A few weeks ago we dropped in to Scrumptious Reads on James St on our way home from the movies. I had read in their newsletter that they had some urban bee rooftop honey on taste and whilst honey’s not top of my list, it is certainly on the top of Anthony’s. We popped in to chat with co-owner Julie and were lucky enough to arrive just as May King Tsang was starting a demonstration of the Gong Fu or Chinese Tea Ceremony.
I’d originally met Julie when she came to my house for a Gastronauts Supper Club dinner. Since then we’ve seen each other at a few events and I’ve dropped into the shop a few times to browse and buy gifts. I met May King over Twitter and knew she ran events such as Tea and Food Matching dinners but had not met her in person. Manchester born, May King calls herself a BBC (British Born Chinese) and now lives in Brisbane. She is Australia’s only certified ‘Tea Note Speaker’ and is a delightful personality, full of generosity, curiosity and smiles.
We sat and watched as May King filled the cups and tea pot with water several times so they would be warmed to the requisite temperature. In between we smelled the Oolong tea and talked about its scent and taste, discussed how the tea was picked and about tea traditions. Finally the tea was poured from the pot to a jug and then into warmed aroma cup and topped with a drinking cup. When we were ready to have our first cup, May King showed us how to tip the tea from the aroma cup into the drinking cup and told us the parable of the Golden Carp. ‘The Golden Carp jumps over the Golden Bridge’. We smelled the aroma and then tasted the liquor. There were only a few small sips and then it was back to warming the cups and steeping the tea again. Each time, the flavour of the tea changed as the leaves opened up.
May King suggested that a traditional ceremony would have minimal and perhaps no talking at all but she had broken with this to provide a better insight into the world of tea and Chinese culture. We stayed for half a dozen cups then said our farewells. A very relaxing interlude on a Saturday afternoon.
If you haven’t been to Scrumptious Reads in James Street, it’s a fascinating visit. There’s all the popular cookbooks as well as more specialist volumes. The shop has a wide range of food themed magazines, periodicals and unusual publications. If you are in any way interested in food or publishing, a visit is a must. You’ll be be certain to develop a long list of books that you covet and be able to give it to friends and family who are looking for gifts for you. Visit the Scrumptious Reads website or sign up to their newsletter to keep up to date with the wide range of events and activities.
May King runs the Gong Fu Ceremony on a fairly regular basis at weekends so check her website (or Scrumptious Reads’) to find out when she’s next running it. It’s free to attend and May King will be delighted to talk with you and share her knowledge of tea, hoping it leads you into a whole new tea appreciation world. May King speaks at a number of business, food and beverage events as well as hosting guided tastings and of course, sells tea.