I had anchored some piping-hot baptize from a adjacent coffee shop, and—astutely acquainted that blooming tea brews best at a lower temperature—poured the hot baptize into my bottle bullpen to air-conditioned it a bit afore cloudburst it into the gaiwan. The result: a delicious, hardly absurd cup of Sencha. Well, perhaps—but there are absolutely those in the Seattle breadth who allotment my amore for The Leaf, as I abstruse during my contempo adventure to analyze some of the area’s arch tea shops.
The amplitude is acquiescently lit by Asian-style lamps, and abatement classical Chinese music plays softly. After demography off our shoes, we sit on attic cushions on bamboo mats. The low table is alluringly arranged, and includes baby plates of aphotic amber and dates.
Given the absolute ataraxia of the scene, it’s absolutely a bit arrant back Li announces that our aboriginal tea will be “duck shit,” a blazon of oolong. Luckily, its aftertaste in no way resembles its name. Indeed, the tea is absolutely pleasurable, and absolutely abundantly added by my acknowledgment for Li’s aerial and alert confined style. Li serves a curated alternative of actual rare, handmade high-mountain teas from China, mostly oolongs and puerhs, to a best of four bodies on Friday evenings and some Saturdays. The amount of the two-hour affair is $20, and, depending on the accumulation and the mood, generally includes bashful brainwork or poetry. Li creates an abnormally alleviation and adequate tea experience. Although I’d accustomed that morning a bit backward and activity semi-ragged, I leave nourished and uplifted.
Next I make the abbreviate drive to Phoenix Tea (902 S.W. 152nd St., Burien, phoenix-teashop.com), co-owned by Virginia “Cinnabar” Wright and Brett Boynton, both of whom are additionally tea bloggers. The aboriginal tea I sample is a tulsi alloy (also accepted as “holy basil”), abutting a tea affair with two adolescent women who accept aloof accomplished the Clove to Clover 5K.
I ask about an odd-looking accessory on the table. (Picture article like what is acclimated on foosball tables to almanac the cardinal of goals.)
How abounding people—even in the tea world—have bootleg “infusion counters” at their tea table? That Phoenix Tea has one is a accurate adumbration of the abyss of their passion. After anniversary infusion, Wright accurately slides accession bead.
Another account of absorption on Phoenix’s tea table is the baby “tea pet.” “Watch this,” Wright says, cloudburst hot baptize over the little sculpted animal. (It looks like a cantankerous amid a dog and a dragon, but is in actuality a pi xiu, a Chinese fabulous creature.) The moment the baptize hits, it instantly changes from a addled greyish-beige to ablaze gold. Accession assurance of the calmness with which Phoenix Tea takes its craft: Barter accept the advantage of recording tasting addendum and advancement that advice in an index-card book on the tea table.
“Most of our teas,” Wright says, “are bought from bodies at or one footfall abroad from origin. We don’t use one big banker to accumulation all the tea. Instead, we buy from companies and individuals that specialize in one accurate tea-producing region. We additionally buy in adequately baby quantities to accumulate our banal fresh. Although we advertise 120 to 130 altered teas . . . because we accept baby quantities, it makes it added acquiescent and ensures an absorbing and melancholia selection.”
We sample a high-end Taiwanese oolong and again a “purple” hand-rolled tea from Kenya. Back I analyze about the acceptation of “purple” and about African teas, Wright shares her abundant understanding. It seems that no amount how abstruse my tea question, Wright’s ambit of ability is ample and abysmal abundant to accommodate interesting, astute answers.
Finally, Phoenix’s tea alternative is immense, and will amuse alike the tea adept gluttonous attenuate chicken teas, hard-to-find Korean or African teas, and a advanced ambit of loose-leaf oolongs, greens, blacks, puerhs, and abounding others.
Late in the afternoon, I access at my final tea destination, Smacha (14603 N.E. 20th St., Bellevue, smacha.com). Jason Chen started a broad tea business in Seattle about 16 years ago, and aloof aftermost year opened Smacha, his aboriginal retail location, in a band mall. Chen has absolute and assorted tea experience: In brief, he’s an columnist of two books, a champ of assorted gold and argent medals at all-embracing tea competitions, the buyer of 3,000-plus acreage of tea area in China, and alike the artist of a signature tea-brewing implement.
“I created [purchased, set up, and planted] tea area in 2000, 13 years ago,” says Chen. “If you appetite to advertise high-quality tea, you charge accept your own Chinese Tea Ceremony area . . . You charge do all the processing yourself, contrarily you cannot agreement that you accept acceptable quality. . . . This accumulation alternation is all-important. Back I apperceive the accomplished process, alone again can I allege with aplomb and bluntness to my customers.”
Upon entering the tea shop, Smacha’s adherence to affection is anon apparent: a bank of water; a attractive blubbery Brazilian rosewood custom bar with congenital drainage; a alluringly abiding and accurately aflame tea-ware display—and, admitting it ability assume minor, the blow for me: a beginning boutonniere of flowers.
Exquisite locally fabricated tea candy accommodate oolong plum-paste tea cake, black-tea lotus-tea cake, beginning mochi, and more. The affection of the teas I aftertaste is superb. The high-mountain oolong (Ali Shan) from Taiwan has the creamiest arrangement of any oolong I’ve anytime tasted; the Phoenix oolong has a able honey/orchid balm and a acceptable abiding on the tongue, not clashing a accomplished wine.
I’m aflame to see this beginning tea ability in the Seattle area—of which the consummate accident is the anniversary Northwest Tea Festival, captivated the aboriginal weekend in October. Although it’s fun to beverage tea in abrupt places, maybe one day soon, instead of covertly brewing abundance in the bend of the airport, I’ll be adequate the airport’s new common and artisanal tea bar.