Yesterday evening, it started snowing. I am no stranger to snow, but it’s been noticeably absent from these parts for the past number of years. We’ll get one, maybe two inches – barely enough to cover the ground. When I was in high school, we’d hope against hope that the school board would take pity on us and cancel school for the day [and since we usually don’t get much they typically would, even though it was definitely drivable].
This year, we got dumped with 14-16 inches during the big east coast snowfall. In between then and now, we received a few more inches. Yesterday evening, the weather graced us with another 4-6. This has prompted a number of silly hash tags on twitter, like #snOMG, #snowpocalypse, and #precipageddon [that last one may be my favorite].
Last night’s snow was packing snow. For those who might not be familiar, that means it was coming down in big, airy flakes that are optimal for creating those spherical orbs of crystallized H20 that people sometimes like to chuck at each other or stack into vaguely humanoid forms. This was the kind of snow that used to get me crazy excited as a child, because I knew I’d be decking a few kids in my neighborhood before someone got hurt and we all got yelled at. [Ah, childhood.] Even now, it’s the snow that I find the prettiest. There’s something romantic about it, and it demands a tea with a hazy warmth about it.
Deciding to chance it on something new, I brewed up a cup of Vanilla Dian Hong while I watched the flakes float silently down outside in between physics problems. [I should add at this point that this is one of my favorite contemplative “it’s snowing outside” songs ever – http://bit.ly/c5811d – should you need/want one.] So I sat there, working through problems, watching the snow, and smelling the tea while I waited for it to cool.
It smelled like vanilla, unsurprisingly, but with an edge. It almost smelled…malty. Maybe earthy? It reminded me a bit of pu-erh, actually, and I did find that surprising. Once I thought it had cooled enough to sip without fear of scalding, I went ahead and slurped in a bit.
I’m not sure how to describe what transpired, but it resulted in one of the more interesting mouthfeels I’ve had in a while. It was as though the outside borders of the liquid was watery; tiptoeing on but not quite breaking ground into bitter. It was a little metallic, in a way, almost…coppery? The center of tea, however, was rich and flavorful. This was all in one mouthful, and all when it was held in place without swallowing, and unfortunately that’s the best I can do to explain it.
The center of the tea didn’t have a lot of vanilla taste to me, which was maybe a little disappointing, but it did taste like something good. Part of it was malt. That was unmistakable to me, but it took me a long time to place what the other thing was. Once I did, it was one of those things that made me “D’oh” out loud. It tasted like graham cracker. I haven’t had graham crackers in a long time. Realizing that this is what I was tasting almost instantly transported me back to when I was little and my brother would fight at the end of lunch over who got to split the cracker down its perforated seam. I used to like to dunk my sections of cracker in my apple juice. [Don’t make that face at me; it’s good! Seven-year-old me promises. Cross her heart!]
As the tea cooled down to lukewarm, the vanilla came out of hiding and was much more present in the tea, which made me smile. Sometimes, when the sweetness would fade away at the tip of my tongue, I could taste a spicy puff of black pepper. When I exhaled, I could taste the vanilla on my breath, and the scent rising out of my cup began to remind me of pipe tobacco.
This tea was best to me at a bit below hot to lukewarm. It’s something that I’m looking forward to trying again, because I found it to be pretty complex. It lent itself very well to homework and snow, and since we’re supposed to be getting more snow in soon [and I doubt my load of homework’s going to lighten before the semester’s over], I may find myself in another opportune setting this weekend.