Had a friend over for dinner last night. We prepared a basic Tuscan-style tomato suase with garlic, chopped nuts and shrimp, alongside some sauteed red bell peppers and zucchini, and a simple salad dressed with fresh squeezed lemon juice and olive oil. Super delicious meal, and I am grateful to have a friend so talented in the culinary arts. We washed it down with DIY lemon soda (just squeezed lemon into a glass and added plain carbonated water); an excellent palette cleanser.
As my friend so kindly conceived, purchased and prepared the better part of the meal described, and had expressed a sincere enthusiasm to experience some Gongfu tea drinking for the first time, I decided that the best expression of my gratitude would be to treat his generosity and interest to the two finest teas in my cupboard. The first of those teas was this Spring Tieguanyin, and the second was my Xingyang 1998 Golden Leaf Pu’er. I will write a separate tasting note for the latter, as I’ve yet to review it here.
As for the Spring Tieguanyin, before and during my preparations to serve it, I hyped it to the skies for my friend. He’s a newcomer to this way of appreciating tea, but definitely has a good frame of reference for understanding it from experience with fine wine tasting and his culinary adventures. The moment I opened the vacuum sealed package and let him smell the leaves, he was just about knocked out from the beauty of the fragrance. We drank four infusions in bliss, and the tea was better than even I had remembered from the numerous occasions I’d had it before. How is this possible? I imagine that the feedback and reflection generated when a host shares his tea with a truly and fully appreciative drinking companion enhances the whole experience.
After a good number of infusions, I confided in my friend that when I was praising this tea to the heavens for him, I had a faint worry at the back of my mind, “Will it really be as good as I say it is?”, but then when we got to drinking it the tea inevitably outstripped my praise by a length that I wasn’t prepared for. My friend concurred, saying, “This tea is 120% of what you said it was.” Drinking the next infusion, he expressed to me a very deeply felt gratitude for my providing him the opportunity to be introduced to this manner of tea drinking and tea culture. He said that he had felt for a long time in his life that an experience like this existed and was somewhere available in this world; and that it was something he’s been looking for, but previously found no access to. My friend went on to characterize this first exposure to Gongfu style tea drinking as a life-changing experience for him. I can’t explain how grateful and happy it made me feel to have some part in precipitating an experience like that for another person.
Needless to say, my friend there became a fully fledged lover of tea, excited to explore the great world of experience it provides… And that was before we even tried the exceptional Xingyang Pu’er! Concluding my note on the Tieguanyin, I will say that we continued to drink infusion after infusion of it for a good hour and a half. I have no idea how many infusions we had, but its flavor was merely settling, and hardly at the point of diminishing, before it felt like the right time to move on. I put the leaves aside in a container for later use, as I’m confident they will continue to produce good infusions for a while yet.
A tasting note on our experience with the Xingyang Pu’er is to come. I can’t begin to express my gratitude to have access to teas of this quality!