This was a pleasant surprise from a tea company that I knew little about before this experience.
Several weeks ago Verdant advertised a “Tea As Art” competition through their website. The premise was that a limited number of contestants would receive a small sample of their Hand-picked Tieguanyin Spring Oolong in return for producing some sort of art in reaction to their experience with the tea. I wasn’t expecting much, but when I hear ‘free tea’ I usually say “HOW HIGH, SIR!?” Before it arrived I started to get a little nervous about what I would end up sending back. Not that i would have any trouble with whipping something up, but I can be somewhat brutally honest. I pictured making a video of someone throwing up and just repeating it forwards and backwards for several minutes (I am not a big fan of Tie Guan Yin). Something like that would make me feel awful, but honesty is all that I am capable of. When the tea arrived, my sweetie brought the package in and I rolled my eyes. She already knew all about my woes, since the problem was really getting to me. We opened it up immediately and took a whiff. I was pleasantly surprised and now knew that I wouldn’t have to resort to drastic ends. Though relieved, the pressure was still on. I put the tea in the gaiwan and there it sat for about a week, myself unable to look it in the eye…
This morning I was up early and feeling like tea, and there was the gaiwan just staring at me. I took it onto the water table and stared at it as the water came to a boil. The aroma was strong, but not offensively heavy as I find some TGY productions. The first steep was good. Sweet on entry with a good wholesome mouth-feel and body. I hadn’t taken it but 10 seconds in for fear of unnatural disasters. The second steep was different. I trusted what I tasted and so I went for a full 60 seconds or so. Still no bitterness or astringency. Definitely more flavor and feeling, but nothing that made my mind scream inside my head. I can be very sensitive with the more aromatic oolongs. I did five more steeps, and though the leaf opened fully, I never felt like the tea was truly steeped out. The flavor was long-lasting and pleasant with no funky aftertaste or aroma. I like this tea (and I never say that about TGY).
After contemplating this experience for the rest of the morning I decided upon my medium. For a tea so true to its roots, I chose a medium that was also in that range. The good ol’ brush and ink. I thought that a simple comparison of the dry and steeped leaves and a few calming words would do this tea justice. Any more would be like making fun of this sublime leaf. I ground the ink and prepared my workspace for the project. After a few hours I felt that I could do no more. I am NOT and artist, but I think that my work speaks to my respect for this tea. My contribution is as follows: