She sits at her kitchen table, about to take her fist sip of Della Terra’s S’mores that I made for her. I’m sitting across the table. It’s cold outside in the darkness and wants to snow. Billie Holiday plays in the background. We’re just sitting and talking, tea the only thing between us. Maybe there’s more. I don’t know. I don’t care. I’m just happy in this moment.
She tries the S’mores and loves it. She’s smiling over the steam rising from the cup. Tells me its awesome. I smile back. She takes another sip.
“I brought this,” picking up a plastic bag with various tea pouches I got in the mail from Jas-eTEa, “because I’m really excited to open them and smell them and maybe try one. With you.”
We open them all, the 2010 and 2011 Liu An Gua Pian and the 2011 Bi Luo Chun (Green Snail Spring). I ask her if she smells certain notes and tones in each. I shake some small, fragile leaves from the Green Snail pouch in my hand and we look at it and I talk about the pan-frying and how each leaf is rolled in the tea makers palm to give it it’s twisted “snail-like” appearance. Then I tell her how it was originally called Xia Sha Ren Xiang, which meant “fragrance to cause fear and trembling” and then how it was changed to “Green Snail Spring” because the Emperor didn’t think it sounded fit for royalty. She’s listening but not saying anything.
“I’m geeking out again. You can tell me to stop talking about tea whenever-”
“Stop,” she says and smiles, “I like it. Keep going.”
I put just over 2 oz of the dry leaves in my ingenuiTEA tea maker. I let it sit for a few seconds and ask her to smell them. There’s a lightness their odor, a dry flower or plant smell. Its quiet. Herbaceous but not heavy.
“This is my favorite part. Remember that smell,” I say. I turn around and pour some warm water in. I wait about 10 seconds. Discard it. I give it back to her. “Check this out.”
She smells it. Her eyes light up and she looks at me, says “Whaaaaaat…” and smells again, “that’s cool! That smells amazing.”
It does. It really does. Its my favorite part about the tea sharing experience. I don’t care if I’m not supposed to do it or if it’s not proper technique for this style; it works on everyone that I try it on. I call it “waking them up”. This particular tea has smooth, milky and dark chocolate notes when it first wakes up from its little pouch-bed. There’s wet and clean cedar, maybe oak, there’s heavy cream. Some smooth smoke but not much. She’s right, it is cool.
“It says I’m supposed to steep for three minutes,” I say, “but I’m not going to. I like my green teas on the lighter side. It makes a more delicate cup, a little harder to pick up on the nuances of everything going on. Makes me work harder.” I explain that I pour just a little shot into my cup halfway through the recommended steep time to get the initial flavors. Then, if I need or want to, I take the chance and let it steep more or drink the rest right there. Renegade tea drinker, I know.
I steep. I sip. This is what I love about green tea. The color isn’t lime or neon-green like people think it should be. My initial, brief steep has the slightest tint to the water that looks calm and inviting. There’s a very quiet fruit aroma mixed with a nutty-ness and a floral undertone. It’s very vegetal when its warm and (obviously) calms down as it cools. There’s the cooked greens initial taste (asparagus, spinach), then just the smallest bite from a mineral background but its welcome. Balanced it the keyword here. Nothing is overpowering and nothing is too little. The taste lingers like a light, calm sweetness. Not downy or cottony like I’ve had in other greens, it just sits nicely. Maybe not the best tea to give to someone who is trying green tea for the first time but definitely one to give when they’ve got some in their cupboard.
I’ve read that the beauty of tea is the experience of it. The sounds around you, the smells, the mindset you have before, during, and after. It’s what you associate in your mind with it and what you choose to ignore with it.
Tea is appreciating the moment and the beauty of what is in front of you.
She sits across from me, her hands wrapped around her mug. She looks at me and looks away. She smiles and sips.
Couldn’t agree more.