Tea & Turkey Poll

The results of our poll are in with an almost neck-and-neck race between white, oolong, black and puerh preferences. Black tea did surge ahead in the last few days. With that in mind, we offer one suggestion for a holiday feast.

Our new Hong Yu (Red Jade) is plucked from a hybridized varietal between an assam and oolong with processing that delivers the darker intrigue of a Chinese Black tea that brews a deep red liquor along with characteristics of Wuyi oolongs.

Hong Yu - "Red Jade"

Your tea-loving guests are certain to be impressed with this memorable Tiawanese Tea.
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Imperial Tea Court's Tea Gift Guide

Our recent newsletter focused on some of the most popular holiday gifts for tea lovers. If you're not already subscribed, there's still time to shop using the "CelebrateWithTea" 10% discount coupon - good site-wide until December 31st.

Imperial Tea Court Newsletter

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Imperial Tea Court Holiday Gift Page

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Turkey & Tea

Now we're in the thick of the holiday season, what tea pairing would you suggest with roast turkey? We'll collect the data and publish recommendations in time to test out a few great teas for the holidays. 

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Imperial Tea Court's November Newsletter

  Highlights of Imperial Tea Court's 

View November's Newsletter
November's Featured Teas:
"CelebrateWithTea" Coupon:
We're still celebrating our new E-Store (and working a few bugs out of the system!!) Don't miss storewide (Online Only) 10% discount. Good until December 31, 2012.
Code = CelebrateWithTea  (Please copy the code and paste into the coupon box to ensure accuracy.

Logging In:
  • Returning Customers:  Your encrypted passwords were non-transferrable and that a new, unique password has been generated for your account. Please login with your email address and use "Forgot Password" to access your profile and restore your preferred password.
  • New Customers: You may establish a profile or decline and order anonymously.
  • For suggestions and concerns with the new site, contact:    webmaster@imperialtea.com
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San Francisco International Tea Festival - 2013
We are pleased to confirm the date of our 2nd Tea Festival -- Sunday, March 10, 2013. New details will be posted as soon as they become available. Images from our first festival are now posted on:  http://sfinternationalteafestival.com/  Please check back often for news and updates.

Tea House News:  Stay tuned for upcoming holiday gift ideas and a special one-on-one tea event with Roy. He will be offering his interpreation of Takada-San's Happy Tea Ceremony.
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Tea Trends in China -Ying De Jin Mo Hou

Working with Roy on the Imperial Tea Court website is a remarkable tea education. It seems that every day there's a new tea he's discovered or a blend he's working on. Selecting teas for ITC is not as simple as I expected.

With today's new found prosperity, China's tea lovers have also discovered a new tea fad -- Black Tea! However, today's black tea produced from China is a far cry from the black tea commonly enjoyed by the west for over a century. Today's Chinese black tea lovers look for a beautifully shaped leaf, western black tea drinkers often look for a good color cup as more important than leaf shape.

Western black tea drinkers often enjoy it with milk and sugar or paired with pastries while the new Chinese black tea admirers wants the tea to stand on its own without interfering the experience with other flavors. The new black tea is expected to produce multiple infusions as oppose to the standard English practice of boiling water for 5 minutes once. Two very different approaches that makes sense due to the intended usage of two very different culture. 
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L.A. Tea Festival

Roy teaches "All The Tea In China" at the L.A. Tea Festival.
More than a thousand attendees gathered at the Japanese American Museum in Downtown L.A. over the weekend (October 28 & 29)  to attend classes and enjoy non-stop tastings with the vendors.
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New Teas & New Media Plan

Three of Imperial Tea Court's finest teas are enjoying their star-status photo-op as this year's offerings arrive. I wanted to give you a peek behind the scenes as Naomi Wolf snaps shots for the website and newsletter during our most recent work and planning session at the tea warehouse earlier this week.

Walking into the warehouse is always a knock-out olfactory experience with the combined scent of more than three hundred teas stocked there. From every nook and cranny of the two-story building you smell the tea. Once inside for a few minutes, it's easy to get used to it and then start to focus on other things - like taking pictures and mapping out a plan for upcoming newsletters. But as soon as I walk outside for a minute and then return, I enjoy the same rush of senses. Hopefully, the pleasure of this experience will always be thrilling.

Naomi Wolf setting up her next tea photo.

Even though most of us know Naomi from ITC at The Ferry Building, SF, she also wields her camera to capture the essence of the teas for those of us who are not local. With a meticulous eye, she arranges the wet leaf and negotiates the best angle for the brew.

One of the things that impressed me about Naomi was her respect for the tea and her attention to the care of the leaf. Even at the end of a long day, she was observant and careful to pack the fragile green Dragonwell leaves that we might re-shoot in flat envelopes so they would remain whole. (A true tea person.)

Her work on the website and newsletter will include adding more shots of the restored leaf and the brewed liquor to expand the virtual experience of each tea. Soon you will see her work on more pages of the website with all three views of each tea; dry, wet and liquor. This enormous task begins with the featured ITC teas for each month. You'll be able to enjoy her pictures in the newsletter later this week. The rest of the images will be added gradually until each of the teas in the entire inventory are all beautifully represented.

These three teas are those being featured in the next Imperial Tea Court newsletter. Imperial Green, Bi Lou Chun and a new Imperial Yellow.  Just wait until you see Naomi's close-ups.

With a new team spirit, we sincerely hope to add to your knowledge of and enjoyment of these fine teas. I'm thrilled to be part of this process as we reach out with this blog, Facebook, Twitter, our newsletter and new website to serve you some truly fantastic tea experiences.

Babette Donaldson
(new contributor to the ITC Media Team)

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Lunch in LiJiang

Once again, I brought my aging body into LiJiang. My back is cramping up and I am aching for home. I am hoping LiJiang will perform its enlightening magic as always.

I dragged my luggage out of the terminal by shear willpower since all the luggage carts were taken. My back cramped up again as I saw the smiling face of my driver waving a large cart with my name in it. I gladly handed over my bags and everything just seem to get better!

The scenic ride from the airport to the famed Banyan Tree Hotel eased the pain and exhaustion. I arrived Banyan Tree and my friend Eden was waiting at the door with drink on hand (the kind that required you to be at least 21).
A view from my seat in LiJiang

Eden and I have a yearly ritual, he brings the wine and I bring the tea. We drink both and enjoy each others' company for a couple of days and we are doing it again this year in LiJiang. A couple of days in LiJiang with great wine and the 2012 edition of Lotus Heart. Could a man have too much fun in life?
Wine and tea in LiJiang

I am off to Taiwan for a final look see of this year's spring harvested High Mountain Oolongs and then I am coming home!

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Back in Beijing

After the tour group's departure back to the US, I visited my friend Mr. Yang, who has been fighting cancer for over 6 years. He continues to defy all medical predictions and is still fighting after the re-occurrence and spread of cancer.

We chatted about stuff in general and he promised to continue to fight and, one day, he will make it to my California tea farm to help me drink some of the teas that will eventually be growing there.

I left the hospital feeling sad and depressed. So I decided to eat my depression away by going to Da Zhai Mun (大宅门) for lunch.

Entrance to the Dai Zhai Mun Restaurant

This is a traditional Beijing Style restaurant that features great food and entertainment along with classical Beijing decor. I love the food so much that I send some to the hospital for Mr. Yang.

Interior of the Dai Zhai Mun Restaurant

After Beijing, I am off to Yunnan's LiJiang for a couple days of rest, and then its on to Taiwan for the high mountain Oolong harvest.

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High Mountain Tea In Wuyi Shan

Sometimes, I wondered why I am so hopelessly in love with tea. (Some would say shamelessly.) And then it's springtime again and my body itches to travel. Then I find myself again on the road to Wuyi Shan.
High mountain tea in Wuyi Shan.

This time, I have nine other people with me all excited to visit one of the remote tea farms. Then, the day before our two-hour hike to my favorite place on earth, I developed a back problem! Muscle spasms occurred whenever I took a deep breath or moved a certain way. Generally, spasms like these zap me whenever I don't expect it.
Wuyi tea farm

The day we were to make this pilgrimage began with pouring rain. Mr. Wang, my tea farmer calls at 6 AM to ask if I want to cancel. In between painful spasms I decided my group members would likely commit murder if I cancelled so I told him we are coming up, no matter what. I seriously didn't know how but I was going to tough this out no matter what.

Misty Wuyi Shan

Finally, after a painful bus ride, we were at the foot of the mountain and the rain stopped. We started hiking up the mountain and every question I ever had about why I am the way I am is being answered with each step I took. I once again forgot about pain and as I soldier on, a smile started to spread across my face. I practically ran by everyone and lead the way up the mountain. If you see these pictures, I am sure you'd understand why Wuyi Shan is such a magical place. . .

The smell of freshly fired Wuyi Yan Cha
Just finished tea being sorted for cupping

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Visiting An Old Village in Wuyi Shan

Once again, I led my group members into Wuyi Shan, one of the place most important tea destinations in my heart. It is also known as one of the thirty-six portals to immortality to ancient Taoist of China. When you navigate away from the mass of tourists pouring into Wuyi Shan for the usual destinations and visit the old neighborhoods of the city, you'll know why.

I have been coming to Wuyi Shan for a long time and this place never fails to move me in many different ways. Wuyi Shan is one of the reasons I can continue to try and improve as a tea person. If you ever wonder how I can continue to be so passionate about tea, all you've got to do is take a walk up to the tea farm with me.

My camera decided to take a break so I have borrowed images from other members of the group. We will report back again with more scenes of my favorite tea places in another post.

Hope you're enjoying the tour with us,

The Old Village of Wuyi Shan
A corner of the Old Village of Wuyi Shan.

Home in Old Wuyi Shan.

Workers taking the tea back to the factory.

Tea tasting in Old Wuyi Shan Village.

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Pan Firing Dragon Well

I gave the tour a demonstration of my pan firing abilities with fresh Dragon Well.
(click on the title to view the latest photos)

Roy Fong demonstrating pan firing fresh Dragon Well.

Roy's finished Dragon Well tea.

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Train Ride To Wuyi Shan

We arrived in Wuyi Shan after a five-hour train ride.  Private cabins made the trip very comfortable.

A few of the other members of the tour group joined me for gongfu tea and enjoyed looking out the window, watching at the beautiful landscape.

Its amazing how fast a few hours can flash by when you're drinking good tea!

Roy preparing gongfu tea on the train ride to Wuyi Shan.

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We left Hangzhou early in the morning and arrived Fuzhou at lunch time. We decided to get to the temple first and have an excellent vegetarian lunch before putting our bags down at the hotel.

Main Hall of Yong Quan Temple, Fuzhou

Restaurant at the temple

Vegetarian lunch at the temple

Young monks preparing for the ceremony

I've been visiting the Yong Quan Temple for years, the calming affect of the temple never fails to put me at ease. I've always feel that calm mind and relaxed body is essential to making good tea!

A dinner and a tea house demonstration is planned for this evening. I will report with more photos of tonight's tea tasting.

Tomorrow we will take a five hour train ride to one of my favorite destinations -- Wuyi Shan -- where group members will learn the in and outs of Oolong tea making first hand.
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Picking, processing and cupping tea in West Lake

Fresh tea picked by tour group in West Lake.

After the tour group rendezvoused in Shanghai, we got all the sightseeing out of the way with visits to the Bund – the famous waterfront destination along the western bank of the Huangpu River - and dinner at the famous, Xin Tien Di restaurant.

We moved on to Hangzhou the next morning by private coach, a comfortable three-hour drive, after which, we checked into the fives-star JW Marriot Hotel. We visited the famous Lin Yin Temple, had an authentic Hangzhou style dinner then decided to have tea at the incredibly crowded Wupanju Tea House on the West Lake. After drinking four different teas each and enjoying a marathon of tea snacks, we all agreed that we are prepared for today's main event -- tea picking at the West Lake.

Everyone the tour had a lot of fun picking tea for a few hours and then enjoyed a lunch at the farm. After that we went to the factory to make our own tea. Most of the tour members participated and the tea is not half bad! We produced enough teas (with help) to bring home an ounce each! All agreed that no one should lose their day job since they ain't going to make a living picking tea!

Pan frying the tour group's freshly picked tea.

After we thoroughly embarrassed ourselves, we moved on to the cupping room where my friend, Ms. Qian Xiao Ling, and I gave members pointers on cupping and how to determine good tea from bad.

Cupping lesson at the factory.

We retired to the hotel at around 9 pm exhausted but excited and happy.

We are scheduled for an early dragon boat ride around the West Lake tomorrow while enjoying our own tea, (literally produced with our own blood and sweat) while traditional musicians play classical music. After lunch we will visit the China Tea Museum and then pack our bags for Fuzhou.

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The 2012 China Tour Begins

On my whirlwind run through Taiwan, I sampled some of the early harvest Oolongs and found some interesting prospects. One of them is an Oolong from the famous Shan Lin Xi region. We have offered tea from this farm previously as our Imperial "Milky" Oolong. Obviously, this particular Oolong has a milk-like texture and aroma without added flavorings.

I left firing instructions and have just received the revised samples. After cupping tonight, I am very close to approving and acquiring it as an early harvested Oolong for 2012. I am still waiting for the later Harvested Fu Shao Shan regions, which typically harvest in May due to its higher altitude. I plan to visit there after leading this year's tea tour.

I took off early for the airport last night, fully intended to meet our group of tea touring adventurists in Shanghai in the early evening and to kick off the 2012 tea tour with a good dinner. However, after a seven-hour delay I missed the arrival of the group. It was not until later last night that I limped into the hotel.

Shanghai is nice and cool with no weather problems whatsoever! I hit the sack and woke up with renewed vigor -- ready to kick off the tea tour. I’ll report our progress as we go forward from this point. For breakfast, I am going to share some of the excellent Oolongs samples acquired from Taiwan.

Wish you were here . . .


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Tea Festival Success!

Well, Friends, the first ever San Francisco International Tea Festival has come and gone, and we could not have asked for a better experience. It was a bright, beautiful Saturday on the Bay, the Ferry Building was resplendent, the tea was delicious, and our guests were delightful. It is abundantly clear to us now, just how much California loves tea. Tickets sold out online several days before the event, and the turnout was so impressive, we almost had to turn away guests at the door. (Almost!) If you missed out on the fun, don't worry. We will most certainly be planning even bigger and better for next year.

Roy signs a copy of The Great Teas of China for a Festival guest.

Roy gives a lecture on Chinese Tea.

A rapt audience learns about the Gung Fu Tea ceremony.

A beautiful volunteer, dressed in traditional clothing, tosses good luck charms for festival guests.

Grace Fong and James Touzel greet customers at Imperial Tea Court's display booth.

All our exhibitors in one place!

A BIG Thank You to all our wonderful and generous volunteers. We could not have done it without you!
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2012 Tea Tour Finalized

Plans for Roy's 2012 Tea Tour to China are finalized!

The tour departs on April 16, 2012, and visits Shanghai, Hangzhou, Fuzhou, Wu Yi Shan, and Beijing, before returning on April 28.

Roy will lead guests into increasingly rare corners of China for an intimate and unparalleled perspective on the wisdom and tradition of tea culture. This year's tour will focus on oolong and green tea producing regions, as Roy leverages his nearly 30 years of expertise to bring you a first-hand, insider experience of tea the likes of are found nowhere else.

Tea-oriented destinations include three days in the Hangzhou region, where we'll pick and process green tea and enjoy the incomparable pleasure of drinking newly-made tea while drifting in a Dragon Boat on tranquil West Lake, relaxing as musicians play Chinese classical music.

Next the scene will shift to Fujian with a stopover in the capital, Fuzhou. Here, the tour will visit the province's premier Buddhist temple, Yongquan Si, where we will savor a vegetarian feast in the temple's fine restaurant. The trip climaxes in Wu Yi Shan, home of the renowned oolong varieties known as yan cha. We'll hike through tea fields and rice paddies to reach a rustic tea farm whose homestead incorporates a centuries-old temple. There we'll sip farm-fresh oolong tea by the bowl, and fortify ourselves with home-cooked meals of just-harvested ingredients, before climbing up to the tea fields to pick yan cha. Later we'll help bring our tea down the mountain to the processing facility, where Roy will give a tutorial in producing oolong.

Keep an eye on the blog throughout April for live updates from China.
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Are You Ready for the Year of the Dragon?

The Year of the Dragon starts January 23! Are you ready to eat dumplings, tangerines, noodles, and a whole fish? This delicious menu will start the year off right with abundant luck and long life. And of course a selection of fine Chinese tea - perhaps a puerh or Monkey-Picked Tie Guan Yin - to finish the meal. Chinese say that whatever you do on Chinese New Year, you'll do all year long. So tea lovers want to be sure to take the time to brew a great pot of tea and ensure a full year of excellent tea drinking.

The dragon is a potent symbol of China, so the Year of the Dragon is a special and often eventful time. Children born in dragon years, especially boys, are thought to be especially fortunate - so the year heralds a baby boom.

For Chinese, chun jie (Spring Festival), which we in the West know as Chinese New Year, is a happy, special time to eat good meals, wear new clothes, and visit friends and family. From all of us at Imperial Tea Court, xin nian kuai le (Happy New Year!)
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