That Tea Place in New York that Brandon Likes

Tea Gallery Yixing Teapots

There have been wild accu­sa­tions around the ‘net of me being one to spill the beans. To live up to this unsa­vory rep­u­ta­tion, I offer you all a tour of the as-yet unnamed col­lab­o­ra­tion between The Tea Gallery and The Mandarin’s Tea Room.

Some­where along the way, we noticed that the phrase “The Tea Gallery slash Mandarin’s Tea Room” is a “mouthful.”

Tetsubin and HibachiShui Xian and Cups

There are still moun­tains of boxes to be unpacked, but I was invited to visit the new tea room on the twenty-sixth anniver­sary of my birth.


I like to keep Tim hon­est — and edu­cate myself — by con­stantly eval­u­at­ing his selec­tions. The chal­lenger this time was First Grade Tie Guan Yin ’10 from the most recent TeaChat Tast­ing Event. It com­pared favor­ably to Tim’s Selected Grade Tie Guan Yin, but we found it to be a slightly dif­fer­ent style.

Tim tells us that his esteemed Anxi men­tor keeps up a menu of no less than 20 unique TGY teas each year.

Gaiwan 3 Stamp Shui Xian

Pouring 3 Stamp Shui XianThe gang are cur­rently eval­u­at­ing a slate of even more Shui Xian teas for their new menu.

Many read­ers know that I can’t get enough of this tea, and at one point counted 15 unique styles on hand in my per­sonal tea room.

This was another high fired style, but was quite dis­tinct from the 3 Stamp already offered by The Tea Gallery. A sweet, cherry syrup added to the already rich fla­vors this tea is known for.

This might have passed as the per­fect tea for my birth­day cel­e­bra­tion, but Michael is not one to leave “good enough” alone.

1950s Shui Xian

He shocked even Tim by brew­ing 20g of his 1950’s Shui Xian in a pot of roughly 180ml. A fit­ting gift to some­one who can’t make tea too strong.

It seems cer­tain that with two dri­ven tea lovers like Michael and Tim chal­leng­ing one another, we will all ben­e­fit from a higher level of tea.

But wait, what are Win­nie and Dae up to?
Check back soon!

Brewing Rock Tea

Step One: Enlist some tea lov­ing friends.

Step Two: Add 7g of leaf to a 100 ml gai­wan (pre­heated). Replace lid. Allow your guests to appre­ci­ate the fra­grance of the dry leaves in the hot gai­wan by smelling the edge of the lid, then replac­ing the lid and pass­ing to the next guest.

Step Three: Pour boil­ing water to the top of the gai­wan. Use the lid to remove the bub­bles that form on the sur­face of the tea in a sin­gle, hor­i­zon­tal scrap­ing motion.

Step Four: Quickly, but with­out break­ing any­thing valu­able, use your ket­tle to pour a stream of water onto the lid wash­ing away the bub­bles into your waste water bowl or tea tray.

Step Five: Replace the lid and decant the tea into your fair­cup. If you have two pitch­ers or a large cup, use one to save this rinse for later. Oth­er­wise, dis­card it and move on to the first infusion.

Step Six: Refill the gai­wan with water just off a boil, decant after 10 to 20 sec­onds accord­ing to taste. Serve your guests this first brew, and also allow them to smell the wet leaf aroma in the gai­wan. This is quite dis­tinct from the dry leaf smell in Step Two.

Step Seven: Con­tinue infus­ing, adding 5 to 10 sec­onds to the steep­ing time each round for as long as you are enjoy­ing the tea. Good Wuyi tea will give five or more infu­sions with a rich body, and taper off — still, pro­vid­ing a chance at many more flo­ral steepings.

If you saved the rinse, it can be enjoyed along­side the last infu­sion. Your tea pals may be sur­prised when con­trast­ing the two points along your Wuyi journey.

Royal Orchid Tea Museum

We made our sec­ond trip to the Royal Orchid Tea Museum, cur­rently under a seri­ous pro­gram of improvements.

The event car­ried a water theme — an exhi­bi­tion of Shui Pin Yix­ing teapots from Ming to mod­ern, and, a sam­pling of sev­eral Shui Xian teas.

I offered two pots of my own — 1970s hong ni and 1930s zi ni. Kai sug­gested my elder pot was orig­i­nally made for export to Japan.

To break up sev­eral rounds of Shui Xian, we also enjoyed a spe­cial puerh from old trees. The bun­dle of leaves was so large that we had to cut it in half to fit in the widest gai­wan we could find.

I was allowed to exper­i­ment with a Japan­ese sil­ver ket­tle — one of the most stun­ning pieces of teaware in the col­lec­tion. The freshly boiled water really punched up some 90s puerh I was brew­ing, but did lit­tle for my pot of Shui Xian, already gone flat after many brews.

A Visit to Yumcha — The Cha

I usu­ally pride myself in being able to rat­tle off the 8 to 10 teas we drink dur­ing the course of a meetup. How­ever, in the com­pany of Dae and David I finally met my match. Dae says she hasn’t drank this much tea since her trip to Tai­wan — I am indeed strug­gling to remem­ber every tea. I’ve done my best to recall them in no par­tic­u­lar order.

1996 Huang Yin — Sun Sing
1997 Meng­hai 8582
1980s Xiaguan Tra­di­tional Char­ac­ters
2004 Sil­ver Tip Puerh — The Tea Gallery

1950s “Raisin Bread Aroma” Shui Xian
Wuyi Baozhong

Sun Moon Lake Assam
Win­ter 09 Shan Lin Shi Jade vs. Shan Lin Shi Medium Roast

2010 Shin­cha — Ippodo

A tea or two may have been for­got­ten, but an amaz­ing Memo­r­ial Day week­end with friends will be remem­bered for a long time.

NYC Tea Meetup #1

In search of the elu­sive Tea Pearl, brave friends gath­ered at The Tea Gallery for the first NYC Tea Meetup. Being the inau­gural I decided to doc­u­ment this one in some detail — I expect that I may drop off sooner or later as the jour­nal of record.

Mys­tery For­mosa Oolong

When I arrived Tim had already wres­tled Win­nie out of her seat and had taken over as Tea Mas­ter. In a large pot of Tai­wanese clay, Tim brewed up sev­eral rounds of the unknown tea. He tried to get us to ignore his brew­ing chops by sug­gest­ing that the real tea mas­ter only focuses on lin­ger­ing fla­vors and aroma, not the ini­tial impres­sion of the brew. Nice save!d

This was a nice tea, what­ever its source. Thanks to Tim for pro­vid­ing it. We returned to this tea sev­eral times.

100 Year Tree

Win­nie regained her chair to brew this Yan­cha in her own style. Roast was appar­ent but plenty of other fla­vors and a great mouth feel came along to the party. Brew #3 was knocked out of the park, but the tea dropped off quickly after­wards. The aroma of the tea was very impres­sive, chang­ing from brew to brew but remain­ing vivid. For me this tea had a lot of “downer” qi. Dae agrees. I won­der what this tea would do if pushed hard.

2008 Bing Dou — Ice Island

Michael returned home and took over brew­ing. Tim returned after fetch­ing his friend Tony from Hong Kong — a friend redis­cov­ered in NYC after 25 years. Best of all, Tony loves tea and was glad to join us.

A vin­tage gai­wan was soon stuffed with wet, rinsed leaves. We drank this for sev­eral rounds in Michael’s sig­na­tures knock­out style before the leaf was fully open.

Then, he started to com­bine two batches, to leave some in his new Yixing.

Our orga­niz­ers Mike and Katy fur­nished us with a fine selec­tion of snacks to put off the munchies from Michael’s pow­er­ful brews. Tim was too tough to par­take in any snacks. The “bo’lay” was not too strong for Tony. He was well seasoned!

Japan­ese Puerh

Tim and I have been talk­ing about this tea ever since Win­nie men­tioned it a few weeks ago. Now she is attempt­ing to hide it from the tea drunks. The shy tea even­tu­ally reap­pears as a nightcap.

Dry leaf smells like black licorice cer­tainly, but also some­thing reminds me of the Long Jing Hong Cha exper­i­ment. Adrian thought that tea was more of a hei cha than a hong cha (fer­mented vs oxi­dized), and that is cer­tainly the case here.

Wet leaves had a very intense aroma, Tim placed it as d’dok cha, a Korean puerh.

Taste was smooth and light, hard to pick much out. This could be due to the small quan­tity of leaves used, but more likely because of the ear­lier abuse from Michael’s 15 minute Bing Dao brew — Time to quit for the evening.

Break Me Off A Piece (1997 Shui Xian)

Today is warm, and I sit out­side drink­ing tea from the fan­tas­tic Tea Gallery. It is very nice to finally have some nat­ural light for pho­tograph­ing. I don’t have much to say about this tea that Brent hasn’t already writ­ten.

I am using more leaf than him (half a stick in a tiny 60cc gai­wan), so the mineral-y-ness is very intense. This sub­sides after 4 or 5 intense steepings.

If candy bars tasted this good, I would be a very fat man. Luck­ily, I have this tea instead.

For some rea­son this photo reminds me of the work of Alex. May he soon cap­ture some light of his own and return to the fray.

I have con­ducted a few exper­i­ments today that may war­rant a sep­a­rate post at a later date. Tast­ing the same steep­ing from both celadon and porce­lain have pro­duced slightly unwel­come results. Celadon has rounded out (or per­haps just stolen from) the tea sev­eral char­ac­ter­is­tics like the intense min­eral pro­file men­tioned above.

This is espe­cially appar­ent in the new cups in my last post, but also in a celadon fair­cup. Per­haps the cups need to sea­son a bit? Am using porce­lain and glass for the rest of the day.