Monday, 5 March 2012

tea drunk at Laifufu

Back in the middle of December of 2010, I excitedly wrote about Oolong Nirvana on the next street over. I knew it was something special. Not only was the tea exquisite, but the way the tea shop was being run was impressive. So how do I explain how rarely I go there?

Pei-Jen Müller-Lierheim is an Oolong tea seller, who's clearly passionate about her specialty. She travels regularly back to Taiwan for the freshest most delicious Taiwanese Oolong. She has other tea in her shop and is happy to sell you a Darjeeling or Earl Grey, but I've not even mentioned those teas when I'm there. It'd be somehow unseemly. I'll get to more of that later.

Here's the thing: a friend that I'd only known online (through Tea Trade, no less) was coming to Munich, and the first place that came to mind was Laifufu. Here's what Ya-Ya had to say about our tea session there: Looking for tea in Munich? He does a nice job of going through the line-up of tea we had, so please click on the link and see his take on it.

Rather than writing out the particular tea names on a notepad, I chose to mention each one on twitter as we drank it. Here's how it all got underway:

Drinking high-mountain Oolong at a Taiwanese shop (Lai fu fu) with friends I met through @teatrade.

— @lahikmajoe March 3, 2012

Started with a Jinxuan Oolong & now going more highly-oxidised...

— @lahikmajoe March 3, 2012

And now a Wenshan Pauchung. Much different...I doubt Mao would've liked this one @larwe.

— @lahikmajoe March 3, 2012

We had a nice Tie Guan Yin & have moved on to a Taiwanese black tea called Mi xing.

— @lahikmajoe March 3, 2012

Enough tea drinking...time to take the dogs to the park.

— @lahikmajoe March 3, 2012

Now, I'd like to say a few things about the tea we were drinking, but then I want to make a personal appeal that you support your local tea establishment.

The Jin Xuan Oolong was lightly-oxidised and the leaves smelled quite floral as you'd expect. The still-warm snifter smelled the same, but Ya-Ya noticed that as it cooled it smelled like coconut. This cooled cup scent was only noticeable after one infusion, but it was very strong. This first Oolong didn't last particularly long, but then she broke out the top-shelf stuff. It was a lightly-oxidised Oolong, but this time it was a Bao Zhong Oolong from 1978. That's right - a tea that's been stored for thirty-four years. It was so smooth and silky going down. From my perspective, it was somehow like a mix between an Oolong with a hint of Pu-erh. And the cups kept coming and coming.

While we were drinking it, Pei-Jen offhandedly mentioned that her daily tea was typically a more highly-oxidised Oolong. We politely steered the conversation more toward that. We wanted to know more about exactly what she meant when she said 'more highly-oxidised Oolong'. That's where the Tie Guan Yin came in, and here's where I fear I might've offended her. Not a lot, but a bit.

I'd never seen a Tie Guan Yin whose leaves looked and smelled so similar to a high quality Darjeeling. It was such an eerie similarity that I said exactly that. As the words came out of my mouth, she nearly recoiled in horror. As if I'd disparaged her exquisite tea. Now, I'm sure she'd assure you that she has nothing against high mountain Indian tea, but I saw that look in her eyes.

Finally, we had the Taiwanese black tea, and I have to say this was the perfect way to wrap things up. The 'Mi' in Mi xing apparently means honey in Chinese, so I was not at all surprised for there to be a honey-dripped sweetness to this delectable tea. By this point, we were all hopelessly tea drunk.

The friends that Ya-Ya had invited along had been, up to then, less than impressed with other local tea shop choices, so they were quite complimentary. The nicest thing about that is that they're locals...up until now my tea drinking community has been mostly on-line. It looks like if I do a tea tasting at mine, or plan to go tea drinking with friends in the city that Michael and Emily might become regular partakers. I certainly hope so.

Because Ya-Ya is a tea seller, and we talked with Pei-Jen about her shop specifically and the tea business in general, there was quite a bit of philosophical discussion about what circumstances make a tea shop/tearoom  succeed. The saddest thing for an owner who sees happy customers leave his shop is when they don't come back to the shop for months or even years at a time. I can say how much I love my local tearoom all I want, but if I want that place to have a shot at succeeding, I need to at least go there and talk about it. It's so obvious that under normal circumstances I'd not even mention it.

But here's a shop I truly love. I delight in knowing that Pei-Jen is around the corner with exquisite top-shelf Oolongs. So why aren't I going there more often? It's an excellent question.

You're going to hear me talking more about this shop and other local Munich tea-related places. And if you're coming to Bavaria and want to experience some above-average tea, let me know. Just be prepared to get tea drunk.