Discovering the Portland Tea Community
The weather was piss-poor on Saturday. It wasn’t the kind of day where anyone would want to go anywhere. However, there was one event I absolutely could not miss out on – crappy weather or no. Tea friend, David Galli, was finally having the Grand Opening for his Portland Tea Enthusiasts’ Alliance sipping space. This might be the new hub of the Portland tea community, there was no way on Earth or Hades I was going to miss.
Sidenote: It surprises me that – even living in one of the rainiest states in the Union – Oregonians actually forget how to drive in it. I ran into no less than three accidents on the highway to PDX Tea HQ. One was a sideswiped hybrid that was literally blocking the entire exit…sideways. I had to squeeze my way around the dented hippie-mobile just to enter Southeast Portland. Okay, rant over.
I arrived rather early. Dave and co. were still setting up the space for the incoming crowd. It gave me ample time to look around at everything. PDX Tea HQ was shaping up to be an orthodox tea nerd’s paradise. People began arriving shortly after the official start-time. Some were familiar faces to me, but most were not.
That gave me quite a shock. Apparently, there is a Portland tea community of sorts, and I had been unaware of it. There were a whole slew of folks that new each other from different groups, classes, vendorships, workshops, and correspondences. The realization reminded me that I was living in a proverbial puerh cave of hermitism. There it was, the Portland tea community.
David was the perfect, casual host for the group. Weaving in and out of conversations and anecdotes with moderate finesse – like a tweed-vest-clad tea ninja or something. Whenever he had an announcement to make, he was able to grab attention without too much trouble. (Whereas I would’ve been shouting like a carnival barker.)
Among the first teas put up for palate perusal was a Yunnan white made from the “wild arbor” varietal. I had tried pu-erhs from that particular leaf, but never a white from it. Taste-wise, it was like a more feathery and grassy Dian Hong. The sucker lasted almost five infusions without losing strength.
The second on the docket was a green tea from the New Century Tea Gallery in Seattle. The family that owns it also operates their own tea garden in China. That alone was instantly fascinating. The tea itself reminded me quite a bit of a Mao Feng or a better-tasting Clouds & Mist green. High marks.
Thirdly, another green tea was brought out. This one I knew next to nothing about. Apparently, it was a green tea – simply dubbed “Zen Tea” – imparted to David by tea sommelier, Becky Lee. I wasn’t too familiar with its origins, but David did mention that it was grown and prepared in a monastery. Visions of Trappist monks filled my head. It was one of the more delectable green teas I’d ever tried – both sweet, floral, light and mildly fruity.
I mingled as best I could, but that was never my strong suit. Beyond talking blog-shop with a few folks here and there, I spent most of my time simply marveling at how connected these local tea drinkers were. It was quite a sight to behold, and David wove them all together like some sort of pu-erh-drunk puppet master. Unfortunately, I had to leave early.
But I left sated, caffeinated, and meditated.