Friday, January 30, 2009

Special for Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is one of our favorite seasons here at the teahouse and this year we have some special items to simplify your holiday shopping. New for 2009 and a real hit with customers are our Blossoming Flower Tea Gift Packs, a unique East-Meets-West way to give flowers and drink tea all at once! We packaged three beautiful hand-tied blossoming teas in an elegant, traditional Chinese hong bao (lucky red envelope). Each type of tea has a different style hong bao; give just one envelope or a collection of all four (there’s a discount if you buy the whole set). Choose from Dancing Blossom, Valentine Rose, Lychee Blossom, or Flower of Prosperity. If you haven’t seen this type of tea before, it makes a spectacular presentation, as each hand-tied “bud” blossoms into a miniature bouquet in your cup. Especially beautiful when brewed in a glass teapot. More details on the web site.

Of course there’s nothing more romantic than roses, so what better way to say I love you than with our Rose Tea Sampler? This collection contains an ounce each of three of our most popular rose teas—Rose Garden Dragonwell, Valentine Rose, and Imperial White Peony and Rose Petals. The Sampler comes gift packaged.

And if you like roses you and your Valentine will love the February special in our San Francisco and Berkeley teahouses. All month long we’re serving a special combination of Valentine Rose tea along with Ciao Bella’s lucious Rose Petal Champagne sorbetto. We choose all the menu items in our teahouses with care, and Ciao Bella’s premium gelato and sorbetto products meet our high standards for flavor and quality. Stop by one of the teahouses on the 14th or any day in February and indulge in this special seasonal treat!

Finally, Valentine’s Day is the time celebrate the sensual side of life, so you won’t want to miss our newest item, the Imperial Tea Bath. The Tea Bath has its origins in Chinese history. Over 1,000 years ago Princess Yang Yu Huan was the mistress of Tang Dynasty Emperor Tang Ming Huang. Her beauty has been documented in many history books; her smile was said to topple cities. She took meticulous care of herself by bathing regularly in tea picked from the highest peaks, believing that high-grown tea absorbs the essence of Yin (moon) and Yang (sun). The Emperor described seeing her emerge from a tea bath as one of the greatest natural beauties under heaven! Now you can share the Princess's immortal beauty secret. Our Imperial Tea Bath sachet contains the finest natural herbs and premium green tea that will soothe, relax, refresh, and rejuvenate. Try one any time you want to feel like a Princess! Available in a gift package of two sachets.

Chinese painting of Princess Yang Yu Huan emerging from her bath (from the Long Corridor at the Summer Palace, Beijing)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Roy Fong Discusses Imperial Tea Court

Last year, in the wake of the difficult decision to close Imperial Tea Court's original Chinatown teahouse, our teamaster, Roy Fong, took some time to reminisce about the "bird guys" who used to visit the teahouse on weekends, how he began learning about tea, friends he's made through tea, his upcoming book, and some memories from the early days of the business. Although the conversation occurred in the noisy environment of the Ferry Building teahouse, we captured it in an audio file we wanted to share. Have a listen.

New Tea for the New Year

We're kicking off 2009 and the Year of the Ox with new editions of two of our most popular oolongs, Monkey-Picked Tie Guan Yin and Imperial Green Oolong.


For this year's edition of our most selective, Imperial-grade green oolong we sourced from Taiwan's famed Da Yu Ling region, at an altitude of 2,500 meters. The altitude produces a gentle but insistent intensity and trademark sweetness with delightful floral undernotes that we believe make our 2008 winter harvest edition something special for green oolong fans. Tea lovers the world over prize the beautiful jade color of the large, lightly fermented stemmed leaves, tightly hand rolled to help release enzymes that enhance flavor. Because the leaves grow in harsh, constantly changing weather conditions at high altitude, this winter oolong is packed with essential oils and nutrients, yielding a wonderfully thick, chewy texture to the greenish-golden brew that balances perfectly with this tea's more subdued florals and powerful “cha qi” that ensures a long, pleasing finish.


The new Monkey-Picked Tie Guan Yin—hand-fired, as always, by Imperial Tea Court’s Teamaster Roy Fong—has greater complexity and more pronounced flowers than comparable teas in recent years. This year's edition produces a reddish-gold liquor that's very rare among contemporary teas of this variety. Sourced from the steep cliffs of China’s Anxi county in Fujian province, this is a thoroughly traditional tea featuring the time-honored highly “fermented” leaf style and a rich, roasted flavor with mature florals reminiscent of lilac that come forward as the brew cools (for a preview, slurp the beautifully clear, reddish-gold broth vigorously from your cup). Although it's no longer picked by monkeys, our Monkey-Picked Tie Guan Yin respects China's long history of tea culture in every way and is an outstanding example of the teamaker's art. We're honored to present an oolong made the way it was meant to be.


Rounding out the new arrivals, good news for those who appreciate the intense florals of high-quality jasmine-scented tea. Yin Hao Jasmine, Silver Needle Jasmine, and Everyday Jasmine are back in stock with fresh versions from the latest harvest! Stop by one of our teahouses soon to inspect the new teas in person, or order with confidence online, knowing that we select, pack, and ship every order with the same care we'd use if it were going to mom!

Welcome to Camellia Sinensis, Imperial Tea Court's New Blog!

We've been wanting to start a blog for some time now, to improve communication with you, share more of our experiences in the tea world, and most importantly, to open a new channel where you can interact with us...and with each other! We call the blog Camellia Sinensis, the Latin name of the tea plant, in honor of this extraordinary specimen whose leaves have a remarkable ability to bestow pleasure, relaxation, and good health on those who partake of their brew.

At Imperial Tea Court we may be all about traditional Chinese tea and teaware, but when it comes to staying in touch, we look to the future, not the past. So stay tuned, before long we'll be showing up on Twitter, Facebook, and other Web 2.0 venues. It's one of our resolutions for 2009 and the Year of the Ox!

We're excited about some of the new teas we'll be introducing in the coming year, and we're planning some fun live events in our teahouses. Subscribe to the RSS feed or check back often for details. And please leave your questions and comments. We love to hear from you!