The T Project Grand Opening – Teashop Adventure Week
Several months ago, I stopped through Northeast Portland to stay a spell at Tea Bar. And it was . . . crowded. As a self-professed introvert, I don’t do well in crowds. If I’m with peers, I mind them less. But if alone, crowds feel suffocating. While I was happy that Tea Bar was doing well, the sheer volume beautiful twentysomethings enjoying their lattes was panic-inducing to my olden heart. My plan was to grab my usual Lapsang Latte and go.
Then, toward the back, I saw a familiar face – Mizuba Tea’s Lauren Purvis was conversing with someone. Someone I knew! I thought. And I bee-lined for them . . . totally not thinking that I was interrupting a professional conversation . . . which I was.
The woman Lauren was speaking with was Teri Gelber, a soon-to-be teashop owner.
I had never heard of the new op, and I usually had a pretty good bead on the pulse of Portland’s tea scene, but I’d been hermitic of late – admittedly. Before parting ways, I exchanged information with Teri, and told her to keep me up to date on her progress. I’ll admit, I promptly forgot about it. I suck at networking.
Fast-forward to early June, and I received an e-mail and a notice from Teri about her shop’s pre-opening party. The shop in question was to be called T Project, located in Portland’s trendy Pearl District.
While her focus was primarily themed blends, she was also going to be carrying matcha and matcha brewing tools – hence her conversation with Lauren. The grand opening was the 12th of that month, but prior to that, there was an invite-only opening gala of sorts. For press and other “important” types. To date, I’d only attended . . . no teashop grand openings. None. At all. Huh, how surprising.
I RSVP’d, responded to Teri’s e-mail, and awaited the day. June 11th rolled around, and I got there early. Highly unlike me. Lauren was already setting up in the brewing corner. I did what I always did, said “Hi” without much regard to my surroundings.
The shop itself possessed a beautiful interior. There was a wooden counter/brewing station to the back left, quaint seating past that, and various teaware on display throughout. The collection of matcha bowls (chawan), in the seating area, was particularly enticing. Lauren’s own brother, Austin Danson, had one of his homemade bowls on display.
In short order, though, as the time for the actual party rolled around, other guests started to arrive. Make that, a lot of guests. Within mere minutes, the place was . . . crowded.
Luckily, there were folks in attendance that I knew, including fellow Portlandian tea blogger, Steph W. of Steph’s Cup of Tea. I lasted, maybe, another hour after that, though In the interim, I was able to acquire two of Teri’s blends for peaceful sipping – sans crowds – Golden Years and I Feel Love. The first was a Yunnan black tea blended with chrysanthemums; the other was an Indian black tea blend with herbs, and scented with bergamot. (The latter had me at “bergamot”.)
Golden Years was a unique looking blend. Simple in execution, yet complex in aromatic delivery. The Yunnan Dian Hong used as the base contributed an earthy and malty foundation for the gently floral presence that came in the after-whiff. The snow chrysanthemum bulbs used for the blend were small, gold, and contributed a subtle yet stubborn scent that added to the experience.
For brewing, I approached this with a light touch – one teaspoon in a standard gaiwan filled with boiled water, steeped for three minutes.
The result was typically copper liquor with . . . the single burliest floral scent I’ve ever come across. It was like I was sniffing the musk of a ‘roided flower after its daily cross-training routine. Not a bad scent, just very strong. The taste was equally as manly. The Dian Hong – to my shock – did not take point on first sip. The snow chrysanthemum floral beatdown came first, followed by the black tea’s earthy astringency. This was like having tea time with a retired boxer . . . or with Bee Arthur . . . and I’m strangely okay either of those scenarios.
(Blogger’s note: It would seem – at the time of this writing – Golden Years has been changed to not include chrysanthemums. Just straight Yunnan black tea. Still a great tea, though.)
The optimistically titled “I Feel Love” was one of the busier blends I’ve had in years. It contained an unknown mix of Indian black teas as the base and was rounded out by orange peel, lemon myrtle, lemon verbena, roses, lavender and bergamot oil. The result was a hearty-seeming black tea in theory, but the blended pieces were small and didn’t overpower the base. The aroma was also mostly pleasant, alternating between the various spectra of citrus. (Lavender was thankfully muted.)
There came a morning when I had a craving for bergamot anything, and I gave this a brew-up. I went with a standard Western approach – boiled water, 1 tsp. of leaves in a 6oz. gaiwan and a three-minute steep. I could tell this was Assam-heavy, so I chose to lighten it up a li’l bit.
The liquor brewed bold copper (as expected) with a strangely black tea heavy aroma. I say “strangely” because a lot of busier blends lead with the herbal scents first. This was a malty miasma followed by a citrus back-whiff – very welcome. The opposite was true for the taste. The introduction was all citrus, followed by black tea tannins, and ending on a floral note. Lavender – again – was thankfully understated.
Just from those two examples, I’d say T Project is off to a pretty decent start. I wish Teri all the success in the world. Yes, even . . . *sigh * . . . the crowds.