How To Steep A Leaf

Tea is a simple pleasure.

I adore oolongs: young spring buds and the first two leaves, bruised and hand-rolled into tiny balls. With water just barely off the boil, they unfurl and release their heady perfume. I am graced by God-knows-what beautiful volatile compounds created by time, fire, and the watchful eye of a master tea producer. I decant from lidded bowl to server to cup. I listen to the indescribably harmonious sound of water being poured to and from fine porcelain. I feel the warmth radiating, spilling like gold.

I knew once, in terrible naïveté, to do this one steeping. And later, a few. The flavour and mouthfeel evolves, changes each time. Savory and thick, floral and creamy, bitter and astringent. It is a wonderful thing.

But now, I'm telling you that the leaves are not yet spent. Neither is the teaware. Cast away any instinct from your mind that the leaves should be trashed and the teaware washed (the water trashed), and move the leaves into a clean glass. Swirl water about the teaware - it will absorb the remaining heat and flavour. Pour atop the leaves. You will see that the water is enhanced by this continuity, and that continuity is the heart and soul of all good eating and drinking.

It is calming for me to see the leaves suspended in this potion, and to feel them rustle against the lips when I take a drink. I like to imagine drinking from a deep, clear well. Here, there is the faint memory of tea leaf. Let them rest on terracotta. They are tired now. Perhaps, burn a candlelight underneath to lend warmth. Satisfied, they dry; crumble them with your hands, and scatter the dust among plants to nourish their soil.

In enjoying good things we must love. Tea loves unconditionally. It has so much beauty to give. It is always there, waiting to be awakened by hot water. What is love if not earnestly receiving everything that which the loved have to give? Give them the opportunity to shine their brightest.