Tea tasting equipment at Red Blossom Tea Company in San Francisco. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
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. Continue reading
San Francisco International Tea Festival banner from 2012. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
The 3rd Annual San Francisco International Tea Festival is scheduled for Sunday, November 16 at 10 a.m. Held at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, the festival is a gathering of tea vendors other related business owners, along with tea scholars and tea drinkers from all over California. The festival website reads: “Discover teas straight from local and global producers, Free swag bag includes your very own teacup to savor tea market offerings, Taste hundreds of different types of tea, Connect with five of the biggest names in tea, Learn how each cup of tea can be a different experience, Enjoy a meal and shopping in the Historic Ferry Building Marketplace, Live music by local artists.”
The event features an exhibit hall where the industry participants offer free samples of some of their tea products, along with tea, tea books, and tea equipment for sale. There are formal tea tastings and educational lectures from tea experts like the Imperial Tea Court’s Roy Fong, and popular tea and food author and speaker James Norwood Pratt. Well-known local tea brands are represented among the vendors, including Harney & Sons, Ito En, and The Republic of Tea. The teas that are featured are high-quality, almost all loose-leaf, with a focus on unflavored teas, and tea as a beverage, rather than “Tea” as a social event.
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the 16th; admission is $25 per person, which gets you into the main exhibit hall, and perhaps into the lectures, although the formal tea tastings are first-come-first-served and cost $5 each. Tickets can be purchased from the festival website, and may also be available at the door on the day of the festival. Each attendee also receives a gift bag with more tea samples from the vendors, a special tea tasting cup to use at the festival, and contact information for all the vendors at the festival.