I visited Oregon for the first time with my partner, who went to college there, playing tour guide for me. We have the same problem when it comes to restaurant recommendations in our college towns: neither of us know a lot about nice-but-reasonable restaurants in those respective cities.
The one place, though, that C loved and always asked their mom to take them to when she was visiting Portland was the Lan Su Chinese Garden Teahouse, the poetically named “Teahouse in the Tower of Cosmic Reflections.” C remembered this place seeming expensive as a student, but upon arrival, we discovered the prices were actually reasonable for us now: $7 for a shared tray (gaiwan ceremony style”) of tea and $6 a piece for mooncakes. (Especially dealing with Seattle and Kanazawa restaurant prices!)
I don’t claim to know anything about Chinese tea culture or sweets, but this was a lovely experience. The tea leaves were served in a bowl, and a staff member came and “woke up” the tea by doing a rinse. After that, we could brew two small cups at a time as long as we liked. I’ve only ever had tea ceremonies, however formal or informal, the Japanese way, so this was a nice chance to experience this style of preparing tea.
The tea we ordered was the osmanthus oolong:
Native Name: Gui Hua Oolong
Origin: Hunan, China
A fragrant green oolong infused with osmanthus flowers. Ideal for tea lovers that prefer a fresh, green oolong quality and refined, floral balance to the brew. Gui Hua is the Chinese name for the fragrant osmanthus flower, which blossoms in late summer. In the final stages of processing this tea, the leaves are heat infused with fresh osmanthus blossoms, imbuing the tea with the flower’s fragrant essential oils.
Flavor Profile: Light, bright and sweet with a fruity, floral aroma and hints of apples and apricots. (2015 menu, p. 8)
We ordered a mung bean mooncake and a lotus-seed mooncake. The filling is similar in consistency to koshi-an in manjû, but the pastry, which is Suzhou-style (Portland’s sister city), is closer to puff-pastry than to manjû dough. They were delightful, even if I kept brewing the tea a little too strong.
Check out the teahouse’s website here. It was worth the wait to get a table on the second floor for the view and the windows! I’m very interested to learn more about Chinese tea ceremonies and culture, so if you have resources, send them my way.