I’m going green. I understand that I’m on the tail end of the green movement. I’m late to this year’s Tea Party as well. Nothing new in my life. It’s the same reason I sported Hammer Pants in 1991. I’m learning, however, that if you’re late to the party, why not just send out your own invitations. I’ll just have to start my own Green Tea Party, even if it is a party of one.
Why now? Lots of tiny reasons that all add up to a need to re-energize, challenge my comfort zone, spark new creativity. Why green tea? I like tea. Black tea, and white tea and even oolong. Green tea… not so much. And yet there have been glimpses of greens that I have enjoyed. Influenced by the absinthe last Friday? Perhaps… I know, I’ve threatened green tea adventures in the past, but now it’s really happening. I’ve got nearly a dozen greens lined up for my education (and I welcome any suggestions you may have), so, as the children’s book exhorts, “Go Dogs Go! It’s Green Ahead!”
Today, I begin with Long Jing, from American Tea Room. David, a green tea enthusiast, insists it’s an excellent place to start. Not too much from the “newly mown grass” variety. More on the path of earthy and nutty. Also known as Dragon well, it is “grown on the slopes of the Tieh Mu Mountains in the Zhejiang Province. Skilled artisans pan-fire fresh leaf-and-bud sets into oval shapes reminiscent of the way tea leaves appear on the plant” (as described by American Tea Room). The Zhejiang Province has a long, long history of scholars and artisans, and Hangzhou (where Dragon well originated), is considered one of the cradles of Chinese civilization. Not a bad place to start my Green Tea Party, if I do say so myself! Its tea, Dragon well, is considered the national drink of China and has several legends surrounding its name. Here are three, as listed by Chinese Tea Culture:
“It is named after a single well, named as you would imagine, the Dragon Well. Located in Dragon Well Village, the well was located behind the Dragon Well Temple which was built over 1,700 years ago.Legend #1 According to the first legend, locals when digging the well found a stone shaped like a dragon and so they named the well Dragon Well.
Legend #2 The well’s water is particularly dense and after rainstorms, the lighter rain water floats on the surface of the water and exhibits a twisting pattern which resembles the long and sinuous body of Chinese dragons. I have personally witnessed this effect.
Legend #3 This is my personal favorite. Locals believe that in the ancient past, a benevolent dragon lived in the well. He controlled the weather and ensured that the area had enough rain. Locals would pray to the dragon and bring him offerings.”
The steeped brew of Organic Long Jing is a pale yellow (like buttuh, baby), and clear, clear, clear. The mellow fragrance is that of freshly damp earth, almost like taking a hike in the high mountains at dawn. The first sip. The word that leaps to mind is, “Fresh.” It almost harkens to the aftertaste of a mint tea, but just barely – leaning more toward a vanilla finish rather than that hint of mint. There is a velvety smoothness to the liqueur, and it just feels good to have it flow through your mouth and down your throat. And despite my bent toward black teas, this tea has enough body to be satisfying in and of itself. The nuttiness is there with just the smallest dash of the grassiness I think of with green teas, and while these two elements are not my favorites, there is nothing unpleasant here. It may not be love at first sip, but I’m very glad to make its acquaintance. And perhaps, over time, this introduction will have the chance to bloom and grow into something more substantial and comfortable.
And so, the Green Tea Party begins. Long Jing, thank you for coming. Yes, I’ll save you a dance.