Asian-Style Tea Experiences of the Northwest

Photo © Issha Marie

by Seth Friedman

In his poem “Seven Bowls of Tea,” Chinese Tang Dynasty poet Lu Tong (8th and 9th centuries), celebrates the many infusions (steepings) one can enjoy when brewing tea and also the serenity and contentment that frequently accompanies such relaxed tea sessions. While there is no guarantee that you will undergo a transcendent experience on the seventh cup as Lu Tong suggests, the Northwest does offer many access points to diverse Asian-style tea experiences with premium loose-leaf teas. Here are a few of the best to get you started on a journey of tea appreciation.

Tao of Tea: Portland, OR

Tao of Tea opened its first location, Original Tao, on Belmont Avenue in Portland, Oregon, in 1997. Founder Veerinder Chawla built the interior with black bamboo, old reclaimed wood, copper and stone. The teahouse includes a rock waterfall and soft lighting and provides thoughtful tea presentation using teaware that corresponds to the type of tea ordered. Tao of Tea’s second location is at the beautiful Lan Su Chinese Gardens. Throughout the year the tea house hosts calligraphy demonstrations, live traditional Chinese music and numerous tea-related classes and events.

Smacha: Bellevue, WA

After fifteen years of managing a wholesale tea business, Jason Chen opened Smacha in 2013. Chen is a true tea master, an inventor of a signature tea brewing implement, author of tea books and an owner of tea gardens. Smacha’s devotion to quality is apparent; the shop offers regular, limited-enrollment classes on various tea topics. Notable features of the tea house itself: a floor-to-ceiling waterfall and a large rosewood tea bar.

O5 Rare Tea Bar: Vancouver, B.C.

“O” stands for “obsession with origin” and it shows: owner Pedro Villalón travels the world, sourcing tea directly from family farms. With themed events almost every night, including classes on kombucha making, sake tastings, ikebana, rare tea nights and more, the educational offerings at 05 Rare Tea Bar are abundant. A matcha stone mill grinder is on display and is often used for demonstrations.

Great Horse Teas: Bellingham, WA

Andy Buckman opened this cozy tea shop at the end of 2013 in the Fairhaven neighborhood of Bellingham and provides exceptional teas and teawares from his sourcing visits to China. Great Horse Teas also offers tea tastings, tea classes and formal tea service.

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