About three years ago I discovered a lovely China Keemun at the Perennial Tea Room in Seattle: Red Peach Keemun. Keemun is one of my favorite black teas and the one I drink most frequently; it is smooth and tasty (sometimes smoky, sometimes fruity) and has the unusual trait of being delicious both cold and hot. By this I mean not just that it makes delicious iced tea (which it does), but that when I leave the perfectly brewed cup sitting out while I wander off doing something else, my cold cup of tea still tastes sweet rather than going bitter when I come back to it. Darjeelings and Assams just aren’t forgiving this way; if you forget, you might as well throw out the cup.
So, Red Peach Keemun is a full star above regular Keemuns – like a movie that has a good script but then has an outstanding cast and a great cinematographer to boot. I am thinking it is probably four times as expensive as a regular Keemun, but its delicious flavor has made me indifferent (as when you are getting fifty cups from a quarter pound of tea the cost per cup seems to vanish). I haven’t found any place in London that sells it, so imagine my horror when I attempted to get some from my regular supplier and discovered they were out!
Well, one thing led to another and I discovered they were buying from Silk Road Teas. Their minimum order is rather a bit higher than Perennial (it may have gone down, I can’t tell on the website, but last summer it was $50), but since I wanted a pound of Red Peach Keemun, I had nothing to worry about. Then it was a question of what else do I want to order, and, my, the options were amazing.
Most exciting to me were their “Marketplace Specials” – teas they had found outstanding and were offering on discount. I’d never heard of most (any!) of them before. And then there was the Phoenix Bird Collection – a selection of oolongs with a description that left my mouth watering. Mmmm! I’m afraid I might have ordered rather a lot, but every time I’ve opened one of their well-sealed packages, it’s been like Christmas in … whatever month it is.
Anyway, it’s been almost a year since I placed my order with them, and I’m getting ready to restock … and I discover they have sent me a letter! It’s all about the tea harvest in China and mentions some more teas I have never heard of. I will post part of this letter in a few days when I am back home – it’s an exciting window into the world of tea and how Chinese weather has affected this year’s tea harvest.
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Karen Gardiner began her tea career in 2000 when she opened her first tea shop in Florida, Kindred Tea. Six years later she moved to New Mexico and past customers would reach out to her requesting to order their well-loved tea blends. This motivated her to open up an online tea shop, ArtfulTea, in 2007 so that she could continue to provide for her loyal customers and eventually newcomers. Today Karen is still sharing her passion for tea with every cup at her retail shop. When she’s not working at her tea shop, you might find her in her backyard, enjoying a form of meditation with a tea related landscape she created. At the tea table Karen discussed her daily tea rituals, her tea blending space and how she repurposed broken teacups and other fine china.