Saturday, April 11, 2009

Snail's Pace

While winding down an early morning work-out, I happily anticipated my tea session with Pi Lo Chun (Spring Snail Shell) -a gift from a friend who is abetting my tea-habit. I have always wanted to try this Chinese green tea, captivated by the story of its provenance. Produced solely on the tiny island of Dongting which lies on a lake, the tea bushes from which the Pi Lo Chun is made grow amidst fruit trees bearing plums and apricots. I was curious to see if the tea's nature would reflect its rather romantic terroir of vernal orchards.

No longer bleary-eyed after the daily constitutional, I waited for the water to boil and examined the dry leaves. They were brittle in my hands, their greyish downy tips interspersed amongst the more plentiful green-hued leaves; twisted, cork-screw style. I could, with some imagination, invoke the image of a cozy group of snails, ensconced in their shells.

The sweetly vegetal aroma of the dry leaves slowly but perceptibly transformed into a bolder scent suggestive of artichokes. The snail shells unfurled shyly in the lightly golden liquor. I sipped slowly, anticipating a riot of floral and fruity flavors. My reveries were of lemon orchards along the cliffs of Sorrento -portrayed in the fabulous short story, Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell (from an issue of Zoetrope: All-Story). In the story, Magreb, the titular vampire, subsists on the succulent lemons grown regionally. However, the fruits never fully assuage his bloodlust and his immortal existence is one of perpetual longing.

Giving my fanciful thoughts free reins, I savored the first sip. The vegetal nature of the aroma now replicated itself in the taste of this light-bodied tea. Although no siege of fruit-laden aromas overcame me, I detected an unmistakable burst of lemon which followed the initial vegetal bite.

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