Skip to main content

Shou Pu-erh Tasting with My Big Blessings #FoodieReads

As we move into the May Foodie Reads Challenge this month, I wrapped up The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See.* One of my best friends gave a copy to me - and one to another friend - as an early birthday present for me and a late birthday present for her. Then she took us to the Hidden Peak Teahouse in Santa Cruz for a tea tasting. What fun! I knew that I wanted to take my boys back there.

I packed the book for a quick overnight to the East Bay, determined to finish it; I'd been able to read a chapter here and there for the past week or so, but I just wanted to dedicate an evening to it. And, when I did finish and we had an extra couple of hours to kill on our way home from Berkeley, I knew we had to stop at the teahouse.

On the Page...
Typically when we spend the night in a hotel, we turn on the television. It's a special treat, especially since we don't get any TV stations at home. This trip, none of us touched the remote control. Books, Inc. in the Gourmet Ghetto had been one of our stops that day, so everyone had new books to read. I was able to hunker down in the hotel and finish The Tea Girl.

I'm not going to say too much about it. The novel is about an Akha ethnic-minority girl named Li-yan whose family cultivates tea on the remote mountain in Yunnan, China. Li-yan gives birth, out of wedlock, to a daughter and - instead of killing her as would be tradition - she swaddles her, tucking a tea cake into the blanket, and abandons her at an orphanage. The baby is adopted by an American family in California.

This is a powerful story about lives separated by circumstances, culture, and geographical distance. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is a haunting portrait of a little known region, its people, and its tea! I cannot remember a book that has ever given me goosebumps as I've read it. 

I texted my friend who gave me the book. "Finished it. Goosebumps!" I wrote.

Good goosebumps? she asked.

"Yes! Good goosebumps. Amazing book," I clarified.

In Our Cups...
So, I already mentioned that I took the boys to the Hidden Peak Teahouse on our way back home this weekend. We perused the tea menu and decided on a Shou Pu-erh for one pot and roasted twigs (no tea leaves, just the stems) for the second pot.

We watched as the leaves were rinsed and the water poured over the cups and the 'tea friend', a jovial ceramic Buddha. Jake looked at me and said, "So, I take it you want one of these tables..."

Yes, and the Buddha, too!!

I'm not sure I'll get a table like that, but I might be able to finagle the Buddha. But, I know it's far down the list of things he needs to do for the house.

There are two different types of Pu-erh tea: Shou means 'ripe' or fermented while sheng is 'raw' or unfermented. The Shou Pu-erh tea we selected was called 'Big Blessing.' Shou Pu-erh is a ripened tea that involves an accelerated fermentation before it is pressed and formed into different shapes. We were served just a portion of one disc in our tiny pot. As we steeped, poured, drank, and steeped again, the tea grew darker and more complex. Wow.

Pu-erh is typically labelled with year and region of production.  'Big Blessing' was produced in 2008 with leaves grown in the Tengchong region. That particular region is high elevation with clean air and water and rich, volcanic soil. It's a delightful tea that is dark, sweet with hints of dates and minerals

We also tried a tea that was made from the stems of the tea plan and didn't include any leaves. The boys really enjoyed that one. All three of my 'big blessings', yes, I mean Jake and our boys, loved the tea tasting room. We can't wait to get back up there again soon.

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Here's what everyone else read in May 2017: here.


  1. A tea tasting is a fun experience. We have several tea plantations here on the "Big Island" and I went to a tasting on one. Love your photos.

    1. Thanks, Claudia! I love the ritual of the tea tasting...and, of course, the tea!

  2. lovely pictures, thank you for sharing your experience

  3. What a fun way to live out the story in this book.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Quick Pickled Red Onions and Radishes

If you've been reading my blog for even a short amount of time, you probably know how much I love to pickle things. I was just telling a friend you can pickle - with vinegar - or you can ferment - with salt - for similar delicious effect. The latter has digestive benefits and I love to do that, but when I need that pop of sour flavor quickly, I whip up quick pickles that are ready in as little as a day or two. I've Pickled Blueberries , Pickled Asparagus , Pickled Cranberries , Pickled Pumpkin , and even Pickled Chard Stems ! This I did last night for an upcoming recipe challenge that requires I include radishes. Ummmm...of course I'm pickling them! Ingredients  makes 1 quart jar radishes, trimmed and sliced organic red onions, peeled and thinly sliced (I used a mandolin slicer) 3/4 C vinegar (I used white distilled vinegar) 3/4 C water 3 T organic granulated sugar 1 T salt (I used some grey sea salt) 6 to 8 grinds of black pepper Proce

Aloo Tiki {Pakistan}

To start off our Pakistani culinary adventure, I started us off with aloo tiki - potato cutlets. I'm always game for tasty street food. I found a couple of different recipes and incorporated those together for this version. Ingredients 6-8 small red potatoes, scrubbed 1 T cumin seeds 1 T fresh chopped parsley 1/2 t ground coriander 1 t minced garlic Procedure Boil the potatoes until they are tender. Drain and let cool. Mash the potatoes. Traditionally they are mashed without their skins. I left the skins on. In a small pan, toast the cumin seeds on high heat until the begin to give off an aroma and begin to darken. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate to keep them from cooking any more. Blend all of the spices into the mashed potatoes, then shape into small patties. If you wet your hands, the potato mixture won't stick to them. Heat a splash of oil in a large, flat-bottom pan. Dip each patty into beaten egg and carefully place in the oil. P

Hot Chocolate Agasajo-Style {Spice It Up!}

photo by D For my Spice It Up! kiddos this week, I was looking for an exotic drink to serve while we learned about saffron. I found a recipe from food historian Maricel Presilla that mimicked traditional Spanish hot chocolate from the 17th century where it was served at lavish receptions called agasajos . When I teach, I don't always get to shoot photos. Thankfully, D grabbed my camera and snapped a few. Ingredients serves 14-16 1 gallon organic whole milk 3 T dried rosebuds - or 2 t rosewater 2 t saffron threads, lightly crushed 3 T ground cinnamon 3 whole tepin chiles, crushed 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise 1 C organic granulated sugar 1 lb. bittersweet chocolate Procedure In a large soup pot that can hold a gallon plus, combine milk, dried rosebuds (or rosewater, if you are using that), saffron threads, ground cinnamon, chiles, vanilla beans, and sugar and warm over medium heat till it steams. Whisk to dissolve sugar, then lower heat an