Welcome friends for another teatime! Since the monthly theme is “May Flowers,” for this week and next week not only am I going to share with you some lovely floral teas, but also some lovely floral locales… the Lan Su Chinese Garden and the Portland Japanese Garden, which I had the privilege of visiting last March in Portland, Oregon!
This week allow me to share with you the Lan Su Chinese Garden, which even has its own tea house, where my friend Todd and myself sampled a lovely flight of teas after a beautiful morning (the first sunny morning of our vacation!) exploring this lovely garden.
Todd was in a great mood before we even entered the garden, after getting a great laugh at the fact that the admissions poster listed adults as the same age as elders, hahaha!
After entering the garden into the Courtyard of Tranquility, there is a beautiful ornate building, the Hall of Brocade Clouds. Traditionally, this is where the family met and entertained guests, and it is designed to show off the family’s wealth and status in every direction in decor and view. It had a lovely view overlooking the koi pond terrace!
This is another interior view of the Hall of Brocade Clouds. I love the stone piece of artwork!
Stepping out onto the terrace, there is a beautiful view out over an absolutely huge koi pond! There is a small bridge with a pavilion, the Moon Locking Pavilion (it is said on a clear night you can see the reflection of the moon as a shimmering spotlight in the center of the pond, locked in by the pavilion’s shadow) suspended at the far side of the pond, and the structure beyond it is the Tower of Cosmic Reflections Teahouse.
There is also a great view of this building, the Painted Boat in Misty Rain. From inside this boat-shaped pavilion, you’re meant to feel as if you’re anchored on shore and being rocked gently by small waves.
Continuing back through the garden over a series of bridges, there is another pavilion, the Reflections in Clear Ripples. There are some gorgeous rocks on the way, called Lake Tai Rocks, which are formed underwater over the course of many decades, the acidic waters eroding the stones into unique, fantastic shapes. Some of the stones have kanji inscriptions. I love all the plants and flowers growing around the rocks… so beautiful!
Here is the same view after crossing the bridge, which shows the lovely tile roofing, the beautiful koi pond, and gives a lovely view straight back into the Courtyard of Tranquility, which has such an interesting doorway in the wall!
Here is an interior shot of the Reflections in Clear Ripples pavilion. Multiple generations live within the garden and its surrounding buildings, and this room, known as the lounge house, was used for gathering to listen to live music, painting, or playing games such as mahjong. Here is a beautiful family alter that really took my breath away.
Todd took this picture, and I really like it, as well. This garden is located right in the heart of the city, and it’s so interesting to see the “modern” busy city, steel and concrete, right outside the serene, quiet peace within these walls. There was just something… strange about the ornate window framing the city outside.
There is also a poster for the art exhibit that was going on at the time, “Lan Su in Bloom.” Most of the pavilion buildings had artworks from various artists featuring flowers or plants decorating the walls, and for a museum-lover like myself, it was a real treat to not only get to see this gorgeous garden — art itself! — but to get to enjoy the paintings, drawings, and mixed media works decorating the walls! What a great idea, to rotate local artworks! I’ll admit that was the inspiration for my Art in Bloom Photo Friday last week, since I’m carrying over the May Flowers theme there as well!
There were some beautiful inner gardens as we made our way to the next pavilion, the Scholar’s Study. I love those pillar-like rocks, placed right along the trees!
In the Scholar’s Courtyard were some beautiful trees, in full bloom! Does anyone know what flower this is? It’s gorgeous!
I do know this one, though… plum blossoms! The floral blooms lining the doorway were simply beautiful.
The Go board in the Scholar’s Study was gorgeous!
But I think I was even more impressed by the tea set!
This gorgeous wood carving is called Flowers Bathing in Spring Rain. It’s made of six panels and carved from gingko wood, illustrating actual gardens in Portand’s sister city in China, Suzhou. On the back of the fourth panel, in Chinese, is carved, “Most cherished in this mundane world is a place without traffic; truly in the midst of a city there can be mountain and forest.” Oddly enough, I feel like Todd’s photo of the city-through-the-window sort of reflects this poem.
At the back of the garden is a beautiful rock mountain and waterfall. The inscribed poem says, “Ten thousand ravines engulfed in deep clouds.”
And finally, we are at the Tower of Cosmic Reflections Teahouse. This is where Todd and I had our teatime on this beautiful day, with a lovely window view seeing right out into the garden!
Isn’t it gorgeous?
Inside this lovely building is The Tao of Tea, who serve many different teas and snacks. They also have many different bulk teas for sale. Their teas are also available for sale online from their website.
Todd and I decided to get a tea flight, so we could sample several different kinds of tea during our visit. Their tea flights include three different teas, and they offer flights for types of tea (black, green, oolong, white, and I believe there was a variety one, as well). I was a little disappointed they didn’t have a tea flight for their tea blend menu, since as we all know, blends are my favorite types of teas. We asked our waitress if it would be possible if we could get a flight using teas from their blends menu, and the she said she’d be happy to do so! I believe the tea flight was only $20, so just $10 per person. To get to sample three teas, I felt that was a pretty good deal!
The flight came out on a tray that had three saucers of different leaf, two small teacups with saucers, a steeping cup, a small pot to strain the tea into, a pot of hot water that was kept warm over a small candle (and refilled on occassion by the friendly wait-staff), and a large Chinese noodle bowl that was used to flush out the steeping cup of leaf between different tea brews.
Here our sweet Chinese waitress has already started our authentic tea experience by starting our first tea, which was Osmanthus Oolong. This tea is a green oolong infused with osmanthus flowers from the Phoenix Mountain area in China. To prepare the tea, she put the leaf into the white steeping pot and then covered it, and gave it a fairly short steep, and then, pulling the lid away just enough to let the liquid dribble from the top but not let any of the leaf out, she strained the tea into the ornate little blue-and-white ceramic teapot. From this pot, the tiny little Chinese tea cups are filled with the tea. The tea can be resteeped several times. As she said, “You must taste the tea several times. Get to know your tea, that is how you will get to be its friend.”
The Osmanthus Oolong steeped to a light yellow color. It had a very clean, sweet taste with a light floral finish and I quite enjoyed it! What I find fascinating about Oolong is that our Chinese waitress was quite right… the taste of it does change quite a bit from steep to steep, and I enjoyed the second flush more than the first! This was my first Oolong I’ve ever tried, but I’ve actually been on a bit of an Oolong kick of recent, and have found it quite interesting how I seem to always find I like the second steep more than the first, for every Oolong I’ve tried!
I’m really glad that she included an Oolong in this flight and got me started on Oolong teas!
To clear out the steeping pot to start our next tea, we were instructed to just add a bit of water to rinse and then dump it into a large noodle bowl. We were supplied with lots of hot water kept warm over a flame in this lovely cast-iron teapot.
I also had these fabulous pumpkin seeds covered in matcha as a teatime snack! Mmm!
The next two teas supplied in our flight were Ginger Peach and Rose Petal Black, both black teas. We decided to start with the Ginger Peach, which has organic black tea leaves, natural peach essence, organic ginger, and organic calendula petals. It’s the least “floral” of the bunch, but it does have calendula petals, so eh… I say it counts. ^_~
It brews into a bright orange color, and I have to say, this was a seriously delicious tea, and was the favorite of the flight for both Todd and myself! It had a lovely fruity flavor with just the right spicy finish, complimenting rather than overpowering. I felt both the peach and ginger flavors came out well in the tea.
Finally, we had the Rose Petal Black, which has Keemun black tea leaves, red rose petals native to Qimen county in China, and natural rose essence. A very Chinese black rose blend!
It steeped into more of a light red black tea… similar to the Padme tea I featured last week! It had a very floral smell, and a lovely floral taste as well! This was a very good choice for drinking while enjoying a garden coming into spring bloom… naturally sweet and refreshing! Though both it and Padme had a strong rose flavor, I’d say Padme is a bit more sweet, on account of having the cream flavor added to it.
In the end, our noodle bowl of discarded leaves was quite full! I turned to Todd and was like, “Can you imagine what that must taste like, all those leaves sitting in there together, some of them sitting in that water for nearly an hour while we’ve been sipping tea?”
And he was like, “I’ll totally try drinking some of it. It’s not like there’s any cilantro in there.”
And then I was like, “Well if you’re going to do it, then I have to do it.”
…Yes folks. We did it.
To be fair, it wasn’t that bad. The Osmanthus Oolong leaves had been in there the longest, and the water was colored thusly. It was kinda weak and… watery? Definitely very floral, though!
I would recommend any of these blends (though all of them mixed together… not so much, hahaha!), so check out The Tao of Tea if you are interested! They are available in loose leaf by the ounce for just $2-3 per ounce, which is a very reasonable price for such quality tea. I’ve been to many sites that was three times that amount for the same quality!
The Lan Su Chinese Garden is simply lovely, and the tea served there is fantastic! If you ever have a chance to visit I highly recommend it! Make sure to stop by next week to see (a far more drizzly) Portland Japanese Garden while I feature a lovely floral green tea!