Thursday, October 10, 2013
The Northwest Tea Festival
Now, a bit about tea.
I attended the Northwest Tea Festival last weekend in Seattle and it was well attended. It turns out Seattle is the city for tea the way it is for coffee. If you are looking for a good cup of tea, its in Seattle amongst the serious tea community that thrives there. Interesting. A great thing about attending the tea festival is that you get to try all kinds of stuff. You carry a little cup around and fill it with samples of all kids of teas from the venders, tasting the differences and varieties. You learn a lot that way and drink gallons over the course of the day! Ten dollars at the door gets you a free porcelain tasting cup and free tote along with your entry inside.
Lots of venders. Lots of tea paraphernalia. Lots of tea lovers. Several speakers who are notables in the tea world such as James Norwood Pratt. There are many free information sessions about things like Chinese teas, or cooking with tea or Tea 101. Then there were workshops that cost $20 to partake in, which I didn't. I went only to free things and still saw and learned plenty. The chocolate and tea paring workshop I went to was free because the chocolate venders donated the chocolate and likewise with the tea. I learned there are subtle differences for the different tea and kinds of chocolate, but I still think most all chocolate goes with most all tea. I won a $50 tin of Japanese Matcha in that class at the end. Shock! Me? And I had been wishing I had the guts to spend $25 on some lesser quality Match just before gong into that class! This stuff is Japanese ceremonial quality. I will now explain Matcha:
Matcha is Green tea from Japan and China. It is what is meant by true green tea. The leaves are grown certain ways, harvested, deveined, crushed into powder. Everything take lots of time. Lots and lots. Then in the end the result is a bright green powder that is measured by the teaspoon whisked in a bowl with a little water and sipped out of tiny cups held in the palm. The result is a tea that hits the liver and slowly releases itself through the bloodstream with some kind of result to the brain that releases a sense of calm. It is drunk daily sever times a day in Asia and is full of antioxidents. There is daily and ceremonial matcha but the best quality never leaves China unless you know somebody who can send you a bit. I plan to hit up my mom and dad's Chinese friends who live in Shanghai but travel often to the states on business and see Mom and Dad from time to time. I leaned that I love the Asian teas and the Asian traditions. I like the British tea traditions too, but the serious tea side of me is with the Asians. I would love to study the Japanese tea ceremony. I am sending you a photo of my Asian tea treasures. The small canister is the Matcha. The paper wrapped rectangle is a brick of Chinese Pu-erh which tastes mellow and deep, costs $30 dollars a brick but lasts indefinitely and with each bit you use you get multiple emersions. Estimation is there is 35-40 cups of tea in each brick and good for up to 5 steeps each. The teapot was one which Mom's Chinese friend brought her from China and which Mom has now given me. With these teapots you brew in the pot, sip from the spout and the unglazed clay is an important part. The tiny tea pot and little cups were also from Mom and Dad's friends. The British style cup is there to help you make size comparisons. The bamboo whisk over to the far left in its clear container is to use while making matcha. When I asked if I could use a regular kitchen brush or whisk they giggled. And actually, this little bamboo whisk is like nothing I've ever seen before. Not even close.
I learned that flavored teas are good for easing the coffee trained pallet over to the tea pallet. A pure tea is white, green or black, nothing added and is the way tea is drunk in Asia.
I went to an Asian class in which they taught us the way to drink tea, the calming way to brew, sip and share it so it is a whole body experience. Asian teacher was great but so were the asian folks sitting next to me who filled me in to greater depths on things.
I met a darling young woman from India who launching her own chai company. She was just back from a trip to New Delhi and was selling her chai at the show. I applaud her. Her company is called The Chai Diaries. We bought some of her Chai. She did very well with her pitch and explaining what we were sipping, and I would never have guessed she had Jet lag.
Now I am home with my treasures and the home sipping may begin. Not sure when I will ever be brave enough to open the Matca!