Friday, January 21, 2011

Lavender Garden Restaurant

Exactly one year ago today, I was treated to an unforgettable meal at Taipei's 天母古道森林花園. This beautiful vegetarian restaurant is located in Taipei's Tian Mu (天母) neighborhood and uses the English name Lavender Garden.

It was pretty dark when my hosts and I stopped in for dinner, so we were not able to see much of the lush green hills that stand mostly undeveloped in the background of the restaurant. I was also told that, as its Chinese name suggests, this restaurant marks the entrance to a lovely hiking trail around Yang Ming Shan (陽明山).

With its spacious and arty interior and its focus on healthy upscale cuisine, Lavender Garden reminded me a little bit of Seattle's own little veggie treasure "Cafe Flora."

I would without a doubt recommend this place to any travelers who want to splurge on a delicious and innovative meat-free meal while in Taipei.

Check out pictures #6 (vegetarian black tea jello) through #12 (the only raw salad I've ever had in Taiwan) on my post Vegan Taiwan Gallery #2 to see all of the things I ate at Lavender Garden.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cool Monkey

This is the organic Golden Monkey that I purchased from The Meaning of Tea a couple months ago. Like most black teas I brew it with boiling water, about one teaspoon of dry leaf per cup, and steep it for about 3 minutes. It always turns out delicious.

But what if I were to brew it cooler?

Excuse me? Why bother?
Just keep using boiling water.
It is a black tea after all.

Who are you?

I'm one of the voices in your head.
You can call me the "voice of reason."

Uh... alright... but I just have this strange feeling that it might be really good.

You're going to waste good tea.

Yeah, but how will I know for sure if I don't at least try?

OK. Suit yourself... but when you end up with a cup of
"warm swamp tea" don't say I didn't warn you.

Alright then. I'm going to do it!
Let's start with about 155° F for 7 minutes.

Looks good. Smells good.

(sips tea) Whoa... this turned out really sweet.
The peach and honey elements have been turned up to eleven.

(sips tea) You're right. I do like this.
It's mellow, clean and fragrant.

OK. Let's go cooler!
Second infusion will be 135° F for 10 minutes.

It's ready. (sips tea) Yum.
This is even sweeter.
How is that even possible!?

It's pretty good but this level of sweetness should be balanced by something.
I miss the astringent notes in the traditional brewing.

I hear you.
Plus the aftertaste seems to be compromised.

Lets go even cooler.
This time I'll do 120° F for thirty minutes.

Are you insane?
(thirty minutes later)

It's ready! The color is much lighter.

Well this is our third infusion after all.

(sips tea) It's smooth as silk... and has tons of ripe stone-fruit and honey notes.
It almost tastes like a cold brew of silvertip oolong.

I'm surprised that I like it... but I'd still much prefer boiling the water for this tea.
Also, I prefer to drink a hotter cup of tea.

But you've got to admit this was an interesting experiment.
I think it proves my theory that:
"When it comes to tea there are no right or wrong ways to do things."

I'm not sure if I agree with that.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Floating Leaves' Winter 2010 Lishan

Last week I treated myself to a belated Christmas gift. I bought a couple ounces each of Floating Leaves' new Winter 2010 Lishan High Mountain Oolong (梨山高山烏龍) and Winter 2010 Honorable Mention Wenshan Baozhong (文山包種). This was the first time I'd purchased some tea just for myself in a very long time. Today I'm going to review the Lishan.

I covered the bottom of a small gaiwan with dry leaf and then whipped it up into a "tea cyclone" with boiling hot water. I did not rinse the leaves. After about 50 seconds I decanted my first infusion.

the first infusion

The liquor poured thick and yellow with a delicate floral aroma. My mouth began to water. I haven't had great high mountain oolong in over 6 months.

the third infusion

I really love this tea and I feel like its price ($15 per ounce) is just fantastic for its level of quality in the current North American retail market for seasonal Taiwanese oolong.

My tasting notes during the first 6 infusions included: sugarcane, crisp tart pear, nectar, substantial broth, delicate sulfur aroma, buttery, honeysuckle, and dandelion. My notes for the final two infusions were: thinner broth with delicate pine and rosemary notes.

the spent leaves

The aftertaste lingered all day and I am now one happy oolong drinker. Thanks Shiuwen!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chuan Cheng Yin Hao Tuocha

Today I'm reviewing a 100 gram, 2004, sheng puer tuocha (生普洱沱茶) that I purchased several years ago from Silk Road Tea. It is called Chuan Cheng Yin Hao (傳承銀毫) (Inheritance Silver Tip).

Here's the wrapper.
(I'm betting that symbol in the middle represents a leaf bud.)

And here's the tuo!

The compression is very tight but I still managed to flake off a reasonable amount of dry leaf using my puer knife. As I often find with similar tuo-cha, I ended up with a mix of small broken leaves and little leaf clumps. I used very short steeps at first (5 to 10 seconds) in hopes that they would balance the potential astringency of so many tiny broken leaves.

I covered the bottom of a small gaiwan with leaf and began my session with the customary (though not mandatory) short rinse. The now steaming leaves had a familiar camphor and incense aroma.

My first infusion was 5 seconds long and poured orange and fragrant. Because the resulting liquor's surface had tons of sparkly oils and many long lasting bubbles floating upon it, I gave this tea an A+ for appearance.

I prepared my palate for astringency and took a sip. It was smooth... and it had an amazing ripe cherry note that really lingered.

All ten of my infusions tasted nice (even the ones I slightly over-steeped) and the tea had consistently good body and complexity. The smooth start and the pleasant cherry note transformed into some drier champagne- and Darjeeling-like flavors. Still quite enjoyable.

This puer tea gave me a very focused, high-vibration energy. I felt a little buzzed and my feet and hands kept tapping or shaking. I have found that I'll often get this feeling when drinking a lot of sheng puer made with lots of silver or white buds. It's time for some food.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Teacup Tea Classes - January 2011

This month, I'll be teaching a new class at Teacup (2128 Queen Anne Ave. N. Seattle, WA, 98109).

Monday, January 17, 2011 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) - 1:00 to 2:00 PM
Intro to Oolong Tea Production - In this class, students will sample three delicious and unique oolong teas brewed in the Chinese gongfu cha style while learning about common oolong tea production methods step by step. Visual learners will benefit from many photos of tea production.

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!