Taking Tea.

A few weeks ago, one of my students’ fathers asked me if I liked tea. I can honestly say I love it, and told him so. He asked if I would be interested in trying some fermented green teas. Of course, this roundeye had never heard of them. So tonight after D’s lesson, we sat down and I was initiated into the mystery of fermented green tea.

It’s not exactly a ceremony, but the process involves pouring off the first pot and drinking the tea made from the then-wet leaves. There are two teapots involved, one for steeping and one for the tea to be poured into tiny cups.

As he prepared the tea, D’s dad explained to me about the histoy of the tea. Back in Korea, he belongs to a tea appreciation society who meet to drink and discuss various rare teas.

The first tea was dried simply and left, out of sunlight, for thirty or more years. Not sure what to expect, I sipped carefully. It tasted woodsy, but with a kind of freshness I can’t really put into words.

The second tea was the product of history. During the Opium War, tea became contraband of a sort and was burned wherever it was found. So the wise invented a system whereby the tea leaves were lightly steamed and then hidden underground, sometimes with crushing weights on top of them. In this airless environment, the tea, which was treated like a kind of money, achieved potency. It felt like a furnace had been turned on inside me, prompting me to wonder to myself if there was some strange tea drug in it.

D’s dad asked which one I preferred. I said I liked the first better. He said it was what he’d guessed. It ‘matches my energy’. According to traditional Chinese medicines, some teas are better for some types of people. Me, I have too much energy. The second tea held it in. The first helped me release it.

Cool.

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