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DIGEST | Behind the Scenes: Making Chinese New Year

Every year, we celebrate Chinese New Year with a tea service of traditional snacks and special labels that celebrate the particular year in the Chinese zodiac. Since it follows the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year falls on a different day every year; in 2021 it’s February 12th that will signal the year of the bull.

Of course, our plans for this year are a little different than in previous years. The plan came together in early January, when our design inspiration struck. We had been struggling with how to incorporate the bull–this year’s zodiac sign–into our label design. Besides eating grass, the animal itself doesn’t really do much (so Wikipedia said).

Then, we received a beautiful Christmas card from Miyuki, one of our baker extraordinaires who is currently in Tokyo. The card depicted a lush green tea garden dotted with little Santas harvesting tea leaves. It was so adorable that it became the inspiration for our Year of the Bull tea labels, which feature one scene of little bulls harvesting tea in a field and another of the bulls sharing tea and pineapple linzers together. How cute is that?

The Snacks

Instead of a tea service in the tearoom, we’ve been tinkering with a celebratory Prosperity Snack Box. Traditional Chinese New Year snacks are meant to give the year a fresh and auspicious start. Peanuts are also known as ‘longevity nuts’ and symbolize longevity and prosperity for the new year. They are represented by peanut nougat in our snack box.

In fact, most nuts are considered lucky snacks that generally signify longevity and happiness, though individual nuts have particular meanings. We chose the black sesame for luck, the almond for a bright future, and the pumpkin seed for the prosperity of the next generation. If we really want luck, Gen Z really needs it.

To round out the Prosperity Snack Box, Fred has created a date and walnut nougat. Walnuts symbolize the happiness of the family and dates represent wealth and prosperity, so this is a strong combination! Date varietals that are more red in color are especially auspicious, as red is a lucky color in the Chinese New Year tradition.

The Red Envelope

For anyone who grew up celebrating Chinese New Year, the red envelope is an iconic tradition. Red for luck, the envelopes are usually full of money and gifted to children during the Chinese New Year festival.

We wanted to incorporate this element of the celebration to our own this year. Don’t get too excited though: we couldn’t just stuff envelopes with cash and send it out, great as it sounds. Instead, we’re taking a more whimsical approach: the first 88 orders will receive a red envelope with a $2 bill inside–a curiosity that is still, technically, real money.

The Tea

Though this tea isn’t strictly related to Chinese New Year, we thought Seaport Oolong fit the ethos of 2021 so we’re launching it just after the lunar new year. Produced in the southern tip of Taiwan by the ocean with a cultivar that can be traced back to Fujian, this tea is a survivor.

The low elevation, high temperatures, humidity, and salinity from the ocean breeze make for unusual conditions for tea growing. To withstand its climate, the tea leaves here grow especially thick. So how did tea end up in such a difficult environment? Apparently, a local seaport official loved tea so much that he commissioned a plot of land for cultivation, and this tea is now one of the three treasures of the area.

Seaport Oolong is cultivated by a small family outfit and is little known outside of the immediate vicinity. In fact, Té might be the only place to stock this tea outside of Taiwan. With its story of overcoming adversity, we thought the tea was the perfect nod to the new year.

We love Seaport Oolong for its approachability, resilience, and touch of wildness. A lightly roasted oolong with hints of grassiness, it reminds us of Frozen Summit. With a sip, you can feel the ocean breeze and the heat as fog rolls gently over the landscape.

Suffice it to say, Chinese New Year is one of our favorite celebrations to bring to the tearoom every year. Even though that’s of course not possible this year, we’re so excited to share some special snacks and a new tea for an auspicious start to the Year of the Bull. We’ll take all the luck we can get, thank you!

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Favorite Prosperity Snacks

Elena

Peanut Nougat: This nougat is different from the French ones - not so sweet and is vibrantly peanut-y. It tastes like my childhood in Taiwan.

Fred

No favorite: It’s like picking your favorite children!

Kenji

Black Sesame Brittle: The sesame candy is my favorite. It strikes the perfect balance of sweet and savory, with gentle sugary flavors that don’t overpower the sesame taste.

Nika

Date & Walnut Nougat: This was a tough decision for me because I am a (Té exclusive) nut brittle enthusiast, but the date and walnut nougat narrowly beat it out. I love the decadence of this candy–deceptive, really, because it’s really just dried fruit and nuts–as well as the subtle flavor combination.

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