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I embarked on my tea journey when I studied abroad in China in 2008 and traveled around Taiwan that summer. I'm here to share my experiences and offer my own opinion, advice, and comments on tea.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Tea Party

I recently had the opportunity to brew tea for some UCLA students on behalf of UCLA Natural Complementary & Alternative Medicine student group, as part of a tea presentation in which Imen of Tea Habitat was the speaker and presenter. Will had asked me earlier if I wanted to volunteer, knowing very well that I'm not too confident with my brewing skills. Eager for an opportunity to discipline myself in the nuances of gong fu cha, I accepted. Luckily I had the chance to practice the weekend prior in a young sheng fest. The fact that my fellow tea heads, especially the pu-erh expert himself Jason Fasi, approved of the tea I brewed boosted my confidence a bit.

I was so focused on the act of brewing tea that I totally forgot about the other aspect of a tea tasting: the conversation! Esoteric and random tea facts shot out of my mouth, as if my mind's filter on the mouth broke. A simple question such as "what is the best tea that you've tasted" lead to a very precise and detailed description of the aging process, which then led to the story of Da Hong Pao's name. I only hope that the participants didn't think I was a madman.

At least I looked graceful brewing tea

An important lesson I learned from this event though was the importance of pacing/timing in a tea tasting, especially when there's a time limit. Since I'm usually drinking alone I take many infusions with a tea, and I did the same that night, not realizing that I was working with a time limit and a number of teas to go through. How many infusions to go through a tea before moving on? Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I was the last person brewing, but I was relieved that a fair number of drinkers actually sat through the whole thing.

my pig cha chong was a huge hit with the ladies ... and a good conversation piece!

Thinking back, and confirmed by the photos of the event ... my table seemed to be dominated by Asian girls! Especially in comparison to the other tables. I don't know if they gravitated towards me since I must brew better than the others since I'm Asian (definitely not true) or if thought my tea set-up cute. Unfortunately, I felt that I made some assumptions in what I talked about, since I assumed that they've had oolong before. In some ways though my group being mostly female helped a bit, since I feel more "natural" talking to the opposite sex. I kept the conversation light and made a few jokes here or there, including some at the expense of a particular girl who always wanted seconds, pictured below to my left

One person I thought was pretty interesting was a guy who was sitting directly across from me. He did the "finger tap" whenever I poured tea, and he picked up the differences in quality from tea to tea. All in all, I had fun brewing and would do it again if I had the opportunity.

ack, a tea faux pax ... having the guests pour the tea.

To be fair, I only had them pour amongst themselves just so I could use the time prepping the next tea.