About a month ago, I spent a delightfully meditative Saturday morning in the Lake Forest Park tea tasting studio of Jeffrey McIntosh of MyTeabook. Although they focus on quality Chinese tea rather than matcha, the entire experience was pure heaven emphasizing what I love most - rich conversation of a cup (or many) of tea. What could be better on a gray Seattle morning? I left several hours later enlivened and relaxed (with a lighter wallet carrying home a bounty of new tea).
Jeffrey is an engaging and gracious host, ready to share his depth of tea knowledge. Knowing my love for Japanese greens, he suggested we start with some intoxicating greens from the Hunan Providence. The first was Xiang Ming (Honey Sweet Green, from Yueyang), which we followed with a green Mao Jian (Green Tip from Changde).
The Honey Sweet Green caught me off guard. I did not detect much aroma from the dry leaf, yet once wet the scent blossomed to a bright floral, reminding me of an oolong rather than green. The taste was sweet and demanded a quick steep. The Mao Jian had a more vegetal scent with savory notes when steeped. Both were exceptional and delicious (as I am writing this, I am alternating between drinking BOTH).
I stopped drinking red (black) tea over two decades ago finding them too astringent for my digestive system, but Jeffrey offered a few to sample, and I eagerly agreed. These teas were so smooth, and not at all too tannic. Needless to say, I purchased several grams of the Jin Jun Mei from Wuyi Mountain, Fujian.
We ended our time by tasting a two pu-erhs. I was fascinated by pu-erh for quiet some time, but in retrospect, I don’t believe I had tasted top quality pu-erhs until I that morning. So smooth, complex, warming and earthy - I, of course, added both a raw and a sunji ripe pu-erh to my purchases.
Upon returning home, I steeping some Honey Sweet Green and then logged on to MyTeabook and signed up for a monthly tea subscription which included a double-walled glass travel tea tumbler. With each subscription you receive a monthly delivery of a combination of 3 - 4 different various high-quality teas pre-portioned into 17 single packets, each containing the perfect amount of tea (2 grams/packet) for the 9.5 ounce travel tumbler. In my first box, I received 4 different teas: a Lv Hao Ya (Green Bud), a Shou Mei (Old White Tea), a Bai Hao (Oriental Beauty - delicious, and a Dian Hong (Wild Black Tea). It also included one extra packet of a special collection tea of Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe). All were exceptional.
The website states that the teas provided are meant to handle longer steeping times, but I found that the greens and oolongs could become a bit bitter if left in the tumbler for long periods of time. The environmentalist in me cringes a bit with the extra material and packaging, yet the frequent traveler, who works at 4 different locations in Seattle, adores the easy of these packets. Since I usually have access to hot water, carrying the tumbler and 2 or 3 packets ensures I am never without tea. Another plus - the tumbler is made of glass so you are not steeping your hot beverages in material that leech toxins. The tumbler does not have an annoying tea basket to remove after the steeping time, but it does have a filter so when you drink your tea, you don’t get leaves in your mouth. Furthermore if you have a cup or mug available, you can simply steep the tea in the tumbler and then pour it out into the mug. Very easy.