Only the best teas earn black belts
June 21, 2006 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Kung Fu Tea! Welcome to the complex world of fine Chinese teas. Unlike the Japanese Tea Ceremony, Gongfu ceremonies are designed to extract as much flavor from the tea as possible. Using tiny clay teapots to brew several small batches of tea, the leaves are coaxed into releasing all of their flavor. While some these pots are highly prized and collectable pieces of art, the tea itself is the most important element. (more inside)
posted by cubby (17 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Pu-erh teas are particularly amazing. Like many kinds of wine, their flavor improves with age and they are often sold by vintage. It can be difficult to find sources of good Chinese tea (at least in the States), but I have found this site to be good. This one has a good selection of pu-erhs.
posted by cubby at 8:46 AM on June 21, 2006

You can also use the Tea Map to find tea houses near you if you live in the States.
posted by cubby at 8:48 AM on June 21, 2006

Your Chinese style tea is good. But still. It is no match for my Japanese tea.

(read with lips moving out of sync with words.)
posted by three blind mice at 8:51 AM on June 21, 2006

Tea Map has a nice review of my favorite Chinese tea shop, Ching Ching Cha. It's a fancy, classy joint, but they didn't seem to mind when the MrsMoonPie and I came in in our bicycle gear.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:02 AM on June 21, 2006

I'll plug my favorite tea shop, Everything Tea, in Snohomish, WA. They're known for the care they take when shipping tea -- my sister-in-law had good luck ordering from them in Pittsburgh.

For the tea ceremony itself, though, Floating Leaves in Seattle is fantastic, and the main guy there is very knowledgeable. They do both Japanese and Chinese ceremonies, I think.
posted by gurple at 9:08 AM on June 21, 2006

I like to Pu-erh tea.
posted by catchmurray at 9:16 AM on June 21, 2006

Excellent! My dad brought me one of these clay teapots from China a few months ago and directions on how to prepare the tea, which I promptly forgot. I'd been doing the 'rinse' phase for several minutes instead of seconds. I never even thought of looking it up. And now I have a way to find more tea instead of sending him off to China again. Thanks cubby.
posted by coffeespoons at 9:16 AM on June 21, 2006

I prefer Indian and Sri Lankan, but there is lots of great Chinese tea. I visited Taiwan once for two weeks and was in tea heaven. Tea shops everywhere!

The Taiwanese version (I don't know if the variation is region or what) of the tea ceremony that I saw there was to use two cups per drinker: a taller, thiner one and a shorter, wider one. The tea was poured from the pot to the tall cup and then the drinker poured it into the short cup and then drank it. I assume it was to cool the tea quickly as the water was always as hot as possible (as described in the linked article).

Anyway, great post.
posted by GuyZero at 9:18 AM on June 21, 2006

The wikipedia article mentions the tall vs short cups: the tall ones are aroma cups.
posted by GuyZero at 9:21 AM on June 21, 2006

I tend to poo poo chains, but Ten Ren is a great source for Chinese teas. (Their shops are more impressive than their web site.)
posted by j-dawg at 9:29 AM on June 21, 2006

My favorite variety in Taiwan was Jinxuan tea. It's very light and smooth, with a nearly fruit-like taste. (But it's not fruit tea.)

Some more funky teapots from history.

The way I saw it done in Taiwan, the main link isn't nearly complicated enough. As it mentions in step 8, you're supposed to douse the pot and cups with hot water first. Also, it completely leaves out a major implement. You should also have narrow, tall cups for the tea; these are snifters, basically, only used for smelling the tea and not for drinking. The first boiling (第一泡) gets poured into the snifters, smelled and appreciated, then dumped out. And there are various other tools and things that I never really understood.

A friend of mine took me to Pinglin, in the heart of north Taiwan's tea country, one night. The moon was full, we were at the top of a hill looking down over kelly green terraced tea fields, and there was a reservoir at the bottom of the hill. The moon was so bright, the shadows were all sharp and it was almost like daytime. It feels like a dream in retrospect, but she remembers it too, so it must've been real. Probably my strongest memory about tea in Taiwan.

If this is Gongfu, it's only in the most general sense: a skill, a form of mastery. Nothing to do specifically with martial arts, that is.
posted by jiawen at 9:47 AM on June 21, 2006

Shoulda previewed.
posted by jiawen at 9:48 AM on June 21, 2006

Great post. Thanks! This is a feast of information about one of life's pleasures.
posted by dios at 10:10 AM on June 21, 2006

This is an awesome post, and has prompted me to find a tea house in my city.
posted by fnord at 10:22 AM on June 21, 2006

I'd like to plug Necessiteas. I purchased some lovely yixing teapots from them as bridesmaid gifts, and they arrived in perfect condition in beautiful brocade boxes.

The prices are surprisingly low on many of them.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 10:28 AM on June 21, 2006

I've had good luck with both Rishi-Tea and Adagio.
(there were quite a few other recommendations when I asked a long time ago)
posted by milovoo at 11:58 AM on June 21, 2006

My personal experience with online tea ordering has led me to two places, which I consider the best; Upton Tea and SpecialTeas. Upton's selection is much wider, but SpecialTeas is the best for price, edging out Upton by a little. I've found Adagio's selection not quite as good as either of the two and more expensive.

I can't wait to try some of the green puerhs... I'd seen some sites on it before but never an actual store with the stuff for sale. As a total tea geek, this excites me a great deal. Thanks, cubby!

Also, looongtime reader, first time posting. Tea posts compel me.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 1:45 AM on June 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

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