First of all, if you’re in the Atlanta area, and you love yourself a metaphysical bookstore, you’ll want to check out Phoenix & Dragon in Sandy Springs, right by the Roswell Road exit off 285. Founded in 1987 by Candace Apple, this shop has grown into a community center “where people of any spiritual path might find sustenance on their continued journey.” We love discovering their monthly events, hosted in the peaceful classroom at the shop’s back, which overlooks rich green woods.
On this visit, we had the pleasure of attending a tea class, “Ancient to Modern Tea Brewing,” hosted by Chandler McAnally, co-founder of Atlanta-based Western Immortal. When you see all that this class included for just $10 a person, you can appreciate that Phoenix & Dragon events are more like a community service.
Western Immortal teas are sold at Phoenix & Dragon, alongside a variety of teasets in the shop’s front room. The tea company’s mission is to “provide the best quality tea that comes from ethical, generational farms that will serve to inspire the modern individual to master any challenge that comes their way.”
Always More to Learn about Tea
It’s true, no matter how long you’ve studied tea customs or been an avid tea drinker, there is always something new to learn about tea. We took copious notes as Chandler discussed a variety of topics during the two-hour class. Here’s what we learned.
The Source of the Water Matters
Of course, the water you use when brewing affects the flavor of your tea. Most of us who drink tea daily know the basics: use fresh, filtered water that hasn’t been twice boiled, for highest oxygen level.
Chandler shared these Chinese teachings of how the water you use for brewing your tea heals the body differently depending on its source:
- Long-flowing water (like from a fast-flowing river) is cleansing
- Waterfall water flushes out disease
- Slow-flowing water brings calm mind and heals the stomach
- Swirling water is good for the digestive system and fevers
- Water from the sky is the best water that brings calm and brightness to the mind, clarity to the lungs and brain
Chandler used spring water to brew the teas for our class. He mentioned that mountain water is best for high mineral content, well water is often used, and tap water is acceptable, but best if filtered.
Above he is pouring hot water over a blooming tea, which he explains is usually made from green or white tea leaves, hand-tied around a flower blossom. Below you can see why you’d want to serve a blooming tea in a clear glass teapot, to appreciate its dramatic unfurling.
Chinese Tea Etiquette
As tea production originated in China and the first teas were enjoyed in China thousands of years before the rest of the world knew of it, it is fitting that Chandler shares Chinese tea etiquette tips with us.
Below Chandler demonstrates how to fold your tea towel, which you use to catch any drips when pouring for your guests. Chandler explains that it’s rude to let the tea drip into your guest’s cup and shows us how you hold the tea towel beneath the teapot as you pour.
Did You Know These Etiquette Rules?
How do you say, “thank you” after tea is poured for you? Knock on the table.
Never point the teapot spout towards your guest.
When you pour water over the tea leaves to steep, if you use your left hand, pour clockwise, and if you use your right hand, pour counter-clockwise.
Tea Tasting Time!
He explains that the first infusion is called “awakening the dragon” or “washing the leaves.”
Possibly our favorite thing we learned in this class is that spying holes in your tea leaves is a good sign. It means the bugs like the plant, which means your tea was grown organically and is of a higher quality.
As parting gifts, each participant takes home a Western Immortal tea sample and our little white tasting tea cup. Our thanks to Chandler of Western Immortal and Phoenix & Dragon for a lovely educational experience.