This post is a bit overdue, as we visited OFive Tea Bar during the Khatsahlano festival. We were walking along 4th and happened to notice this really cool tea shop – Q had apparently read about this place in the Chinese magazine, so we were pretty excited to check them out (Q: They were featured on the Saturday Magazine of Ming Pao. The article left such a deep impression! A Mexican guy who’s passionate and crazy about Chinese tea who goes out and buy from small, individual tea farmers!).
The decor is very minimal and the focus is really on the long table bar in the small shop. A number of different teas and tea brewing gadgets line one wall. On the bar, there is a simple menu attached to a clipboard that outlines what type of teas you can taste. There’s 3-4 pages of different teas and a small section of small snacks.
Q and I really couldn’t decide! We’re not crazy tea drinkers, so we’re very new to selecting teas (Q: our only tea experiences are tea from dim sum restaurant since we were kids!). Because of that, we decided to just go with Tasting Flights and explored 3 different teas for each of us (so a total of 6 teas) at $17 per person. Pedro, one of the owners, took us on an amazing adventure of tea. I wanted to try some black teas (which Pedro pointed out aren’t really ‘black’ unless they’re the British type of black tea) and Q wanted to try some lighter Oolong? teas (Q: I like lighter and more floral teas).
The three teas I tried were very unique – a 200 year old Oolong tea (the leaves smelled amazing!), a Korean tea called Balhyocha MLH, and a ‘kung fu cha’. Q had an Osmanthus Oolong, a Huang Cha, and some sort of Pu’er tea.
We could tell that Pedro is incredibly passionate about tea, and that his knowledge of Chinese culture, geography, and history put both Q and I to shame (Q: he literally glowed when we asked him about tea, his life in China and everything…most impressive of all…HIS MANDARIN!!!!!!!)! The teas that Pedro selected for us seemed to be combinations he thought up of on the spot; I’m not even sure if some of the ones he took out were on the menu!
Being new at tea tasting, it was really hard for us to properly describe each tea but I’ll give it a shot! For the 200 year old Oolong, it had a really nice fragrance, a full body, and incredible depth – the flavors are much more nuanced than a typical oolong tea. The Balhyocha MLH was my favorite, being a darker tasting tea that has an incredible oaky and chocolate after taste. I even bought some of these tea leaves! The ‘kung fu cha’ was most intriguing!
I’ve heard of this tea before (don’t know what it’s called in English), but Q and I both thought that this tea was typically reserved for the Kung Fu masters, thus named as ‘kung fu cha’. Apparently, the ‘kung fu’ nomenclature simply refers to “with great effort”, which sounds exactly the same as Kung Fu, or Chinese martial arts. The reasoning behind this, according to Pedro, is that this type of tea requires a very strict brewing method (proper water temperature, proper brew time, and proper brewing apparatus) in order to bring out its true flavour essence.
Pedro brewed this in a very small clay tea pot, and the flavours were very complex. The tea lacked the strong edge one would thing this flavour embodies when smelling it. Instead, there were layers of subtle oaky, but clear flavour and even hints of a lingering sweetness. (Q: when I was younger living in Hong Kong and on trips with family to China, I did try some kung fu tea. But my impression was that kung fu tea is something so strong, concentrated that it isn’t really palatable to everyone. Pedro explained I probably didn’t have the tea properly made. The kung fa tea he made was quite nice and I didn’t mind it at all!)
Among the teas Q had, I enjoyed the Osmanthus Oolong the most because of its contrast with the darker teas that I had. It was very fragrant, vibrant, and laced with a slight peachy aftertaste (Q: I can see more girls liking this tea…like how girls like more fruity cocktail). For me, the other two teas that Q had weren’t as unique, the flavours being muted by the teas that I had tried. (Q: I just think it is after all the tea we had, everything started to taste the same and our tongue is quite cooked from the hot tea….)
All-in-all, it was an amazing experience to have a tea tasting with Pedro. We were really lucky to have come by when it was really empty, so Pedro spent practically all his time with us. Even if you’re not typically a tea drinker, I think OFive is a place you should check out – it is a place of passion and inspiration. (Q: They closed at 10 but Pedro talked to us and let us stayed till 1030!)
(Q: funny note…When we pay, I paid in credit card and he immediately knew we are 2nd generation in Canada because he said first generation pays everything in cash. We paused and realize it is true how our parents pay in cash only! Oh…he also lives in Richmond because it is closest environment and culture as Canton where he lived for 10 yr! He also does Tai Chi in the morning with the elderly…He is more of a typical Chinese than C and myself….)