Our exciting new website launches today, with lots more recipes, health tips & gorgeous new teas like Cantaloupe Oolong, Moonshine Green Pu 2011 vintage tea cake, San Hua (3 Flowers) tisane & Ba Bao (8 Treasures). Let us know what you think!
A fabulous evening of Beijing and Kunqu Opera, & an exhibition of the costumes, inspired me to learn about ‘tea garments’. In Chinese opera costume symbolism an embroidered phoenix represents the Empress, peonies mean beauty, waves & clouds mean a character’s important. ‘Clown’ or ‘fool’ characters in Chinese opera get the accompaniment of drums, clapper, gongs & cymbals just for them. The ‘cha yi’ or ‘tea garment’, usually blue, was worn by clowns & innkeepers in Chinese opera, with at least two main designs. In the Water Margin, Lin Chong, head of the Imperial Army, suffered betrayal, exile, a snowstorm, then attempts on his life. Tea garment-wearing characters are usually ugly but amusing; a blob of white paint over their eyes and nose symbolises quick wittedness or else ‘nature’.
A 16th century poem about teas in Fujian written by Zhou LiangGong containing a lively description of changes in Fujian tea attitudes, production and appreciation since the Song Dynasty. The 6th line of the poem can be seen inscribed on an old clay tea stand at chaya teahouse.
Last weekend we celebrated the FIRST ANNIVERSARY of Chaya Teahouse by bringing back the same menu we served when we opened our doors. We take our inspiration from the Japanese ‘ichi go ichi e‘ (一期一会) : ‘Treasure each encounter, for it will not recur!’ We try to create a pleasant calming interlude whose memory our tea friends will treasure.
‘Distinguished Leaves’ by Britain’s Tea Poet Elizabeth Darcy Jones simply oozes charm and is very British! She writes ‘poetea’. Her verses are jewel-like: a gorgeous, original gift! ‘Distinguished Leaves’ imagines 37 teas as characters with their own personalities. With a foreword by Nigel Havers! These tea poems are sensual, witty, clever, musical, charming, quirky, and graceful. For Elizabeth Darcy Jones we created Tea Poet’s Tisane, Organic Emperor Pu Erh 2008 vintage with whole rosebuds. Hear her read from ‘Distinguished Leaves’ at Chaya Teahouse, 2pm on Sunday 11 March!
We’re grateful for a thrilling 2011 at teanamu. We launched Chaya Teahouse – filled at weekends with friends taking pleasure in fine, properly brewed tea, pâtisserie & dim sum – ‘medteatation’ circles & tea poetry books by Elizabeth Darcy Jones & Lorraine Mariner, & created Tea Poet’s Tisane for Elizabeth. We plan new teas in 2012, menus, events, classes, a newsletter, even a study trip to China!
One Victorian traveller brought rhododendrons, jasmine, azaleas, peonies, magnolias, kumquat (and tea) from the far east. The story of tea thief Robert Fortune, a botanist who served the British Empire by snatching tea to India. Robert Fortune (the Scot who stole tea from China) travelled in Chinese dress (& pigtail) to avoid unwelcome attention. How tea thrived in India/SriLanka only after Robert Fortune stole 20,000 teaplants and all the secret knowhow. Download Robert Fortune’s book ‘Journey to the Tea Countries of China’ free of charge.
Beijing’s ritzy Qianmen district was home to 2 very special shops little over 100 years ago, a teashop & a silks shop. 2 Beijing shops c1900 used very advanced marketing principles including Ming Cha An Bu 明茶暗布 (‘bright tea dim cloth’), Mary Portas would be proud! Fine teas should be viewed in good lighting as Zhang Yi Yuan Teashop showed back in 1908. Tea requires light to view whilst silks/cloths are best viewed in subdued natural light as at Beijing’s Rui Fu Xiang founded 1893. The fine Beijing teashop Zhang Yi Yuan was famous for its aromas because teas were scented onsite.
Bubble tea has become a ‘fast food’ kids drink from disposable plastic cups with an extra wide straw. Bubble tea’s called ‘bubble’ cos of the chewy pearls/boba of yam, tapioca, sago or jelly, or else the foam topping. Original bubble tea consisted of hot Taiwanese black tea, tapioca pearls, condensed milk, syrup or honey but are now mainly a mixture of coloured syrups. Delicious Dragon Well bubble tea caught my eye at a Hangzhou street stall & recreated in London with purple yam mochi. Recipe for Singaporean Nonya ice dessert called Chendol.
Great things come from accidental discoveries, penicillin, champagne & now my own new v modest addition. Chinese character for ‘vinegar’ combines 3 characters for ‘wine’, ’21’ & ‘days’: wine that’s been left to go off for 21 days!
How I ‘discovered’ Emperor’s Golden Monkey and found it was surprisingly delicious! Red tea is really ‘black’ and black tea is actually ‘red’ – an accident of history, or a misunderstanding. Emperor’s Golden Monkey tea liquor is red/mahogany, tastes malty, earthy, caramel, marmalade & sweet longan.