The New York times ran a piece about a month ago on the Art of Tea – the images are beautiful, so we thought we would share them with you – click on the picture for the full slideshow.

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Gong-Fu – literally meaning the art of preparing tea skillfully dates back many centuries.  It is first mentioned in Cha Jing or The Classic of Tea – the most famous treatise on tea written by Lu Yu.  This ceremony does consist of some very specific steps, but the focus is more on the appreciation of the tea – in contrast to the Japanese tea ceremony which places more emphasis on symbolism and gestures.

 There are a number of elements that are required in order to perform the Gong Fu Cha:

1.  Yixing teapot – clay
2. Water dispensing tray
3. Wodden teaspoon to measure out the tea
4. A tea pitcher
5. A tea strainer
6. Wooden tweezer
7. Tasting cups and aroma cups
8.  Tea towel used to clean the table

Gong Fu Cha

1.  ‘warming the pot and heating the cups’ – fill the teapot with boiling water and drain it – warming the pot is important as this will enhance the flavour of the tea
2.  ‘appreciate excellent tea’ – Ti Kuan Yin Oolong is what is traditionally used for the ceremony
3.  ‘black dragon enters the palace’ – this is in reference to the Ti Kuan yin – fill the teapot 1/2 – 2/3 full of tea leaves
4.  ‘rinsing from elevated pot’ – pour hot water onto the leaves from an elevated height
5.  ‘the spring wind brushes the surface’ – brush the froth that will form at the top of the teapot to keep the tea clear
6.  ‘bathe the immortal’ – let the tea steep a while longer allowing the inside of the teapot to get warm
7.  ‘a row of clouds, running water’ – drain out the tea completely – we do not drink the first infusion
8.  ‘pour again from a low height’ – pour hot water into the teapot with your tea leaves again – this time from a low height – we don’t want to force too much flavour out all at once
9.  ‘bathing the sniffer cup’ – the tea is poured into the aroma cups in one sweeping motion to ensure equal flavours amongst all cups
10.  ‘walk in the mountains and play in the river’ – clean excess water from the bottom of the pot
11.  ‘the dragon and phoenix in auspicious union’ – balance the tasting cup ontop of your snifffer/aroma cup
12.  ‘the carp turns over’ – carefully invert the two cups
13.  ‘respectfully receive the fragrant tea’ – with three fingers lift the snifffer/aroma cup and take in the sweet warm aroma – use your thumb and forefinger to lift the tasting cup and your middle finger to balance the bottom – drink in three sips – a small sip, a second larger sip and the thirs is taking in the aftertaste

Who would have thought that after all these years, tea would once again be used as a symbol of a political revolt.  Well – it’s true – there is a tempest brewing south of the border in the United States and it’s called the Tax Day Tea Party.  The whole notion started with a rant by Rick Santelli on CNBC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEZB4taSEoA]
From that rant – a grassroots movement has started that seems to have many objectives – the primary one is a protest against the bailout packages that governments have been putting together since the end of 2008.  Some people started the revolt by mailing in teabags to their Congressmen in Washington D.C. – something organizers have tried to discourage.  The mailed in teabags even resulted in Congressman George Radanovich’s Modesto California office in being evacuated at the beginning of this month.  Tea Parties are scheduled for April 15th aross the United States.  We haven’t heard of the movement coming to Canada – let us know if you know of any.

Once again – our delicate tea leaf finds itself at the centre of controversy.

This is amongst our favourite times of the year – the first picks of the new season are picked, processed and shipped off to anticipating tea purveyors as well as customers.  This year we’ve flown in three teas to share with everyone.  Makaibari Imperial Delight is a gorgeous first flush Darjeeling – it is the first seasons pick and has all the delicate floral characterisitcs that are unique to the teas at this time of year.  The second is Meghma Honey Oolong – this is not a first flush – but we couldn’t resist bringing you this beautiful Oolong from Nepal.  The subtle honey notes of this tea are truly a treat.  Last, and certainly not least – Thurbo Bai Mu Dan – a white Darjeeling.  These are always interesting as some white Darjeelings impart the muscatal flavours unique to this region and others are softer and more floral.  This particular white Darjeeling steers to the latter making it one of the lightest teas we have tasted in a very long time.  The leaves on this tea are so spectacular, we can’t stop staring at them – they are virtually undisturbed showcasing the true craftsmanship in the production of this tea.

Thurbo Bai Mu Dan - White Darjeeling - First Flush Organic
Thurbo Bai Mu Dan - White Darjeeling - First Flush Organic

Here is a great interview with James Norwood Pratt – who we consider one of the most respected experts on tea:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9zT5VZKHI0]

The Japanese celebrate the beginning of spring with Hanami – the cherry blossom festival.  The custom began in Japan in the 7th Century – the Japanese artistocracy would admire the cherry blossoms – sakura – and write poetry.  The cherry blossom is a symbol of Japan and the country boasts of 300 varieites of this beautiful tree.  Sakura is ful of meaning for the Japanese – the fragile flower has been compared to a woman’s beauty – “blossoming for a short period before withering into old age”.  It is also said that the warriors of Japan would use sakura as a symbol of “a life that was short but magnificent”.

Today, the tradition of Hanami continues in Japan with celebrations wherever the cherry blossoms are found.  People fill parks for dancing, picnics and rather large bottles of sake.

If you’re going to visit Japan for the festival – Mt Yoshino – Yoshinoyama – is said to be the most breathtaking.  Over 100,000 trees have been planted in groves along the mountain.  The famous poet Matsuo Basho was so struck by the beauty on his visit that he refused to compose a haiku saying that no words could capture the beauty he saw.

Yoshinoyama
Yoshinoyama

Well – I made it.  Yes – I know I said this would be a fourteen day detox – but unfortunately, I have a pastry tasting scheduled for today – and that will blow my detox.  So…I decided to end on a round number – Day 10.

I’ve been asked whether it was difficult – and with the exception of the first three days of liquid, I would say, no – not at all.  And perhaps it wasn’t a burden for exactly that reason – after three days of liquid, everything was a walk in the park.  I didn’t truly feel like I was really sacrificing anything throughout the detox – things I had to spend time thinking about – what’s for breakfast/lunch/dinner in the beginning became easier towards the end.  I was shocked that I didn’t miss red meat – I’m a red meat lover.

What I did realize is what an important social element of our life eating is.  I think this is why I found this process more difficult on days I wasn’t working. 

So here is the final days menu:

Breakfast:
Oatmeal cooked in 1% milk, banana
Rooibos Ginger Melon

Lunch:
Whole wheat bread with egg frittata (leftover from a previous night), sprouts, mustard
Imperial Jasmine

Dinner:
Skinless chicken, avocado quesadilla on whole wheat flax tortilla
Sunburst Raspberry – iced

NOW BRING ON A GLASS OF WINE!

We have now posted the dates for our Tea Specialist Certificate:  August 24-25, 2009; January11-12, 2010.

For information on this certification – please click here.  For anyone interested in registering, please do email us at info@theteaemporium.com for a registration form – remember that space is very limited.

We asked the question – What is your favourite part of spring.  It looks like the majority of you – resounding 70% – love getting outside.  We can’t say that we’re surprised.  With our long winters – the first signs of spring and the possibility to get outside without the threat of frost bite is a welcome relief.

We’ve swept winter out as well – and now have our Spring Blend on the shelves.  For those of you that haven’t tried it – this is a blend of black tea with all the refreshing flavours of spring – strawberrries, lemon and mixed berries.  It has a nice balance of flavours – and we love making an iced tea out of it as well.