Homie Digest: A series in which I visit with Hawai‘i's movers and shakers. We talk shop, inspiration, and process over good food and drink.
Kathy YL Chan is one of the first people I met with on my networking rampage when I moved to NYC. Not only is she the editor of an amazing blog, full of beautiful photos, new approaches to tea, and write-ups of the most luxurious desserts and hotels - she also writes for media such as Eater, Ritz Carlton Magazine, and Conde Nast Traveler to name a few. We had the chance to meet up the last time she was in Hawai‘i for a quick snack at the Modern, between her lunch and dinner reservations.
One of the biggest questions I had for Kathy was, why tea? With the lack of tea shoppes here in Hawai‘i, I often forget that the practice of making and drinking tea reaches far back into many cultures, including my own. Kathy says she is drawn to tea because it's (as much as she may hate to use this word as a description) a lifestyle. Tea can be used for a moment of solitude on a rainy day and morning meditation or it can a posh social event, pinkies up! Kathy highly recommends the drink for business meetings because the calming effect of tea allows you to stay on track. The drink is so versatile that every moment of your day can have a corresponding tea pairing.
Those who have a serious appreciation for tea and know how to incorporate tea into their daily lives are like members of a secret tea club. First rule of Tea Club... tell everyone about it so they'll want to leave their coffee stained mugs behind forever! An avid coffee drinker myself, I wanted a peek into this tea lover lifestyle. I asked Kathy for her routine so that I may practice integrating tea into my day, and maybe just maybe, one day I will be member of the secret Tea Club.
KATHY'S DAILY ROUTINE. COPYING ENCOURAGED.
Morning Start - Cup of hot water, with a squeeze of lemon
// This helps prime your palate and just sort of “wake up” your mouth for a day of tea drinking.
Morning Tea - Oolong (more often than not)
// From jin xuan to tieguanyin to dong ding... there’s so many different types of oolong, and just which one specifically depends on my mood. I have my whole tea set-up at a little table next to my desk. Hot water, cups, and everything. I’ll steep that oolong over and over, throughout the morning. You can get around 8-10 steeps on a great one...they just keep giving.
Early Afternoon - Matcha
// Usually right after lunch meeting, I whisk a bowl of matcha and drink that as I settle back into work mode.
Late afternoon/early evening - Pu’erh
// I’m usually always craving something darker and richer as night falls.
Post-Dinner/ Just Before Bed - Flowers
// I'll choose flowers like chrysanthemum, osmanthus, or roses, simply steeped in hot water.
TEA TECHNIQUES, SHORT & SWEET
"People tend to think that brewing loose leaf leaf is complicated, but it really isn’t. All you need is a few basic pieces...a cup and a strainer, and then you are set. Matcha requires a few more pieces, but it’s a worthwhile investment...it’s not just about drinking a cup of liquid, but using it as tool for relaxation, and effective way to calm down and focus at any time of the day. And if you want to stick with tea bags, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just make sure that you get really good quality tea bags. Look for the large pyramid bags that allow the tea to open and breathe, and seek out companies that use whole leaf teas in the tea bags. Because I travel a lot (and it's not easy to find good tea in airports!), I always keep a few tea bags on me. You can also pack your own tea bag by spooning whole leavs into disposable tea filters." -Kathy
KATHY'S GO-TO'S IN HNL & NYC
NEW YORK CITY
// I visit this shoppe in midtown for all my Japanese tea needs. They have a great selection of matcha and always rotate in seasonal teas. Ippodo is headquartered in Kyoto so you getting the good stuff here.
Mandarin's Tea Room
// When I want to sit for a really intense, heady tea session rich with oolongs and pu’erh, I visit my friend Tim at Mandarin’s Tea Room. He’s does tea cuppings by appointment only and totally worth going out of your way for.
We don’t have many straight up, traditional tea shops, but we do have amazing places for afternoon tea.
The Moana Surfrider
// The Surfrider offers a few exclusive tea blends created just for the hotel.
// Halekulani has some beautiful pure teas like silver needles and oolongs. Couple that with delicate sandwiches, itty bitty sweets, and warm scones….how could you go wrong?