Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Black Dragon Tea Bar: Featured Tea Blog

It has been some time since I featured a tea blog. Today's featured blog is Black Dragon Tea Bar, a Seattle-based blog run by Brett Boynton, who, together with Virginia Wright, or Cinnabar, of Gongfu Girl, runs the small tea company Phoenix Tea.

The name of this blog is a clear reference to Oolong tea, Chinese 烏龍茶 or 乌龙茶, Pinyin wūlóng chá, which is literally translated as "Black Dragon Tea". The blog does have a lot of material on oolongs, but it is much broader.

What do I like about this blog?

  • Breadth and diversity of topics - There are surprisingly many tea blogs written by people with a lot of deep knowledge and experience with tea and Chinese tea culture. What makes this particular blog stand out is its breadth, focusing at times on the tea itself, on the process of drinking it, but on other times covering tea production, or even tangential topics like tea seed oil (not the same as tea tree oil; this one is actually made from the tea plant).
  • First-hand accounts from regions of tea productions - Brett Travels to regions of tea production, particularly, Taiwan. Not only are the direct travel accounts interesting on their own, but the fact that Brett travels makes me more likely to trust his knowledge of tea production and the teas themselves, especially from the regions in which he has traveled.
  • Brett is clearly an experimenter - I noticed this pretty quickly when I started reading this blog, and it is one of the aspects of the blog that keeps me seriously engaged with it. A couple recent examples of Brett's experimenting include a side-by-side cupping of broken-leaf Wenshan Baozhong, and a roasting experiment involving 2006 rou gui oolong. I love both the desire to experiment with elements of tea production or aging like roasting, and the practice of side-by-side comparisons, which allow for more objective gathering of information than comparing teas to memory.
  • Brett is a gardener and writes about it - Not only does Brett garden, he grows the tea plant in Seattle, and he also shares interesting tidbits from his other gardening adventures on his blog. And like me, he gets excited when vegetables overwinter in his garden! I especially recommend reading Brett's accounts of growing the tea plant, such as this may 2009 report explaining something about production and the more recent July 2012 report of an attempt at making oolong. Yet another thing I love about this blog!

Urban herbs:

One last thing I want to draw attention to about this blog is the Urban Herbs series, which relates both to Brett's broad interest in plants and gardening, and experience of tea and herbal infusions. Brett has set out to locate various herbs growing wild in the urban environment, and steep them as herbal teas.

I find this fascinating, both because I also share a desire to steep and drink infusions of various herbs other than the tea plant, and experience them with a richness similar to that of tea itself, and also because I love experiencing wild-harvested food and herbs, as I find it helps one to learn more about and become more connected to the local ecosystems.

Here is the entirety of the series, so far:

There's a lot to love about this blog, so I recommend checking it out, whether you're interested in oolong, tea production in Taiwan, tea culture in the US, growing tea in your own back yard, harvesting wild herbs in an urban environment, or (like me), all of the above!