Free tea tastings and education

Posted on September 11, 2008. Filed under: Cooking and Eating, Entertainment, Health & Beauty, Travel & Leisure | Tags: , , , , |

Yesterday, I wrote about going to the de Young museum in San Francisco with a friend of mine  last Sunday and how I received free general admission with my Bank of America card.  Kathryn and I were at the museum from about 1:00 pm – 3:30 pm. We weren’t ready to end our visit, so we decided to go get coffee. Kathryn suggested checking out Clement street which isn’t far from the museum or her apartment in the Inner Richmond district of San Francisco.

She had wanted to take me to a middle eastern grocery store where she buys some of her herbs and spices, but it was closed.  Instead, we browsed Good Will and then we stumbled upon a Chinese tea shop on 6th street just off Clement called the Aroma Tea Shop.

Budget Maven Tip: The owners have recently opened a second shop on Polk Street and if you mention their website, in honor of their Grand Opening, you can get a pot of tea for free (offer expiration unknown).

We entered the shop which was empty with the exception of the shop owner.  We were greeted warmly and sat down at the tea tasting bar.  The very knowledgeable proprietress started preparing and explaining about a variety of teas for us to sample, one after the other, for free.  We received quite an education about different kinds of teas, the medicinal and health benefits, the ingredients, and how to prepare the different kinds of teas.  We also received a printed reference sheet to take away.  Our tea expert also stressed the importance of the Chinese practice of rinsing your loose leaf tea with hot water before you make an infusion. This is to clean the tea, the way you would rinse rice or beans before you cook them, as well as to open up the leaves.

Other patrons soon arrived, and we got to sample even more teas, based on their questions and preferences. Lots of interesting conversation, the congenial atmosphere and all the free tea samples and advice, made it a really fun experience. It is truly surprising how teas can taste so different and how many varieties there are to be tasted.

Of course, we all had our favorites and made purchases. Kathryn bought the Blue People Oolong, a delicious, multidimensional mint and licorice flavored tea that is described as “having a party in your mouth” I decided on the Jiao Gu Lan, or Gynostemma, an herbal tea, know in China as the “herb of immortality.”  I chose the  Jiao Gu Lan more for the purported wide range of health benefits, from anti-aging to weight loss to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol to relieving menstrual cramps (I’ll let you know…)

I know of at least one other very good tea shop with free tastings down in Silicon Valley called Mountain View Tea Village and Gallery.  They also have a very large selection of Yixing clay tea pots.

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