Liquid Proust’s first literary appreciation tea. Part on in a series for Marcel Proust masterpiece: In Search of Lost Time. Starting with the first of course: Swann’s Way captured me within the first 15 pages and once I got past how long Proust writes, I knew I would be spending hours and hours reading his work.
So while this is my attempt to capture a novel within the creation of a tea, which is actually impossible, I hope it is an enjoyable experience for others as well.
Starting with the base is important and while the link between such a long read and a long session would lead to a cooked/ripe pu’erh, I ended up going a different route because of ingredients being needed for the blend. Wagering between a unique oolong or black tea took a while, but I ultimately realized I have an abundance of oolong teas coming out so I went for a black tea base. Between the choice of using an Japanese black tea or finding an African one was the first choice, however I ended up finding an interesting sunmoon lake black tea. What captured me about this tea was the depth that it could reach after a few steeps. At first it isn’t the most thought provoking tea, but the potential it had made me go for it; after all, I haven’t seen a sunmoon lake blend yet.
So why did I need depth and something that had to slowly open and then die out in a flat way? Well, for me Swann’s Way is many things but one of the major thing that pop out is figuring out this thing called ‘love’. Love is a very deep and mysterious emotion; therefore I knew I needed something that takes a few sips because it’s not only complex but ask to be revisited.
Taste wise for a base tea was figured out and the other elements came into place. Did I want a mouth feel, a fruity taste, a sweet tasting tea, a flavored tea, a simple blend… so many options. I thought about what love would taste like if it was a tea and came up with such things as: meaty/thick/filling and sweet but fading due to needing a remembrance. Now I was not about to put beef jerky or milk candy in the blend so I thought about it. Roasting nuts has been on my list of things to do for a awhile so I went ahead and made the decision to roast pecans and then figure out a way to make them sweet.
The pecans are meant to represent a ‘meatness’ to this concept of love. Something had to coat that idea, being the sweetness. I recently found this odd black cane sugar from Yunnan and decided that I could caramelize it and pour it over the freshly roasted pecan. Well that sounded pretty simple so I decided to add cocoa nibs and vanilla extract to the process of making caramel.
Love doesn’t end up as sweet as it first was at one point in Swann’s Way which made this type of caramel that I produced to be a great resemblance of the novel. The sweetness fades away while the base become stronger. Learning more about this thing called love and facing it full on provides the possibility to taste/see what is really there. However, Swann’s Way is a novel and not an idea so that means that it is comprised of sentences and anyone who has read a little Proust knows that a sentence can last a whole page. This was probably the hardest concept to capture; my enjoyment of Proust’s writing style. Doing the best I could, I knew I wanted something with some malt and thickness to it that faded away like the others rather than opening up and came across the idea of using a dianhong. My search didn’t come up with anything that fit the idea of a sentence; appears to be a few words, but ends up expanding unto something larger and connected to others after it. Still couldn’t figure it out as I wanted something like those snake fireworks that just keep opening up. I came pretty close by using some Yunnan Bi Luo Chun. The mixture of chocolate and sweetness that fades away, while still being a nice dark brew, worked out quite well for what I was going for.