Tea drinkers like gold, the rich color telling of rich taste. I’m talking about their tea “liquor” (the liquid resulting from the water pulling out the flavorful essence from the tea leaves) — from the pale yellow of Liu An Gua Pian “Sunflower Seed” Green Tea to the dark amber of Yunnan Red Gongfu. And many more.
Gold is also seen everywhere in nature. From brilliant arrays of golden daffodils, tulips, and dandelions in the Spring to those awesome Autumn displays as the leaves of aspens and maples turn gorgeous hues. Gold ornaments are brought out of storage to adorn Christmas trees. Gold in necklaces, brooches, and other jewelry takes center stage as gift lists are readied. (Who wouldn’t want the touch of King Midas, at least for a day or two?) Gold stars are brandished in schools as a sign of high academic achievement (at least they were when I was in school). Then, there are gold medals in the Olympics, awarded in recognition of an athlete’s top performance against a field of competitors. And so on.
For me as a tea drinker, the best gold is the “golden pour.” Nothing beats it! The “golden pour” is that first flavorful cupful of tea liquid from a freshly steeped potful. Every drop of tea is full of the best essence infused from the tea leaves, resulting in a taste that is the epitome of what can be attained. It is a true gold medal performance, where the molecules of water have coaxed the molecules of “tea-ness” from the leaves.
Here’s how this tea “gold” is achieved:
- Quality Tea – Start with the best quality tea you can afford. Just as you want fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh baked breads and dairy, and choice cuts of beef to make a “golden” meal, you want to start with fresh, quality tea.
- Quality Water – Don’t forget the water quality! Icky-tasting water will not magically produce heavenly-tasting tea (the essential attribute of the “golden pour”).
- Knowledge – Gain knowledge about how to properly brew the tea. No matter how good your ingredients, if you don’t know how to prepare them, no “gold” will result. I’ve learned this the hard way when trying new food recipes.
- Advanced Prep – Assemble the items you’ll need. Having everything ready at hand is the secret to success for many chefs and touted by TV personalities like Martha Stewart, Alton Brown, and Rachel Ray.
- Preparing the Tea – Proceed with the preparation. Fortunately, tea is a lot simpler to make than Quiche Lorraine or Beef Bourguignon, but you may still need a few trials and errors to get the tea tasting the way you like.
Having concluded the preparation, you are ready for that “golden pour.” Fortunately, this is the simple part. Just pour. (If you used loose tea, pour through a strainer.) Then, do yourself a big favor: clear your mind of clutter, carry your cup to a quiet spot, take a few relaxing deep breaths, close your eyes, and lift the cup to your lips. Before sipping, inhale the fragrance. Then, take a light sip, letting the tea excite all the nooks and crannies of your palate on its way down your throat. Feel the warmth as it travels down inside you.
You’ve just experienced the “golden pour.” Unfortunately, the tea will change in flavor, scent, and color as it sits in the pot. It will probably still taste good, especially if you followed the first step above (starting with quality tea), but it will not be the same.
Remember that, just as in any recipe you’re following, the rules for preparing tea are not chiseled in stone. You can add an extra pinch of salt, dash of cayenne, or clove of garlic to your stew or chili. So, too, you can alter the length of time you let your tea steep, how much you use (general rule is a teaspoon per cup plus one extra for the pot), and whether you use tap, filtered, or bottled water (whichever tastes best to you). What you add to your tea, if anything, will also be a matter of personal taste. Milk/cream, sugar, honey, artificial sweetener, lemon, mint leaves, etc.
© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text