In response to Jim T's review: It is not true that real Bai Hao has small insect bites on the leaves. How does the Formosa Oolong group get their wonderful flavor? An interesting article in the Taiwanese magazine gives an account: In the months of May through July tiny insects called leaf hoppers are at their highest concentration. During this time, tea farmers throughout Taiwan make preparations for their summer harvest of Formosa Oolongs. In the past, pesticides were used to discourage these little buggers, but in recent years the farmers have hoped that their crops are well attacked. It was discovered that the more highly concentrated the leaf hoppers, the more flavorful the tea. The leaf hoppers became a welcome pest, adding flavor to the tea throughout the island. Through several hundred if not thousands of years of evolution, the fresh tea leaf has developed a self defense mechanism. The threat caused by the leaf hopper resulted in abnormal metabolic rhythms being produced by the plant which in turn caused some sort of chemical reaction that results in “multiple tea polyphenols” (the powerful antioxidant found in oolong tea) and tea tannins. These polyphenols and tannins in turn attracted the leukoplakia wax spider, a natural predator of the leaf hopper. A full grown leaf hopper is no bigger than a fruit fly. It is as small as a spec of dust. They have a sharp beak poker mouth that resembles a shortened mosquito snout. The leaf hopper uses this poker to suck out the nutrient juices of the fresh and tender leaves of the camellia sinensis, or tea plant. There are no bite marks left as the leaf hoppers are too small to leave any visible evidence. The leaf does change in appearance though, becoming withered; like a fallen leaf. The leaf hopper threatens the sprout of the fresh leaf which looks like a toothpick. In a controlled experiment, researchers found that when artificially replicating the attack of the leaf hopper in a lab, the tea plant responded similarly, producing the same abnormal metabolic rhythms. But the degree to which the chemical reaction occurred was far less. When researchers tasted both teas the results showed clearly that the tea bitten by the leaf hopper was significantly sweeter than the tea that was artificially attacked. The conclusion of the research was that the classic honey taste associated with Formosa Oolong comes from the leaf hopper actually sucking from the tea sprout.
Tea and Chi is an amazing tea shop for a few reasons. First, I took my grandfather there and he loved it. He said it reminded him of a high end cigar room, because there on the wall is a wide selection of tea and you can pick any tea that you want to try and they will make it for you on the spot. The other reason that I love Tea and Chi is because the owners have a passion for tea and they are devoted to supplying the best quality tea there is. The atmosphere is tea-rrific (peaceful and conducive to enjoying tea) and their 'wall of tea' is impressive. If you are in the area, I wholeheartedly recommend you pay them a visit. If you cannot make it, you can always visit them on line.
The Tea Zone has an incredible selection of tea, as well as a very friendly, well informed staff. Whenever I am in Portland, I always stop in for a cup of tea, even if I am just passing through. Conveniently located in The Pearl District, it is easy to get off I-5 and stop in for a cup of tea to go and get back on the road. Also, if you are looking for an alternative to the normal bar scene, I highly recommend there tea lounge for tea infused cocktails.