Car accidents are interesting things. The everything-is-moving-smoothly-then-out-of-nowhere BAM! is shocking, to say the least. I was a passenger in a car that got T-boned by someone running a red light and though my life didn’t exactly flash before me I am very happy to still have the privilege of breathing. I appreciate every cup of tea I have (unless it accidentally oversteeps and it gets gross, then I just toss it away and start again) but that first cup I was able to get after all the craziness was so sweet – like a warm hug of deliciousness. There are various statements about tea being the cure for everything, especially with the British. Though it may not cure everything, tea is another reason to be happy to be alive – to taste something soothing and delicious and full of life energy. This is just a short post to relay the cause of the silence. I hope that you find many reasons to be glad to be alive today and I’ll soon be sharing more adventures in tea. - Cassandra
by Cassandra Vincent
Oh Tea…you are not who I thought you were…
Does a tea you once loved suddenly taste lackluster to you? Are you afraid that you’ve lost your love of tea? Are you afraid to talk about it? It may not be you, it may be your tea…or at least how it is stored.
I was at my bandmate Philip's place and we made a pot of tea from a loose leaf black blend he had. The first sip was uninspiring and I mentioned that the tea tasted flat like it had lost its character. He was so relieved that it wasn’t just him. He thought that maybe he was going off tea or that he was somehow making it wrong. I looked at the bag it was stored in: not airtight resealable – there was quite a bit of air in there and no tight closure. I asked him how long he had had it and he said months. It’s not that tea can’t last that long, especially black tea, but when it is stored such that air or light or moisture (or heat or odors) can get in and wreak havoc the glorious flavors have a much shortened life span.
There are a myriad of opinions and articles on tea storage but here’s what works well for me and I hope it helps keep your relationship with your favorite tea in a good place:
So there you go. Like Philip you may have a better palate than you realize and if your favorite tea tastes ‘off’ to you, it may be worth your while to rethink your storage. After all good relationships take care and attention. I hope that you and your tea bae have a long, satisfying, delicious relationship.
by Cassandra Vincent
Tea can open your ability to savor. Savor the moment. Savor a sensation. Savor a taste. Savor a feeling. As tea prep is a process there are many steps along the way where you can practice the art of the savor. I have been practicing with puerh tea. I think it is a great choice because of how many steepings it can take and how the experience morphs through the steepings.
Here are some questions you can ask throughout the experience of making your tea to deepen your awareness of the tea, of the moment and of yourself.
It begins with the dried leaves
What do they look like?
There is a great joy in learning to differentiate the look of a Chinese green tea in comparison to a Japanese green tea for example. Get friendly with the leaves. Are they broken? Twisted? Rolled? Powdery? Long? Short? Flat? Wide? Do they look like a bunch of bug legs in your cup? (seriously, there are many teas referred to as 'spider leg')
What color are they? Greenish? Teak-colored? Dark brown? Black? Mixed?
Do they remind you of anything? An insect? Another plant? A feeling?
What do they smell like dry? This is one of my favourite things. The differentiating of types of tea by their scent. Like perfume, each tea region and type of tea are so very different.
Are the leaves earthy? Floral? Fruity? Vegetal?
Do the scents cause any memories or feelings for you?
The steeping tea
How does the color develop? Is it green? Yellow? Amber? Red? Dark Brown?
What aroma is released from the time the water hits the leaves through to the end of steeping time? Is there any sense memory from the aroma? (Does it take you back to that time on the beach when...)
Then the steeped leaf
What do the wet leaves look like? Do the leaves unfurl? Expand? How has their color changed? What about their aroma? What scents are there that were not present in the dry leaf?
What is the first flavour when the tea hits your tongue? Does the flavour change as it rolls to the back? How about after? If you slurp to aerate the tea does that change the flavour? Does the experience change with subsequent sips?
If this is a tea you have had before is this experience any different than the previous one? Is your palate sensing a greater array of flavor? Did you eat garlic before having this and it is totally messing with your tongue? (If so I recommend using one of these)
How does the tea make you feel? Energized? Mellow? Both? Did you get a tea high? Is your tongue buzzing? Do you just feel better?
Keep record of your tastings
Keeping a tea journal is a great way to build your knowledge of tea and your preferences. You can do this with a basic notebook, but there are some great tea journals out there designed specifically for the tea lover. I have one from TeaSource that is handy and portable. You could even use multiple, one for each tea type you explore.
Tea is a great tool of focus. A moment to appreciate. To reflect on all the energy that went into the tea's creation. To reflect on the memories over a cup of tea. To feel the comfort of it. To expand your experience.
To savor life, lovelies. Every crazy, beautiful, freakish, roller-coaster step of the way.