I’d better preface this article with the statement that this is intended as my own musings on tea, not as something hard and fast to go by. There have been occasions in the past when folks thought the opposite – an oversight on my part that I will try to avoid in future. As a tea vendor, I have the privilege quite often of selecting those teas for my store that I actually like as opposed to just what is popular or will sell a lot. In fact, my store is dedicated to those teas I would personally classify as “fine teas.” That is, they are higher quality than many you will find, certainly higher than what is available in the big box stores, and are often very special, unique, and hand-crafted teas. Why? Because these teas provide something the others don’t, something that could be called “sensual delicacy.” Special aromas and flavors – ones that are not flat and singular but that have depth and variety, presenting something up front at that first sip and then revealing their full spectrum as you savor.
Many of you reading this already know of and seek out this “sensual delicacy” in your tea as well as other qualities that can only come from these fine teas such as the ability to infuse them many times and observe the changes in their flavor profiles. This quality makes possible the sensual delicacy provided by watching how the leaves expand as they soak up moisture to replace what was taken from them during processing – during this time they can seem to twirl and dance and writhe in what some call the “agony of the leaves” and what others call their “dance of joy.” This visual aspect, including admiring the leaves when you are done infusing them, is totally lacking in teas that are ground to dust, poured into little teabags and then infused by dunking the bag up and down into hot water.
I know that life can be hectic, that grabbing a quick cup of something caffeinated in the morning before heading off to work is often a necessity, so these fine teas have to wait for when you have the time to enjoy them thoroughly and properly. Or do they? Steeping mugs that you can carry around with you, often ones that are clear so you see the tea inside them, lets you enjoy the sensual delicacy of these teas even when you are dashing from place to place or stuck at your desk (I’m thinking of you phone support folks as an example here) for hours. You can still get multiple infusions and enjoy the vision of those leaves infusing. You can still sip and savor. So you can avoid the teabag for that quick morning tea or the one you drink during the day.
Or maybe it’s better to save these teas for when you can give them your full attention. My personal experience is that I enjoy them more when I can focus my mind on the sensory input – the taste, aroma, and general feeling they impart. You can also take time to infuse them in a way meant to maximize pulling out of the leaves all the goodness in them.
Enough musing. Time to go enjoy some of that sensual delicacy!