I'm always amazed and delighted by the diversity of flavors and aromas that can be coaxed from the same set of ingredients. Whether it's wine, Scotch, tea, chocolate... it's just such a delicious way to be reminded of how much wonder there is in the world. (I do realize that my short hair and department store wardrobe do nothing to mitigate my intense hippiedom.)
* * *
One of the compensations we Northwesterners get for having eight months
of grey weather is that when the sun does start coming back to us in
earnest, everyone's mood spikes at once. Overnight, strangers on the
street go from surly and sardonic to friendly and buoyant, everyone
smiles at each other without wondering what it means, and people walk
around like they just shed backpacks full of bricks.
Yesterday was one of those rare beautiful April days Portland treats us to once in a while, and Emily
and I didn't want to miss any more of it than we had to. So, after lunch, we decided to skive off early, and walk down to the Lan Su Garden
by the more roundabout route, the one that takes a person along the river
and through the cherry trees
' snowfall of blossoms.
After meandering and sitting our lazy way through the garden for a bit, we took our place at the tea house
for a snack, and a gaiwan or two of the good stuff. On our way out, I made my obligatory rounds past the teas and tea wares for sale, and decided to bring home a little tin of Snow Dragon. Usually, that would be where I link to a tea's home on the web, but in this case, I seem to have selected something that isn't available online. It's packaged like, and was displayed with, other tins from the Tao of Tea's Limited Edition set
, but I can't find any mention of it on that page or anywhere on their site. (It also goes by the name xue long, if you want to search some out elsewhere.)
In any case, it turns out to be a very special and delicious find, and a beautiful example of a familiar set of elements yielding a truly unusual essence. It's a very light green tea, and very delicately processed; but the flavor and scent are surprisingly thick and robust. The liquor has a sort of contradictory quality to it, a sort of dry
sweetness, like the meat of a nut. The tin claims cocoa in the aroma, and I definitely found that to be accurate — more and more so with multiple infusions. Actually, the progression on this one was really cool to observe: the dry, chestnutty quality was most pronounced at first, and the liquor started off feeling almost buttery. But on the second and third steepings, the chocolaty quality and sweetness really started to come into their own, and the (very mild) astringency, which must have made up part of the nuttiness, seemed to appear later and later in the flavor's arc.
I think I would find this tea equally welcome were I drinking it indoors, aggressively cozying with a book while a winter storm beat the windows, as I would drinking it out in the garden, closing my eyelids against the sun of an idyllically idle spring afternoon, but I'm glad to have it as a reminder of a particularly lovely example of the latter.
Brewing Notes: I used about three teaspoons of leaf in each 4 ounce infusion; about 175ºF, and 2-ish minutes per steep.