Eat, Drink, and Be Mary: Unwavering tradition

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By Brock Daniels, PQ Monthly
The warm spring sun beats down on my unshaven face. I close my eyes, lift my chin, and turn toward the blinding light. It has been a few months since I’ve have seen the sun, and its presence doesn’t go unnoticed. I pick up my steaming cup of scarlet perfection, and gently blow. The velum tentacles disappear momentarily, but return quickly like a magician on stage. I take a deep breath, and sit back in the comfy chair of the tea shop; perfectly content. In a region dominated by coffee, tea still fights to hold its spot amongst the caffeinated conglomerates. And it is doing a great job. Said to originate during the Shang Dynasty as a medicinal drink, with the modern addition of flowers, herbs, and other plants, tea has become a mainstay in our everyday beverage line up. Handcrafted in very small batches, the teas at Steven Smith Teamaker company, located at 1626 NW Thurman St. in Portland, represent the gold standard locally. Offering the finest full leaf teas, tonics, and elixirs, Steven Smith utilizes generations of family knowledge to bring us amazing blends of the high-quality teas and botanicals.
Photo by Steven Smith Photo by Steven Smith
With an almost unlimited number of combinations, Smith will have something for you. Creamy and uniquely sweet, the Rooibos is a must-have. Grown about 250 kilometers north of Cape Town near the South African town of Clanwilliam, Rooibos has a tea-like flavor without the astringency or caffeine of black tea. In mid-January to April, when the plants are about three-feet tall, the topmost tender leaves are hand-harvested, machine -cut, and fermented in the sun, fully developing their required uniqueness. It is soft, red, sweet, and, when brewed, elegant! A perfect afternoon or early evening treat. Maintaining all that is true and traditional of tea, tea service, and tea rituals, Paul Rosenberg at Heaven Tea in Portland helps enlighten his customers to “bring us into deeper contact with our essential selves, our world, and the heavens.†Having studied meditation for 15 years in a yogic monastery, Rosenberg learned early on that tea was part of pursuing inner cultivation. Tea became his vehicle to help others. Private and public tea classes are available by appointment. Call 503-230-0953 for times and location. From local teamakers using the finest ingredients in the world, to sharing centuries-old traditions, there is a common thread within all “tea people†— an homage is paid, understood, and carried on for one of the world’s most famous plants. “Tea has a way of connecting us to nature, our friends, our community and to our own lives,†Rosenberg says. “Tea is a gift from nature, given to humans, to help them become part of the deeper harmonies of life.â€

Treat yourself to a moment for “YOU†at a local tea shop in your neighborhood:

  Steven Smith Teamaker 1626 NW Thurman St. 503-719-8752 Tao of Tea 239 NW Everett St. 503-224-8455 Townshend’s Tea 2223 NE Alberta St. 503-445-6699 Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants 724 NE 22nd Ave 503-236-3539 Heavens Tea, School of Tea Arts 503-230-0953 Brock Daniels, a Pacific Northwest native, has studied wine, culinary arts, gastronomy, and loves researching new food. Brock has written a self-published cookbook titled “Our Year in the Kitchen.†Reach him at brock@pqmonthly.com.