I just posted a bunch of pictures of the shop on Facebook, go check them out! Do any of you have fun pics of us? We’d love to see them!

Elizabeth, Teahouse Kuan Yin Staff

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Jasmine PearlJasmine tea is extremely popular, not only in our own teahouse but also around the world. While most mixtures of tea and other plants are modern and not quite perfected, jasmine tea has a history that will impress the most stiff-necked tea snob. It was invented in China during the Song dynasty, which ruled from 960 to 1279AD, and was the first scented tea.

In the modern age of industrial production and widespread wealth some corners do get cut. A lot of jasmine tea is now made simply by taking some mid-grade tea leaves, spritzing them with jasmine oils, tossing the result in teabags and calling it a day. But for good jasmine tea, like we sell, the traditional method is still used, and it is quite the process. First the tea is picked and processed as usual. For high-grade jasmine tea, obviously some good tea is made. It can be any kind you like, but is most often green. We also carry a really spiffy silver needle jasmine, though, which I sometimes get out and stare at because it is just so pretty. That doesn’t actually have anything to do with the jasmine, though. They just started with some really nice tea.

The next step is the jasmine flowers, and here we get fancy. Jasmine flowers bloom at night, opening around sunset and closing again by the morning. To make tea, the flowers are picked during the day and tossed in with the tea leaves from the last paragraph, and sometimes stirred around a great deal. Then they are allowed to sit together overnight. The flowers, even though they’ve been picked, still open up as the air cools, and the tea soaks all the fragrance up. Tea is very hygroscopic, which is your awesome word for the day so go use it in a sentence, it means that it is very good at soaking up moisture, including the fragrance. This is why it’s so important to store your tea in airtight containers, because usually you don’t want it picking up every scent in the room! But in making jasmine tea it’s a good trait. The tea soaks up the scent so well that the flowers are totally spent afterwards. The light flowers are blown out of the mixture with huge fans, and then often fed to pigs because there’s nothing left; all the scent is now in the tea.Silver Needle Jasmine

This process is repeated at least twice, and often many more times. Usually a 4:1 ratio of flowers:tea leaves by weight ends up being used! Once the tea producers feel their tea is scented enough the tea has to be dried again, because it’s absorbed so much water from the flowers. For our most popular jasmine, Jasmine Pearl, they roll them up into the little pearls by hand before the last drying. In high-grade versions, all the flowers are removed, but sometimes a few flowers will be left in for decoration.

Fujian province, the source of our jasmine tea, is considered the best at making it. Jasmine plants grow well there, producing large and fragrant blossoms. The tea plants do well, too, which is critical. The jasmine has a gentling effect on the tea, making the result smoother, sweeter, and a bit gentler on the stomach, but to get a really top quality jasmine tea all the ingredients have to be the best.

While a lot of teas that are mixed with some other plant are flavored teas, jasmine tea is actually scented. When you lean over your cup and take a deep breath it smells like a jasmine plant, perhaps with the bright flower scent gentled and rounded a little by the tea. Plug your nose and take a sip, and it is a slightly sweet cup of tea. But unless you’re drinking your tea with a nasty cold, the scent and flavor of the tea mix while you drink it, combining elegantly into a fun but still refined cup of tea.

Elizabeth Deacon, Teahouse Kuan Yin Staff

I cupped several of Teahouse Kuan Yin’s new teas at tonight’s tasting and we all fell in love all over again with green, darjeeling and black tea.  Goodwin, Elizabeth, Julia and the Teahouse’s new resident tea expert Becky, were knowledgeable, inspiring and wonderful company.  We satisfied our palates with the complex tastes of fine teas, snacked on delicious lavender shortbread and shared knowledge about everything related to tea!

We began with Wuyi Green, a green tea from Wuyi Mountain in Fujian Province, China.  Wuyi Mountain teas are grown at a high elevation amidst rocky limestone soil.  The region is best known for Rock Oolongs, though the Wuyi Green tea was surprisingly not reminiscent of oolong tea.  This green is light, slightly astringent, but smooth and delicate like many of the finest Chinese green teas.

Nepal Himalaya View, also a green tea, was smokey and similar to Green Pu’er, which is not surprising since this region grows the Assam variety of Camellia Sinensis (tea bush).  This tea looks like a 1st Flush Darjeeling, though vastly different in taste, it withstood several steepings and is ideal for those who prefer smokey, strong flavor, yet, prefer green tea.

Darjeeling, India

Soom Estate 1st Flush Darjeeling is perhaps the finest new tea at the teahouse and stood out for its sweet taste and smooth finish.  The Soom Estate Darjeeling withstood 4 steepings of continual bold, delicious flavor.

Sikkim Terri Estate, a black tea from Northeast India, would be classified as a Darjeeling if it were actually grown in that region.  Since it is from Sikkim, this tea cannot carry the Darjeeling name, and is instead relegated to a black tea.  The Terri Estate 1st Flush tea appears like a Darjeeling with light green and brown leaves, it tastes slightly sweet also with an incredibly smooth finish and provides multiple steepings.

Yunnan Golden Snail is a malty black tea from Yunnan Province.  The dry leaves are soft, curly and have golden tips, hence the name which describes the appearance.  The tea withstood several steepings and provided a sweet warmth on one of Seattle’s first cold nights of Fall.

Nilgiri Blue Mountain is an attempt by tea growers in that region to produce a high quality black tea, as opposed to their usual production of Cut Tear Curl (CTC) tea used in tea bags.  While this was a decent attempt it did not fulfill our expectations after tasting so many delicious teas prior.

Come by the teahouse to taste some of the teas described here or order samples on-line! www.TeaHouseKuanYin.com

To sign up for a tasting or tea class please email TeaHouseKuanYin@Gmail.com

Most of the worlds best-known and most delicious black teas are made from Camellia Sinensis Assamica, the tea plant varietal native to India. Home to three growing regions, Assam, Darjeeling and Nilgiri, all have teas named after their place of origin. The Assam and Darjeeling regions lie at the foot of the Himalaya mountain range where the soil, climate and perhaps extraordinary scenery give rise to rich, bold, malty and floral teas. Nilgiri teas are grown in Southern India and reminiscent of Ceylons. Tea Plucker Originally, the British brought tea seeds from China to India before noticing the Indians picking and drinking the leaves of wild assam bushes. Once the native Assam bush was discovered the British quickly planted tea gardens and created a vibrant world tea market.

Throughout India, England and many other parts of the world, excluding China and Japan, black tea is consumed with milk, sugar, and in India with various other sweet and savory spices. As sam teas are best enjoyed with milk and sugar which lessen the tannin content and accentuate the malty flavor.

Darjeelings, perhaps the most unique of all black teas, are lightly floral, mildly tannic, sometimes earthy and light. These fine black teas are commonly enjoyed with out milk or sugar and can stand several good steepings, especially if each steeping is just one minute.
Darjeeling Tea RegionEach Darjeeling is named after the estate it is from, such as Margaret’s Hope, Pussingbing, Risheehat and Namring. Teahouse Kuan Yin carries at least two of each estate, usually a first and second flush, which refers to the time it is plucked. First flushes are plucked in early spring after the first rains, second flush are picked in June and Autumnal Flush is plucked in Autumn. darjeeling-tea-leaves
Nilgiri tea, often used for blends or tea bags, is best known as Orange Pekoe and despite its use in tea bags can still be considered one of the finest black teas when grown, plucked and processed with intention. The Nilgiri region is proximal to Ceylon so the teas have similar growing climates and therefore are closer in appearance, aroma and flavor.

During our tasting we talked about the history and culture surrounding India’s black teas and were carried away to a place and time that brought forth one of the worlds most consumed beverages.

All of these wonderful teas and many more can be found at http://www.TeaHouseKuanYin.com

hojicha

Hojicha

Working at the Teahouse Kuan Yin is a labor of love, and a rewarding one. We love being able to talk with customers about the teas we carry, learning from our experienced patrons as well as passing on our own knowledge. But since coming to work at the Teahouse Kuan Yin, by far one of our most rewarding experiences has been photographing teas for the store’s website. It has been a continuing challenge because many of our teas are so different from one another, each with distinct colors, textures, shapes and sizes. The challenge itself makes it a rewarding experience, which we feel has given us a deeper appreciation for the teas we serve here.

Serving tea has always been considered a special act, or a gesture if you will, because one is providing the tea drinker with a specific experience which engages the senses. That said, as servers at Teahouse Kuan Yin we often are so caught up in our work that we don’t get to take the time and really appreciate the teas for ourselves. Sure, we’ve tasted them all, but when do we really get to look at our teas? This is where the wonderful experience of photographing the teas comes in.

Take for example our Hojicha. How best to convey that toasty warmth of flavor as well as color? What about the beautiful geometry of how the pieces lie together?

Bi Lo Chun

Bi Lo Chun

Or the Bi Lo Chun. This tea is known as Green Snail Spring, and we hoped to make the photograph of this tea as expressive as its name. Its fluffiness sets it apart from other green teas, as do the elegant, chaotic curlicues, the contrast between light and dark green.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold Yunnan

Gold Yunnan

What about the Gold Yunnan? It is easy to steep one’s teas without looking closely at the leaves, but this tea’s golden sheen begs to be admired. The leaves are as velvet-y as the brew itself, and should not be ignored.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jasmine Pearl

Jasmine Pearl

We especially loved the look of the Jasmine Pearls. It is a given among tea lovers that part of the pleasure of drinking Jasmine Pearl comes with watching the pearls unfurling in the water, and obviously the beautiful aroma. But after spending time trying to figure out how best to photograph this tea, we both agree that part of what makes this tea beautiful is how tightly each pearl is wound, and the stunning craftsmanship involved in such a small thing. Each pearl is unique, and bands of light green travel across them differently every time.

Organic Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum

And my god, look at the Chrysanthemum!

Texture. Warmth. Sunshine. Need we say more?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Li Shan Mao Feng 5.8 zoom

Li Shan Mao Feng

We love the Li Shan Mao Feng:

The twists and folds of each leaf are stunning, and the contrast between dark black and amber orange is really unique.

ti-kuan-yin-green

Ti Kuan Yin Green

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ti Kuan Yin Green:

Its color is a vibrant and complex green, you can see the way in which each leaf has been rolled. There is an acutely physical aspect to these types of oolongs, because of the rolling process.

We’ve come to find that the teas here are absolutely beautiful in addition to being delicious. All we ask is that you guys remember: look at your tea before you drink it! All of these beautiful teas can be purchased on our website, http://www.TeaHouseKuanYin.com

Tea and Love,

Lela and Tania
Lela and Tania

Customers frequently ask our staff how to brew tea and the answers are numerous. For each type of tea there is likely a specific way to brew it, but not necessarily one proper way. Our firm belief is that what tastes right to your individual palate is the best option, though it may take awhile to find that perfect taste, this article will help you better understand the classic way to brew your tea.

I will begin with the most delicate teas that require cooler water and no rinsing, followed by oolongs, black, pu’er and herbals.

Some White and Green teas are produced from the most delicate part of camellia sinensis (tea plant), the first buds and leaves of the plucking season. The tea is then either withered, steamed or pan-dried to stop the oxidation of the leaves, thus creating green tea. Because of the delicate nature of the tea leaves we Do Not use boiling water on white and green tea. This may be a make or break point in your decision of which tea to consume, since some people crave boiling hot water to sip their tea. If that is the case, you can either drink black tea or astringent green tea, since that taste is the outcome of singed leaves.
The ideal water temperature for white and green tea is between 160- 180 F, a way to practice this is 80% boiling water and 20% cool temperature.thermometer White and green teas are not rinsed, the first steeping is usually the best, with the most complex flavor and satisfying taste. These teas will have 2-3 good steepings with subsequent brews stirring up just a light essence of tea flavor in the water. I recommend brewing the first cup with cooler water for just 50-60 seconds, the second cup can steep a bit longer (1 to 2 minutes) with the same temperature water and the third steeping can use the hottest water and steep until there is some color and flavor to the brew. Any steepings after this will not be fruitful, but perhaps enjoyable.
White teas are unique because these can steep for a long time, though I don’t often try this, some say these teas can steep for 15 minutes! Go ahead and try that on the second steeping and see what develops, likely there will be complex flavors that you didn’t notice before.

Oolongs, a world unto themselves, these complex, fragrant and overall beautiful teas range from 15-75% oxidation. Most familiar to many people are the tightly rolled oolong leaves that unfurl with each steeping and other oolong leaves are twisted. How to best enjoy an oolong may vary with the type, oxidation, country of origin and age of the tea. Use this guide as simply a rule of thumb and find what works best with your palate and tea. brewing-tea-image You can use boiling water for oolongs, or perhaps a little bit under boiling. For rolled oolongs add one heaping teaspoon of the leaves in order to have several steepings. If you don’t have time and will not be enjoying all 5-7 steepings the tea has to offer then use less leaves.
Rinse the leaves! This first rinse is wonderful. Simply pour some boiling water over the leaves and immediately rinse it off. The rinse removes any tea dust and prepares the leaves for opening. It is said that the 2nd and 3rd steepings of oolongs are the most enjoyable, so don’t feel bad about discarding the first one.
The first steeping, similar to green tea, is short, about 1 minute or even less. The second steeping is a bit longer, and the 3rd, 4th and 5th are each longer than the one before. It is a pretty elementary process considering the complex flavor that arises in your cup. Often a fine oolong will have hints of sweetness, floral aromas and undertones of strong, smokey flavor.

Black teas. I am not so adept at steeping black teas, but somehow feel qualified to write about them since it is fairly simple. Use boiling water, steep for a minute or 2, depending on how strong you like your brew. If you plan to add cream, milk or a sweetener then steep the tea for a longer time so you can really taste the tea. Black teas provide 3-4 decent steepings, the first one is very strong and the rest are progressively milder.brewing-black-tea Pu’er, a rich, earthy tea from China’s southern Yunnan Province, is sometimes considered the red wine of tea. This complex tea is either pressed into a cake while the leaves are green and then aged for several years, during which time the leaves oxidize and it transforms into a rich and almost hearty black tea. If not pressed into a cake the leaves are stored loose and may be oxidized before storage, though this is not always the case. Either way, this tea is a must try for any tea drinker, since it’s origins can be traced back thousands of years and is perhaps the first traded, highly prized tea. (I would love to know what it tasted like hundreds of years ago)
Pu’er’s should be enjoyed with boiling water. In cake form, one must break off a piece of the cake, roughly 2 inches by 2 inches, or enough to fit in a teaspoon. At Teahouse Kuan Yin, we use YiXing pottery to brew our Pu’ers, since the clay pot will absorb the wonderful flavor and aroma of the tea. brewed-black-in-decantur1 Rinsing is a must for Pu’ers, some people even rinse the tea twice (not recommended for loose-leaf). After the first rinse, the first steeping is short, about 30 seconds. If it is a “cooked” or black Pu’er then the brew will be amber in color, reminiscent of maple syrup. The tea will steep several more times, perhaps so many more that you find you are still enjoying a full flavored brew after 9 steepings and several hours of great accomplishments. Like red wine, this tea has given rise to great poetry, novels, paintings and any work that one attempts while sipping Pu’er. It’s robust aroma and flavor, which is described as earthy, and powerful effects is not necessarily due to a higher caffeine content, in fact, many teas loose the caffeine within the first 1-3 steepings. What causes the power of Pu’er is unknown, drinkers do not get jittery like they would from coffee, and the smoothness of the tea is translated into whatever one puts their mind to. Enjoy Pu’er and remove any excess water from the leaves between steepings. It is also said that this tea helps to lower cholesterol.

Herbals. Herbal teas do not have camellia sinensis, and therefore are caffeine free. Some are a combination of herbs, flowers and bushes, such as a rooibos-peppermint blend and can be steeped however you like. If you desire a hot brew, go ahead and use boiling water, if you want a strong taste, brew for several minutes, the flavor will only be enhanced. Unlike camelia sinensis, which becomes astringent and bitter from over-steeping, herbals only become stronger in flavor. Many herbals taste great with a touch of honey too!

If you still have questions or comments please feel free to ask them on our blog or send us an email. We are happy and excited to about all topics related to tea and look forward to hearing from you!

By Christopher Gronbeck

I hesitate to write about Bi Lo Chun, because my words can’t afford this fabulous tea a modicum of justice. But I proceed because my hesitancy is trumped by my desire to share it with those who haven’t already had the exquisite pleasure of experiencing it.

Bi Lo Chun is at once unknown and ridiculously famous. It’s rarely found in this country outside of the finest tea houses and tea purveyors, and yet a well-known Qing dynasty tea encyclopedia ranked it first amongst Chinese green teas (followed by Long Jing, aka Dragon Well, and Liu An Gua Pian, aka Melon Seed). Note that not all Bi Lo Chun is created equal, so be sure to get it from a trusted source of fine teas.

Bi Lo ChunBi Lo Chun translates as “Green Snail Spring”, reflecting its color, curlicue form, and time of harvest. Each bud is a tiny silvery-green crescent or spiral, just the very tenderest tip of the very finest plants, hand-harvested and gently processed during the 14 days following the Spring equinox. The tea is slightly hairy—almost moss-like—the downy buds so small and delicate that it takes 50,000 or more of them to fashion a pound of tea.

When drunk, Bi Lo Chun has a silky, smooth texture, and a sweet, vegetal—but not grassy—flavor. Its liquor is light gold, sometimes with a slight green tint. The original name of the tea translated as “scarily fragrant” or “deadly fragrant”, but a wise emperor—perhaps savvy of potential marketing challenges—rechristened it with its modern name. The original was understandable, however, as Bi Lo Chun has an absolutely sublime fragrance. Really, it has many different fragrances: one of the loose tea; one of the tea leaves slowly expanding as they heat and hydrate in a warmed, moist tea pot (undoubtedly my favorite); one of the tea steeping in the pot; one of the tea in your cup; and one of the leaves that remain in the pot after you pour off the water. And like any fine green tea, each of the multiple steepings you can coax out of it is its own wonderful experience.

Despite its incredible aroma and flavor, Bi Lo Chun reveals its most graceful secrets only when treated with great respect. It’s a fickle tea, to be sure, as it scalds in boiling water, and is all too easily oversteeped. But with a little understanding and a tender touch, Bi Lo Chun is an incomparable gem, one that any tea lover cannot help but admire, if not absolutely adore.

If, as Ben Franklin said, wine is proof that God that loves us and wants us to be happy, then Bi Lo Chun is proof that God wants us to be amazed.


Bi Lo Chun can be purchased at the Teahouse Kuan Yin on-line store
for $5.50/ounce, one of the best bargains in the world of tea.