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!

Backyard Chanoyu

The Philly Tea Club (and guests!) assem­bled in the back yard for an intro­duc­tion to Chanoyu.

Being far from a proper tea room, Pamela L — a third year stu­dent of the Urasenke school — per­formed one of the more casual forms, o-bon temae.

This cer­e­mony is per­formed with the uten­sils arranged on a round tray, and draws hot water from a tet­subin rather than ladled from the kama.

She selected a fan­tas­tic sweet to pair with the tea — can­died Yuzu, a slightly sour cit­rus fruit. This was much more to my lik­ing than many other Chanoyu treats I have tasted.

The tea used was quite deli­cious, being a fine Koicha grade. It is pre­pared here Usucha (thin) style, for which it is cer­tainly suited. Lower grades of matcha are some­times not smooth and mel­low enough for some drinkers to enjoy when pre­pared in the thick style, but the refined and mel­low taste of Koicha grade tea can be equally enjoyed as thin tea.

More on Usucha and Koicha at Wikipedia.

A bowl of tea was served to each guest in turn, and they learned both to thank the host for the tea, and to excuse them­selves to the next guest for drink­ing before them.

After all the guests were served, the host­ess served her­self a bowl.

All that was left was for the equip­ment to be cleaned again, and car­ried out of the tea space in sequence.

Being a tea gath­er­ing in my home, it was quite impos­si­ble to resist prepar­ing a few pots of aged puerh. This favorite — 1985 8582 — was the per­fect intro­duc­tion to our guests, drink­ing well aged puerh for the first time.

The menu — also includ­ing Golden Bud­dha, a new cul­ti­var rock tea, and 2008 1000 year tree puerh — ended with the last of my Shin­cha for the year. We are both sad to see it go, and very excited to move on to the vari­ety of sen­cha selected this year by the ladies of The Tea Gallery.

Pho­tos by Bran­don and Pamela D — More in my Flickr set.

Classical Revolution at Random Tea Room

This Thurs­day at the Ran­dom Tea Room Philadel­phia, the crowd was hang­ing from the rafters for the cham­ber music flash mob “Clas­si­cal Rev­o­lu­tion,” and, of course, tea.

In their own words: “The mis­sion of Clas­si­cal Rev­o­lu­tion is to present con­certs involv­ing both tra­di­tional and mod­ern approaches while engag­ing the com­mu­nity by offer­ing cham­ber music per­for­mances in highly acces­si­ble venues, such as bars and cafes, and col­lab­o­rat­ing with local musi­cians and artists from var­i­ous styles and backgrounds”

As the 8 o’clock start time drew nearer, the Tea Room began to fill up with musi­cians car­ry­ing instru­ments of all sorts, as well as spec­ta­tors. The Philadel­phia group was rounded out by many tal­ented grad­u­ates of Temple’s music pro­gram — some past col­lab­o­ra­tors, and some meet­ing for the first time.

Music by Mozart and Bar­tok blended with clas­si­cal gui­tar and solo flute.

Nat­u­rally, tea was enjoyed through­out the evening. To the hard­core fans at the bar, Becky served 2003 raw puerh from Jing Mai, and I served a favorite Rock Tea. Pro­pri­et­ess Becky was also quite busy serv­ing iced tea bev­er­ages like Moroc­can Mint, as well as her new Vir­gin Tea Cock­tails to those look­ing to cool off.

At the start of the evening, most of us had no idea what to expect. By the end, music, friends, and tea left every­one feel­ing quite euphoric and look­ing for­ward to the next event at Ran­dom Tea Room.

A few addi­tional pho­tos from the set will appear here.

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.