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Jan 3, 2008 12:49 AM

Napa (Oxbow Market) – The Tillerman Tea Company

I liked the two samples of tea a lot but I don’t like the set up too much. I guess I’m spoiled by Teance which made Chinese tea accessible to me.

I like being able to buy tastes of the tea so I can make up my mind. Also Teance is really helpful in educating customers about tea.

I found The Tillerman experience somewhere between Teance and Imperial Tea which I find very unhelpful. There is no place to sit. Only a counter with two tasting set ups.

About all I learned was the name of the tea and nothing about the tea. When I asked if the samples were all that were available I was told yes. However I see from the Oxbow website …

“By reservation, customers can book a private tea tasting and education program with ceremonial aspects provided by Wong. Tillerman Tea will offer a limited selection of rare loose-leafed teas in addition to a special "house flight" of five teas: green, oolong, black, jasmine and pu-erh.”

While I realize that is probably not available at opening, it would have been nice to be told about it.

Maybe it is just being new and they will work things out a little better as they settle in.

I liked the Gaoshan Oolong (Nantou, Taiwan) very much. It had a nice toasty taste … $4 for 25 g.

The other sample was the house organic Mao Jian from Zhejang, China $3.25
It would be a pleasant every day tea.

I’m a pu’erh fan. There’s only one house organic pu’erh. They do sell pu’erh cakes dated 1999, 2005 and 2007. Prices run from $85 to $210 per cake. All are from Yunnan, China.

Is this common? While I know that pu’erh is sold in cakes the dates are throwing me. I thought they needed to age 10 or more years. Is this like buying a bottle of wine and putting it away?

One interesting thing is some teas have an artisan name next to them. The two mentioned are Bih Lu and Chen Huan Tang both from Nantou, Taiwan.

Other tea places of origin in addition to those metioned: Sichuan, China; Jiangsu, China; Taipei, Taiwan; Fujian, China; Hsinechu, Taiwan; Guandong, China; Anhui, China;Guangxi, China.

Lots of organic tea available. If anyone is interested I’ll post the tea list I asked for.

Oxbow Public Market
610 First Street, Napa, CA 94559

Tillerman Tea
610 First St, Napa, CA 94558

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    1. From the SJ Mercury:
      Tillerman Tea: lion dance performance, noon Sun. There will be FREE tea tasting, snacks, & lucky red envelopes offered throughout the day.

      1. I met David Wong when I stopped by the Oxbow Public Market for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and he was fabulous (used to teach at Imperial Tea Court until he was recruited away to open Tillerman). He told me about the option of setting up a private class. Space is somewhat problematic at the kiosk, but for classes they reserve some of the public tables. I have an intro class scheduled for March 8. I'll report back.

        1. Pu-erh teas can be drunk at any age, but you are right, drinking a 2007 sheng pu-erh now would be a waste, since it will improve considerably with age. People usually buy them like wines, for laying in. If it's a shou ("cooked") pu-erh, it really doesn't matter much.

          2 Replies
            1. re: rworange

              It's complicated, but shou pu-erh is "matured" rapidly through a controlled composting at increased moisture and temperature levels. Sheng ("raw") pu-erh is allowed to mature more naturally, over a period of years.

              If you are a pu-erh fan, you can hang with the pu-erh heavies on this communal blog and probably learn more than you want to know:


              Me, I'm a green tea wimp all the way.

          1. I saw Mr. Tillerman himself (David Campbell) and his grower from Taiwan and the Tillerman Tea exhibit at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas in May 2008 and tasted his teas (along with hundreds of others). I have to say their Oolongs are outstanding! They were the best ones there in my opinion.