It's that time of year again...as I've written before, Chinese greens have for me become almost solely a seasonal pleasure. Buy them fresh, drink them quickly and enjoy the experience when it's most intense. So this morning we enjoyed a tea I've been delighted to drink every year for the past four years--Xu Fu Long Ya from Teaspring (m'lady never seems to tire of hearing me ape the pronunciation sound clip offered on Teaspring's page for this one; any cheap laugh I can get).
It's nice to have old favorites to return to, especially when you never know what nuances are going to be prominent that you didn't pick up on last year. Likewise, my music choices lately have been in the comfort zone--something like 20 new albums that I haven't listened to yet, and what do I choose? The Band, which reigns supreme in terms of play count in my music library. So many layers...lately I've been most acutely appreciating Robbie Robertson's metamorphosis as songwriter--from the heavily Dylan-influenced Music from Big Pink, coming into his own as a slightly academic channeler of America's past on The Band, to Stage Fright, when the pretense of the first two albums' fictional characters gets all too real as he becomes the tragic chronicler of his bandmates' descent into the substance abuse and self-destruction. It's tough to watch (listen) as Richard Manuel's angelic voice shows more and more the effects of alcoholism, especially as he sings Robertson's ironic songs that detail the price of fame, trading his soul for musical ability and hollering "oh, you don't know the shape I'm in." And that's not even mentioning the parallel paths Danko and Helm were on, or Garth Hudson as the impassive sentinel, silently watching it all go down.
If only green tea were as multi-layered as The Band. That's not to say it isn't immensely enjoyable--limiting my consumption certainly makes me very excited for the new harvest every year--but I try not to expect too many facets out of those emerald spears. Xu Fu Long Ya falls into the "legume" category of Chinese greens--snow peas and beans are what fill my nostrils (not literally, of course, then it'd be pretty hard to breathe) when I crack the bag. The flavor does match the aroma pretty closely--the first infusion is my favorite for this year's tea--it's got all that legume flavor and just a hint of tart bitterness that quickly washes sweet. Since I don't keep a stock of Chinese greens year-round, my brewing skills are pretty feeble. By the time I figure a tea out, my 25g are all used up! This year's Long Ya seems to require longer infusions to maintain its characteristic flavor--otherwise things turn generically green. It does manage to produce more than five decent infusions even with a longer steep time, though, so it's just a matter of treating it properly. I know at least one tea correspondent to whom I've recommended this tea (hope you enjoy it B), but I'm always quick to recommend Teaspring for their selection (Long Ya and a number of others are teas I haven't seen anywhere else). Other faves I have to anticipate--Yang Yan Gou Qing's velvety mouthfeel, the modest legumey delights of Zhu Ye Qing, as well as Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun and Wu Niu Zao from Jing Tea Shop. It ain't easy being green.