Thursday, January 24, 2019

Mary Oliver

As you have likely heard, poet Mary Oliver recently died. I love her poetry, how it imbues the natural world with everyday magic, and inspires/invites/insists that we pay attention. I find that her poems pair exceedingly well with tea. They invite me to pause and to take notice of the place I inhabit.

Here is one of my favorite poems, from among many, many favorites:

It Was Early
~Mary Oliver, from Evidence, 2009 and published again in Devotions, 2017

It was early,
   which has always been my hour
        to begin looking
           at the world

and of course,
     even in the darkness,
        to begin
           listening into it,

     under the pines
        where the owl lives
           and sometimes calls out

as I walk by,
    as he did
        on this morning.
           So many gifts!

What do they mean?     
     In the marshes
        where the pink light 
           was just arriving

the mink
     with his bristle tail
       was stalking
           the soft-eared mice,

and in the pines
     the cones were heavy,
        each one
           ordained to open.

Sometimes I need
     only to stand
        wherever I am
           to be blessed.

Little mink, let me watch you.   
     Little mice, run and run.
        Dear pine cone, let me hold you
           as you open.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Heathman Tea by Vitaly Paley

It's been open for awhile now, but I have not written about the re-envisioned afternoon tea at the Heathman Hotel in Portland, OR. Chef Vitaly Paley relied on his heritage (Belarusian) to inspire the experience. I had the opportunity to enjoy tea here recently, and am happy to share a few moments with you. 

The Tea: Paley collaborated with Steven Smith Teamaker to curate a small but mighty list. I chose the Georgian Caravan, served only at the Heathman. It's smoky but not overwhelming, bold but allows for the jam (do add!) to be distinct. Plus the tea is served in a pretty glass cup with fancy metal cutwork. 

The Setting: I was visiting alone, something I enjoy. I was given a lovely seat near the fire. The restaurant manager rearranged things to ensure my view was of the fire - I made note! It's a gift to have such care. 

The Food: Bolder than one normally finds at afternoon tea, but delicious and unique! Find the full menu here

Some of my favorites: The middle tier shown below, including a deviled egg, walnut-stuffed eggplant, blini with caviar and mushroom piroshki (stuffed potato bread). The khachapouri (Georgian cheese bread - not shown) was amazing, and I was touched by the steopka (sour cream and walnut cake), based on his grandmother's recipe.

If you're in Portland and love afternoon tea, I recommend this experience. Be sure to take in the lovely surroundings, too - the tall bookshelves and the interesting large-scale art.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Tea Haiku#1

out my window
brown leaves, I long
for fresh plum blossoms

Tea notes:

Monday, October 22, 2018

Mrs. Su's Dong Ding Tea

Today I am drinking a beautiful Dong Ding tea made by Mrs. Su. You can see her making tea at 7:00 in this wonderful short documentary. My friend and tea guide Shiuwen of Floating Leaves Tea, with her talented partners, have made the video. Please watch!  

About the documentary: "This is a portrait of farmers Mr. and Mrs. Su, their dedication to their land on Dong Ding mountain and their family business of oolong tea making. The land on Dong Ding itself is incredible for tea production, which is the land that Mr Su's forefathers passed down to them. The Su family have preserved the art and land of their ancestors for many years.

This short film also features Mr Zhan, a tea roasting master that inspired our tea journey. His teas are like magic. He also works with Dong Ding oolong. We plan to produce a full length film to preserve his legacy and share his story with a wider audience."

If you love Taiwanese oolongs and want to help preserve the history and tradition of charcoal roasting, please consider donating to the making of the full-length documentary.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


Photo by Marjorie Yap, of Issoan Tea School

This photo captures the peacefulness of our recent tea gathering at the Portland Japanese Garden, for Otsukimi, or moon viewing, an event I look forward to every Autumn.  Read more here. (That's me in profile.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Upcoming Tea Events in the Pacific Northwest

Bowl-style Brewing
Join my colleague and me for this free tasting/class at the NW Tea Fest!

A few upcoming events in the Pacific Northwest. Let me know if you'll be there!

Sept 29 - 30, 2018
Seattle Center

As part of the Global Tea Tour Series, I'll be teaching a class on the
Art & Etiquette of the British Afternoon Tea at the Jasmine Pearl.

Sunday Oct  28, 2018
1:00 - 3:00 pm
Jasmine Pearl Tea

Let me know if you'll have the opportunity to be at either of these events.  I'd love to see you! Also, I'm on Instagram @stephwtea. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Tea Fest PDX 2018

The highly anticipated Year 2 for Tea Fest PDX was a success! The organizing team worked hard to bring not only the best from last year, but also improvements and new surprises.  An extra building allowed more space so that everyone could stretch out. Add to that mild summer weather, and amazing teas, and you've got a great day!

I taught the class, The Art and Etiquette of the British Afternoon Tea, and had the chance to partner with Marilyn who coordinated the British Tea Tent. Michelle, shown below, helped in the tent for much of the day and made many people jealous for her dress (which she sewed herself).

Many vendors offered tastings and sold tea and tea ware. This photo was from Minto Island Tea, a company growing and processing tea in Oregon. The photo highlights the steps of production and shows the leaf along the way.

Minto Island also had baby tea plants for sale.

I had the chance to attend three fabulous tastings, including this one with Tealet, sampling gyokuro tea. 

Pulling off an event of this size and scope takes a team of many. The dedicated volunteers work through the great ideas, the difference of opinions, the surprises and even when  cups don't clear customs!  Thank you to this team from the bottom of my teacup!