We all have those incredible sensory memories where just the slight aroma sends us back to a treasured moment. Our minds are suddenly flooded with images and a sense of time and place that once was. While I have many of those memories tucked away in my heart, there is one in particular that plays to a tea tune.
It was one of those perfect fall days in New York where the air was crisp but nowhere near close to cold. Running down the streets of SoHo to meet a dear friend, I found her waiting with a smile in front of In Pursuit of Tea’s shop (which I must sadly say is no longer open). We opened the glass door to the tiny store with exposed brick walls that seemed to glow like autumn leaves on the treeless street.
Shelves were lined with traditional cups and teapots, and a blackboard displayed what teas were being sampled that day. Within seconds, my whirlwind of joy calmed as my eyes settled on the word “oolong” written across the board. For those of you who have followed me on my tea journey, you know that oolong tea makes my heart sing. I turned to face the woman pouring tea from a gaiwan and gently approached her. She extended a delicate cup and before I brought the sip to my lips, I heard her share that it was their “high mountain oolong tea.” Even though I was grounded in fall just moments ago, my senses shifted to spring as the floral notes escaped through the steam. With just one sip I found myself lost in a field of honeysuckle flowers. It was at that very moment that I knew I had found a treasured tea, a transformative tea.
The handpicked green oolong is grown in the San Lin Shi Mountain in Taiwan and brewed to reveal a subtle jade liquor. This full-bodied oolong carelessly lingers on your palate with smooth and almost sweet floral notes that leave a bit of spring behind. According to In Pursuit of Tea, “ ‘Gao Shan cha’ translates into 'high mountain tea', a term often used by the Taiwanese to describe a premium oolong that is grown at high elevation.” Grown at a very high elevations with drastic climate change, the oolong adjusts to the weather and develops complex characteristics that allow for multiple infusions.
Leaving with a tiny bag of the High Mountain Oolong nestled delicately in my purse, I felt fortunate to have found something so special. Over the next few months I often reached for the bag of tea carefully placed on the second shelf of my cabinet. While I brewed the water and steeped it for seconds, I could bring myself back to that fall day and get lost in a moment of pure sensory joy. In Pursuit of Tea’s High Mountain Oolong from the fall of 2011 was and will always be my favorite tea.
Alexis Siemons is a freelance writer and tea consultant living in Philadelphia. As a tea enthusiast, she writes about her steeped adventures with tea on her website <teaspoons & petals, and teaches a series of culinary tea classes. Her recipes and stories have been published in Anthology Magazine, Grid Magazine, Philadelphia Magazine, Kinfolk Magazine,Remedy Quarterly and Design*Sponge.
by Chef Mark Shoup