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  • Writer's pictureJohnny

A Test of Tea


During preparation for a trip to Han Zhong, China, I had discovered there was a kind of Green Tea native to the area. Green Tea doesn't interest me much due to it's usually strong, bitter taste. But... when in Rome. The first few days of the trip, I practically lived on whatever means of transport there was. Hopping between the larger Xi'an city, to Han Zhong, through smaller villages in between.


During one of these trips, the aunt and uncle that we were staying with took us to buy tea from their local "spot". I'm early into my tea journey, so the rules, or rituals involved with buying tea are still foreign. The red car pulled up to the curb signaling us to get out. The aunt led us into their local tea spot. A modest shop with boxes and bags blocking the doorway. Within, two large wooden tables, whose tops were covered in miscellaneous items, filled the room. A small reception area was tucked in the back behind more stacks of boxes. Looking around, the walls were covered from floor to ceiling with bags of mushrooms, teas, roots, and more. The sight of the place was so jarring to the eyes, that I don't even remember the smell of the place.


Not even a step into the door and the aunt was talking away with the tea folk. We were ushered to sit at one of the wooden tables, pulling out the bench. Taking up what precious room was left in the claustrophobic tea shop.



Among the chatter, I heard a hint of surprise when it was mentioned that I was buying the tea. That is when the simple test began. Two types of green tea were laid before me. The leaves resting peacefully on a plate. My girlfriend amused me by joining in the observation of the tea leaves. The aunt, still chattering away, talked about how both were green teas. One a higher quality, while the other a lesser grade.


The tea seller brewed us some of each tea. Describing how to brew it. Giving us chances to get the aroma. Eventually, the warm, clear, glass cups were given to us to taste. Both aunt and tea seller's eyes watched closely. Waiting for my reply.


I sipped each a few times, admiring the color of the tea's liquor. One tea, whose leaves were short and stout, brewed a Green Tea that had a tinge of bitterness to it. The other, whose leaves were thin, long, and hairy. Brewed a tea with a very faint flavor. Inspecting the glass, I noticed that the leaves had "stood up" within the water. Almost as if they were brought to life by the warmth.


This tea was the higher quality Green Tea, this tea was Han Zhong Xian Hao Cha.


When I said I wanted to buy this tea as it was the better, the aunt's face lit up. Surprised I could tell the difference in the two teas. It was the first time my home-studied tea knowledge was tested. So far, I had studied well.


📿Johnny


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