On January 30th, The Republic of Tea brought Roy Fong to our store to teach a tea class for employees. He sources their higher quality teas, including the ones that were offered exclusively to us.
I was like a kid before Christmas all day, waiting for the class to start.
Roy Fong was great. He was friendly, funny, and humble, quiet; he kept to himself before the class started. But mostly he was a Tea Guy, not unlike my fellow tea bloggers and tea chatters and myself. Throughout the class he was asked the same questions we are all asked, "What do you think about tea bags?" and "How do you feel about sweeteners?" and what not. He answered how most of us do: However you like your tea is great; there is no "right" way. But how 'bout you keep that nonsense away from my tea.
The class was only an hour and a half. He talked at first about the history of tea, its evolution from the Tang to Song to the Ming Dynasties. In the Song Dynasty, tea in China was not at all unlike Matcha, a carefully produced tea powder that was whisked in a bowl. It was the Ming Dynasty that brought us the full leaf tea we enjoy now. What I didn't know was that this change was brought about by the first Ming emperor, who was a peasant. He felt China had had enough of this pretentious, powdered poppycock, and it was time to move on to something else, something less wasteful.
Other tid bits I learned were from listening to how he pronounced certain words. He said yixing with a y instead of ee-shing, and long jing was long ching.
He also talked about different ways of tasting tea, holding the tea in your mout and dipping the tip of your tounge in it, or touching the tip of your tounge to the roof of your mouth then sipping tea. The idea being to expose different taste buds in different ways.
It was such a blast to just watch him. This was the first time I was able to have tea with another Tea Guy. I tried to absorb as much as I could. He was so casual, reaching into tins and picking out handfuls of tea.
We only had time for four of the six teas he brought.
The leaves smelled more fruity than nutty. He brewed it gong fu style and mixed the first and second infusions into a sharing pitcher. The tea itself was light, fruity then vegetal, had ubiquitous elements I seem to taste in almost every Chinese green tea I try.
This one suprised me. The leaves had notes of sugar of all things. He used hotter water than I do, 200 degrees. The tea was grasy, and there was something different, something I couldn't place; I only had a little tasting cup. My last sip I thought "milk."
It smelled like Jasmine. It tasted like Jasmine.
Sheng Puerh (Menghai?)
This was the last tea he did, and I'm glad he got to it. It was one of the teas that started it all. Roy must brew this better than I do, better than Bill did, and better than Curtis, the TRoT rep who sold it to us, because it didn't suck. That or its a different sheng pu.
There was a hint of camphor in the dry leaves. The tea was cooling, mild, pleasant, light; he purposely brewed it light, and I couldn't tell if further steepings would reveal the thoroughly harsh pu that I had previously encountered.
I did get to snag a picture of the wraping. Unfortunately I don't speak puerh wrapper. Can someone finally tell me what this tea is?
As I said, Roy was great. Republic of Tea on the other hand hasn't changed. After the class I spoke with the Minister of Education, and asked her why they were packaging a Formosan oolong as Wuyi. She said that was "interesting" and that she "would get back to me on that." Then she walked away to find someone else to talk to.
I will leave you with a short video of Roy talking about rinsing and gong fu.