Monday, October 25, 2010

Anji Baicha

Anji Baicha (安吉白茶) is a green tea from Zhejiang province that is made with a popular white tea cultivar. It was only recently (while researching my post about Emperor Huizong) that this type of tea first made a blip on my "tea radar."

The more I researched Anji Baicha the more my curiosity was piqued. I even read many websites that claimed it has much higher amounts of L-theanine than most other types of green tea. I have yet to find any evidence for this claim, though I think it may exist in Chinese.

I finally got my first chance to try Anji Baicha at this year's Northwest Tea Festival. My friends at Silk Road Teas gave me an ounce after I helped them out in the tea tasting booths.

Silk Road's specimen is made up of beautiful jade-green leaf and bud sets. They have a clean nutty aroma.

I brewed the tea in a medium gaiwan about 1/3 full of dry leaf. My water temperature was quite low at 155° F. I was surprised by how quickly the tea infused. Less than a minute of gentle "lid-kneading" produced a very fragrant cup of yellow tea soup.

The brothy, buttery flavor of this tea is soothing and well balanced by a refreshing grassy peak. I can (and do) drink many luscious infusions.

While I sip, I wonder what (if anything) this tea has in common with the Anji Baicha that Emperor Huizong had wrote about in his tea book some 900 years ago. My new mission is to learn more about Tang and Song dynasty tea preparation. Anybody have any resources or recipes?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

League of Pots #025

Code Name: "Carrot Top"

Material: Ceramic
Height: 15.5 cm
Length (handle to spout): 17 cm
Volume: 400 ml
Weight: 325 g

Brews: Any type of tea.
Specialty: Chinese Greens
Story: Carrot Top was a gift from my mother-in-law. He belonged to her mother.
Super Powers: Carrot Top can talk to all plants and manipulate them with his mind. He can also make them grow super large instantly and have them do his bidding.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Seward Park Tea Party

Last Sunday my wife and I hosted a Chinese Tea Party at Seward Park in South Seattle. The theme of the party was "tea and nature" and it would have taken place rain or shine... but as it turned out, we got shine. Lots of glorious shine! In fact our 25 guests were treated to one of the most beautiful fall days that has ever occurred in our green city.

Here is a view of Mount Rainier from our outdoor tea house
(aka Picnic Shelter #2).

The party featured these four teas: Da Hong Pao Oolong, Cang Yuan Wa Mountain Puer Brick, Phoenix Dragon Pearls and a lightly oxidized Tie Guanyin from New Century Tea Gallery. All were well received.

My wife Alanna is truly skilled at preparing delicious vegan nibbles! For this event she presented a boiled spice cake, sweet potato blondies, cashew-date balls, chocolate-pecan balls, tea sandwiches, blueberry-corn bites, crackers, grapes, almonds, carrots and dips. As with my previous two tea parties, the food was a major hit.

Big thanks to my good friend and "Hot Water Man" Jon. Without his camp stove and diligent kettle filling we'd all have been drinking cold-brew tea. Also, thank you and 謝謝 to my tea friend Nicole. She was an incredible helper and her flowers and Indonesian cloths really helped make our outdoor "tea house" extra beautiful!

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Latest Batch of Homemade Tea

Last Saturday morning, four tea friends joined me for a cupping workshop class at Teacup. The final tea of that session was my latest batch of entirely homemade and home-grown tea. Please read my prior post if you'd like details regarding its production.

As with my previous batches of homemade tea I was not too sure just what I had created... so I was kind of "flying blind" when I chose my brewing parameters. I decided to use a rounded teaspoon of leaf in a medium sized gaiwan with 190° F water steeped 3 minutes. This yielded 3 decent infusions.

The resulting liquor had a lovely amber color and an unusual aroma.

My fellow tasters and I came up with the following thoughts and opinions about this interesting infusion:

Michael - Squash!
Everybody - Yeah. Big time squash-like taste and smell. Tastes like a garden too.
Me - Sweet, roasty smell like baked winter squash. Slight fishiness and skunky aftertaste? Reminds me a lot of bancha.
Xenia - Not fishy. Doesn't really taste like tea. Not too bad. I've had much worse local tea.
Nicole - It has a little white tea flavor in the finish.

So there you have it. I certainly succeeded in my mission to create a totally unique tea. I think I'll call this strange stuff... "South Seattle Tea Estate's Autumn 2010 Squash Garden Bancha."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Autumn 2010 Harvest Report

The South Seattle Tea Estate's second harvest of 2010 took place on September 30 at 2:00 PM. The afternoon was 69° F and sunny after a cool morning. No tender leaf-and-bud-sets were available so the harvest consisted mainly of very large mature leaves. That was just fine with me because I was determined to make a very different tea than my previous attempts.

In total, I plucked 35 grams of raw leaf from my two tea trees. These leaves were withered outdoors on a pizza pan in mostly full sun until sunset (Exhibit A). They spent the next 2 days inside withering on my kitchen table.

Exhibit A

On October 3rd, I put the slightly limper leaves into a brown paper bag and put them into my backpack to accompany me to the NW Tea Festival. When I got home the leaves had a tiny bit of oxidation appearing around the edges. At 6:00 PM on October 3rd I shook the leaves fiercely inside a glass bowl for 15 minutes (Exhibit B).

Exhibit B

The following morning (today!), the leaves definitely appear darker, redder and limper. They now have a subtle floral scent along with a unique "corn and rosemary aroma" that I always seem to detect in my homegrown tea.

At 8:15, 9:50 and 10:15 AM I rolled the leaves tightly in a cloth napkin (Exhibit C). After each roll I opened the napkin and allowed the limp leaves to rest (Exhibit D).

Exhibit C

Exhibit D

At noon, the leaves were baked (on the same pizza pan from Exhibit A) for 5 minutes at 350° F.

I was hoping to still have slightly limp leaves with some moisture remaining so that I could do another round of twisting and baking, but because the oven was so hot and the leaves were spread thinly and evenly, they emerged from my electric oven bone-dry and crispy!

The huge crispy, twisted leaves were gorgeous, but I doubted they would be able to infuse very well (assuming I could even stuff these giants into a teapot), So at this point I decided that this tea was not meant to look pretty.

I rolled them back up in the cloth napkin and proceeded to give them an "industrial strength twist" (Exhibit E). There was no turning back as the tea leaves snapped, crackled and popped inside the twisting cloth.

Exhibit E

I immediately dumped the now broken leaves into a dry, heavy-bottomed, steel pan over medium heat and toasted them for three minutes while constantly shaking and stirring them. After which I dumped the hot leaves on to a plate to cool down quickly.

Today's 13 grams of finished tea (Exhibit F) is a kaleidoscopic mix of broken leaf bits and stems. It is definitely not as pretty as my previous homemade teas but I believe that I made the right choice by crushing the leaves.

Exhibit F

Any Seattle tea friends want to try this tea with me? I will serve it for the very first time ever to participants in my October 9th tea class (see yesterday's post for details). Only then will I know for sure what I have created and be able to give it a proper name.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Teacup Tea Classes - October 2010

This month, I am very happy to be teaching the following two tea classes at Teacup (2128 Queen Anne Ave. N. Seattle, WA, 98109).

Saturday, October 9, 2010 - 9:30 to 10:30 AM
Cupping Workshop - In this class we will sharpen our tea tasting skills by "blind cupping" three Tie Guanyin oolong teas while evaluating their individual characteristics and comparing them as we go. We will then cup three black teas from different growing regions to compare and contrast their unique flavors.

Thursday, October 21, 2010 - 7:00 to 8:00 PM
Green Tea 101 - In this class we will learn what to look for when you buy green tea and how to brew a perfect cup. We will also taste several famous green teas from China and Japan and talk about how they are made.

My tea classes are great for tea lovers of all levels, so feel free to bring a friend or family member that you'd like to "get hooked" on tea. The cost is $3 per guest and a RSVP is required. You may RSVP anytime by visiting or calling the Teacup (206-283-5931) or by emailing me at

I will let you know as new classes are scheduled, and please feel free to suggest a class idea on a subject you'd like to learn more about. I hope to see you soon at a class!