This week in tea: Farm-to-cup in Chinatown and takeaways from the Southwest Tea Fest

Mmm … tea.

Farm-to-cup tea in Chinatown

Joe Muscaglione made his name in wine, but he also loves tea. Which is why the veteran sommelier, who’s designed beverage programs for Mario Batali and TAO Group, is launching the Valley’s only “farm-to-cup” tea list at Niu-Gu Noodle House in Chinatown.

Beginning mid-March, Niu-Gu will offer 12 carefully sourced teas from mainland China, served in the traditional Gong Fu ceremony style. During the ritual a server presents tea leaves to guests before serving, and cups are prepared tableside.

“I was surprised when I saw no one was doing it properly in Vegas,” Muscaglione says.

Setting itself apart from other teahouses, Niu-Gu’s menu will include such details as type, province, geographical location, grower and tea maker, farm altitude, and harvest and production dates. The higher the altitude, the better the tea, Muscaglione says. Some varieties Niu-Gu will serve come from 1,000-year-old trees, “far away from any trace of pollution.”

Tea ceremonies will take place by reservation only and will cost about $6 to $18 per person, with most teas falling in the $8-$9 range. The ceremony takes about an hour and a half to fully enjoy. “It’s a ceremony that’s been happening in China forever,” Muscaglione says—and it’s one we’re eager to try here. –Kristy Totten

Niu-Gu Noodle House 3400 S. Jones Blvd., 702-570-6363.

Five favorite pours from the Southwest Tea Fest

Inside the empty bus terminal on Stewart Avenue next to the Mob Museum, Tealet founder and CEO Elyse Petersen gives me the rundown on her company, a Vegas-based startup and grower network made up of independent tea co-ops from eight different countries. From the third-generation, family-owned Satemwa Tea & Coffee Estate in Thyolo, Malawi, Africa and the Meijiawu Tea Village growers in West Lake, Zhejiang, China to the Teenjure Cooperative in Phakphok, Nepal, Petersen has made close connections with tea cultivators and families all over the world—and she knows exactly where her tea is coming from, so her customers can make informed, ethical purchases.

It’s business owners, entrepreneurs and tea lovers like Petersen who have gathered inside the building for the Southwest Tea Fest, unified through the love of tea, healthy living and art. Over in the corner of the building, an older man from Clay Arts Vegas shapes a mound of clay on a pottery wheel, and outside, a jam band performs for a group of barefoot dancers. It’s an eclectic mix of people, all gathered to drink, share and discuss the mighty tea leaf.

Our five favorite pours from the February 27 fest:

1. Suro Cha Hang-Over No More Before you judge me for including a hangover tea on my list, hear me out. With no added sugar or sweeteners, the naturally sweet tea’s flavor comes from hydrangea serrate leaves that have a pleasing, light flavor, and also help the body rehydrate. Add persimmon leaves (a natural diuretic that can decrease bloating) and lotus leaves (to eliminate toxins) and the Suro Cha is a perfect choice for post-party recovery. And it’s delicious.

2. Peach White Tea by T&CO Made from white peonies (also known as bai mudan), this tea is infused with pieces of peach. Founder Jennifer Odera paired the tea with mango paprika white chocolate to bring out its sweet, decadent flavor. T&CO specializes in loose-leaf tea as well as subscription-based tea boxes that showcase Odera’s knack for delicious pairings.

3. Lucky Green Loose Leaf Tea Helen Schussler, owner of Teafolks.com, has been creating and selling her infused, Vegas-themed loose-leaf teas online for years, and she’s also a regular at the Downtown 3rd Farmer’s Market. The “Lucky” Green is a blend of Japanese bancha green tea, dried ginger and lemongrass, making for a refreshing, earthy yet balanced cup of green tea. Schussler also offers flavors like the (Hoover) Dam Tea (with white bai mudan tea, peppermint tea, crushed blue mallow flowers, lemongrass, dried ginger root, and blueberry craisins) and a “Country Breakfast” tea infused with maple hickory-smoked bacon jerky.

4. Tealet Amber Red This double-roasted black tea has an earthy and sweet flavor that would go perfectly with madeleines or any other delicate tea cookie. With notes of molasses, raisin and sweet potato, the Amber Red, grown by the Hariyali Cooperative in the high altitudes of Nepal, has a sweet aroma and is full of body and texture.

5. Oregon Breakfast Black Tea by PlumDeluxe This all-organic tea includes black tea, honeybush tea, orange peel and hazelnut essence (plus love and gratitude, of course). It’s a sweet, bright and bold flavor that’s perfect to kickstart your day—and it has caffeine to give you that much-needed morning jolt. –Leslie Ventura

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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