Welcoming Chinese New Year & Chinese Tea 101
A warm welcome to Chinese New Year through the appreciation of Chinese tea
Chinese New Year is on February 3rd this year and I’m super excited for all the food… and festivities! Aberdeen Centre will be hosting a Chinese New Year fair starting this Friday Jan. 28 – Feb. 3, so it might be a nice weekend activity to check out. For more details see here. I was invited on behalf of Tourism Richmond to do a tour around Aberdeen Centre in early celebration of Chinese New Year.
It’s fun to play tourist, but I am local and I am quite familiar with what Aberdeen has to offer. However I haven’t explored much further than the restaurants and food court so it was nice to be introduced to this place! Welcome to Ten Fu Tea & Ginseng. What warmer way to welcome the Chinese New Year then to start off with a cup of Chinese tea?
I always pass by it but since I’m not a Chinese tea connoisseur I’ve never actually gone inside it… also the word “ginseng” usually makes me turn the other direction because I haven’t developed the palate to appreciate it’s “unique” flavour quite yet. I tend to lean more towards Western style teas, but at the same time teas need to match the food you’re having as well as the mood you’re in. Chinese New Year means Chinese food which means Chinese tea.
Ten Fu Tea & Ginseng is a tea shop in Aberdeen Centre specializing in Chinese teas and varieties and prices range from high to low. They actually have more than a thousand locations throughout Asia and North America and 2 locations in Metro Vancouver (one on Main Street in Chinatown, Vancouver, and the other here at Aberdeen Centre in Richmond). They have the largest tea museum in China and even have a tea college there where students learn about the planting and processing of teas. It kind of reminds me of my visit to the mini Kopi Museum (Coffee museum) I went to in Singapore – see here.
They have a formal tea room set up in the back for I’m not sure what kind of purposes. It’s not a restaurant, but I’m guessing it’s for aesthetic purposes, or customers looking to sample the really high end teas, or VIP treatment for special occasions and guests.
Chinese Tea 101
I’ve experienced a couple tea tastings in Asia, but I haven’t really done a formal one like this in Metro Vancouver yet, and what better place to do it that than in Richmond. How much closer to Asia or Chinese culture can I get?
I learned a lot about teas and it really did give me a greater appreciation for the techniques that go into serving Chinese tea. Like did you know a good tea never steeps longer than a minute? If you did know then you probably didn’t find my comment too interesting, so let’s pretend you didn’t.
On this occasion we were sampling gourmet teas, so you definitely want to do it right. Think about it like expensive wine, you don’t want to open a bottle of $100 wine without the proper technique.
The choice of teapot needs to be matched with the type of tea you are preparing. Porcelain or glass teapots have no pores so those are good for green teas, while clay or ceramic teapots are better for darker stronger teas since the pot can absorb flavours as it retains heat.
The temperature and the time a tea steeps are also a factors in determining how tea should be properly enjoyed. However the length of time it steeps can vary depending on personal tastes. Of course the longer it steeps the stronger the flavour and eventually the more bitter it will get.
The tea needs to be prepared in small batches and the leaves need to be shaken. This allows the leaves or flowers to slowly open and develop its aroma and flavours. The teapot and teacups also need to be warmed up before serving. It was quite a process, but they would be more than happy to show you the basics so you can enjoy it properly at home.
The sampling of their teas is open to the public and it’s complimentary as part of their service. This isn’t the only Chinese tea shop in Metro Vancouver or even in Aberdeen Centre, and I’m not sure how they compare with prices, but Ten Fu Tea & Ginseng probably does offer one of the best selections. So if you’re curious about the Chinese tea scene I encourage you to do your own research and explore around.
On the table:
- Box $49.50
- Prince Ali, ali-a-she, aliababwa! Did you get that? Those are lyrics from the Walt Disney Aladdin soundtrack! Damn it, I just googled the lyrics and they’re actually “Prince Ali, FABULOUS HE, Aliababwa! Aw… “fabulous he” doesn’t work as well as my “ali-a-she” for my introduction to this Alishan Tea!
- Alishan Oolong Tea is actually celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
- $49.50 is not cheap for a box of tea, but it’s because of its premium quality that a little of the tea leaves go a long way and this box will last you much longer.
- It’s not really floral and it’s more like green tea but stronger and richer. It’s almost nutty and it hits the back of your palate with a slight bitterness.
- It’s earthy and the leaves themselves are mini dried clumps of leaves, and it was incredible to see them unfold so much as they steeped.
- It’s an excellent Oolong tea. It’s obviously better than restaurant tea, but I can’t appreciate its value as much since Oolong is not a variety I would particularly choose.
- I think this was $118, but you can buy smaller portions of it and the price will vary depending on weight.
- Jasmine tea is still a type of green tea, but it’s infused with Jasmine flowers so the flavour is more floral and mild.
- If you like Jasmine tea than this one is probably going to be one of the best Jasmine teas you’ve ever had.
- The smell of it was incredible and I felt like I was lost in a Jasmine flower field.
- The green tea leaves and Jasmine flowers are tightly wrapped into these intensely flavoured miniature bulbs which are called spheres.
- I really love this rolling technique because it actually makes for the most well flavoured teas. The rolling method helps to release the oils in the leaves and makes it extra flavourful. These spheres expand a significant amount as they’re steeped.
- The aroma and taste is extremely fragrant and although considered a milder tea it was strong in flavour and slightly sweet on the tip of your tongue. It was almost honey like and I felt like I was drinking liquefied daisies or pollen centres. The flavour lingers and the moment is to be savoured.
- I liked this one much better brewed longer because the flavour actually got sweeter and surprisingly not more bitter.
We enjoyed some candies and snacks after our tea… well from left to right I actually gradually enjoyed them less because the two at the end were Ginseng candies… ick… I still feel like I’m eating tree branches when I have Ginseng. Definitely a flavour that comes with age… like bitter melon. Ick! Please check out my post tomorrow Part 2: Chinese Candy 101 – it’s a good one!!