Then, this happened last past weekend…
I performed my first ‘formal’ tea sessions with my parents! I have done them with some friends and my nieces and nephew, but never with my parents. I also have shared some tea with them while doing my solo sessions at their home or at my home when they are visiting, but not the complete ‘ceremony” and with them together. Remember, they are coffee lovers, once also producers, living in one of the most important coffee producer zones of the island. Besides that, our visits are most of the time full of Mama’s delicious cuisine. She is like an ant…she never stops! And Papa? He is the philosopher of the family. So, I never found the “right” moment, as for me, to share the ‘whole experience’ with them. But, I have been persuaded by Mr. Nalin Modha. He is always encouraging me to share his beautiful teas. Then, I’m very grateful again because this has become a very satisfying experience.
On Saturday afternoon, I made for them a beautiful tea from Bitterleaf Teas. A Silver Egret 2015 Spring Jasmine Green Tea. I included that tea right before leaving to my parent’s home, just because the package said it would be a good pairing with salty nuts, and I actually bought a can of salty peanuts for them. My mother in law was also with us, and this was her first experience with real Tea too. So, after reading a little bit about this tea on my way to there, I thought it would be a beautiful and elegant tea with which they could be initiated in this sublime, but full of wonder adventure. Ours is a culture accustomed to strong flavors in food, drinks, and emotions, if you might understand what I mean!? And as I explained before in some of my previous posts, Puerto Rico does not have a Tea culture as it is known in most parts of the world where this amazing ‘drink’ is more well known and enjoyed. We do have a tisane’s heritage, but we also mostly know teas in the form of tea bags and commercial blends. This genuine Jasmin Green Tea might have been the right approach for them to became more curious about true flavored and pure teas, and I think that was accomplished! The floral aroma was stunning, but in liquor was so elegant and delicate, sweet and silky. They loved it! And pairing it with salty peanuts and olives made the experience completely splendid. I followed Bitterleaf brewing instructions included in the tea package straight to the word, including the pairing recommendation. I just added some olives.
I believe that without doubt, this tea session opened for them the marvelous door to the world of real tea. But I also came to validate with them, something about my own solo experiences without giving any beforehand word about it. Being that the flowery aroma of this tea was truly very genuine, Papa’s first impression of the liquor ‘taste’ was that ‘tastes’ like a ‘funeral’, and I thought that was rightly quaint. By virtue, tea isn’t just a plain ‘drink’, but a full experience of sensations and emotions all contained in just one cup of this transcendent liquid. We laughed at his note, but then, I took the opportunity to explain how people connect with the tea and develops a personal bonding with it because it reminds them especial experiences with other people or circumstances, specially from where tea originally came from. I related them our first experience buying tea in Chinatown San Francisco, when at Ten Ren’s Tea shop we asked Mary, the waitress, which one was her favorite tea. Her selling approach totally changed and with the gesture of the most longed love, she looked for a tin of tea and told me, ‘This is my favorite tea because it reminds me my home town and how mom, and we, as a family used to live and drink tea!’ That not just opened a beautiful door of confidence between us, but also totally overtook my husband, who before that moment never had more than a one little Chinese teacup of tea. She was in her 70’s, but as radiant and spirited as in her 20’s. However soft and elegant. While sharing with us how she was raised through tea and her philosophy of life because of that, husband and I flowed with her voice, and completely in love with her and her tea, drank all the cups she made for us. Then, that what was so especial for her about that tea, became also especial for us because every time we have this tea, we remember Mary and the transcendent experience we had with her just buying a tea. So much so, that this is actually my husband’s favorite tea due to the remembrance of Mary and everything she shared with us! This tea is the “Spring Sprout Oolong” I shared some pics through my IG, but I have named it “Mary’s Spring Sprout Oolong” in her honor.
After Mary’s story, I told my father, ‘Lets say that this tea reminds you Grandma’s funeral as the last memory of her presence in our lives.’ Papa and I, we don’t see death as something bad, so this suggestion wasn’t wrong at all. With poise and a warm gaze, Papa looked back at his cup of tea and said, ‘Wao, I see! That’s interesting!’ From that moment, his approach to the tea totally changed and he ended saying, ‘Yes, this tea is good and elegant. It is delicate, and smooth as you said. Highly fragrant, but not overwhelming in taste. I liked it!’ The rest of us totally agree!!!
Next day, past Sunday, we set up our next tea session together after breakfast at the balcony of the house. For me was like actually having Tea at the beautiful natural landscapes of Darjeeling Estate. This time, I let them choose between two 2nd flush premium quality Darjeeling teas from Mr. Nalin, Jungpana and Pussimbing. This time they were having pure real tea, and a very complex ones for them!!! I showed them both teas. They already learned to look at the dry leaves, feel its texture, and aroma. They chose Pussimbing. Papa said it smelled like herbage and a fruit he knew, but couldn’t tell exactly what it was. I know pretty well about that feeling about tea’s aromas when you really feel you know what it is, but simply can’t come up with the ‘right answer’!!! Mama was very straight, ‘It smelled like passion fruit!”…and husband said it smelled like cereal grains. I didn’t say anything at the moment and went on to brew the Tea. It was just perfect! They learned also from yesterday’s session, to notice first, the liquor aroma, and then slurp the tea and be aware of what they feel at different areas of the palate. They loved it! Papa said, ‘This is good too, very different from the one we had yesterday. This one is fruitier and herbal, more like a “tea” as we know it.’ Meaning like some tisanes they used to have. He noted again, ‘It is like a ‘tea’ from the leaves of the orange tree, but it is smoother. Not like drinking just plain water or ‘tea’. Oh that was great! Now they began to recognize they are getting much more than just plain water, because of the thickness of the real tea. So, I also made them notice the “jelly” appearance on the liquor. Not in terms of cloudiness but in terms of thickness and brightness. I learned that from Don Mei!
‘Is this one also from the same plant, as you explained yesterday?,‘ Papa asked.
‘Well, this one is from another varietal, an Assam hybrid,’ I responded.
‘It is really interesting how they make all this teas from the same plant! It is surprising indeed!’ he said.
‘It is Papa! That is why I’m precisely also so amazed and interested in tasting and knowing more about it.”
‘However, I’m trying to connect with this tea, but I can’t. Why?’ He was looking for what I told him yesterday about awaken memories or enter into a meditative state through the tea.
‘That will come Papa, but you have to spend more time with the tea. But that! That’s what enamored me about Tea!’
He became likewise very interested about the health benefits of the teas. Also because of our tisane heritage, which are mostly consumed for its medicinal benefits. Mama was just enjoying the moment and getting so relaxed that she almost falls asleep. I don’t know if it was because I was boring her or because she had a moment of true rest from her habitual self impose hefty days and just surrendered to the moment. She is not much of a talker like Papa. She is a doer! Always doing, and most of the time, doing something for someone else. Now she was served! She also found the tea fruity and so good. Husband also liked and found it fruity and ‘cereally’ tasty. He indeed liked this one more than yesterday’s tea. For him the Jasmine Green is a more feminine tea, and this one was more bodied. And Me?…I just love it!!! How not to?! But my own experience with this tea, I will share it soon in another post.
This time my approach to the tea sessions in general was very different to what I have done before. In this opportunity, I didn’t give too much information about the teas at the beginning. I allowed them to explore the teas and to say anything they might think or feel. Questions of course aroused, but I didn’t answer them until the end of the sessions. Before both sessions, I just told them the type of the teas, meaning green and black, from where they came, and gave them some basics instructions of what to notice in dry leaves and ‘how’ to taste. From their reactions and approach, I learned a lot myself. For example, the Jasmine green tea was a right fortuitous choice to introduce them to real teas. And then, letting them chose the tea in the next session by the aroma of the tea’s dry leaves, I feel was also positive, because I didn’t predispose them beforehand about what to expect. I have been doing that myself also. As a result, I believe they became more interested in the teas because they might found some initial familiarity in both experiences. I will explain myself. After the sessions, I explained with more detail the teas we were having. Even though, the taste of the Jasmine Green was subtle in the liquor, the aroma was very alluring so they became very amazed about how aroma was so robust, and how liquor was so delicate and pleasant in a genuine tea that was naturally scented with real jasmine and magnolia flowers by a very cared process. That was what amazed them the most, when comparing it with what they already knew about ‘tea’. Concerning the Darjeeling teas, I believe they initially chose Pussimbing because they were able to find in it some aromas they were somewhat familiar with. Jungpana being more true to the musk aroma profile, was interesting as they found it eventually when I explained both teas in more detail, but initially it didn’t have much in common with things they might already knew in terms of aroma. After explaining them some of the differences between these two teas that were coming from the same place, but from two different varietals of Camellia, different altitude, and different processing standards from specific gardens, they better understood, and became also very curious about Jungpana. They learned for the first time what musk aroma is, how it is developed in this specific teas, and that that is what gives Darjeeling’s teas from that region its recognition. At the end, they were even able to distinguish some other quality standards that determine the character in both teas. The whole session was very amusing!!!
Our plans never turn out as tasty as reality” -Ram Dass
I have to say that my unplanned life always gives me the most enjoyable moments and the greatest learning experiences. I think it is maybe because that way, I also do not impose myself the pressure of achieving something specific in any matter. However, it is full of uncertainty…I know! But, isn’t life uncertain in its nature. We had a lot of fun this last past weekend that is for sure. Atmosphere was very peaceful and joyful, specially between my parents. Even the mechanic of the family passed by and he also had some tea. This last Monday, Mama also called me to let me know that the cold brew from the infused leaves of jasmine green tea that I left for her in the fridge was delicious. She even poured water again in the glass with the leaves, and said that the water still tasted very flowery. She thinks that it could be an alternative to help her drink more water during the day. So, this past week I have been making cold brews for her with the infused leaves of Pussimbing from my solo sessions! Husband also enjoyed last past weekend. He have become more keen to try more teas. So, thanks again Mr. Nalin!!! Not only for encouraging me to do more tea sessions to share the teas, but for all the time and wisdom you have also shared with me.
Note: Full description and my personal specific learning experience with Jungpana and Pussimbing will be posted soon at “Tea Nous: Lesson 4” …and I will also introduce Mr. Nalin Modha!!!