First off, a disclosure: I am writing this a few days after my tea class with a cup of coffee at my side. I’m daydreaming about tea though; my mind is on tea even if my body is not.
…I seriously couldn’t continue just then. I had to go make some tea — green, loose leaf (of course), steeped for approximately three minutes, in my favorite panda mug. It felt wrong to drink coffee and write about tea. It was like I had already betrayed the trust of Camellia sinensis, my bad a$$ new friend.
Drinking tea has always seemed virtuous and wholesome to me. It’s the ritual and the event of tea that wants a present mind. When friends proclaimed themselves as Tea Drinkers, I pictured them with a halo of tranquility, health, and elevated consciousness. In my mind, they even floated a bit. I have consumed, and enjoyed, a variety of teas, but I wanted in on the elevated consciousness action and maybe some floating too.
The Lifelong Learning course description for Steep, Sip & Savor: An Intro to Tea reads: “Fragrant, healthy, uplifting, and refreshing, tea is enjoyed by more people around the world than any other beverage besides water.” Uplifting is really close to floating, right? Once again, sign me up!
I sat with ten other students at the Tea Grotto’s artisan tea bar last Saturday on a gray, cold, and rainy day. I mention the weather because it mellowed my brain, and yes, made me feel a bit more present. Molly, our instructor, prepared a Gaiwan service which involved a small lidded vessel for steeping the tea. We slurped our way through white, green, oolong, black, and pu’erh tastings and learned how water quality, water temperature, steep time, and multiple steeps can affect the flavor and subtleties of each tea.
My classmates and I all had our favorites, but I think the Heavens Formosa oolong tea may have gotten the biggest collective “AHHH!” (There was no applause meter to confirm this.) Buds and leaves for this tea are withered and oxidized, so oolong can stand up to very hot water (a rolling boil at 190-210 degrees F). Depending on how much oxidation the curled and twisted leaves get, the tea can read more like a green or more like a black.
Dragon Pu’erh (2006 vintage) was the other tea that really spoke to me. Because of the extended aging process there are even counterfeit versions: to avoid this you have to know your source. The tea is fermented in mandarin rind which gives it a woodsy and “mushroomy” note. It also takes very hot water and a steep over five minutes. The other cool thing is that this pu’erh can produce up to FIVE steeps. Deemed to be good for headaches, feeling down, and digestion, it’s the tea that keeps on giving!
As for that floating feeling? I had second slurps of every tea, so I did feel a little floaty afterwards from the caffeine. I’m still working on the elevated consciousness part.