There is not enough tea in all of Flushing to cleanse my body after almost a full year of living here, but I am trying my hardest to stay pure.
On a rainy day in February, Logan and I ventured back out into Flushing, Queens for part two of our Tour de Tea. I’ve heard that rain is very cleansing for the soul, but I don’t think who ever said that has tried catching black raindrops on their tongue in New York City.
Nonetheless, we put on our boots and rain coats and ascended into #LadiesWhoLunch status at Bodai Leaf, a hip new restaurant crafting all meatless renderings of classic Chinese dishes. We were served jasmine tea to start, which we sipped as a group of local Buddhist nuns chanted their prayers at a nearby table.
The menu at Bodai Leaf offers more variety than what we got, but believe it or not, I ordered my lunch based on what I was in the mood for rather than what would make the best picture (I will never make it in the blogging world). Below is the meatless orange chicken, meatless sesame chicken, and a side of fried rice that did not come with the main dishes.
Overall… we were unimpressed. The soy masquerading as chicken was quite tasty, even the texture was incredibly chicken like, but for $15 each I would think a main dish would come with more than steamed broccoli, and the $7 side of fried rice was extremely bland and disappointing. The dessert menu sounded tempting, mostly because I saw donuts on it, but after a just-okay lunch we decided not to order anything more.
Bodai Leaf has been open less than a month, so perhaps they’re just getting their footing, but I had read that the chef trained with a famous chef at Buddha Bodai in Chinatown and was expecting more. Most of the reviews on Yelp are extremely positive, so I would consider going back to try something else, but I’m not in a rush to do so.
After stuffing ourselves with imitation chicken and a whole pot of jasmine tea, Logan and I walked off our happy buddha bellies en route to Feng Gourmet Tea House, a nook in downtown Flushing serving traditional Chinese tea. None of that sugary, milky chain crap that the youths seem so taken with these days.
I had considered Feng Gourmet Tea House for our first Tour de Tea, but the website discouraged me from trying it, saying things about booking in advance for a group tasting and nothing about pricing. I cannot enter a tea house without being educated and prepared, I simply cannot. However, since the reviews on Yelp were so positive, I gave it a go, blind and terrified, my body ready for a wild time.
This video demonstrates the unique pouring technique used in traditional Chinese tea ceremonies called Gong Fu Cha, which translates “to brew tea with skill.” It’s a very slow process with many steps, but when done right, it enhances the flavor of the tea and elevates the relaxing experience of sitting back (or stiffly upright on wooden benches as we were here) and enjoying life at a peaceful pace. Basically the opposite of everything Western culture is based on.
There were a surprising amount of supplies needed for this process, more than my two years serving tea out of Teavana’s Perfect Tea Maker™ had prepared me for. There are the wooden tweezers and a wooden Cha Ze (scoop). Then the tea ware; here we used ceramic since yixing clay, while excellent quality, retains too much of each tea’s flavor and would mix in with every subsequent brew.
First, hot water is poured into every piece to warm it. Then, the chosen tea is ‘washed’ in the first brew to open up the leaves. Then… Well, explaining the highly detailed process of ceremonially steeping and pouring tea is beyond my realm of expertise, so for a more in depth gong fu cha education, I recommend you watch this video or read this article.
I was told that this type of tea drinking is better for those who are sensitive to caffeine, because the low steeping times don’t release as much caffeine. I was told lies.
I was still doing handstands at 2am, nearly 10 hours after I was done drinking tea here. I’m really trying to increase my tolerance to caffeine, but something about it makes me dizzy and shaky and unable to form a complete thought. Idk, everything’s fine.
I would have had more, too, if one, the bathroom was nicer because all this tea went straight through me, and two I could justify spending hundreds of dollars and several hours sipping tea with my bestie. We tried three flavors: white peach for $5 each, smoky red for $5 each, and a Ti Kuan Yin Honey Roasted Aroma 30% for $10 each. Prices can go up to $30 for some of the more rare puerh pastes and rare leaves, and I will say I could taste a difference in quality between the $5 and $10 teas.
We were all smiles after 16 teeny cups of tea! Despite suffering through six steeps of the unfavorable red tea, which tasted like drinking a campfire, we rebounded back from it thanks to the honey roasted oolong. Our tea pourer said that to her, the red tea was fruity, like a longan fruit, but neither of us white girls had ever tried the fruit and therefore did not think of it when we drank it.
Fang Gourmet Tea is all about promoting of the spirit of teaism through physical and spiritual wellness in daily life and something called “the unlimited sensation of tea”, which sounds like a bunch of hooey but is actually a real thing. Walking out of Feng and back into the busy streets of Flushing felt like I was walking out of a full body massage, that’s how relaxing it was. The whole time we spoke in a low whisper, almost like we were filming an ASMR video. I will absolutely be back, next time in my robe and slippers.