Red Circle Tea

Slow Food Nation 2008 Taste Pavillion and Tea

When Alice Cravens of Modern Tea restaurant in Hayes valley announced that she was going to be the Tea Curator at the Slow Food Nation Taste Pavilion and asked us to be a part of it I had no idea how lucky we really were. I had a better sense of just how lucky when we walked in to the taste hall Friday morning for set up.

Pulling into the Fort Mason Center in the Marina district at the north end of San Francisco and finding parking near the water with a stunning view was breathtaking in itself, but then we entered the hall to this scene: busy little fork lifts were beeping everywhere, hammers were pounding and voices unhindered by furniture, walls or carpet were echoing off the concrete floor and down the length of the building.  A long hall at the end of the Fort Mason piers, the taste hall is it's own pier and is hidden behind all the other buildings and even behind Herbst Pavilion. When you walk in, it's like a long large warehouse, but  beautifully decorated with a modern-farm-eco-sustainable-hip twist. Long orange banners hang from the ceiling and proclaim "Pickles" or "Coffee".

The tea section is surrounded by white gauzy material that creates small intimate spaces with tables and seating for 8 people.  A tea facilitator who specializes in Japanese tea, Taiwanese tea, Chinese tea or just tea history offers you a 15 minute look into the different teas that they are presenting.  The Japanese ladies who were presenting Matcha tea for traditional preparation were in the most beautiful kimonos!

With water that is heavy with minerals,  Carnie and I were glad we chose our Puerh Brick(Mixed) Half Cooked 2006 and our Keemun Special Reserve Grade 2008. They stood up quite well, but still steeped very quickly, and were front loaded with taste, leaving the remaining steepings less flavorful. While normally I can get a good 12-15 steepings from the keemun, even with doubling the quantity of tea used, I was only getting 8 good steepings. Even so, it was nice to introduce many people to puerh and give them their first taste of what good "English Breakfast" tea should taste like... sweet, bright, juicy, winey, a hint of smoke and that delectable blackberry note that won my heart and convinced me say yes to this tea on our buying trip.

What else is at the Slow Food Nation Taste Pavilion? Tea, yes, but there is chocolate, honey, spirits, wine, charcuterie, fish and so much more. I have only had a brief chance to look around but I learned quite a lot about absinthe yesterday, and tasted goat milk ice cream for the first time, and had a convincingly good sweet U.S.-cured prosciutto!  Pictures and more stories to come, so stay tuned!

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