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 :)
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