These late hours where I find myself writing this post seem to muffle sounds in the same way that snow does in the winter. Perhaps this is because the crickets and peepers are no longer singing due to the chill in the air. Although I could sleep, I chose instead to spend a couple of hours with the faint ticking of a clock, and the rolling moan of my kettle.
The tea I chose to drink in these late hours is called Liu An. It is a type of fermented tea from China’s Anhui province. Like other fermented teas the leaves aren’t fully finished immediately after picking, but are left to ferment after some basic processing steps are completed. There are some other steps in Liu An’s processing that make it different from other fermented teas, however. Some of these include:
- Leaving the tea outdoors in piles overnight. This exposes the tea leaves to dew, which supposedly contributes to a unique flavor in the final product.
- “Frame-baking” in bamboo baskets over coals at a low temperature. Aside from impacting the flavor, this also helps remove excess moisture from the tea so that it can be packaged and stored safely.
When brewing this tea I took extra care to keep the tea wares at a high temperature, because the air temperature of this autumn night was quite chilly. To do this I used a low steady flame to keep my water in the kettle warm while brewing the tea. I also chose to brew with smaller clay tea pots, because the clay retains heat a little better than other ceramic tea wares.
The flavors of this tea were complex and interesting. There were grassy and hay like flavors that I’ve tasted in some other fermented teas, but this tea had a unique and fairly strong malty flavor as well. Despite the complexity and depth of the flavor, this tea was very smooth throughout the whole session. During the later infusions, it lightened up and offered a dewy and nectar like sweetness.
Some Random Final Thoughts
I enjoyed this tea because the smooth qualities made it agreeable even though the time was late. These soft and pleasant qualities also helped subdue the kind of negative thoughts that bubble up from time to time and keep me awake. Recently these thoughts have included concerns about what kind of work to pursue, which I think is one small topic related to the larger question of how to try to live a good life.
There has been some positive news recently, however. In the spring of next year I’ll be able to go on my first trip to China. I’m interested to see the supply side and labor that goes into this agricultural product I’ve been enjoying for the past few years. So far I’ve only enjoyed tea as a consumer. For this reason I want to try to learn more about the economic, environmental, social, and cultural factors that shape the tea industry in China. My ultimate goal is to try to get a sense of whether or not it feels like I could really work with tea for a living. I’m sure this one brief trip won’t be able to answer all of the questions I have, but I think it will let me move outside of my comfort zone a little bit, and test the waters of the current trajectory I’ve been working towards. The tentative plans are to visit Fujian province’s Wuyi Mountains, as well as different areas in Taiwan. We will be seeing tea production, and I think we will also have the chance to go to a tea expo in Taiwan where some producers will exhibit their spring wulong teas.