Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Tao of Tea

The Tao of Tea – Tearoom side

I had the opportunity recently to stop by the Tao of Tea in Portland. The Tao of Tea has been a brand that I have been interested in for some time, but not gotten around to trying. The Tao of Tea’s original location, which I had the chance to visit, consists of two main businesses, the tearoom and the leaf room. The two sides are actually separate locations with different hours. Today I’m writing about the tearoom.

The tearoom was a very interestingly decorated room. The décor was from around the world with different styles of items from an assortment of tea producing countries. Their counters were filled with a wide variety of different tea cups, bowls, mugs, and other serving accoutrements. When you walk in they allow you to pick whatever you like for seating, which is very nice because almost every booth or table is completely unique in its style. The two booths that I saw had rough broken solid stone seatbacks for part of them, and interesting bright red cushions. The décor had accents of black bamboo, Buddha statues, masks (which I believe were either Indian or Thai), pictures of tea fields, production, and all sorts of other tea related items. My favorite item was probably the tea crates that were used to ship tea in. The table I sat at was next to their display case of cups, which was supported by a tea crate marked as being for Lapsang Souchoung of all things. The lighting was rather dark, although I overheard them mention that two of the lights in the tearoom were out.

The menu was very expansive and very interesting. It looked as though they were offering almost their entire offering of teas, although I did not see some of their more special promotional teas, such as the competition grade senchas which were available on their website. It did have a large variety of teas including a large variety of non-teas as well. I opted to try out their Gyokuro. I do have to admit though that judging them based on their Gyokuro might be a bit of a harsh measure, but I feel that it has the most room for showing how good or bad a tearoom could be. They serve their Gyokuro in a very large kyusu style teapot. I mean kyusu style because the handle was on the side, the volume of the pot was larger than any kyusu that I have ever seen, this pot was somewhere around 24 oz. The spout also reminded me of a yixing teapot spout. As I would have guessed though the Gyokuro was brewed much like a sencha, the water for the steeping was around sencha temperature, well above the good Gyokuro brewing temperature, and the flavor was rather weak. I wasn’t really surprised by this after seeing their teapot, I didn’t think they would follow the 80mL to 10g ratio that most Gyokuros use. That would be one massive pile of Gyokuro. The flavor of the tea was much as I would expect having come from originally brewing my Gyokuro in such a manner until I learned better. It’s rather hard to judge the tea though because of the way it was brewed.

They also serve some food snacks there. I didn’t partake of any though since I had just eaten prior to heading over there.

Rating: 5/10

Conclusion: The experience was rather pleasant and relaxing, although their brewing technique could use some improvement. They are also more of a tea restaurant than a tea bar. This seems nice for what it is, but part of the fun of tea is the learning.

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