In continuation of my earlier post, here are some pictures taken inside the museum that reflect the tea beauty, culture and history.
One of the main attractions for tea lovers in Hong Kong is the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware. It is located in the island on the Hong Kong Park.
From the museum official website we have the following information: “Built in the 1840s, Flagstaff House originally served as the office and residence of the Commander of the British Forces in Hong Kong. It was converted to the Museum of Tea Ware in 1984, with a new wing, The K.S. Lo Gallery, added in 1995. Alongside its exhibitions, the Museum holds regular demonstrations, tea gatherings and lecture programs to promote ceramic art and Chinese tea drinking culture”.
The best way to get to the museum is through the metro (MTR) Admiralty station stop. On the Admiralty station take the 1C exit, turn right and follow the signs to the Hong Kong Park.
On the entrance of the museum there are small samples of tea to show color, shape and texture; utensils for tea brewing and tea serving. Since the building was a house/office it contains many rooms in two floors.
One of the rooms is for the children play. It has Tea Toys made out of wood. The idea is to start the tea education of the children early, as a play.
What I call Instant Matcha is the fine powdered tea that is ready to be used and can be bought in bulk or in individual packages. The tea mixes very quickly with hot or cold water, milk or other types of foods.
Matcha is made by grinding whole Camellia sinensis tea leaves (except the stems and veins). The tea plants for Matcha are shade grown for at least three weeks before leaves are rharvested. The pure leaves have additional properties, flavor and aroma.
The Instant Matcha is also available in individual packages for convenience. The packages are beautiful, made with aluminum foil to avoid contamination and oxidation.
The Matcha can be enjoyed as cold or hot tea, but also be used with milk, ice cream, candies, chocolate, pastries, cookies, etc. I will post more pictures in the next blogs.
The traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony with Matcha is very complex, artistic and ritualistic.
These teapots for Turkish tea always called my attention during the breakfasts in Istanbul. On the top it contains 11 teapots that are kept hot and has two faucets with hot water on the bottom. Each teapot has about one liter capacity.
The Turkish tea on the teapots is usually very strong and is diluted with hot water from one of the two faucets to each personal taste. It is common to have half tulip with water and half with tea. According to my calculations this machine has the capacity to make about 200 Turkish tulips of black tea. Need more tea? there is a box with at least 10 different types of teabags in a box in front of the machine.
After several Espressos during the day my friend invited me to have a teacup in our favorite coffee shop. Black tea with some dolci...
We got English Breakfast Tea; my surprise was to find a cotton muslin teabag filled with tea inside the package. The teabag was manufactured by La Via Del Tè (The Tea Road) in Firenze (Florence).
The cotton and silk teabags were the original types of teabags that have been used in decades since the 1900’s and now are mostly replaced by paper or thermoplastic teabags.
The tea brews instantly since the cotton muslin is very open and allows excellent tea infusion.
This tea brewing efficiency is one of the best I have experienced. After removing the teabag several pieces of lint from the cotton teabag were floating on the surface of the tea. The lint was removed with a teaspoon.
It was an interesting experience to come back to the origins of the teabags. The tea was very good on taste and made a bright moment on a rainy winter afternoon in Vicenza.
Herbal tea blends are very popular in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The packages are usually transparent to observe the components and may contain ten or more small packages inside. These blends may or not contain tea. Seeds, fruits, leaves, flowers and rock sugar are very common. The packages are very attractive, colorful and are for short term storage; the tea blends must be used freshly for the best flavor and aroma. The teas can be enjoyed hot or cold.
The use of rock sugar (solid sugar) has the advantage of the slow dissolution; on the beginning the tea is not so sweet and will get sweeter as is being enjoyed. When refills of water are made the rock sugar continues to dissolve and tea continues to be sweet for longer time.This eliminates the need of keep adding sugar in each refill. The color of the rock sugar varies from transparent to dark brown, depending on the amount of refining.
When I lived in China was fascinated with the beauty of the tea cups, particularly the Oolong cups. Tiny, elegant and nicely crafted. The typical setup is one tall cup and one small cup in a little tray. I was always asking to my Chinese friend: why the two cups? why the two cups? My friend would not answer me. After going to more tea shops my friend one day said: the tall cup is for the man and the short cup for the woman. OK, interesting story.
Later I was able to go to a tea shop in Macau and had the Oolong Gongfu tea ceremony, where I learned that the tall cup is the scent (or sniffing) cup and the small cup is the drinking cup. With time I understood that my Chinese friend didn’t want to loose face by saying “I don’t know” and used his creativity to give an answer. It is like saying: “a wrong answer is better than no answer”.
The lavender, also called Lavandula tea is a very fragrant and aromatic tea, made with lavender flowers. It is usually mixed with green, black or other herbal teas. As the tea is prepared by adding the boiling water to the flowers a nice fragrance can be perceived in the whole room; it is one of the most fragrant teas. One or two teaspoons per cup of boiling water are sufficient to prepare a tea.
When used alone as lavender tea it is slightly bitter, for this reason usually honey and lemon is added. When lemon (or other acid fruit juice) is added the color changes from pale yellow to pink as is illustrated below. This tea can be enjoyed hot or cold. It is a great summer tea! The pictures below are from a tea package I bought in Taiwan, where the use is very common.
The common lavender species is called Lavandula angustifolia, also called English lavender. Most probably the name lavender comes from the Latin lavāre, of lavō, to wash. In the old days the lavender flowers infusions were added to the water to wash the clothes to give a scent. The word lavender and its variations is used in many languages (e.g. French: lavande; German: lavandel; Spanish: lavanda). In Portuguese lavender is called alfazema, a word with Arabian origin.
Chrysanthemum, is very popular floral tea in Asia. The first time I enjoyed this tea was in China then had many times in Taichung, Taiwan. Hangzhou in China is very famous for the production and use. The Chrysanthemum tea can be enjoyed hot or cold. Many times it is sweetened with honey or rock sugar.
The name Chrysanthemum in Greek means yellow golden flower (chrys+anthemon). There are many types of Chrysanthemum flowers; here I describe the most common tea used in Asia. The petals are light yellow and the multiple carpels are intense yellow.
The dry yellow flowers are very delicate and have distinct floral fragrance. The flowers must be handled and stored properly to avoid damage and oxidation. Usually the flowers are good for a year from the date of packaging. After this time they start to reduce the smell and the petals are released. The color changes from yellow to light brown.
To brew the tea, a small amount of flowers (about 10 to 20) are put in a medium teapot and washed briefly with water at 85-90° C (185-194° F). Then tea can brewed with water at 85-90° C. After 2-3 minutes of infusion the tea can be filtered, served in teacups and enjoyed. Sugar or honey can be added to the teapot in small quantities before adding the water. The teapot can be replenished three or more times; it is a tea that has good replenishment characteristics.
The tea has a distinct floral smell and taste is very subtle, it is naturally sweet, refreshing and relaxing. This tea is caffeine free. It can be enjoyed hot or cold as an all day tea or during meals.
The brewed flowers are so nice that we can enjoy the beauty of the pictures.
Recently in Turkey my friends Kemal and Zek gave me a nice gift set of Turkish tulips. The tulips and plates are hand painted with gold and have a pretty nice design, still maintaining the traditional tulip shape and transparency to visualize the Turkish Tea.
On a trip from Izmir to Istanbul we had the opportunity to stop in Balikesir. After dinner we had the tea served in the new tulips and enjoyed hosmerim (cheese pudding), a nice traditional dessert from the area.
That moment of sharing tea with friends is what makes the tea flow beyond the glasses. It is a fluid sharing pipe of peace.
The tea time as recorded in this picture goes beyond the taste, smell and colors. An old saying “the amphora always keep the smell of the first wine” might be true also for the tulips and tea. The smell of the first tea in Balikesir will always be in the tulips.