|Kate Beaton knows.|
It was tea. I was talking about tea. I was talking about tea because I love tea and everyone else needs to love tea as much as I do, and if they don't, it's only because they don't know how delightful it is, so I have to tell them.
You see how easy it is to fall into doing the thing.
I'm especially jazzed about tea right now because I went to the Big Island a couple of weeks ago and my sister took me to a tea garden. As far as best gifts ever received, this is now tied for the number one spot with the Christmas 1994 tea sampler from me mum (with 20 different kinds of tea).
The tea that you drink is made from the new baby tea leaves, and the different types of tea--green, black, white--depend on the maturity of the leaves at the time of harvest. The newest leaves, which are still rolled up and not open yet, make silver needle tea. Just-opened leaves make white tea, slightly more mature leaves make green tea, and the leaves at the last stage of maturity, before they're just useless hedge, make black tea. At Volcano Winery, the black tea leaves are dried with a big fan, while the finer grades of tea are air-dried over a few days.
Tea leaves themselves don't smell like much of anything, even if you crush them between your fingers. Tea flowers, on the other hand, smell exactly like brewed tea. It is the damnedest thing.
|Brewed tea. Who knew?|
|Three years I lived across the street from this.|
This place was magical. The experience would begin with charcoal peanuts, which were like little briquettes with a peanut inside, to cleanse the palate and settle the stomach. I'd pick a tea--usually one of the cheaper ones on the menu, because this was a nice place and the tea could get pretty fancy--and the owner would bring out a tea set and a HUGE kettle of hot water. He would brew the first pot himself, filling the tiny teapot and letting it overflow into the wooden tea tray. After a few seconds, he'd dump the tea through the strainer into the other tiny teapot. Then he'd pour the tea into the first set of cups. Those were the smell-good cups. You'd pour the tea out of those cups into the drink-cups, and then smell the residue left in the smell-good cup. Then you'd drink. And then you'd fill the tiny tea pot yourself from the kettle and start it all over again.
|Clockwise from left: charcoal peanuts, tea strainer, first teapot, second tea pot, smell-good cup, drink-cup.|
The second or third time I went back, the owner taught me that tea should be treated as a vegetable. "You don't dry asparagus, do you?" he demanded. No, I agreed, you did not. "Americans only know about Lipton," he said. It's a travesty, I agreed, tea is so much more. We were kindred spirits, he and I.
He would have looked at my pictures of the Volcano Winery tea garden without searching furtively for another party-goer to rescue them from my clutches. Where are you going? Don't you want to see me picking some of the leaves?
|I haven't even gotten to the pictures I took of me drinking the tea! I have to explain what my facial expressions signify about the taste and bouquet of the brew at that moment!|