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.
So you are getting to know your “potential” audience…..that is good and will pay off in the future!
Eh, it’s not the most important thing right now, but it would nice later on down the line.
Awesome post, Geoff! I’m so glad you were there, and that you enjoyed yourself. Major extra points for facing down the dangers of highway driving in a downpour. 🙂 (Great pics, too!)
Thanks for hosting. Wishing you all successful world dominion in the future. 🙂
Sounds like a fun and interesting event. I didn’t know you were up some stairs @teachange aka David Galli. For some reason I thought you were on the first floor.
Geoff, are you sure they really all knew each other? Sometimes it’s easy to think everyone is very close at a party, when in fact they’re not really, just good at making small talk : )
The pics are great, thanks.
The majority of them new each other. I would say a good two-thirds of the attendees were otherwise acquainted. That was quite a surprise to me. I hadn’t realized I’d neglected my local tea networking so much.
@jackie — Yup, we’re upstairs from a couple of great restaurants in a really cool, old(er) building.
@lazyliteratus — Fear not; I’m planning to organize many a tea-network-expanding event. 🙂
For example, on November 10th, we’re doing this: http://www.meetup.com/PortlandTea/events/89146302/
@teachange – I’ll ready my helmet.
Local tea networking? An interesting idea.
How would you develop it?
@xavier? Not sure I understand your question. Geoff is talking about the local tea networking that is going on already, which is why most of those people knew each other, but Geoff didn’t. So, he doesn’t need to develop it, it’s already there. Whether he acts on it, and has swapped numbers, emails, blog links etc. with these folks I don’t know. Have you Geoff?
I…didn’t do as good a job at it as I should’ve. I was – strangely enough – in wallflower mode, sipping to myself for half of it. Just soaking it all in.
I was thinking about the idea of a local tea networking not about the development of it and I thought it could be an interesting post.
@Xavier – I’ll leave that topic to you. Seems well within your niche.
@lazyliteratus Not really. It is more how you get in touch, what they bring you, how you develop it…
Sounds like you had amazing time aside from the trip there. Seems David knows how to through a party too. 🙂 I hope I get an opportunity to make it there myself. I have a feeling it would be amazing fun.
David does know how to throw a party…which is good. Someone in Portland has to. I hate party-planning.
@iheartteas & @lazyliteratus — Thanks, you two!
I hope you do make it out here, R. C. We could definitely drink some serious cups of tea!