Sunday, July 9, 2006

Going To Wing Hop Fung in Chinatown

Yesterday afternoon, BBB and I got together and visited Wing Hop Fung in Chinatown. My plan was to see what kinds of spring 2006 oolong they carry and also to get a few ounces of the jasmine tea balls to replenish my dwindling supply at home. Apparently, all the fresh 2006 oolong they have consists of 3 or 4 Taiwanese oolong types and only one kind of Anxi Tieguanyin, as far as I recall. They are all the green qing xiang type. Since I still have a lot of qing xiang TGY at home, I decided to not get any but instead try out their other darker, undated oolongs.

As I am a sucker for Dan Cong (a.k.a. Lone Bush), I asked them to brew for us their highest priced Feng Huang Dan Cong “Yellowstone” (@ $68.99/lb). It was one of the mildest tasting Dan Cong I've ever had. While the wet leaves had that typical yellow fruits and slight honey-floral-like smell, it was kind of fuzzy. Was it because they didn't put enough leaves in their Yixing pot? They brew everything using their Yixing pots--which made me wonder if the pots have seen every type of teas the store carries--instead of using a gaiwan. The fact that the tea was served in little paper cups (office-kitchen-water-cooler cups) didn't help matter. I decided to get merely an ounce of this Dan Cong to try properly at home, my way, my style.

We also asked to try the Wuyi Supreme [!] Da Hong Pao and Szechuan Emei Shan "Bamboo Green Tea" (@ $118/lb...still trying to figure out what its Chinese name is). While the Da Hong Pao was supremely dissapointing, the "Bamboo Green Tea" was quite nice. BBB said "Rice-y, grainy, and vegetal," as I recall...he might have said spinach too. Though I liked this tea, I am skeptical with anything served in a sad, little paper cup. I just bought an ounce for a better try out at home. If I like it, I'll come back for more.

Other things I purchased and almost purchased:
- A small, decent quality, thinly-walled, dark zisha Yixing pot (~120ml)
- 4 large(r) porcelain gongfu tea cups
- 3/4 lbs of the jasmine tea balls, but the saleswoman forgot to give the bag to me before I left and it slipped my mind, too.

I must say that I felt slightly uncomfortable with the settings of their tea department because, while I could ask the salesperson to brew any tea before buying, the atmosphere was such that when I asked them, it felt like they were doing me a favor so I should get a kilo of that tea they were about to brew per my request. Further, they have this sloppy, half-hearted way of brewing the tea, after which the saleswoman would say in Chinese “Oh, this is a fresh (Supreme) Da Hong Pao…very good, just came in…how about a pound of this, ok? You and your friend should get this tea, ok?” Oh boy, was I glad I went with BBB as he was able to convince me to be insistent and anticipate the sales pressure.

All this and I haven’t even got into talking about their overpriced cooked pu-erh selections. BBB and I had a good laugh at their $$$$$ 1950’s cooked beeng and what most likely are fake CNNP cooked cakes!

Wing Hop Fung’s tea department is supposedly one of the better stocked tea shops in LA. However, they seriously need serious competition to clean their act up (I’m limiting my comment to their tea department). Maybe competition wouldn't make any difference.
This is L.A. after all, not China.


Jason Fasi said...

you should check out the Monterey Park store. I went there today on a whim--mostly to determine if public transit was practical for journeys Monterey Park (it is)--and their wine and tea selections are far, far better than the chinatown store. The sales pressure is irksome, still, but I just ignore it.

I'm posting some pictures of tea trays for Walt on the pu'er lj, but I didn't think to take a pic of the wine wall for you. They even have a section of wall turned into a glass room that looks like climate-controlled wine storage.

Anyway, next time we get together and feel like shopping around, I suggest we go to the WHF in Monterey Park.

~ Phyll said...

Sounds good! Next time let's check out their Monterey Park store. I really like the Emei Shan Bamboo Green Tea (zhuyeqing) and want to get some more of it.

steven said...

I agree with you completely Phyll about WHF and their "tea service". I visited the Monterey Park store, and loved the experience, especially all of the inexpensive tea ware.

But the way they display their teas, as well as how they try to sell them, is pathetic. Styrophome cups, yixing brewed very haphazardly, would you like a pound of that?, etc. I asked for an ounce, and got 1/10th of a pound, or 1.6 oz. No big deal, but it's just indicative of their lack of attention to detail. But on the other hand, it's a hell of a fun place to go. And with Jason, I'm sure it's even better.