A cup of tea is a cup of peace. ~Soshitsu Sen XV
I love tea and there is no denying it! I can spend hours chatting and drinking pots of tea with friends however I am currently drinking pots of tea as I pack up my flat. As my time is nearing an end in Hong Kong, I wanted to experience something new and through my research I found MingCha tea workshop.
In Japan, I had the opportunity to experience the traditional ritual of preparing and serving of Japanese green tea, matcha at a Japanese tea ceremony. Whisking the tea, the hand movements and gestures it was truly art in motion. While in Taiwan, I experienced the rolling of the oolong tea leaves into a small balls and sipped cups of tea as a storm rolled over Maoking mountain. Tea is a ritual, a comfort, a feeling of a warm hug and the health benefits are great. However, I hadn’t experienced or learnt anything about Chinese tea.
On a wet, humid Hong Kong morning, I took the MTR to Tai Koo not far from Central station on the ‘Blue Line’. I was greeted by Tomoko from MingCha and a group of eager tea drinkers. MingCha was founded by fine artist, tea master and entrepreneur Vivian Mak and she is the heart and soul behind this wonderful tea house. We started our tea journey by learning about they created a Jasmine Blossom in Fuding, Fujian, China.
We then placed our Jasmine bead into a martini glass (for full effect) gently poured water, which had a temperature of 85 degrees over it and let the tea seep. Over a period of five to six minutes the flower began to open up and the aroma was divine.
We talked about the heath benefit of Jasmine Blossoms and how Green tea is the base for this tea. Jasmine tea (green tea) is cool and relaxing for our bodies and has many antioxidant properties as it fights bacteria, lowers blood pressure, aids in circulation and stress relief. I personally can not drink a lot of Jasmine tea, I find it a little over powering especially if the tea has seeped too long. When then moved on to the White Peony Supreme tea from Zhenghe-Fuding area, Northern Fujian, China. This tea is brewed in a Gaiwan, ‘Gai’ means Lid and ‘Wan’ means bowl, Gaiwan was invented during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). It is suitable for any type of tea and it is used in conjunction with ‘Gong Dao Bei’ meaning Fair Pot, a fair pot is used to distribute the tea evenly into the cups.
Firstly, warm the Gaiwan with water, then pour it away into the fair pot. Scoop and place about 3g of tea leaves into the Gaiwan. To ‘wake up’ the tea leaves pour hot water in a circular motion into the Gaiwan and cover with the lid. Then, quickly pour the water away into the fair pot. Next, fill the Gaiwan with hot water and again, cover with the lid. Brew the tea for 1 minute. While the tea is brewing, warm the tea cups with water from the fair pot, then pour water away. Carefully, decant all of the tea (every last drop) from the Gaiwan into the fair pot. Keeping the tea leaves inside for the next brew. Once decanted, pour the tea into the small cups. Much like when drinking wine its appropriate to ‘slurp your tea’ as your mouth will experience the full flavour and aroma. White Peony Supreme tea is perfectly paired with dark chocolate and all meals as it is a neutral tea.
Using a Gaiwan again we prepared our next tea, Pheonix Osmanthus an oolong tea from Wudong, Phoenix Mountain, Chao An County, Guangdong, China (not far from Hong Kong) and personally one of my favourites. It is a longer tea leaf and they say it is shaped like a ‘Black Dragon’, as it is long and twisted. This time we practised brewing and serving our tea for each other. This tea was my favourite of the day, a rose colour with a fruity aroma and a peach/mango taste. Like green tea, this tea is best poured with water at 85 degrees. This fruity tea is neutral tea and natural diuretic, it lowers blood cholesterol and is a relaxing tea which can be enjoyed in the morning.
One of our final teas we sampled was the Teguanyin Classic (Monkey Picked) oolong tea from Western Anxi, Fujian, China. This tea is a warming tea, with earthy udertones, the health benefits of this again helps lower blood pressure, aids digestion, cleanses your lungs and liver and is a very good tea for Hong Kongers to drink. Teguanyin Classic tea is paired excellently with honey either served on toast or biscuit. The tea and the honey balance each other, Yin and Yang. I enjoyed this tea however the longer it was brewed the stronger earthy flavour developed.
I have to admit I have learnt a lot about the process of tea making, which truly is an art form and its not just as simple as throwing hot water into a pot and to let your tea brew. It is important to look at your tea and whatis the suitable temperature range for it. For example, Jasmine and green tea the water temperature should be 80 -85 degrees, White teas 85 – 90 degrees, Red teas 95 degrees, Oolong Pheonix 85-90 degrees (served in a Gaiwan, serving in a pot temperatures are different again). The infusion process is important with the first infusion lasting for only one minute and for each 3g of tea and in a Gaiwan, you will have five infusions per 3g.
This is is by far one of the most interesting activities I have taken part in during my seven years in Hong Kong. They have a range of activities such as Tea Tastings, Tea Workshops, Tea for kids (A great holiday activity) and the ever so popular Tea Paring Workshops. There is a delicious list of paring tea with chocolate, pastries, ham, dinner, flowers and yes even cheese! Vivian Mak is a wonderfully creative soul who has mastered the art of tea and especially the creativity to pair it will food.
I highly recommend that you add this to list of things to see and experience in Hong Kong.