When you’re rushing around like crazy with party plans to coordinate and a list of people to buy gifts for, the last thing on your mind is getting out the matcha implements and whisking up a cupful or steeping 10 to 13 infusions of your favorite oolong in a gaiwan. Yet, enjoying some of those fine teas can help you make it through the holiday season and retain your sanity. They can also be the center of your party plans, foregoing the usual refreshments in favor of a tea tasting comparing a series of pu-erhs or premium Taiwanese oolongs, for example.
The Holiday Tea Tasting
Give your friends an excuse to take a break from holiday preparations with a special tea tasting. It doesn’t need to be one of those formal, professional events. In fact, you can keep a party mood by offering the teas along with some appropriate food pairings.
A few recommendations:
- Pu-erh (a darker, ripe version) and Tung Ting Oolong — paired with Stuffed mushrooms
- Gunpowder and Yunnan black tea — paired with mini-meatballs
- Chun Mei and Dragonwell (Longjing) — paired with mini-quiche
- Keemun black tea — paired with spicy chicken wings
Don’t forget the variety of cheeses that go great with various teas: Asiago, Brie, Camembert, Cheddar, Gorgonzola, and Muenster. Try them with these: Keemun, Pai Mu Dan (White Peony), Dragonwell, Tung Ting Oolong, Chun Mee, and Gunpowder.
The Holiday Tea Party
Lots of tea parties these days are frilly affairs with pastel colors, lots of floral elements, and cheaper bagged teas, often so heavily flavored that no tea characteristics can be detected. A variation on this rather cliché approach would surely entice your holiday guests that this is no ho-hum affair. You can start with a red tablecloth — a color that in the Chinese culture indicates happiness, good fortune, and joy, but that is also appropriate for the Christmas holiday season, being the color of Santa’s suit, the berries on the holly, and poinsettias, among other things.
Candlelight is great for an evening tea party. Traditional holiday trappings, such as wreaths and garlands of evergreens, gold and silver sparkling objects, and ribbons and bows, will set a proper mood. As will music, and it doesn’t have to be the same old carols. Pop in a CD of the Trans Siberian Orchestra or traditional Chinese music played on the eight categories of instruments (silk, bamboo, wood, stone, metal, clay, gourd, and hide). Which you choose will be determined by the mood you want to set.
Gather friends together to select teas to present to people on their gift list. Help them make the selections and put together a package or basket that includes a nice teaware to use for preparing that tea.
A few recommendations:
- 2011 Premium Spring Anxi Gande Traditional Tie Guan Yin Oolong – gaiwan
- 2011 Spring Handmade Imperial Xin Yang Mo Jian (Hairy Tips) Green Tea – glass teapot or large glass cup
- Ming Mei – travel mug
- 2008 Hai Lang Hao “Lao Ban Zhang & Man’E Ancient Arbor” tea – Yixing clay teapot
Wrap up those teas and teawares well to prevent breakage and anything spoiling the tea (which should already be vacuum-sealed by the tea vendor).
See? Plenty of ways to fit those fine teas into your holiday plans!