In the summer of 2015, the unthinkable happened. I scheduled an interview with an honest-to-Lu-Yu newspaper. Our local rag, The Oregonian, to be precise. They wanted to talk to me in my natural habitat, as a tea drinker. The reason? A soon-to-be-established feature on Portland’s tea culture. Lauren “Mizuba Tea Co.” Purvis recommended they talk to me, since—to some—I was considered the tea fanboy (manchild?) in Portland.
The day of the interview, I even cleaned my old room.
That’s how big a deal this was.
Both of the women that visited were very nice. We discussed many different aspects of tea and tea culture. I tried to get the point across that, while Portland did indeed have a burgeoning tea scene, it wasn’t a cohesive one. Not yet, anyway; not like Seattle.
The reporter and photographer told me they planned for an autumn 2015 release of the article . . . with the possibility of delay. And—hoo-boy—was there ever a delay; a year and a half, to be precise. On the first week of December (of 2016), a tea blogger friend shared with me an article via social media. The article! And . . .
Um . . .
Perhaps there was some mistake. Something that only showed up in the printed version. Luckily, my stepdad had kept a copy of that. I looked at it again.
And . . . um . . . er . . .
Okay, let me start off by saying . . . it’s a good article. Several of my favorite tea people and places were mentioned in it. The focus was mostly on vendors that are shaping the tea scene in Portland. That doesn’t leave much room for a blogger like me. It’s fine that I didn’t make the cut. Really . . . it’s fine. I’m fine.
He’s not fine.
Shut. Up. Skippy.
My absence aside, I noticed several places missing from the article. Granted, some of them were fairly new, even at the time I was interviewed. Others, though? Like The Jasmine Pearl or The Red Robe Tea House? Didn’t show up at all. This was later rectified when a friend of mine showed me a companion piece to the main article that listed a bunch of tea places to visit. It included the places I mentioned above. There was also another article from that same day about Oregon’s only tea garden, Minto Island.
To the casual reader, it seemed as if The Oregonian had covered all the tea bases and basics. Well, I wasn’t a casual reader. I was the tea fanboy of Portland, dammit. And they left a lot out. Sure, they covered a lot of the tea places in Portland, but they totally missed out on covering the tea culture. As well as some of those places and people tied to that culture.
And I’m going to list some of them off:
(Note: This is in no way a complete list, and there are probably plenty that I’m not aware of. I’m simply outlining the ones I know of off-hand, and the ones that have an impact on the Portland tea community as a whole.)
While not necessarily my sorta thing, it’s still a thing. That and this group has been at that “thing” for quite awhile—almost a decade. Wu-Wo is a Taiwanese tea ceremony developed in the 1980s. The whole point behind it is to celebrate community and contemplation with tea as a center-point.
I never joined because I never have Sundays off from work. And . . . I . . . can’t be silent when it comes to tea. Or contemplative. Tea is loud, and so am I.
But I know several who divine great value from these gatherings, and members of this group have their hands in all aspects of Portland tea culture. They’re the closest thing that Portland has to a cohesive tea network of people. I’m peripheral to it, at best, but I still see its value to Portland’s tea culture as a whole.
Okay, technically, the Chariteas tearoom isn’t located in Portland. The cute li’l house is nestled in Sandy, Ore. But that is located right next to Gresham, which is considered a part of Portland. No one likes Gresham. Therefore, I still say it totally counts.
Plus, owner Charity Chalmers has had her entire foot on the pulse of the Portland tea scene for awhile, now. She even started Portland’s largest tea meet-up group. At last count, it’s almost 3,000 members strong. Granted, some are inactive, but still . . .
In a shop so cute and cuddly beats the heart of a true tea warrior.
Heaven’s Tea – School of Sacred Tea Arts
Not a year goes by when I don’t get the following question: “Oh, you live in Portland and you’re into tea? Have you met Olde Po?”
Followed by, “What do you mean you’ve never met Olde Po? You simply have to meet Olde Po.”
Like he’s the Dave Matthews Band of Tea or something.
“Olde Po” is actually Paul Rosenberg, and he has had a tea school for . . . well . . . about as long as I’ve been a tea geek. Maybe longer. I still haven’t met the guy, or had a tea session with him because . . . well . . . I can’t afford him. Someday that may change, but not in the near future.
Point being, he’s a bit of a sage fixture in Portland’s tea scene and therefore worthy of note.
The Oregonian not including this couple-owned, lucid dream-themed op was a huge oversight.
I’ve only been here once, and—since then—they’ve relocated the tearoom proper, but when it comes to tea and culture? This place oozes it from every pore (and pour). They specialize in herbal creations as well as single origin teas, chiefly puerh and oolongs. But they also sell aged white tea and can craft a mean homemade masala chai. And, from what I’ve heard, they are the go-to tea space in Portland for evening events.
I covered the grand opening of this outfit a couple of years ago. And, from my vantage point, they still seem to be chugging along just fine. While their specialty is blends, they also have a really comfortable space for tea visitors, and they sell matcha that I like quite a bit as well. If an art studio shed its skin and turned into a teashop, it would look something like this.
I talked to (and about) the two gents behind Totem Tea earlier this year. So, I won’t go into too much redundant detail here. But—safe to say—these two are the go-to guys for all things Taiwanese tea in Portland, Ore. Not sure why they weren’t talked to.
This was the brainchild of “Head Cheerleader” David Galli, and has gone through a bit of a renovation. As well as a new location. PDX Tea (as its known, acronymously) provides—in his words—”a simple, tranquil space, where 茶人 (tea people) in, near, or visiting Portland can gather, taste, and learn about teas and tea cultures. They offer classes, tastings, social events, as well as teas and tea accessories.
I’ve been a “member” for years, and I’m glad to see it back up and running.
Which brings me to the biggest Oregonian oversight . . .
On July 22nd, 2017, Portland will be hosting its very first tea festival. Not a coffee and tea festival, not a “healthy beverage” festival . . . a tea festival. This has been in the planning stages for years, but it finally gained traction over the last year or so, thanks in large part to some of the people mentioned in this list above.
At present, the original website is going through an overhaul, but a GoFundMe page has been created for the event. Donate if you want; or don’t. But I strongly encourage you to do so because this is something Portland has been sorely lacking for over a decade.
And that’s my short (long) list of things that were left out of the article(s) about Portland’s tea culture. I’m sure I missed quite a few names and attractions. While I may reside in Portland, I’m not as much a part of its tea scene as I should be. However, if someone were looking to learn more about Portland tea culture, or—say—do their own article about said “communi-tea”, I’m sure I could put you in touch with the right people.
I’m even open to interviews. I’ll prep the brewing station and pencil you in.
I may even clean my room.