A Flight of Rare Teas
Think of The World of Tea Series as a season of programing, sponsored by the NW Tea Festival folks. The season ender was A Flight of Rare Teas, held at Phoenix Tea, in Burien. Burien? Isn’t that near the Mexican border? Well no, it isn’t. It takes less time to arrive in Burien (think airport) from downtown Seattle than to Capital Hill, now that we seem to have major construction projects happening all over Seattle. It’s a more pleasant drive as well.
The event was held at night, and hosted by the elegant Phoenix Tea owners Brett Boynton and “Cinnebar” Virginia Wright, dressed in evening wear.
Eleven people and Baxter the dog attended. We tasted six rare teas, chosen by the owners from their extensive collection of loose-leaf pure teas from four distinct tea growing regions.
First tasting was Compressed Junshan Yellow, a 2012 tea from Hunan, China. It was delicate and subtle like a white pu’er, smelling of peach and apricot. What was interesting was that water temperature was 165 degrees, which almost seems too cool. In fact, it was exactly right, as anything hotter created a bitter, flat tasting tea.
Next tasting was Mei Gui Dan Cong, exhibiting a rose aroma during the earlier infusions, then changing to smokiness during the later infusions. Boiling water is the norm for this oolong.
Then came Jiri Mountain Hwangcha, a rare and yellow tea from Korea. Brewed at 170-180 degrees like the Junshan Yellow, it was delicate with a fragrance of apricot in the first infusion. Later on, the fragrance was pomegranate, which lingered in the cup.
We moved on to Hand-Crafted Purple, from the southern slopes of Mount Kenya, which is (you guessed it) in Kenya. This fragrance was of blueberries or lychee. Because boiling water was used, it was more astringent than what we had been drinking, and was a nice change from the sweeter teas.
Roasted Oolong Stem was the next offering. It was exactly what you are thinking; tea from twigs, brewed with boiling water. You might think that it would smell and taste earthy, but you would be wrong. It had a buttery caramel taste and great mouthfeel, with a toasty aftertaste. Based on this, do not pick twigs from your backyard and make tea. You will be so disappointed.
Rounding out the six teas was Kang Zhuan, a 28 year old tea from Sichuan, China. I thought that it might remind me of a pu’er, and happily, I was wrong. It had a high spicy note in tasting, similar to ginger, and the fragrance was of ginseng. It reminded me of the wet, humid South: Florida, Georgia. As we tasted more infusions, the tea changed and mellowed, and the ginseng fragrance
None of these teas were available for purchase, but I did not go home tea-less. I purchased some Huo Shan Huang Ya, which Brett suggested when I expressed interest in the Junshan Yellow.
Phoenix Tea works hard to find teas to your taste. Both owners know their teas and are patient with us mortals who are not so knowledgable. Visiting Phoenix Tea is always an education and an adventure, and guess what. It’s closer than you think. A couple of turns off the freeway, and you’re there.
Phoenix Tea, 902 SW 152nd St, Burien, Wa 98166, 206-495-7330