Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I was truly agog, standing there, in the middle of a teashop in Chinatown - the proverbial kid in her candy store. All around me were canisters filled with dry tea leaves and herbs of all sorts, destined for tisanes. My head spun at the largesse as I walked around, trailed by the eager owner. Did I want a tea set, only for thirty dollars, or would I like some of this black tea? She removed the lid and brought the glass container closer for me to inspect. I breathed in the scent of pine wafting from the tea leaves. As my cache of morning black tea was disappearing fast at home, I nodded eagerly in response to her query in Chinese, with a smattering of several decipherable key-words in English thrown in. In the end, I made off with this mysterious black tea of unknown provenance, along with a bag of the familiar Lung Ching Dragonwell.

At home today, I am making a pot of Lung Ching for E and me. I can't remember when I first started drinking this tea. Three, four years ago? Since then, I have made countless pots of Lung Ching. Initially, I experimented with brewing times or varied slightly the amounts of tea leaves used. Over time, I found a succession of steps that produced a good pot of Lung Ching: boil the water, let it cool for three and a half minutes, and then steep 2 teaspoons of tea leaves in enough water for two cups of tea for another three and a half minutes. So a routine of sorts has emerged for me, now when I make this tea -as well as other teas. But there is more to it than just a series of calibrated steps.

Each time I make tea, there are other elements present that affect my tea drinking experience. It may involve the delicate flared rim of a teacup versus the sturdy china handle of another. The leaves rustling outside as I sip from my cup, gazing out the kitchen window, invite contemplation and enjoyment of solitude. E and I sipping together in the late morning - a communal experience- is something else. It is a shared moment of drinking tea, its taste and scent now familiar and cherished qualities.
I seem to discover the tea anew each time, like a cat reexperiencing a not-so-new toy, that he pulls out from under the bed, as if for the first time.

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