Hillary Rodham Clinton, the current Secretary of State, was in the Bay Area last week conducting fundraisers, and stopped off in San Francisco to meet Mayor Ed Lee at Red Blossom Tea Co. in Chinatown. They enjoyed a tea tasting with tea shop owner Alice Luong, and Secretary Clinton purchased a cup of tea to take with her, and some loose tea as well. According to Luong, Clinton “asked quite a lot of questions” about technical aspects of tea brewing, like proper water temperature, and seemed to be a regular tea drinker who prefers “stronger, darker tea.”
Red Blossom Tea Company is one of several tea shops in San Francisco’s Chinatown along Grant Avenue, which offer informal tea tastings for free, as well as more formal tastings, like the one Clinton and Lee enjoyed, for a fee. The shop is a traditional Chinese tea shop, with lots of wood tones, red and black in the decor. The company specializes in fine oolongs and other rare teas; I tasted a few teas when I was there several years ago with friends, and purchased their Orange Blossom Phoenix Oolong.
Red Blossom Tea’s Orange Blossom Phoenix Oolong is a green oolong, which means that it is oxidized for a relatively
short time, to about 25%, before being fired and dried for sale. Grown on the Phoenix Mountain in Guangdong Province, this tea is known as a Dan Cong, or “Single Grove” tea. The teas from this region are known for their fragrance, which imitates that of various fruits and flowers. It has a freshness to the aroma and flavor that is reminiscent of freshly cut green grass, but does not have the sharp herbal scent that some “grassy” Japanese green teas, like matcha, have. It also has a lovely note of orange blossom in the scent and taste, which is due to the area where it is grown, the age of the tea plants, and from its short oxidation time, which leaves most of the “green-ness” in the tea leaves.
Oolong teas are delicate, and need to be brewed carefully. Red Blossom Tea Company recommends using the gaiwan method, with very short — about 1 minute — brewing times, and repeated infusions. Over time, its flavor mellows and it loses some of its fresh aroma, but gains some deeper, earthier notes, which are delicious.
Going on a tea-tasting jaunt through San Francisco’s Chinatown is a fun, inexpensive way to spend a day, for celebrities like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ed Lee, and for the rest of us!
Red Blossom Tea Company
831 Grant Avenue
San Francisco, California 94108
Phone: (415) 395-0868
Fax: (415) 362-8877
Copyright 2015, Elizabeth Urbach.
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For more information:
“Hillary Clinton in Chinatown; Spirituality at Stanford” from the SF Chronicle
“Where to buy Chinese tea in the San Jose area”
“Tea-tasting San Jose area day trips: San Francisco’s Chinatown”
“Review: Vital Tea Leaf Angel green tea and Siberian Rose tisane”
“Japanese tea from San Jose’s Japantown”
“How to prepare matcha tea”
“What you need to make a good pot of hot tea”
“Tea 101: How to brew a pot of hot tea using loose tea”
“An overview of Chinese teas available in San Jose”
“Chinese oolong tea in San Jose”
“Celebrate Chinese New Year with dim sum and tea!”
“Review: Orange Blossom 100% White Tea from The Republic of Tea”
“What are the different kinds of green tea available in San Jose?”
“All about tisanes, or ‘herbal teas’”