Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Phoenix Tea Shop Moment

Just outside the city limits of Seattle, in a small town by the name of Burien, there is a little place called The Phoenix Tea Shop. While the shop itself is small and unassuming, the proprietress and her teas are somewhat of a legend.

I've known of The Phoenix Tea Shop and Virginia Wright, a.k.a. Cinnabar, a.k.a. Gongfu Girl since I first started this blog in 2008. She is one of the original tea bloggers (having started her tea blogging journey in 2006) and a co-founder / co-director of the Association of Tea Bloggers.

When I heard I would be going to Seattle for a conference, I asked the Twitter-verse where I needed to go to tea, and the resounding answer from all over the U.S. was :


And so it came to pass that I arrived at the Phoenix Tea Shop, met Virginia, and spent several enjoyable hours chatting and drinking tea Gong Fu Style.

Topics ranged from chamber music (she's the managing director for a group that teaches introduces kids to chamber music), preserving the history and spirit of communities (she's the Executive Director of the Rainier Valley Historical Society), and Tea (she's participating in the World of Tea Series this Saturday, May 23rd,  with a Special TeaAid Tea Tasting to benefit Nepal Earthquake relief efforts.More info here.)

And while we discussed all of these things, she brewed gaiwan after gaiwan of tea. First Alishan, a high mountain oolong, with which I got to use an aroma cup! (My second time ever. The first happened within the last 2 weeks!!)  As the number of infusions progressed, the floral notes literally blossomed, and the tea became mellower with each steeping.

Then a full leaf Kenyan black tea, which had a unique earthy bass note with high lilting sweetness. As the infusions progressed, the maltiness grew in the most delightful way.

It felt like old home week, though this was our first meeting. We talked about the tea community as though we were catching up on news of extended family. And a recurring theme as we talked about them was their collective generosity and support - the most recent example being Elyse of Tealet being able to source teas of Nepal very quickly for this week's benefit.

And in the course of conversation, I uncovered an amazing secret. Virginia, better known as Cinnabar, better known as Gongfu Girl, is not the original Gongfu Girl. It is a name that was bestowed on her years ago. Just as Westley was not the original Dread Pirate Roberts, the original Gongfu Girl most likely 'has been retired fifteen years and living like a king (or queen) in Patagonia.'

Before leaving, I stocked up on some Alishan and their best seller: Burien Breakfast Blend. It was a very good moment, and I thank Virginia for her warmth, conversation and hospitality! I'll be back!

To visit:
Open Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m, Sunday noon - 6 p.m.
903 SW 152nd Street
Burien, WA, 98166
(206) 495-7330

Or order beautiful teas online at:

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