Overlooking the glassy, lily pad-studded lake at Lan Su Chinese Garden is the Tower of Cosmic Reflections. Home to the garden’s two-story teahouse, it is an oasis of dark lacquered wood rooms where visitors to the garden can reflect, meditate, and enjoy the true purpose of Chinese tea culture: to bring people together, nurture relationships, and show respect.
The airy, serene space is decorated with classic artwork, shelves of gaiwan (small ceramic cups for brewing tea), yixing (small clay teapots), chahai (petite tea pitchers), ceremonial wares for sale, and, of course, an impressive selection of Chinese tea available by the cup or as a tea ceremony. The teahouse is run by tea company The Tao of Tea, but while The Tao of Tea’s other Portland location boasts teas from around the world, the Lan Su Garden Teahouse focuses on a curated selection of nearly 20 Chinese teas ranging from herbal and green teas to rare pu’er and oolongs.
The selection changes throughout the year, with specials popping up as they come in. Manager Evonne Tang, who runs the garden teahouse for The Tao of Tea, said there are teas better suited for the winter season. “We drink warm teas, like those with rose petals,” Tang said. “Those kinds of tea for circulation are warmer and more grounding. Green would be too cold for winter.”
Founded in 2000, the Lan Su Chinese Garden is tucked into a quiet corner of Northwest Portland. Much of the garden was built in China—it took 65 Chinese master artisans from Suzhou, Portland’s sister city, 14 months to complete the space, using more than 500 tons of rock from China and more than 300 species of indigenous plants grown in the United States. The result is a garden home to tranquil pavilions, courtyards, and a central lake with the stunning teahouse located on its banks.
According to The Tao of Tea manager Evonne Tang, teas such as those with rose petals are well suited for drinking in wintertime.
The garden hosts activities year-round, from silk painting and calligraphers to jazz nights and tai chi, but the largest event happens every winter, Tang said. Chinese New Year, which starts on January 25 in 2020, is celebrated with 15 days of live music, crafts, and lion dances and four nights of lantern viewing. Throughout the year, musicians also perform traditional Chinese music every week in the teahouse.
“The programs and cultural activities are so alive and affect the artist community,” Tang said. “[Lan Su] is quite like a center. It’s amazing.”
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