In the poem “Seven Cups of Tea,” Lu Yu described a session of tea drinking that progressively quenched his thirst, abated loneliness, and provided healing, purification and euphoria. Seven Cups Denver is named after this poem, so I hoped that even if the mile-high location didn’t leave me feeling elevated, the tea would.
I can’t claim to have reached Lu Yu’s state during my visit (no paths to immortal ancestors were discovered), but I did leave Seven Cups with my thirst quenched and my spirits high.
Walking toward Seven Cups, my husband Marko and I noticed that the Platte Park district where it is located had some of the traits that had attracted us to Portland and started our cross-country move and tea tour in the first place: smiling pedestrians, cute shops and restaurants, a moderately high population density, alternative medicine practitioners’ offices and the like. Tea house owners often say neighborhood characteristics like these contribute to their success, and Seven Cups indeed appeared to be the kind of business that thrives on the foot traffic these neighborhoods encourage.
After checking out the retail area in the front of Seven Cups, we entered the back, where a fairly traditional Chinese tea house generates about 70 percent of the business’s sales, according to Andrew Pickens, the marketing manager. The space featured carved, inlaid wooden furniture, wall scrolls, ornate lanterns and several displays of traditional and locally produced tea ware. It was a little cold and rigid for my taste, but seemed well suited for the events and tastings often held there.
Making our tea selection easy were the equally informative Pickens and a menu that listed teas by type and sub-region of China, including nearly 100 organically grown teas, most of which are for serious tea-drinkers. I ordered a 1998 gold medal dan cong oolong served gong fu style. It had a pervasive, floral depth and notes of citrus and stone fruit that evolved with each infusion.
After confirming the six moon cakes they offered were vegetarian (many contain lard), we ordered the “Lotus No Yolk” moon cake, which Pickens said was their most popular by far. Although I knew the dense, rich moon cake was more than enough for the two of us, I was tempted by the extensive wagashi list and ultimately caved when I found out they served a bok choy chai ice cream (yes, really) with chunks of chocolate in it. Not wanting to pass up what would likely be my only chance to taste such an oddity, I pounced on it. Believe it or not, it was delicious – spicy, sweet and balanced.
I’d have loved to linger at Seven Cups, but night was falling and our next stop (the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse) would close soon. Pickens brewed two more infusions of my dan cong oolong and poured them into a to-go cup. Smiling from another great stop on the trip, I sipped my tea as Marko and I drove on toward Boulder.