Backpacking Tea

I’m still off the caffeine most of the time, but I was able to sneak in a little treat last weekend during our backpacking trip along Ingall’s Creek on the east side of Blewett Pass. There were 9 of us in the group, and many of them have had the joy of gongfu tea at my house, so I thought they’d appreciate a little pu’erh out in the wilderness.

We only went about four miles before found a large campsite to accommodate all of our tents, and we decided to set up there. I don’t get the chance to do this kind of thing often enough to be in great shape for it, so I’m really picky about how much gear I’m willing to haul around. In this case, I decided that it would certainly be worth it to bring 10 ceramic sipping cups, a ceramic pot and serving vessel, a strainer, and a little packet of pu’erh into a soft case that sat in the top of my pack. I cushioned it with cloth napkins from the linens drawer.

campkettle.jpgWe were lucky enough to be at a low enough elevation to allow for a campfire, so as the sun went down we brought the flame to life to keep us warm, and I started boiling water in our new GSI aluminum kettle using an MSR Pocket Rocket stove.

The kettle is wide and flat, so it saves pack room and heats the water fairly quickly. It also has a basket inside – ready for loose tea. It looks tiny, but holds 0.8 liters, which was plenty of water for several infusions with one kettle-full. Cat has been bringing this kettle to our campouts, so I’ve been eyeing it for quite some time. Backpacking gear can be so ridiculously pricey, and I would have acquired one sooner if I’d realized it was only $17.95!

pack-fu1.jpgI brought along a little of the Pu’erh Special from the Teacup. I wasn’t exactly using a perfect method, so the timing wasn’t accurate, and I didn’t have the luxury of doing all the rinsing I wanted to do. I did manage to warm up the vessels before I served. Special has a very deep, earthy flavor all the way through six infusions. I was filling my pot to the top in order to accommodate nine people, and I couldn’t decant it all, so some of the tea was steeped an extra long time.

Ethel sent me these nice photos to share with you. For those of you who really enjoy moment-by-moment flavor reports may be disappointed by my lack of detail I can provide today.

pack-fu11.jpgI can say that even the most picky of my companions enjoyed the flavor very much. It was perfect for an evening under tall cedars and pines. The real joy of this one was having such an appropriate and delicious tea so far away from civilization.


  1. I like the idea of bringing ceremony into a wilderness context. Those pictures are really great.

  2. That’s very impressive. I like it.

  3. There is nothing better than good tea up in the mountains! Bravo!

  4. That is so cool! Great post by the way, finally something about tea and the pleasure of enjoying it… other than tea for weight loss. Well done!

  5. Very nice post. I always take a tea set along camping, regardless of how crazy it may seem, and am happy to see I’m not the only one! I find that a lot of people focus on the technical skills of preparing tea, and not as much on the whole experience of it, which is what appeals to me.

    I live in Taiwan, and most of our camping is in bamboo forests. My regular camping buddies have often commented that our tea (any variety) always seems to taste better in a bamboo grove. I have a standard travel set in a plastice suitcase (contains butane-powered stove, kettle, pot, pitcher, 6 cups, and loose tea) for ‘car camping’ and off-road 4×4 trips, and a smaller gaiwan-style set (gaiwan, pitcher, and 6 cups in a padded pouch a little larger than a digital camera bag that can be worn on a belt) for hiking or when space is tight.

    It’s great to see this kind of post – thanks for putting it up, and hope there’ll be more like them in the future.

  6. I love the idea that tea tastes better in a bamboo grove!

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