Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Tower of Cosmic Reflections (Tea House)

The building in the background is the Tower of Cosmic Reflections, the tea house at the Portland Classical Chinese Garden. This is a very peaceful place, filled with lovely woodwork and light.

I had a very special tea from an old growth tea forest in Yunnan, China. The tea is called Ailao Zhuan Cha. Being from an old growth forest means that the tea plants are wild and native to the area, grown within a region of natural biodiversity. Sadly, this is a rarity. Most tea plantations are clear-cut areas with little species diversity. This puts the crop at risk for pests and other issues. It reduces the area's natural ability to sustain itself and increases the risk of topsoil erosion. (The same holds true with crop farming in the US.) So it was a special thing for me to be able to taste tea from an old-growth area.

Hot water kettle.

The tea was served in what the Tao of Tea calles its "Gaiwan Ceremony" style. The lid is used to gently paddle the tea and water as the tea brews.

The tea leaves (1) are moved into the Gaiwan (4) with the tongs (2). The leaves are rinsed with hot water and the liquid is drained into the waste bowl (3). Then more hot water is poured onto the leaves and they steep to the desired strength.

During steeping, the lid is used (see photo above) to paddle the leaves, circulating them through the hot water. If you are using a gaiwan for brewing and drinking, the story would stop here. However, since this was "ceremony" style - meaning that it usually serves a group - the tea is decanted into a small teapot (5) and poured into tiny teacups (6) for enjoyment.

The leaves can be re-steeped several times, and more dry leaf added as needed. It is a beautiful process to observe and participate in. Do give this a try when you have the chance!


Joyce said...

WOW.......that is about all I can say. Those photos are GREAT!!! And the tea looks grand.
I'm overwhelmed. Wish I could have seen that in PERSON!
I am sure you had fuuuun.
I'm glad you got to go there, it looks fab.
See ya!

Connie said...

Steph - great pictures. I always learn so much from your blog! Great photo of you also! Wish I could have been there!!!

Allison said...

What a stunningly beautiful place! Great photos too. I love the ritual that surrounds the simple act of drinking tea too. Love it, love it!

Rosemary said...

Your photos captured the essence of your afternoon. Perfect!

artandtea said...

What a wonderful ritual for enjoying tea. Great photos. Thanks for sharing, Steph!

Anonymous said...

Just beautiful, Stephanie! The craftsmanship is superb! I love the succinct explanation on the table of the tao of tea.

sweetcakes said...

What a lovely afternoon and a beautiful place! Wish I could have shared in the experience!