Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tea off the Beaten Path

While I've blogged about tea houses before here at Pacific Northwest Seasons,  guest blogger Brenna Ciummo, who wrote today's post, has introduced me to some great new places to experience wonderful tea in and outside Seattle. Read on!

If you’re a tea drinker in the Puget Sound region, you've likely visited many of the popular tea houses in the area. If you haven’t, you definitely should. Even though Seattle is still primarily a coffee-based city, there are quite a few tea shops that are worth checking out. Whether you’re searching for a new place to stock up on interesting teas or want to find a quiet, offbeat tea house to add to your repertoire, here are a few hidden gems to add to your list.

Seattle Best Tea
Often described as one of the best Asian tea houses on the West Coast, Seattle Best Tea is the shop for you if love Chinese teas. Seattle Best Tea isn’t a cafĂ© where you can purchase a pot of tea and snack. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a great sense of community inside this International District store. There is always a seat at the tea tasting table for anyone who walks in, and Lydia (one of the shop’s owners), will work with you to find a tea that suits your tastes, while teaching you about the different types of tea along the way.  There is no pressure to purchase a tea, although with the large selection it's hard not to walk out of the store with at least a couple of teas. 

Village Eatery and Tea Company
If you head northeast from Seattle, you'll find Village Eatery and Tea Company tucked into the back corner of Country Village (a quaint, outdoor shopping center) in Bothell. They serve a tasty traditional high tea, with soup or salad, puff pastries, scones, tea sandwiches, and plenty of baked desserts. If you aren’t quite that hungry, there are also other English-style treats available, such as Cornish pasties and the Ploughman’s lunch. The shop has a wide selection of loose leaf tea, so if you’ve discovered a tea you enjoy, purchase it and brew at home. 

Experience Tea
Experience Tea
is not just a retail tea shop in Issaquah, but a place to learn more about the world of tea. You can purchase a variety of unique teas and teaware, and shop owner Roberta teaches everything from a general discovery class to classes that cover specific types of tea. There is even a custom tea blending class where you can create your own signature blend to take home. All of these classes include plenty of tea tasting! 

Baicha Tea Room
I hadn’t heard of this tearoom until recently, when I was talking about local tea houses  with a fellow tea lover who mentioned Biacha. Baicha Tea Room in Edmonds (20 minutes north of Seattle) serves a variety of the tea sandwiches I've grown to adore but that can be surprisingly hard to come by. The tea room also serves up delicious brunch and lunch fare and of course a great selection of teas. You’ll find traditional white, oolong, green, and black tea as well as a number of brews  unique to Baicha, such as wellness blends, flavored and scented teas, and even tea smoothies.

The Japanese Tea Garden

Maybe you've been to the Arboretum in Seattle's Madison Valley, but did you know that you can attend a Japanese tea ceremony there? From April through October, tea ceremonies are held in the Japanese Garden Shoseian Tea House on the third Saturday each month. The Chado demonstrations are free and no reservations are required, but if you would like to partake in a bowl of tea and sweets from the demonstration, you can purchase a $5 ticket at the garden booth. 

Savrika Tea
There are numerous modern yet cozy tea houses popping up to the north and to the east of Seattle besides Baicha. On my list to try is SavrikaTea in Kirkland, which opened in 2012 and claims to be “a modern tea room serving over 200 teas.” If the pictures are true, the shop looks like a great place to relax. While visiting these tea rooms may take a little extra effort if you live in Seattle proper, they are a great excuse to get out and explore the rest of the area. Plus, the tea and food at these shops are worth the trip!

Brenna Ciummo is a writer for Seattle Coffee Gear and enjoys sharing her knowledge of all things coffee and tea. An avid tea drinker, she is always searching for new tearooms to explore.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Crystal Mountain Memories: RIP Chair 6/High Campbell Lift

If you're a Northwest skier, you probably already know that a piece of Pacific Northwest skiing history succumbed a few days ago to a massive avalanche at Crystal Mountain.  Beloved Chair 6, that sometimes thrilling and scary old slow double chairlift to the top of High Campbell, is no more.

Although it was apparently scheduled to be replaced this summer anyway with an updated  new lift, part of the charm of Chair 6 was that it was a remnant of days gone by.  How many times do you get to ski up to a lift line and yell "Single!"  anymore? Most ski areas these days have managed lines with roped lanes for singles.  

The lift ride alone was enough to scare some skiers from the steep, black diamond terrain it served. The sign saying Experts Only wasn't joking.

But the terrain, wow!  Not only Powder Bowl on the north side (remember the Enduro?), but Cambell Basin/High Campbell, and with some mellow climbing and traversing, the South Back (backcountry) and access to Avalanche Basin, the King, and Silver Basin.  Local skiers would vouch that terrain served by Chair 6 is the premier lift-served expert skiing experience in the Pacific Northwest.

The area that slid was on this north and east facing slope.
According to Crystal Pro Patroller Kim Kircher, who wrote the following on the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol blog in 2009:

...Chair 6.  It certainly is an icon here at Crystal.  Anyway, nowadays High Campbell Chair is most likely the reason many people ski and ride at Crystal.  The chair has served us well and indeed will be replaced soon .

Prescient words. (Click on Kim's name above to go to her blog post about setting off the avalanche and photos of the aftermath.) So next season there will be a new lift, which will be roomier at the top so you don't have to check with your lift partner and scramble left or right quickly when you unload. 

Viewing the aftermath, almost two weeks later.

But I'll miss Chair 6, its ramshackle little lift shack at the base, and the old-fashioned single lift line. And some memorable rides up with friends, new friends, and sometimes strange strangers.

Looking down to Chair 6 (you can see the lift line down there) and the path of the slide, slightly to skier's right.

Years ago one of the lifties at the base of Chair 6 used to blast a lot of Jimi Hendrix (another Pacific Northwest icon who was from Seattle). Whenever I hear his rendition of Dylan's All Along the Watchtower, I always think of loading Chair 6 and sunny, fantastic, challenging, thrilling days skiing High Campbell and beyond.

What are some of your Chair 6/High Campbell memories? I'd love to hear in the Comments below.

Thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ready to Spring in the Northwest

Too much work and not enough play has kept us away from posting here on Pacific Northwest Seasons the last few weeks. More soon! 

In the meantime, spring is really springing up around the region. I couldn't resist snapping this sweet patch of crocuses in the planting strip just outside the Java Bean coffee shop in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood.

What signs of spring have you seen in your neighborhood or wherever you've been outdoors the last few weeks?

Check back soon for a run-down on spring skiing here in the Northwest and learn about some great new teahouses around the Seattle area.

Happy trails.