Tea drinkers like the rich gold color telling of rich taste — that color in their tea “liquor” (the liquid resulting from the water pulling out the flavorful essence from the tea leaves) — from the pale yellow of Green Spring Snail (Bi Luo Chun) to the dark amber of Yunnan Red Gongfu. And many more.
It’s that time of year when gold is also seen everywhere in nature as the aspen and maple leaves turn gorgeous hues. In fact, gold seems to be all around us: Christmas tree ornaments are brought out of storage, and necklaces, brooches, and other jewelry in glittering gold take center stage as gift lists are consulted.
But none is so rich, so satisfying as the “golden pour.” It’s that first flavorful cupful of tea liquid from a freshly brewed pot (or cup or gaiwan).
Every drop of tea is full of the best essence infused from the tea leaves, resulting in a taste that is the epitome of what can be attained. It is a true gold medal performance, where the molecules of water have coaxed the molecules of “tea-ness” from the leaves.
Here’s how this tea “gold” is achieved:
- Start with the best quality tea you can afford. Just as you want fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh baked breads and dairy, and choice cuts of beef to make a “golden” meal, you want to start with fresh, quality tea.
- Don’t forget the water quality! Icky-tasting water will not magically produce heavenly-tasting tea (the essential attribute of the “golden pour”).
- Gain knowledge about how to properly brew the tea. No matter how good your ingredients, if you don’t know how to prepare them, no “gold” will result. I’ve learned this the hard way when trying new food recipes.
- Assemble the items you’ll need. Having everything ready at hand is the secret to success for many chefs.
- Proceed with the preparation. Fortunately, tea is a lot simpler to make than many think, but you may still need a few trials and errors to get the tea tasting the way you like.
- Having concluded the preparation, you are ready for that “golden pour.” Fortunately, this is the simple part. Just pour through a strainer into your cup or cha hai (a separate vessel to hold the tea so it is away from the leaves in the steeping vessel).
- Then, do yourself a big favor: clear your mind of clutter, carry your cup to a quiet spot, take a few relaxing deep breaths, close your eyes, and lift the cup to your lips. Before sipping, inhale the fragrance. Then, take a light sip, letting the tea excite all the nooks and crannies of your palate on its way down your throat. Feel the warmth as it travels down inside you.
You’ve just experienced the “golden pour.”
Remember that, just as in any recipe you’re following, the rules for preparing tea are not chiseled in stone. You can alter the length of time you let your tea leaves steep, how much you use (general rule is a teaspoon per cup), and whether you use tap, filtered, or bottled water (whichever tastes best to you). What you add to your tea, if anything, will also be a matter of personal taste, as well as what type of tea you are making. Milk/cream, sugar, honey, artificial sweetener, lemon, etc., can be good in some teas. Fine greens, whites, oolongs, etc., though don’t need them.
If you steeped up more than just one cupful, the remaining tea will change in flavor, scent, and color as it sits in the cha hai or other vessel (by no means should you leave the liquid in the same vessel where it steeped). It will probably still taste good, especially if you followed the first step above (starting with quality tea), but it will not be the same.
Select a tea, steep it up, and enjoy your “golden pour” moment.