Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lunch at Ten Ren Tea, Taiwan

The English Text in the upper left reads, "Pu-Erh Vegetarian Tea Cuisine"

A tea person could go a little happy crazy at Ten Ren Tea in Taiwan.  First there's the gorgeous teaware. And then there's the restaurant, which not only serves delicious food with tea as a theme, but also includes vegetarian options.  And to cap it all, there's a tea school at the top.  Sigh!

We enjoyed lunch at Ten Ren in Taiwan.  The meal consisted of several small courses.  Mine included: 

Matcha Drinking Vinegar - VERY good!

Salad with a light dressing, soup with dumpling and loofah squash with noodles (not shown)

Main course:  Mushrooms and veggies in a pu-erh sauce (delicious!)

Dessert:  Purple rice mousse

To my fellow traveling companions - what do you remember having?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ten Ren Tea in Taipei, Taiwan

In Taiwan, the retail tea company Ten Ren is a big deal. (You may also see it called Tenfu Tea.)  We visited a shop during the Taiwan Tea Tour.  The first floor was retail, including teas, equipment and tea snacks. Upstairs was a restaurant (a future post!) and a tea school.  The company is associated with Tenfu Tea College and the Lu Yu Institute.

Here are some of the beauties I found browsing in the retail part of the shop.

Ten Ren also has shops in North America. Like any good retail shop, they sell tea and equipment in a range of price points and qualities.  One of my favorite aspects was the tea snacks.  I came home with black tea-walnut chewy candies.  Do you know Ten Ren teas?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014



One of the things that fascinates me about tea is its diversity.  In the picture above (from a recent Wu-Wo gathering), I sampled (left to right) Bai Hao oolong, Dong Ding (traditional style) oolong, Matcha powdered tea, and charcoal roasted Dong Ding oolong.  The color, aroma, flavor, and mouth feel of each tea was unique.  I love this range of experiences!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Tea Sage Hut

It's so hard to believe it's been a year since I was at Tea Sage Hut in Miaoli, Taiwan.  I think it's taken a year for me to unpack my experiences from the Taiwan trip (and I'm not done!).  The official tea tour with Floating Leaves had come to a close.  After saying our goodbyes, two tea-loving friends and I made our way by train to the Tea Sage Hut.

Miaoli is located in the area of Taiwan that grows my beloved Bai Hao oolong (Oriental Beauty).  That tea was the first to open my mind to the exquisite nuances accessible in tea.  I was excited to be here!  My friend L had been living at the center as a student for several months.  I remember hugging her for a really long time when she and the other center residents came out to greet us.  When a friend lives far away, there is a special joy in reunion. 

Once we had been settled, we were  invited to a tea session in the gorgeous space above. We drank many rounds of raw (sheng) pu-erh.  This tea was from Laos.  It was organic, and from the same forest as Yunnan (humans making the dividing lines, not nature).

Tea Sage Hut offers tea and meditation instruction/experience, lodging, wonderful vegetarian meals, trips to nearby cities, and bowls and bowls of tea.  One of my favorite things about my time there was the tea sessions held in silent contemplation.  

Staying at the center is free. There are dorm-style sleeping quarters and meals are made communally.  You are welcome to make a donation, with the idea of paying for future travelers, as others have already paid for you.  

My experience of life at the center:  The day starts with a meditation session about 7 am.  Next, there is a healthy breakfast (we had oatmeal with  cacao nibs and pumpkin seeds, and fruit).  After that, there is often a tea session (this can last a good hour or two or more!).  Daily tasks are attended to until the lunch time.  Lunch is the largest meal of the day and is made with much festivity.  After lunch, perhaps another tea session and other business.  About 4 pm, the permanent residents head out to the English language school where they work.  Dinner is light and there are often evening meditation and tea sessions.  Sometimes, people take day trips to nearby towns or tea farms.  We visited San Yi.

Around Miaoli

Drinking tea mindfully is an experience offered in abundance at the Tea Sage Hut.  It's something I value tremendously. While there, I had the opportunity to encounter a place of my own tenderness.  During one tea session, tears streamed down my face.  It was OK. I had friends to give me hugs.  It was a gift to learn more about myself.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I Can't Get Enough of Tea Photos...

A year later and I'm still sorting through Taiwan Tea Tour photos.  

This one, from Pinglin Taiwan, just showed itself.  My hand and such beautiful leaf.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Meatless Monday: Salad Bar and Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

My version of a salad bar

I invited some friends over for lunch recently and we had a "salad bar."  It was fun, colorful and delicious.  I provided the green salad and toppings and my friends brought other side dishes.  The greens (red leaf lettuce; collard greens; brocolli leaves, a special kind for the greenery and sprouts; parsley), chives and radishes all came from the DH's garden.

Chive blossoms

We finished up with rhubarb upside down cake, also courtesy of the DH.  Oh, yummy!  By the way, everything shown here is vegan.

Rhubarb upside down cake

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

More on Bowl-Style Brewing

Preparing to brew bowl style

Sometimes things just come together. I had been thinking about my time in Taiwan and experiences with bowl-style brewing (also sometimes called "Grandpa" style, at least in the US). Shiuwen of Floating Leaves had recommended bowl-style for the  Hong Shui (red water) tea  I had been drinking. Then I received some tea from Global Tea Hut that also recommended bowl-style brewing!

Today I had the opportunity to share tea with friends and tried out this style of brewing again.  It's fun and straight-forward.  However, I learned an important lesson.  Use LESS tea than you would if brewing gong fu style.  I overdid it on our second tea and we had quite robust brews.

Some tips for brewing this style:
* Prewarm the bowls by pouring in hot water and then pouring off.
* Have a waste water bowl (any large bowl will do) nearby for the pouring off.
* Use less tea than you think you might need!  A trial run in the bowls you plan to use will help with this!  I got it half right.  I had done a trial, but in different bowls.  I had the proportions way off.
* Engage all your senses.  This type of brewing is very intimate with the tea.

Here's more on this topic from those who know far more than I:
Floating Leaves (blog)
A Tea Addict's Journal (blog)
Global Tea Hut (video; Please note that the brewer, Wu De, has brewed thousands of bowls of tea.  Use this as a general guide and don't compare yourself.)
"Big Bowl Tea" pictures and a bit of history (news article)

Let me know if you give this style of brewing a try.  I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, May 05, 2014

Hong Shui (Red Water) Tea, Bowl Style

I recently re-opened some tea that had been resting for several months. I brought it back from Taiwan about a year ago.  It's called Hong Shui (Red Water).  This tea is highly oxidized with a bit of a roast (to increase the shelf life). I think it's yummy!  Shiuwen, of Floating Leaves Tea suggested that I try brewing it "bowl style".  Good timing, as this brewing style had been on my mind.

"Bowl Style" is very  simple.  Choose a bowl (a rice bowl works great) that you can drink from directly, but isn't giant.  Add leaves in the bottom, pour hot water, let steep for a bit and enjoy.  Repeat.  Above, I'm using a summer-style Japanese tea bowl.  It doesn't have to be a special tea bowl.  Find something you have that works.

This Red Water tea is rolled into a ball during processing.  The leaves open as they steep.  It's fun to watch, and this brewing style allows for a great view.  Above, first steeping after a minute.  The leaf is still fairly tight.

 Second steeping, just after pouring hot water. Notice how much the leaf has opened.

One of the things I love about this brewing style is the intimacy with the leaf.  It literally engaged all my senses.  Visually, I get the best view of what's happening during the steeping process. When I drink the tea, my nose is deep in the bowl and the aroma envelopes me.  The taste of the tea changes from steeping to steeping, and I even got to chew on a few leaves as they slipped into my mouth in the early steeping.  (Once opened fully, they stick together in the bottom of the bowl.)  That counts for touch as does playing with the leaf to unfurl it fully. You can't see it very well, but in the last photo, I'm showing some unrolled leaf.  And finally, most surprising was the connection to sound.  It was magical!  After the leaf unfurled, when I would tip the bowl up to sip, I heard this little gurgling sound, like the movement of a gentle spring, as the water navigated the leaf terrain and made it to my mouth.  I loved it!

Friday, May 02, 2014

Our Collaborative Poem

Tea from Pinglin, Taiwan

Here is our Collaborative Poem.  Any suggestions for a title?  This is comprised of the first lines of the poems you submitted on "Poem in Your Pocket Day."  Thank you!  I made a few grammar changes and added a few transition words, but that's it.  Enjoy!

I thought that I would never see a poem as lovely as a tree
But then once upon a cool path I did tread... the ferns, they spoke to me
The lotus flower opened and closed every day in a ritual of renewal
The grip that swung the ax in Illinois
Was on the pen that set a people free
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom
We, who with songs beguile your pilgrimage and swear that beauty lives though lilies die
Will not play at tug o' war but rather play at hug o' war
We give up sighing for what might have been; Yesterday's gone, never more to be seen
We had a kettle: we let it leak
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not
The moon's the North Wind's Cookie, he bites it day by day
But anything can happen, child, anything can be
If you think that you'll find true understanding
There is this tea I have sometimes
Grow old along with me
And the only way is
To drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Giveaway Winner....

Tea farm in the midst of the hills in Pinglin, Taiwan

Congratulations to Amanda who has won the giveaway!!
I will post our collaborative poem tomorrow. 
Happy May Day!  Today I am joyfully remembering that a year ago, I was en route to Taiwan!  Read about the Taiwan Tea Tour here.