PORTLAND, Ore. – Chinatown is home to the gorgeous Classical Chinese Gardenand Tao of Tea’s Cosmic Tower of Reflections. The garden is a paradise of lush fruit trees, firs and camellias that grow so easily in the Pacific Northwest.
The buildings, plants and pond interacted in a distinctive way, completely unlike Western gardens (which often come across as more rigid and controlled) and classical Japanese tea gardens (in which tenuous structures play up a Wabi-Sabisense of impermanence, while ponds and plants may appear more manicured).
The garden was bustling with visitors, yet a sense of tranquility permeated the space. Peeking into one pavilion, was Verinder Chawla, Tao of Tea’s owner, instructing two-dozen people how to grow, process and brew tea. Outside, people gazed at the lake, crossed covered bridges and observed the plants.
The Tao of Tea teahouse is an elegant two-story building with tall, open windows that look out onto waterside seating. Hand-carved wooden surfaces and multiple displays of Yi Xing pots created visual interest, but for the most part the interior of the teahouse was pleasingly simple. Three silk-clad musicians played classical Chinese music as a mix of locals and tourists relaxed, took in the view, savored their food or enjoyed the ritual of tea.
I bypassed the sizable pu-erh selection and ordered Black Spiral, which arrived in a Yi Xing pot with a small porcelain teacup and carved wooden saucer. My husband ordered a small carafe of plum sake, served in a hand-blown frosted glass carafe and matching cup. (They also offer house green tea sake, which I hope to try the next time I visit!)
We shared a serene respite over multiple infusions of tea and a small meal of spicy peanuts, turnip cakes (served on banana leaves atop an incised terra cotta dish), steamed dumplings and a mooncake. Afterward, we explored the rest of the garden and biked home, taking in more of our new city along the way.
The Cosmic Tower of Reflections offers a peaceful, beautiful atmosphere, and delicious fare.