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Floating Leaves Tea

January 24, 2008


Yesterday evening we had some spare time between appointments so we went to Floating Leaves Tea in Ballard – 2213 NW Market St, Suite 100. I had been there once before but had not ever sat down to tea in the shop. After very little deliberation, we decided on the Baojhong Second Place oolong, served gongfu style, with gaiwan, tasting and aroma cups. The tea itself was really wonderful, with a very satisfying and lingering note of lilac. As with any of the nicer green oolongs we’ve had, the third infusion was the most delicious and aromatic, as the tea reached maximum fullness. Floating Leaves’ description:

Second Choice Baozhong Oolong Top quality Baozhong tea from Pinglin in Taiwan’s famous Wenshan region. This tea was awarded 2nd prize in Pinglin’s regional semi-annual Baozhong tea competition. Prized for its fragrance, Baozhong offers a light refreshing flavor and a big aroma.

One of the notable things about Floating Leaves’ serving method for gongfu is that they bring a large ceramic water kettle to the table which sits on top of a ceramic stand with an denatured alcohol burner inside it. This maintains the temperature of the water close to boiling, perfect for as many infusions as each tea yields. I began to imagine the many possibilities of gongfu tea services without the restrictions of proximity to electrical outlets and have begun a search for one of my own. The tea kettle in the photo below is a very similar style, available through this Taiwanese ceramics retailer.

Ceramic Tea Kettle

In one of those special experiences that brings me back to a place like Floating Leaves, Shiuwen Tai, one of the two proprietors, showed us a map of Taiwan and pointed out the Baozhong region where the tea we had just had was grown. We had decided that we were going to purchase a couple of ounces of it, but took the recommendation of some Baozhong Farmer’s Choice instead as the Second Choice was a little more money than we were prepared to spend. I have been enjoying the Farmer’s Choice throughout the day today and have found it quite pleasant.

I like the atmosphere of Floating Leaves Tea. It has an air of authenticity about it, free from the Western dilettantism that many other tea shops reek of. I found it a little jarring to hear Indonesian Gamelan music in the background, but the place is mostly a cohesive mélange of Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese teawares, teas and artwork. It is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the Ballard area of Seattle.

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