Yesterday, Chris and I spent a delightful hour learning all about tea, from Vincent Low, a respected tea master who has a tea house and shop in Chinatown. We had heard of Vincent when we first moved here and had tried to visit with him several times by just dropping by his tea house. Eventually we realized that an appointment was necessary, as Vincent maintains a busy schedule of workshops and lectures at his shop and in schools and universities throughout Singapore.
His business has two sides, one that houses display shelves lined with teapots and cups and colorful boxes, tins and bricks of tea, and the other which is the teahouse, serving tea and tim sum. (I think tim sum is the same as dim sum.) We were seated at a round table in the back of the shop, where an assistant placed a large, round tray/bowl (see picture) with a couple of small teapots, a large teapot with water on top of a brazier and four small bowls containing four different kinds of tea. Vincent sat opposite us, and started off by saying that there are only four kinds of tea, all originating from the same plant, camellia sinensis - black, oolong, green and white (shown in that order in the picture). We soon learned that white tea is best, due to the part of the plant that is used, and how it is harvested (by hand) and processed - basically dried in the sun and that's it. Lovely, delicate flavor and lowest in caffeine - and, as with green tea, high in anti-oxidants for fighting disease and cholesterol. So, of course, we left with a beautiful green tin of it. To my friends in Singapore, you gotta check this out - it's a real treat!