Traditional Chinese tea house offers a dose of culture and a splash of taste

Dafe Chen’s wife, Grace Li, demonstrates how to properly prepare tea to an eager group of people.

Dafe Chen’s wife, Grace Li, demonstrates how to properly prepare tea to an eager group of people.

By Staff
Northwest Asian Weekly

Most people think about food when they think of the International District.

Seldom do they think of the other offerings. But walk into New Century Tea Gallery, a traditional Chinese teahouse, and they will get a different impression of the area.

They not only feel cozy, but will get a sense of culture and history. Displayed inside are museum-like tea sets and antique kettles.

People will instantly feel relaxed because of the soothing smell of the boiling tea. Sometimes a group of non-Asian students will hover around the tea table, experiencing Chinese culture. Many teachers have used the teahouse as a field trip destination for their language and culture classes.

Visitors get the chance to see hundreds of different kinds of authentic Chinese tea leaves displayed in labeled containers. Although New Century does sell tea bags, bags are not the preferred method to make tea by gourmet tea drinkers.

New Century Tea Gallery owner Dafe Chen

New Century Tea Gallery owner Dafe Chen

Owner Dafe Chen invites visitors to sit down at a round table. That’s when the pleasure begins. He demonstrates how tea should be made. It’s not exactly a tea ceremony, but visitors learn how to make tea at the right temperature and how much tea leaves should be put into the kettle. Visitors also learn how to prepare the cup and how to pour the water. The purpose is to maximize the full-bodied taste of tea.

Chen said his tea pots are made from special purple clay from Yixing, China. Other teapots, traditional and contemporary, are often made of glass, clay, and porcelain.

Part of the fun is in the ritual. Sharing tea with friends and loved ones sparks joy and conversation at the table.  Chen will tell stories about tea and how his family members were tea merchants and farmers in China for 40 years.

Then visitors get to taste the real thing. They are urged to take a slow sip. The tea is refreshing and invigorating, much different from a coffee buzz.

The tea is calming, from the throat to the rest of the body’s system. It washes away the grease from the stomach. Supposedly, having tea after breakfast helps people function better for the rest of the day.

Founded by Chen in 1999, New Century Tea Gallery specializes in tea, tea accessories, architectural moldings, columns, and antique furniture. He visits China frequently to buy teas to stock his store. His vision is to create a retail and wholesale tea business.

He was recently nominated for the Mayor’s Small Business Award of the City of Seattle. ♦

Century Tea Gallery is located at 416 Maynard Ave. S., Seattle.

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