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image by chuck pefley

usually at night, usually in a hurry, i have driven by this unassuming home in a residential neighborhood and wondered what it was. who wouldn’t? the red lanterns welcome. even a quick glance through the window of a moving car made me dream up elaborate eastern fairy tales, and picture the magical evening ensuing on the inside of those walls. in the fray, though, i’d usually forgotten the imagined magical evening by morning. until we happened to drive by during the day.

we noticed the sign on the door said open, which i was happy to see since another sign said “by appointment only.” a man who prefers to be called “zd” (for “zen dog”) opened the door and immediately welcomed us into his tea house, and offered us tea to taste. it was delicious! the house is not only a tea house, but an art gallery as well. we browsed through fabulous artwork in the upstairs gallery while sipping on delicious tea.

we were actually also on a mission. we were looking for a new evening tea to  drink, one without caffeine, that would help us to wind down at the end of the day.  zd introduced us to a number of flower teas–beyond jasmine. we must have smelled every tea in his house, but walked out with a good measure of chrysanthemum, osmanthus, and snow plum flowers.

according to zen dog studio tea house gallery’s website each tea has properties to aid in good health and wellness:

Chrysanthemum Flower: This light and sweet tisane gives its drinker similar feelings of elation as a tea without caffeine and brewing this flower as tea can actually aid in bodily detoxification. Chrysanthemum’s golden liquor and mellow earthy flavor are pleasant and refreshing. Mix with a cooked pu-er for an interesting flavor juxtaposition and added health benefit.

Osmanthus Flower: while pleasant when added to oolong and black tea, is heavenly to drink on its own. These petite yellow nuggets brew up a light golden liquor and share their aroma of fresh spring flowers. On the palate these delicacies are floral, like a fresh high mountain oolong and simultaneously earthy, like chrysanthemum. Their tenderness adds a sweet milky quality you can feel in your mouth as you sip. Drinking osmanthus may very well be a cure for lack of sunshine on a rainy day.

tea flower images borrowed from zen dog studio tea house gallery

Snow Plum Blossom: For those who wish to cultivate beauty from the inside out, may I suggest this tea. This brew is one of elegance and refinement whose taste is light and sweet. Similar to Wild Red Rose, Snow Blossom has the ability to inspire compassion and clear out blockages in the energy center of the heart. She would tell us to move from a center of self-care if we are to truly be able to help others, asking that our own well being be taken into consideration. Given the right channel this gentle muse will inspire many great works.

at zd’s suggestion, we also picked up this amazing tea pot! since i usually brew black tea leaves, which are hardier and sturdy, i did not have the appropriate equipment to brew delicate flowers. the piao I glass teapot has won design awards in taiwan for it’s innovative design and precise mechanism for brewing tea. we learned that for the first flush, we should brew the tea for 30 seconds. then we can use the same flowers for a second flush, by brewing for 1 minute. basically, add flowers to the basket on the top, and add water. after thirty seconds, push the release button and the water (sans petals) rushed down into the glass pot for immediate drinking.

image borrowed from heedthehedonist.com

i highly recommend a trip to zen dog gallery and tea house! you may just have the good luck we had. on our way out we ran into artist mia wu and her family. mia is a chinese artist who does some classical styles, but also takes the classical muse and puts a vibrant and modern twist on them. we were so lucky we ran into her and her family on our way out! she paints beautiful images of ethnic minority peoples in china. we purchased a painting of a Dai woman in traditional dress, surrounded by a vibrant tree and multi-colored foxes.

i was looking for a website where mia might show her artwork, but wasn’t able to find anything. for now, you can see her lovely work at zen dog!