More Tea

Walker and Ray were both visiting their respective families last weekend, so on Sunday we went to SF for a meandering adventure.

We went to New Asia for a quick Dim Sum fix (we apparently missed Kung Pao Kosher Comedy by a single day- Jewish stand-up in a Chinese restaurant on Xmas!), and then walked to Imperial Tea Court for a tea tasting… However, they were closed for some reason (December the 26th).

The other location is at the Ferry Building, halfway across town, so we walked back along Grant. On the way, we got some gelato at a place staffed entirely by little teenaged girls watching Mariah Carey videos on a giant flatscreen TV, right across the intersection from Big Al’s (the sex toy shop). Also on the way, we picked up some Chinese pastries from the bakery on Grant (Notice a trend here?). I ordered my pi2dan1 sao which I seem to be addicted to recently…

At Imperial Tea Court, we ordered the gongfu presentation of a very nice puerh tea, which means it was served in yixing cups and pots and rinsing bowls.

The cups are made of a special porous ceramic which is for the most part unglazed… the cups take on the character of all the tea that has ever been brewed in them, so you have to be careful to never have a weaker tea in a stronger cup, etc.

The puerh tea is a super-fermented tea with a strong earthy flavor. It’s really good, and its flavor actually changes character with each successive infusion.

The presentation was very elaborate and beautiful, with a number of rinsing steps with each serving. Just as in a wine tasting, we were invited to sniff the freshly-rinsed tea. We were geeking out, trying to memorize the exact sequence of moves our server was executing so as to brew the successive infusions properly. It was very cool.

After we drank about 5 infusions, we ate our pastries we had brought in, and then ordered MORE tea, this time a simple gaiwan of a white tea.

Mmmmm drugs.


  • pi2dan1sao? = 皮蛋 [??] – a flaky pastry filled with a sweet lotus seed paste, candied fruit, and preserved duck egg. Mmmm! Still no idea what the third character is!
  • gongfu = 功夫 – “practice,” in this case a specific tea preparation. Either I have the characters totally wrong, or this is the same character as “kung fu,” like the martial art.
  • puerh = 普洱 – a type of specially-aged tea
  • yixing = 宜兴 – a region in China known for its earthenware
  • gaiwan = 蓋碗 – a type of lidded porcelain teacup, where the lid is used to filter the loose tea