You know before opening the caddy that this will be the last session with that particular tea. The caddy feels unusually light, and the few lonely leaves left inside make an odd, metallic scraping noise as they slide about.
I’d correctly assumed that my time with my current batch of Silver Needle was coming to a close, and thought it best not to dally with it, to drink it up before it noticeably started to decline in quality, to clear the decks so to speak (not to mention the caddy-space), and make room for a new white tea in the stash.
I peered inside. Just a little too much for my favourite gaiwan, so I decided to use the slightly larger Blue Willow pattern one, and perform very fast flash infusions.
I rinsed and warmed the gaiwan, and dropped the leaf in.
It was only then that I realised how much broken leaf and dust had been hiding beneath the good stuff.
My first concern was naturally enough how I could avoid the tea liquor becoming bitter.
Broken leaf + dust = a much greater surface area exposed to the tea water, and it’s painfully easy to oversteep, no matter which infusion method one uses.
Also, once exposed to the water that dust and those broken leaves quickly coagulate into a messy paste that makes gaiwan infusion frustratingly tricky.
It’s infuriatingly hard to avoid leaf flotsam slithering under the gaiwan’s lid and clogging the tea strainer, which subsequently requires de-clagging after every steeping.
Worse still, plenty of ultra-fine particles still manage to find their way through, giving the tea a slightly cloudy appearance – somewhat off-putting when that tea has always produced a crystal clear beverage.
In retrospect, I should have dropped the leaf into a tea filter bag and pot-brewed it. I might not have been able to eliminate the slightly bitter component from this session, but it should have dealt with the cloudiness.
Not the best way to finish off a batch of tea, it has to be said, but lessons learned, and all that.
The tea-cup is always half full….