle are extremely lucky that these fine folks are building such a treasure for our city!

The festival attracted a terrific group of tea lovers and sinophiles. In fact, this event drew nearly 40 people, making it my largest tea tasting to date! After a short introduction by myself, Jan Witner, a talented docent and chair of the Seattle Chinese Garden’s horticultural committee, provided an engaging and informative slide show about Chinese gardens and garden culture. After the slide show, we all headed over to tour the actual garden. We could not have asked for a more beautiful autumn day. The weather was clear and crisp with just a touch of warm sunlight. Many trees around the garden were showing yellow and red leaves and swaying in the cool breeze. We could see the foundation of the “Knowing the Spring Courtyard (知春院)" and get the general lay of the land.

After the tour we returned to the classroom to drink some tea and eat some incredible vegan treats provided by my brilliant wife Alanna. With the help of my good friends (and former coworkers) Jessie and Robert, I was able to provide many cups of excellent tea for my guests. The first tea was a fragrant Lishan (pear mountain) high mountain oolong that I had brought home from my May 2008 trip to Taiwan. The second tea was a spicy and complex 1999 loose leaf raw pu-erh (生普洱) from Menghai factory (勐海茶厂) that I had purchased in Yingge (鶯歌), Taiwan. The final tea was a rich and warming 1999 aged and roasted Rougui oolong (肉桂烏龍) that I had purchased from my friend and mentor Jason Chen. This same Rougui was also served at my first Chinese Tea Appreciation Festival back in December of 2007. All of the teas were very well received and the guests had a nice time chatting, sipping and relaxing.

Thank you so much to Jan, Alanna, Jessie and Robert for helping me to pull off this successful tea event!

Delicious treats baked by Alanna:

Jan describing the garden:

Brewing tea:

Decanting Lishan Close-up:

Happy People in the garden:

Jessie, Alanna and Cora in the (unfinished) "Knowing the Spring Courtyard":

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Urban Fusion - Herb Infusion

"Urban Fusion - Herb Infusion".... Say that five times fast!

Happy Fall!


Check out this beautiful Autumn Spider Web (蜘蛛網):

I'm wishing you all Peace, Love and lots of great Tea!

Friday, October 10, 2008

League of Pots #007

Code Name: "Sam" (

Material: Red Clay
Height: 7.5 cm
Length (handle to spout): 10 cm
Weight: 150 grams
Volume: 110 ml

Brews: Lightly oxidized Taiwanese high mountain oolongs.
Specialty: Winter Alishan high mountain oolong tea
Story: I bought Sam from my tea friend Josh in Tainan (台南) in winter of 2005. She was the first teapot I ever bought for myself in Taiwan and she is my favorite yixing teapot!
Super Powers: Sam is a good witch.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

High Mountain Tea Story - 高山茶故事

Once upon a time in the magical island of Taiwan there lived a little tea leaf named Yezi (葉子).

你好. 我是葉子:

Because Yezi was grown at 1600 meters in elevation in the town of Shizhuo, Taiwan, it was his destiny to become "High Mountain Tea!" On a clear cool morning in spring Yezi was "plucked" by an expert tea picker who had come up by bus from Chiayi (嘉義) to pick tea.

After Yezi was picked he and his friends were carried back to Farmer Liu's house to begin their journey. The first thing Liu did was spread them out on a tarp to wither outdoors for several hours.

After Yezi and the other leaves had withered outdoors they were brought inside and put in the basket shaker to tumble. This broke the cells around their edges and started the oxidation process.

Yezi and his friends were then weighed and placed on woven rattan baskets to oxidize for 12 to 16 hours!

The tea makers had to mix the leaves every 30 or so minutes so that the leaves would oxidize evenly.

After the oxidation period the room was beginning to smell very nice. When the leaves were finally deemed ready, Farmer Liu stopped the oxidation by tossing the leaves into the "kill green machine." This machine cooks the leaves for about 6 minutes thus stopping the oxidation. Our brave hero Yezi was feeling hot and dizzy!

After the leaves were cooked they were placed on to this machine in small batches to be mashed up even more by the spinning green arm. This process helped develop the juices in the leaves so that the flavors will come out more easily when the tea is eventually brewed.

At this point Yezi and his friends are looking pretty beat up and limp but their adventure is not over yet! Now they are placed in small canvas bags, rolled up, and placed on this machine to help "shape" them into little twisted balls.

Finally Yezi and his friends are baked in a large electric oven. This cooks out the remaining moisture and finishes the product. They are now called Maocha (毛茶) and ready to be sold and enjoyed, but first they may be subjected to further roasting.

Small production electric tea roaster:

Large production electric tea roaster with conveyor belts:

In the end Yezi and his friends were bagged up by this cute foreign couple and flown to Seattle. Where they lived happily ever after.


Disclaimer - I feel confident that the information above is true and mostly complete, but if you are a real oolong tea expert, and you think that somethings should be added, removed, changed or expanded, please let me know in a comment. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

League of Pots #006

Code Name: "Wuyi Warrior" (武夷士)

Material: Red Clay
Height: 6.5 cm
Length (handle to spout): 14.5 cm
Weight: 217 grams
Volume: 205 ml

Brews: Wuyi Mountian Cliff Teas (武夷岩茶)
Specialty: Aged Rougui and Da Hong Pao (大紅袍)
Story: I bought the Wuyi Warrior for $25 Canadian from a little shop in Vancouver, BC. He was the first clay pot I ever bought for myself probably around 6 years ago!
Super Powers: Freeze Ray!

League of Pots #005

Code Name: "Brown Bear" (棕熊)

Material: Brown Clay
Height: 8.5 cm
Length (handle to spout): 15 cm
Weight: 219 grams
Volume: 240 ml

Brews: Dong Fang Mei Ren (東方美人), Bai Hao Oolong (白毫烏龍),
Specialty: Dong Fang Mei Ren
Story: I bought Brown Bear from Arts de Chine (thank you Daniel Liu) in Vancouver, BC.
Super Powers: ESP and Telekinetic powers!

League of Pots #004

Code Name: "Goldy" (黃金)

Material: Yellow Clay
Height: 9.5 cm
Length (handle to spout): 13.25 cm
Weight: 218 grams
Volume: 290 ml

Brews: Lightly oxidized Taiwanese oolong teas
Specialty: Wenshan Baozhong
Story: I bought her for about $40 from my good friend Jason Chen about two years ago.
Super Powers: She has the ability to morph into a powerful tiger!

Monday, October 6, 2008

League of Pots #003

Code Name: "Dot" (點)

Material: "Salt Fired" Pottery
Height: 18.5cm
Length (handle to spout): 20cm
Weight: 828 grams
Volume: 850 ml

Brews: All types of tea
Specialty: Indian Chai and black teas
Story: She was a gift from a Santa Fe artist and tea friend
(thank you Arthur) last year.
Dot was made by a talented Oregon artist named Ginger Steele.
Super Powers: Dot can make any man or woman instantly and helplessly fall in love with her!

League of Pots #002

Code Name: "Xiao Xiao" (小小)

Material: Dark Brown Clay
Height: 5.5cm
Length (handle to spout): 9cm
Weight: 59 grams
Volume: 75 ml

Brews: Puer Tea
Specialty: Ripe (Black) Puer
Story: I bought Xiao Xiao from a local tea lover (thank you Andrew) last year.
I'm not sure who made him.
Super Powers: He can lift 1000x his own body weight!

League of Pots #001

Code Name: "Red Elf" (紅仙)

Material: Red Clay
Height: 6cm
Length (handle to spout): 13cm
Weight: 108 grams
Volume: 170 ml

Brews: Lightly oxidized high mountain Taiwan oolongs.
Specialty: Lishan Tea
Story: Red Elf was a gift from a local tea lover (thank you Michael) about five years ago. I'm not sure who made her.
Super Powers: Laser-blast and invisibility!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

一天在坪林 (A Day in Pinglin)

In March of 2007, my wife Alanna and I took a wonderful day trip to visit the little town of Pinglin, Taiwan (坪林,台灣). Pinglin is a major producer of Wenshan Baozhong (文山包種) tea and is located about 20 miles southwest of Taipei (台北). It is very easy to reach Pinglin via public transportation. First take the Taipei Metro green line to the Xindian Station (the farthest south stop). Just outside of the station there is a busy bus stop with many local buses and taxis passing by. The Pinglin bus will have the characters Taipei to Pinglin (台北-坪林) displayed above the windshield. Also, remember that the bus will not stop unless the driver sees somebody waving it over.

This particular Spring morning was mild and cloudy, the perfect weather for hiking around tea gardens and sipping fresh tea because it wasn't too hot and it wasn't raining. Alanna and I chatted about the beautiful green hills and old temples as our bus climbed up to Pinglin village. We had yet to have any tea this whole morning and were beginning to feel a little caffeine withdrawal so our first order of business after arriving in Pinglin was to drink some tea. We strolled along the reservoir and I pointed out the Tea Museum on the other side of the water. Then we turned towards Pinglin's famous "old street" (老街) and stopped to baibai (worship)(拜拜) at a small roadside temple. Baibai is a very appealing ritual for Alanna and me. We both enjoy the meditative and personal aspects of this ancient spiritual practice.



I was searching for a man I had met the year before from whom I had purchased some great Baozhong tea, but it was not meant to be. Instead we found a great new friend. I looked into a small tea shop and saw a man about our age with hip black glasses. I could tell by the way he smiled at us that this was the place we we're destined to find! His name was Amin (阿民) and he and his parents did a good tea business out of this shop, plus he spoke a little bit of English which really helped the three of us to communicate. He poured many excellent cups of Wenshan Baozhong tea and Dong Fang Mei Ren (東方美人) tea. Some were made by him, while others were made by his family members.

After several wonderful hours spent with Amin we felt revitalized but we were getting very hungry and eager to explore more of the town. Amin let us leave our bags with him as he and his mom began packing up all of the tea I had just bought. Alanna and I walked back to the main road and chose a restaurant. The spot we selected turned out great. The Laoban (boss) (老闆) put together a couple of tasty vegetarian lunch boxes for us, complete with bamboo shoot soup for me and lotus flower soup for Alanna!

After lunch we spent several magical hours hiking around Pinglin. We found a park with statues of Luyu and of cute animals. We crossed the reservoir on a big beautiful suspension bridge and we took tons of photos. We even hiked up a big hill to visit a large statue of Guanyin (觀音).

Teapot Statue:

坪林觀音 Vista:

After our walk we returned to Amin's place for more great tea and conversation. We promised we'd stop by anytime we're in Pinglin and finally said our goodbyes. Amin even gave us a ride to the bus stop so we wouldn't have to haul all of our newly purchased tea back up to the main road.

Pinglin is set in a lush green valley surrounded by rivers, and vibrant green tea gardens. This is truly a tea lovers paradise! You will find tea shops everywhere, and the town itself is even decorated with teapots and tea leaves. (sigh) I miss Pinglin!

Pinglin Tea Garden: