Sometimes I forget I have this tea… and when I drink it I’m reminded of what I’m missing. This tea… I lose the words. I’ve made it a few times, but it’d been a while and I’d forgotten David’s story of his first meeting. How when he was introduced it was served in a short glass first filled with water. The tea followed, allowing it to “dance,” sinking from the surface. This time, in my haste I prepared it western style in my Finum. I thought as I poured the water directly over the leaves, how disrespectful this approach was. Part of me must’ve remembered that this tea was better served gradually introduced to the water. But still, she was tolerant, though the 30 sec steeping time almost sent her over the edge.
Amber is the color that came to mind at first steep, though milky with tiny hairs, translucent particles suspended in the liquid. Dry, as others have mention, but pointed and sweet. The astringent notes I’ll blame on my brewing technique, as I don’t recall them from previous encounters. Lovely and vegetal, different, though friendly towards Laoshan teas.
A 2nd 20-30 sec steep and I watch as the now wet leaves release into the clear water like heat waves dancing over blistering landscape, a momentary golden swirl become uniform. This time I’ve taken more care, introducing the tea basket into the slightly cooler water. I’m rewarded. I shut up and drink. There are no words for the simple pleasure of enjoying this tea. I’m sure there are… but I just want to get out of my own way and experience it, the hint of smokiness.
That dryness just begs that I not stop drinking and plow through to a 3rd steep. Still true to color, the liquor is now clearer. Lovely still the tea remains fresh and alive. The mouthfeel is clean and light and I’m ready to start slowing down and savor this tea, reveling in the wonderful taste that remains after each swallow.
The wet leaves in the basket, waiting for the next steep? Aroma of cat pee. Not something I’d want to share with my guests. I’ll keep those off to the side if I intend to serve this to friends, thank you. But it’s not about the wet leaves it’s the resulting elixir that I care about.
Steep 4 continues to reward. I notice as I attempt to find the words the tingling all across my palate, the kind of evergreen aura that permeates. Each sip is like watching a lovely sunset recede, becoming increasingly interesting as it slips away. I reboil my water (I know… sacrilege), as it’s probably gotten down to below 150°F. I introduce it to my cup in a long thin poor, and let it sit for a minute to bring it down to temp. I sink the basket in slowly and boom! I can see the tea come back to life. All kinds of citrus aroma. I’m going to have to give this a bit more time to cool. The color is still there, but pale now. This is the tail end I think— Had I taken more care on the 1st steep, I could be lining up for a 5th steep. I think I’ve pulled what I can out of this tea. That astringency though, no mistake. It’s certainly part of the character here.
What a pleasant experience. As I leaned into this tea from the start, impatient and impulsive, it responded by pulling me in and taking me off balance. Tripping over myself in an attempt to grasp what it was offering, I reached out to it again. It uprighted me and led me along, measured and nurturing, yet strict and inciting respect.
A 5th Steep and I’ve come full circle, pouring my water directly over the leaves again. This time I do so gently, coaxing out any more wisdom there is to be offered. I let it sit and extract what it can, longer now, a little over a full minute, maybe even two. Sweet notes, the dry mouthfeel remain as I wait and watch to see if the liquid will yield more color. I lift and dunk the basket a few times and am surprised by how much color remains. And still this tea gives… This late in the game it’s gone ever so slightly bitter. I could have avoided this. Still it reminds me, this tea is not for playing.
A 6th steep, still giving… sweet, lingering, looking back to me as she leaves. And I thought I was just going to have a cup of tea.