On rainy days up on Mine Hill, my brother (the other miners kids) and I would go into the big 1870’s Bar in what was left of a ghost town that no longer exists today.
This was once part of a thriving town built on Mercury mining called New Almaden. The mining operation was necessary for processing the Silver which made California rich.
For us, the bar was a good place to set up old liquor bottles and skate around them as though we had our own private skating rink.
Behind the building was a locked map house with maps of the mines on the mountain. (Grandpa Charlie was in charge of the maps and mining)
Past a row of what used to be shops and a Bank was a School.
The School was brick and plaster all crumbling apart.
The worse part were BEES! You had to sneak into the schoolhouse without disturbing those pesky bees or else…you’d better run for your life!
Why would I want to go into the School and chance getting stung you may ask?
Behind the wallpaper, were pictures! Old photographs and drawings!
Students from a century before had somehow stuck little memories of themselves where I could find them later. There were funny black and white pictures of girls in long dresses and hats and boys in knickers. I was young myself so this was all curious.
Grandpa Charlie made a swimming pool out of a wooden water tank on the side of the road to his house. He painted it bright blue.
It filled itself from a spring through a pipe he rigged up and overflowed onto hillside below where deer would gather at night to drink.
Mom would blow a whistle, and the kids from the Austins, Kafka’s and Martinez families would come running to have a swim and some Red Kool-Aid.
When it was hot and the dusty Pine, Oak, Manzanita, Bay, Arbutus, Nettles and Hay would fill our eyes and noses, but a dip in the ‘pool’ refreshed us and the day glistened with light.
Yabao makes me think of this time on the mountain. The scent and taste takes me to this place.
Today, I went through 15 steeps beginning with 4 seconds and ending at 32 seconds. I could have continued…the leaves were generous.
These ancient tree Yabao leaves were beautiful, long, rose-rust and green colored.
Wet, the aroma was like sea air, a saline spray…savory and alive.
I ’m not going to give a list of the entire 15 steep series of how the tea tasted.
In the beginning, the flavor was savory and sweet…like artichokes and chicken in butter, with the sweetness of floral olive oil on the finish.
Later the taste became cleaner, less savory but still sweet and mouth watering.
I was puzzled about the honey-aroma mentioned by Master Han until I stuck my nose into my glass cup after it was ‘empty’ and there it was! HONEY!
After 8 steeps the balance of sweetness to savory was even, and a pepper scent appeared. There wasn’t heat, but pepper and salty, savory taste with a buttery mouth-feel lasted all the way until the last steep.
The flavor lingers and reminds me of an extraordinary Sheng that has aged to the proper point and is ready. Everything that can be given by a tea is there. Full color, mouth-feel, smoothness, lingering flavor…everything.
The point is, that I am at a loss as to what to say.
I can tell you about how the tea makes me feel and where it takes me.
Yabao takes me into old dusty buildings, past fragrant bushes and herbs growing wild along the side of the road, into the School and bees buzzing, then cools me with a refreshing pool of spring water.
For a moment I’m in Second Grade.