There was a brief moment, in 2002 or so, when Eight Treasure Tea (Ba Bao Cha) was all the rage in Beijing. It seemed like all of a sudden every restaurant with notions of grandeur had the Long Pots and young men to wield them. It was a beautiful fad. In honor of this, the following post has been broken down into eight sections.
1) Eight Treasure Tea: It seems best to start with a description of the eponymous tea. Eight Treasure Tea is described as a health tonic, but unlike most of Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is delicious. The eight treasures vary, but they are, in broad strokes:
Green tea, dried chrysanthemum flowers, goji berries, dried Chinese red dates, dried dragon eye (longan), licorice root, ginseng, dried fruit, rock sugar.
In the Beijing of my youth, the really fun thing about the tea, aside from the fact that it came with sugar (a rarity), is that waiters filled our cups from three feet away with what in Chinese is called a "Long Pot". This is literally the best picture of a long pot on the internet:
This style of tea preparation is called Gongfu (Kung Fu), which is confusing because that term is also used to describe tea preparation with small tea pot and tea tray, often for oolong or pu-erh teas. Our yixing teapot would be perfect for the later kind of Gongfu preparation, less so for the former.
Here's a video that shows how fun it was.
I actually own one of these pots, but I am nowhere near ago good as this guy.
2) I don't know how I'm just coming to this party, but the China History Podcast is amazing! And they're doing a 10 part series on this history of tea in China, which is also amazing. Highlight from the first episode: Wuyuan County, where much of our tea comes from, is the home of the oldest tea market on record in China. Lazlo is 8 episodes in, so you'd better start now!
3) This post on Serious Eats is great, and portends good things to come from what looks like a series. I'm drooling over the stoneware gaiwan used in the photography.
4) I don't know how I've lived this long without owning a Teasmade — the original tea-making alarm clock from the UK. The history is fascinating, as is the fact that they seem to have fallen out of style.This video about Sheridan Parsons and her collection is great, and makes me want one even more.
For more: this seems like the definitive site about them, maintained, naturally, by Parsons.
5) Our tea is now being served at Seoul Kitchen in Westford MA. Everything about them is fabulous.
6) Hunter White spent his winter break in Taiwan, drinking tea, getting lost, and getting featured on a roving gameshow with the EDA Rhinos. He was in the right shirt at the right time! We're *really* looking forward to the video.
7) Tea eggs (Cha Ye Dan) are a (Lunar) New Year treat for some people and a year round treat for others (like your's truly). This recipe from Saveur adds a couple things you might not necessarily need, but it produces exceptionally tasty tea eggs.
8) An oldie but a goodie -- from the Onion on the subject a certain Area Man:
"Instead of simply heating a mug of water in the microwave, Baumer used a hoity-toity copper-bottomed tea kettle, which His Lordship reportedly purchased at Pier One Imports in 2003 for the express purpose of tea-making."— Martin C