Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Extreme Gong Fu

Our Fair Trade event to promote Fair Trade Certification was this past weekend. I wish I could say it was a wonderful success, but with vendors not showing up, product not being delivered, and employees calling in sick, the event as a whole never picked up momentum. I do appreciate the vendors from Beantree, What's Brewing, and World of Good who did participate and help us out.

Even though things didn't turn out like I planned, I had a lot of fun. I of course demo-ed tea. I chose Rishi's Ancient Tree Teas and African Rooibos. The thing about trying to demo tea is I only know how to brew tea in small amounts, 5-8 oz at a time, not entirely suitable for serving tea to hundreds of people. I suppose I could have found a way to brew a large quantity of tea and stand there with a carafe and a smile on my face, but where is the fun in that?

I felt gong fu was the way to go. Not only did I hope to draw people in by showing them something they hadn't seen before, but it was also quite practical. Short steeping times meant I could still brew tea in small amounts, while still ensuring that there would always be tea available for sampling. Using multiple gaiwans gave me flexibility to move between teas and offer a variety, and if one tea in particular wasn't exciting anyone, dump the leaves, rinse, and move on.

This also meant that I brewed tea non-stop for four consecutive hours.

Tiring? yes indeed, but it was also rewarding. It was like having spent months studying for an exam, then acing the test. I had been practicing gong fu at home for quite a while with the aid of a digital scale and a timer, but this weekend that wasn't an option. I had to use The Force and feel my way through it, eye-balling how much tea to use, guessing by color and aroma how much I should increase the brewing time from one steeping to the next, and trying to keep it all straight in my head while brewing three different teas simultaneously. Blending the various infusions into a sharing pitcher helped, I think, with the end result.

And the customers were fun. It was a pleasure to serve what was for most of them their first puerh. After the first day I settled on Puerh Maiden and the Jamaican Red Bush, a shupu and a fruity rooibos blend, as the two best sellers. These two are on opposite ends of the flavor spectrum, so it was kind of cool to see which one a customer would respond to. I am pleased that even though the rooibos was the over all favorite, I sold just as much of the puerh.

My favorite question was, "Why doesn't my Celestial Seasons taste this good?"

My favorite pronunciation of rooibos was, "Roo-bee-us."

My best moment, a gaiwan in each hand; I was kind of proud of that.

My stupidest moment, scalding my tongue with tea after the first hour. I couldn't taste anything for two days.


Salsero said...

So cool! Maybe next time you could get volunteers from TeaChat to come over and help you out.

Bill said...

awwh man, That sounds like so much fun!!!