I’ve been back from my lovely Parisian trip for 3 days now, though in some ways it seems a lifetime ago. Coming home to Edie after missing her terribly, and not getting to personally parade her as a rather reluctant bumblebee on Halloween, it’s just a wonderful thing to be back. And of course, there’s the re-immersion in day-to-day reality.
In addition to the joy of having my whole family back together again, I was thrilled to see the arrival of a package from my friends at Naivetea. Though they didn’t say it, I believe they noticed my inexcusable lack of Oolong moments and wanted to help me correct the error of my ways. My education of Oolong has begun!
What better way to understand this tea that is not quite a green and not quite a black – in fact, it is sometimes referred to as ‘blue’ – than to begin with their 2009 World Tea Expo Flavored Oolong World Champion, Lychee Oolong. As I eased into my weekend, I chose this undisputed winner to accompany me. I loved watching the tightly balled leaves unfurl in my infuser, whispering all their secrets into my cup.
The soft, yet distinct, floral aroma surprised me and transported me to the kitchen of my dear friend, D, who lives on the other coast. I remember years ago during one of my visits she mentioned that she only ever drank oolong – ‘isn’t that the one that they always serve in Chinese restaurants?” she asked as an after thought.
We met as 19 and 20-year-olds in the common room of our dorm at a small university in the heart of the Southwest – a lark for both of us, though for different reasons. She was from the world of “grinders” (sub sandwiches) and “bubblers” (drinking fountains), and I was a flannel-wearing Pacific Northwesterner through and through. We ended up as roomies, danced together, rescued each other from awkward moments, visited each other after our sole semester as ENMU Greyhounds, were in each others’ weddings, and have now shared the laughter and tears of motherhood – though now not as often as I would like. Whenever I have visited her, I am always struck by her ability to create coziness and warmth. Her home, like her mother’s, is the cleanest, tidiest, and most comfortable at any given moment. AND, there is always something baking or roasting on the oven. I really don’t know how they do it. She knows exactly what you need before you even know you need it. Her sixth sense of how to make everyone feel at home is mind-blowing. I admire her ease in reading the room, playing the perfect hostess, monitoring the progress of the meal she is cooking, and keeping an eye on the likely-present kids, whether neices and nephews or, now, her own little ones. The beautiful and brilliant D has a B.A. and M.B.A, and yet she needs to be awarded an honorary doctorate in hospitality, for that is where she shines like no other.
I say all of this with the absolute highest respect and awe, because it is an area where I am woefully lacking. Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray have nothing on my friend! I remember D once worrying that her floors weren’t clean enough because she only washed them every other day, and her sister-in-law-to-be washed hers every day. I unwisely expressed my admiration and said we were lucky if I thought to wash ours once a month. The silence on the line spoke volumes, though she quickly recovered and changed the subject to food. And I wonder why she has only visited my house once in recent years. Hmm…
As I slowly brought the world-renowned Lychee Oolong to my lips, admiring its medium gold color, I wondered what my reaction would be to the always exciting, always most-satisfying first sip.
Liquid sunshine! Mild but very bright. Not grassy like green teas or dominant like black teas or delicate like whites can be. It was almost the best of all those attributes. The floral scent accented the sunshine, and I was left with a slightly sweet aftertaste. Almost a hint, a mere suggestion, of pepper and mint, but from 50 yards away. If I tried to concentrate on them, they disappeared. Complex, yet perfectly simple. Actually, simply perfect.
Savoring this new discovery, I let my imagination picture living a few doors down from D. A Saturday morning. Gene has taken Edie to the park to play. I’ve finished tidying the kitchen and have even considered washing the floors. Next week perhaps. I call D and see if she’s free, which of course she is. (It’s my daydream, after all.) I stroll over, and as I enter her inviting and picture-perfect home, I smell baking bread and Lychee Oolong. We sit at her kitchen table, and she pours the fresh brew into two beautiful teacups from her wedding china. Her morning housework is done, windows sparkling, floor so clean I would eat off it, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal digested, and here we share a most refreshing reward to warm conversation between two old friends.