Our tea journey through the coffee-soaked streets of Seattle takes us to the neighborhood of Wallingford this month and a cozy little place called Teahouse Kuan Yin. Wallingford is located in the heart of Seattle on the north shore of Lake Union. Gasworks Park is a major draw in the spring and summer and is a popular kite-flying spot. 45th Street is the heart of the business district and has a wide selection of pubs, theatres, and coffee shops. Nestled among these attractions is this little gem of a teahouse.
I stopped by Kuan Yin the other day after being referred to it by a friend and coworker. I managed to find a parking spot right in front of the shop and made my way in. The décor is colorful, with the usual rotating local art adorning the walls and plenty of tables. I snagged a table by the window and discovered my one and only complaint about the store – the chairs. Many of them are of the folding variety and not terribly comfortable. Fix this aspect and this might just be my new favorite spot. As usual, I selected a Taiwanese Oolong from the menu and placed my order.
My tray arrived at my table containing a clay pot with loose leaves, a cup, a decanter, a strainer, and to my surprise and delight, an insulated pitcher full of piping hot water. I was delighted to discover that I would be entrusted with my own steeping times and frequency without having to go back up to the counter for hot water every five minutes. This made for a much more independent and hands-on experience, which I greatly enjoyed. The Dong Pian that I selected was buttery smooth – as are most high-quality oolongs – with many of the same floral and citrus notes that I have become accustomed to. This particular tea seemed more masculine than some of the other high-mountain oolongs that I have sampled and showed me that it could take a punch by going through five or six steepings without flinching.
Overall, I was able to look past the decorative shortcomings to the excellent selection of teas as well as the unique (so far) method of presenting oolongs to the customer in a cafe setting. This also happens to be the only place I have found where one can elect to have his or her oolong presented in the gong fu style. I’ll be sure and give that a go the next time I stop by.