I recently had the opportunity to visit Boulder, Colorado, when performing there with a dance company. Our schedule left me with time during the day to explore Boulder and, in addition to hiking in the Rocky Mountains, I discovered two lovely independent tea houses.
The first (addressed here in Part I) was the Ku Cha Tea House. I stumbled across it quite by accident on my first afternoon downtown as I wandered along the pedestrianised stretch of Pearl Street. Before even seeing the sign that read “Tea House,” a beautiful Chinese tea set displayed inside the door caught my eye. That was enough to draw me in.
Ku Cha Tea House runs a three-part business. They sell loose tea and tea wares, run a tea bar selling drinks-to-go, and also have a tea room at the back of the shop where you can enjoy tea in traditional Chinese and Japanese style.
Their loose tea selection includes an impressive range of white, green (both Japanese and Chinese), oolong, black, herbal, rooibos teas, and yerba mate. They also carry a good selection of less common tea types such as puerh, yellow teas, and dark teas. Yellow teas are one of more under-represented groups of teas— in my experience you are far less likely to find them in tea shops or on tea menus. The processing is similar to green tea, but there is a slower drying phase; this is what gives the leaves their yellowish appearance. Ku Cha offers two yellow teas: Golden Tips (described as having a strong honey taste and no bitterness) and Jun Shan Yin Zhen (Mountain Silver Needle), a variation on the well-known white tea Silver Needle. Ku Cha defines their “dark teas” as different from black teas in that they are fermented; like puerh teas, black teas are sold in cakes at Ku Cha. Of the eighteen types of puerh sold at Ku Cha, almost all come in the traditional cake form, but they do also carry three loose puerhs. One of the most interesting features of Ku Cha’s offerings is the “blend your own tea” station—the perfect solution for those with specific ideas about their tea!
The tea wares sold at Ku Cha Tea House include ceramic infuser mugs, traditional Japanese tetsubin (cast iron) and kyusu ware, Chinese gai wan and yixing pots, and yerba mate gourds. Whilst my eye was drawn to some of the beautiful tetsubin and kyusu pots, it was the range of high quality yixing pots and gong fu trays (which drain excess water in the serving process) that really impressed me.
With a limited amount of time until I had to be at the theatre, I had to select only one type of tea to try. It was a decision no tea drinker should have to make. Despite wanting to take advantage of the more unusual yellow and puerh teas, I settled on Milk Oolong. In this tea the leaves are steamed with milk before they are roasted, giving the tea a deliciously sweet, milky undertone. I am a huge oolong fan and had never come across an oolong prepared this way, but it is apparently one of their most popular teas.
In the traditional tea room, I sat cross-legged on the floor with my milk oolong served in a gai wan on the low table in front of me, and listened to the sound of water trickling from the Japanese fountain. With the addition of one or two daifuku (Japanese mochi cakes stuffed with bean paste), it was the perfect prelude to the slightly hectic preparation process at the theatre.
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