Dragon Tea House

Lady Lan Green Tea

What do you do when you’ve had too much coffee ? Drink tea of course ! But what does a bona fide coffee snob do when he has to turn his palate to the other drink ? Well either seek out the finest possible Japanese green tea he can… or more recently… dive straight into the world of fantastic Chinese tea.

Dragon Tea House is a new venture that’s opened recently on William St in Northbridge (up the top end where the real stuff is). I was first put onto them by the ever vigilant Alex, who has an uncanny knack for finding quality places to explore.

So a couple of weeks ago, after a hearty dose of Dim Sum (funnily after drinking too much tea), Ben, Jen, Sharon, myself, and the sadly now departed (to Montreal via Melbourne) Isabelle, walked off a little of the post lunch bloat with a brisk stroll up to Dragon Tea House to check out their wares.

What we found there was a little treasure trove of exquisite Chinese teas of the highest quality, and an enthusiastic host in Jun, who walked us through some of her favourite drops.

Jun and partner Sandy run the business with Sandy hand picking the teas (not physically, but you get what I mean) from China and bringing it in twice a year from very high quality sources. They bring this back for local tea lovers who want to try the wonderful teas they’ve heard about, but can’t manage the commute to the highlands of Zhejiang every week (which is possibly quite a few of us).

There’s a range of green, white, black, and flower teas that are remarkably different and unique (well to my palate at least), each with their own interesting characteristics. Dragon Tea House is primarily a retail outlet for the teas, although they do let you sit down and order a pot of your very own, to sip in contemplative appreciation. Although if you’re lucky, and things are quiet, you might just be able to convince them to run through a tea tasting session.

Of course… I had to taste them all. So after convincing Jun that we weren’t the fly by night charlatan drink and runners we probably looked like, we were treated to a good two hours worth of tea, food, and information…

We started with Lady Lan, a smooth oolong tea with ginseng, added to remove the normally bitter aftertaste associated with oolong. We moved on through Dragon Well green tea, a slightly astringent green tea with a buttery smooth texture that’s prevalent in great green teas. Then on to White Silver Needle Tea, which is from the same species but white tea consists of young leaves (new-growth buds) still covered in a fine white hair, that has undergone no oxidation or fermentation (unlike black or oolong teas). It has a style very different to green tea in that the typical grassy flavours are replaced by a lighter, slightly sweet finish.

Jun showed us a little of her developing Kung Fu Tea skills (I know, I thought it sounded too cool to be true too, but it’s actually the proper name for the Chinese art of the tea ceremony). These included making sure the water is at the exact right temperature, priming the the leaves with a cleansing rinse before drinking, and making sure that the delicious last drops of each pour are distributed evenly into each cup. The best part being that it doesn’t matter if you spill some :)

Gently First pour

After that it was on to a blooming flower tea. These blooming teas are a relatively new concept (I think) and typically consist of tea leaves bound tightly together with the addition of herbs and flowers such as Osmanthus and Chrysanthemum. The beauty of these teas is that in the right vessel they slowly “bloom” in hot water. Opening to reveal an array of colours and flavours that intermingle to create a completely unique experience. The one we tried was called Lily Bloom, and it contained lily, osmanthus, and white silver needle tea.

We took a break somewhere at this point for refreshments, which took the form of little Chinese sweets, and some roasted pumpkin seeds. Just the thing to hit the spot after a solid hour and a half of tea tasting.

With our palates refreshed (and bladders emptied), it was then on to the final tea, which was a Pu-erh. Described by Jun as the ‘short black’ of the tea world. It was something I had to try for myself. Pu-erh differs from most other teas…whilst it may be confused as a black tea because of it’s dark colour, it’s actually caused by a secondary oxidization and fermentation process after it’s picked, which gives it a particularly strong and distinct flavour. Not quite what I’d call an alternative to my morning espresso… but definitely enough of a kick to make the tea doubters sit up and take notice.

So after depriving Jun of her lunch, and bombarding her with more questions and photos than I’m sure she wanted, we came away with a good bundle of teas, teapots, and associated paraphernalia. Enough to keep our nerves calmed and palates cleansed, at least until the next time we stop by, which I imagine won’t be too far away.

***edit with a few corrected details.

Dragon Tea House
3/369 William Street (next to William shopping centre)
Phone: (08) 9228 3305

Green Tea House

How to pour tea

Tucked away in a small corner of Subiaco is one of the most charming shops I’ve come across in a very long time. Regular readers of this blog will be well aware that coffee is my beverage of choice most mornings, but even more diligent readers will also have picked up that my household often looks for inspiration from the land of the rising sun due to Sharon spending a couple of years there on exchange.

Spending a Sunday afternoon lazily gallivanting around the city we happened to be strolling down Hay St towards Subiaco when we happened to stumble (I do a lot of stumbling) into Green Tea House, the delightful tea shop owned by the exceedingly friendly Mr Wasaki.

What followed was probably an hour and a half’s worth of tasting tea, talking about tea, talking about coffee, talking about Japan, talking about food, talking about Japanese food in Japan, talking about Japanese food in Australia, talking about Chinese tea compared to Japanese tea, smelling tea in an incense burner, and eventually, actually buying some tea. As you might have guessed, Mr Wasaki likes to talk. He is a well schooled individual who has been living in Australia for the better part of 15 years now, having moved over here with his wife and family quite some time ago, but only recently having followed his heart by starting his own business importing and selling the tea he so dearly loves.

That tea in question is of course Japanese green tea. High grade, hand picked, vacuum packed, and air shipped for maximum freshness, Mr Wasaki leaves little to chance. His tea’s range from the everyday Sencha, to the superior Gyokuro, and having gotten to try just about all of them, I can say they are all quite good. I was also glad to have finally found somewhere that sells Matcha (the ground tea powder made from Gyokuro, used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, and a damn good ice cream flavouring :) ).

Not just sticking with tea, he also sells Noren (traditional Japanese curtains used to hang in homes or shops as a welcome banner), as well as a number of special Japanese foods and sweets that no doubt have the ex-pats coming back on a regular basis.

He also sells a whole range of tea cups and bowls, which go along with his tips for preparing the tea properly, i.e: NEVER pour boiling water over tea leaves. You will bring the bitter flavours out, rather, pour the water from the kettle into another bowl first, and then wait a few minutes til the water is roughly 80C before pouring it into the tea leaves.

Green Tea House

The tea itself is great. I can’t say I am in any way a tea fanatic, jasmine, oolong, and russian caravan is about as exotic as I’ve been, but the flavours of the high end Japanese teas were outstanding. Clean and crisp, yet with an almost buttery finish to many of them, most markedly pronounced in the Gyokuro, we could not help but buy a pack of our own and go home to continue the experiment. I also picked myself up a can of matcha, and have been sprinkled it into everything I think is sprinklable.

My only concern is that Mr Wasaki is a little too friendly for his own good. He almost talked me out of buying the Matcha because he said he could get me something more suitable for cooking with, and then he almost forgot to charge me when I went to pay. His enthusiasm and love for his products shows through more than anything however, and it’s this coupled with his quiet unassuming nature that make Green Tea House a welcome respite from so many shops who just want to take your money and get you out the door. If ever you find yourself in the area, do yourself a favour and drop in to sample some excellent Japanese tea in a very relaxing atmosphere.

Green Tea House
Shop 17, 375 Hay St
Tel: (08) 9388 7245