Friday, July 23, 2010

Your Basic Little Black Tea

More mosaic. The gold doesn't show up too well in the photos, but
in person, it just shines.

I was shelling peas I bought at the farmer's market today. I was struck by the uneven quality of them – some were far too old, some too undeveloped and not nearly enough were just right. I got thinking about the knowledge one needs to judge the readiness of garden produce and fruit and of course, segued into tea.

It requires not only a great deal of knowledge, but also experience to first grow the bushes and then to recognize the exact day to pluck the tea, and then to process it into a high quality brew. Knowing how long it took me to really know how to garden, pick and prepare my veggies and fruit, I am really in awe of the tea growers and processors. There are so many, many factors to take into account. And just when you may have figured something out, the weather throws you a huge curve ball and BLAM! all your hard work for nothing. But then, there are the good years, when everything works out and your garden, or your tea is the very best its ever been. As gardeners or tea drinkers, those are the years we wait for.

While I was writing that I was listening to the Gramercy Brass play “American Anthems”. Such familiar music. I kept waiting for the elephants to come parading in or to ride on the carousel. Good stuff, though, and my favorite instruments. Probably because all of my McDuffee cousins played a brass instrument and there was always someone tootling away when I visited them. I also like music in the lower keys. When my son was playing the flute we had to be in separate rooms for me to be able to listen, because the flute is pitched so high.

Okay that had nothing to do with tea, except we all have certain types of tea that are our favorites. If you've been reading this for a while, you know I love black tea above all. I am gaining a real appreciation for Oolong and green teas and a bit for Pu-erh. However, white tea will probably always remain too finely pitched for me. However, today's tea strikes a good base note.

It is the Assam Tea Company's Kama Black. With great long black leaves, smelling of old wood, wine barrels and perhaps a hint of vinegar. I brewed up about a teaspoon and a half, as the leaves were so large, with boiling water, about 3.5 minutes. There is that wonderful "clean laundry on a windy day" smell, coupled with almost a corn smell, and still some hints of old wood. It never stops interesting me that the tea will give off so many scents before you even get to taste it. There aren't a lot of nuances to this particular tea. It's a good straight forward tea for when you just need a "cuppa". I am finding it exactly what I need today.

There is an article in the British newspaper, The Guardian, that says the British medical system has identified a new mental disorder, Nervous Healthy Eating Disorder. If you care about the amount of chemicals and junk food that goes into your system you have an eating disorder. I assume they mean people who are severely troubled by this and not us ordinary (if that exists) folk. So all you people who drink tea at least partly for its health benefits had better stop or we'll all be taken away, ho ho, and be forced to drink milkshakes while eating our bacon and sausages, (not that we all don't have our indulgences). I certainly know that anything carried to extreme can be unhealthy, but can't we just be a little neurotic and insist on good tea?

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