I love the smells of tea, the liquid, the leaf, the aroma. They are transformative and for me, and often vehicles of time travel. Smell is a powerful memory and each of my teas that I source take me to a specific mountain, a certain farm, a cosy table, a welcoming family, a comfortable dirt track that leads to a bustling barn where fresh tea is being processed.
Dragonwell tea takes me right to paved hilly, windy one lane streets in Long Jing village outside of Hangzhou, China. It's sweet grassy nuttiness immediately recalls the jingles of wheel barrows and bicycles around the village and the sounds of children playing and the sing-song of northern Mandarin Chinese being spoken all around. In the villages, people talk softly and are easy to hear, there's not as much city-noise or car honking to compete with.
The first smell of Dragonwell tea makes me think of the early morning sun drying the dew on the tea leaves on Shi Feng mountain. The sunlight is thin that early in the morning, after all it's still a fresh and crisp April morning. If it's rained the night before the sandy soil is still wet and fragrant. Revisiting the smell of the steeped leaves always evokes for me the small tea hot tea cooking in a wok. The room is filled with this smell, hot, green leaves, smells of chlorophyll rising in the steam.
The third steeping reminds me the water I'm making this tea with is not from Shi Feng, it's harder, more mineraly and processed city water. Shi Feng spring water keeps the tea dancing and encourages a slow release of flavor over time.
Letting the warm leaves rest in the gaiwan, I can smell the hot porcelain and tea mixed together and it reminds me of the tea ceremonies in the huts and small older replicas of former magisterial buildings on Shi Feng.
Lastly, I smell hints of Ma Lan Tao, a dish I've never found outside of China of diced chilled greens with tiny diced bits of tofu with sesame oil. It's like a Chinese pesto-tabouleh kind of thing, but sweet. Along with traditional Long Jing dishes like river snails in tea oil, and tea fried shrimp. With a meal, or casually with friends, or offered ceremonially, as this lovely person is demonstrating, there is nothing better than high grade Pre-Qing Ming Dragonwell tea from Shi Feng mountain.
You can taste 2014 Pre-Qing Ming Dragonwell at this year's San Francisco International Tea Festival at the Ferry Building on November 16th from 9 - 5. Tickets are available here