Tea Together Tuesday: Shop Small!

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Today on Tea Together Tuesday, a delightful community tea prompt hosted by Tea with Jann and Tea is a Wish, the prompt is to share your favorite tea from a small business. Now, most of my tea comes from small businesses, but lately, I’ve been exploring Black-owned businesses on top of simply small business, and if you asked me what my favorite tea is right now, I’d say the Baozhong oolong from The Steeped Leaf Shop.

Not “favorite from a small business” or “favorite from a Black-owned business.” Favorite. Period. This tea is creamy, slightly sweet in that way that very fresh local cream is sweet, and has a gorgeous floral bouquet (it’s pronounced “boo-kay”). I’ve even started seasoning my newest Yixing pot with it even though it isn’t the right kind of tea for the clay and shape, AND I already have two clay pots that have been seasoned with oolong. But the pot loves this oolong as much as I do. I am certainly going to have to buy some more soon because it turns out an ounce doesn’t go very far, now does it?

I’ve tasted this both in porcelain and glazed clay, and in my unglazed Yixing pot. It steeps beautifully gongfu style, but I’ve also made a western-style cup and it retains its beautiful character. It doesn’t have a bite to it like some green oolongs can get when steeped too long, but it opens up into a gorgeous cup of flavor at the first short steeping. I can toss some of this into my gaiwan or pot in the morning and drink it all day as I make my way through a day that is often too hectic for a single, focused long gongfu session. And even Elliot likes it — he stole a sip the other day when it had cooled off and promptly declared it “Nummy.”

If The Steeped Leaf Shop sounds familiar, it’s because I wrote a similarly effusive post on Instagram last week for Matcha Monday about their ceremonial matcha. Wow. I’m all the more excited to try the sencha that Tammy tucked into my shipment as a free sample because so far she’s two for two with curating excellent teas.

I’ve written in the past about my frustration and suspicion of formal tea certifications, but when Tammy says she’s a certified tea specialist, I absolutely believe her, having tasted her teas. And she’s incredibly communicative and friendly, both on social media and via email. So even if your order falls victim to COVID-related shipping issues, you will know what’s going on and have utter faith in the process.

I know this sounds sponsored, but I promise it’s not. I just really like this tea. If you’re in the market for tea, I highly recommend checking her shop out. Shop small, shop Black-owned when you can, and always drink excellent tea!

NB: Nothing to disclose. If you’re interested in collaborating with me, please read my contact and collaboration information.

On Opening an Yixing Pot

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As I mentioned on Tuesday, I treated myself to an inexpensive Yixing pot the last time I was at Ching Ching Cha. While this wasn’t my first foray into traditional, unglazed Chinese clay, it was the first time I really made any kind of effort to “open” or “season” the pot, so I thought I’d share a little bit about my trial and error process.

My first clay pot, a Da Hong Pao Chaozhou pot from Bitterleaf Teas was specifically purchased for my Yuan Mei video, so I decided to dedicate it to yancha. This one, I was a bit more vague about, but I had the idea to use it for lighter Taiwanese oolongs. I tried it with some Eastern Beauty teas I had and was unimpressed, so I tried seasoning it by soaking it in tea. I was still unimpressed with the performance, so I tried a different tea. I tried a lightly roasted Cui Feng oolong from Wang Family Tea and was much more impressed. Sadly, I ran out of that tea pretty quickly, but I still had some of their medium-roasted Bagua Shan honey scent oolong, and had recently reordered a larger amount of that, so I tried that and also found it enjoyable. So I decided to continue my seasoning with that.

So on to my “process.” Before using the pot for the first time, I rinsed it well with warm water, and then brought a pot of water to a boil, dropped the heat, and placed the teapot in a ladle in the water (to keep it out of direct contact with the bottom of the pan) and let it sit in simmering water for about twenty minutes. Then I made some tea in it, found it lacking, so I used those leaves to steep a large pot of tea in a glass pot and poured that into the pot leaving it until it cooled. When I decided to switch to the honey-scent oolong, I decided I would give it a more proactive tea bath, so I brewed my tea with the pot in a bowl, simply pouring the brewed tea into the bowl each time. Then, I removed the leaves from the pot, filled it with brewed tea, and used a brush to wash the top of the pot with tea. I let this, again, sit until it was cool, and then emptied the pot and let it dry.

It’s been a rather slap-dash production, with me largely learning as  I go. I think if I had it to do over, I wouldn’t have even made any evaluation about what kind of tea I wanted to use it for. Once I started brewing oolong in the pot, I felt like I couldn’t fully switch streams, and it’s entirely possible that this pot would prefer to be brewing something else. That said, I mostly drink oolong, so if it wanted to drink something else, it would either be disappointed or neglected, so I chose the former. One thing I have learned is that Yixing enthusiasts referring to their pots like they are living things with preferences is not just an affectation.

So I look forward to more experimentation and getting to know this little pot. And hopefully this is not the beginning of a new collecting habit.

NB: Nothing to disclose.