I have never been much of a tea drinker. Oh, I drank tons of it during my brief trip to London, but to be fair, it was freezing and I poured so much milk and sugar into each cup the actual tea flavor was lost in the process. When I’m sick, I drink tea with honey for my throat. When I go out for sushi, I always get a pot (or two or three) of green tea to accompany my meal. But I’ve never really understood or appreciated tea.
Then two things happened at the same time:
1. My friend Tiffany sent me the most marvelous gift of two loose-leaf teas (and tea chocolates!!) from the amazing place she works: Teance in Berkeley. (Thanks again, Tiffany. I hope you can see how much I loved your gift!)
2. I saw a post on Lifehacker raving about a loose-leaf tea brewing device: the IngenuiTEA from Adagio. (I will have to post pictures of the teapot in action later — the video on their site doesn’t do it justice.)
Since then, I have been in the special heaven of newly discovered beauty.
First off, and I’m sure this won’t be news to many of you, loose-leaf teas are beautiful. As someone who has only experienced tea bags before, this was quite a revelation for me. I loved opening the little sample pack of green teas I got from Adagio: the gunpowder looked like gunpowder, with dark pellets that unfurled into lighter green leaves. The genmai chai has tea leaves mixed with brown rice and popcorn! Each tin is like a little treasure box of sensory wonder. I smelled the leaves, poured some into my palm, and delighted in their texture.
As for flavor, the Teance teas blew me away.
The Yunnan Gold Red/Black tea was so yummy that I could not imagine adding sugar or milk. I had three cups in quick succession, steeped from the same leaves… probably a tea sin, but I didn’t care.
The White Dragon Jasmine Pearls… oh, my. Let me quote the description from the Teance website:
Large, gently plucked, tender green tea leaves rolled with the summer’s most fragrant jasmine blossoms into large white pearls. The jasmine blossoms are picked unopened, then layered over the green tea leaves overnight. During the night, the jasmine flowers bloom, tossing its intense and exquisite aroma into the leaves which absorb the fragrance.The flowers are discarded and fresh ones harvested the next day. This process is repeated 13 times for this particular grade, making it one of the most labour intensive, highest quality jasmine green teas ever. The jasmine flowers are the Arabic variety grown in Fujian and only bloom in the summer. The resultant tea liqueur is smooth, sweet, and viscous with the long lingering fragrance of jasmine flowers.
This isn’t just a beverage, it’s magic. The “Dragon Pearls” are beautiful pellets in their dry form, but inside the Adagio teapot, they unfurl into long slender leaves. The teapot looked like a forest of kelp by the time they had fully steeped! I will take pictures soon — can you believe I’m saying that? Such is the transformational nature of loose-leaf tea.
So here I am, a tea n00b, asking for your brewing tips and favorite leaves. I’m eager to try white tea next, I think, though there are so many greens and blacks and the whole arena of oolong to try, not to mention experiments with iced tea and herbal infusions.
I guess the real question is: How will my bank account survive? Until I know the answer, I’m just going to bide my time and revel.