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May 1, 2013

Tea Tasting at Chado Tea Room

A groupon-type deal allowed me to learn a bit about tea types and history from Chado Tea Room in Pasadena.  We were able to try about eight different teas, capped off with a lovely dessert of scone and clotted cream.  Our guide walked us through each type, explaining the difference in manufacturing, from leaf type to oxidation.

The tea wall at Chado Tea Room
My friend Jenny and I enjoying a ladies' day out
Our tea sampling progressed from light to dark, starting with a White tea, then Yellow, Green, Oolong, Black, and Pu-erh.  We also got to sample a few of the staffs' favorites, a blossoming tea and an herbal Jasmine.  The colors themselves were striking as each cup lined up next to one another.  

Our waiter explained we began with white tea because it is un-oxidized and sun dried only, the least-processed type of tea.  Yellow tea is similar, but the buds are unfurled before sun drying.  Leaves are then piled, covered or wrapped, and kept damp at temperatures between 77-95 degrees F until it turns yellow.  Green tea is dried and rolled, but not oxidized.  We were shown the dried buds, which are twisted into tight marbles.  The history of the term "Monkey Picked" was explained, implying the most difficult to harvest from the steep mountainsides; it's now used to mean the best product made of a variety or particular company.  The partly oxidized Oolong tea was a favorite of mine.  I learned that Black tea is made from leaves that have been fully oxidized, the oxygen coming into contact with the enzymes in the tea leaf, creating the deep, dark color.  Lastly, we sampled a Pu-erh tea, which is a type exposed to bacterium and allowed to undergo a sort of secondary fermentation.  Pu-erh tea had some of the best stories as we were told it is the only tea that improves with age, much like wine, and has been used as currency, with parents buying a bar of Pu-erh upon the birth of a child, and selling it at an inflated rate when the child reaches adulthood.  

Monkey-Picked Oolong Tea (looseleaf)
We passed around a bar of compressed Pu-erh and appreciated its design.  Each tea leaf was brought out in its post-steeped stage, so we could see how it unfurled.  The discussion was wide-ranging and in-depth, covering manufacturing, tea types, history, blends, decaffeination, how to buy and store tea, and ideal length of steepage. 

Warm Scones and Clotted Cream with Jam and Chocolate Mousse Cups
The dessert was heaven!  My next trip to Chado will not be for the tasting, but for high tea, which comes with many more tea sandwiches and pastries. And to top it all off, our server demonstrated a blossoming tea, a tied ball of tea that unfurled when steeped to great effect in a clear glass teapot.  I brought home a small bag of the blossoming "Peach Fairies" and a bit of strawberry-flavored Alice's Wonder Tea.  My strawberry tea lattes have been sending me happily to night-time dreamland since.

Peach Fairies

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