Lanterns are a classic emblem of the Chinese mid-Autumn harvest seasonDon't blink, but the sun has officially crossed the equator where Aries and Virgo meet and the harvest moon is in the night sky. Autumn is here and there are more reasons to celebrate the waxing auburn season than to mourn the cherry-blossom one.
China's Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is one of them. This is after all the time of the fall tea harvest, and in a month or two we'll see some of Yunnan and Guandong's best yearly crops at some our favourite local stores.
We've also assembled some yixing pot seasoning tips to break in the fall in anticipation of all those extra leaves!
To commemorate the celestial dance between sun and horizon, our friends at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden opened their doors for the annual Mid-Autumn Moon Festival where they ushered guests in from an early-season downpour to enjoy some of the classics of China's national festival: mooncake, music, lanterns – and tea!
The seasonal rain meant revellers hastened into one of several cozy salons the society had set up. The main room (and where I spent most of my time) was partitioned with the bandstand on one side – where the VSO School of Music's Azalea Chinese Music Ensemble played a few spirited airs that I could only assume were classics of the season. The other half yielded opposing tables where a couple of familiar tea hats held court and the cha poured liberally.
Check out some of the highlights of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival in the gallery below.
A time for tea
On one side of the room was Michael-Bryan Gampp, retired chef-cum-teaficionado with whom I had exchanged correspondences but never met, and on the other was Del Tamborini, co-founder of the Vancouver Tea Festival (which is coming up, by the way.) Both were offering a repertoire of fine entry teas, including a young but subtly nuanced 2018 sheng Gampp kept going back to and which kept pace throughout the evening.
Tamborini maneuvered between a brick of shou puerh whose mahogany syrup drew oohs and aahs and a softer jasmine green that provided a fine rhythm between clear and opaque cups.
No wonder there was a steady turnover of guests on both ends. I often got up so some shoulder peeker could take my seat. Rarely was there a point-aside from the obligatory musical interludes-when the tables were absolutely deserted. One or two participants clearly had experience with this kind of tea before; but to my delight (and in confirmation of a pet theory of mine), the newcomers were the most fascinated and genuinely curious about the ceremony and amazed to find this kind of tea poured it in their own backyards.
Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and more
That's yet another indication that Vancouver tea culture is not only here to stay, but the bud is yielding greater stalks.
So as the rain clouds marshal on the horizon, let's remember you can't have a spring harvest without the autumn shower. Keep your eyes posted here and on Instagram as the weather cools down for more local tea events (including out regular #teaficionado tea sessions). Because as they say, you can't spell community without tea!
The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is open to guests every day at 578 Carrall Street in the heart of Chinatown, with special events and summer tea sessions hosted by a local tea master (ending Friday, September 28). Follow them on Facebook to find out more.