Friday, February 1, 2013

Imperial Tea Court

To Work with Me at Imperial Tea Court

I’ve been working for several months at the Imperial Tea Court, owned by Roy Fong.  (At 62 years old, I have been working as a server of tea and food!  For the first couple of months I'd go home aching all over and think to myself "I don't remember waiting tables to be so exhausting".  Then I realized I last worked in a restaurant at 25 years old!)  
There are two locations- at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and in the Gourmet Ghetto of downtown Berkeley.  (More about the Gourmet Ghetto later.)  I work at the Berkeley Tea Court, which is also a restaurant.  The setting is lovely and is reminiscent of teahouses I saw in China.  Outside the big round entry door is a beautiful little patio and garden- it's a hidden jewel from the street. 

This is my last week of work, so today I brought the Traveling Teapot with me to work.  We serve tea in gaiwans, but I think the teapot looks at home on the table.  We do use teapots for herbal tisanes, especially the very fine-leaf ones.

Here the Traveling Teapot and I are sharing Bai Ye Phoenix Oolong tea, gaiwan-style, with a co-worker, Terry Chi, before my shift starts.  Also on the table is a Sampler Plate of Dim Sum for my early dinner!  Terry is wanting a career in food- baking or writing about food.  She's thinking about applying to journalism school, but she also bakes the best cheesecake ever- with a sprinkling of matcha tea! Below is the manager, Kyle Stewart, with Terry.  I'll write more about Kyle in another post, but let me say now that he is a lover of all tea and is beginning the lifelong journey of learning about tea.  It has been a delight to work with these young adults- very fun and exciting to be around their energy and enthusiasm for life.

The food menu is a limited menu of noodle or rice dishes and dim sum- all made at the Berkeley tearoom.  A specialty of the house is hand-pulled noodles, made to order.  The customers can hear the slap of the noodles against the tabletop in the kitchen as they are being stretched out!  The food is organic, locally sourced (as much as possible) and mostly Beijing style, and is very different than most Chinese restaurants.  I love this food, and I'm not a big fan of Chinese food in general.    

These are two of our cooks, Zhang and Xia, preparing the pork steam buns.  You can also see one of the hot water boilers for tea on the back counter.

The tea menu is well over one hundred teas- mostly Chinese but with a few Indian and Japanese teas.  The best part for me is there are all these teas and very few are flavored teas!  I've loved learning more about each of the teas and practicing and comparing different infusions. My favorite part of the job has been the ability to talk to customers about the teas- both teaching them and learning from them in the discourse.   This is my copy (sorry about my name scribbled across the front!) of Roy's book.  He is such a great storyteller and a fountain of knowledge about teas and teawares.  It has been an honor to work for the Imperial Tea Court and for Roy- and to glean a sliver of his knowledge about tea.


marthae said...

Thank you for sharing photos and details of the imperial tea court. It looks and sounds like a wonderful place to work or to visit. I enjoyed a trip down memory lane with your Berkeley post, too:*)

La Tea Dah said...

Colleen --- what an interesting post. I loved learning about your work and am very impressed by its excellence and the attention given to every detail. I would LOVE to eat there and sip some tea. It would be just wonderful to be able to do that with you!

Thank you SO much for sharing --- and for taking our "traveling teapot" to work at such a wonderful place!

Your co-workers look very nice.

Marilyn said...

What a wonderful experience. I loved seeing a glimpse of the world of one of Roy Fong's businesses. I had no idea that you served food, I thought it was just tea. Now I want to eat there.