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Fringe benefits

January 25, 2011

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Sometimes tea comes to me from completely unexpected sources. A couple of months ago I began working on a project with a woman who had spent a considerable amount of time working in China on business development, in coordination with the US State Department. During the course of our initial conversation talk turned – as it so often does – to tea, and specifically Chinese tea. (Amusingly, this meeting had taken place in a coffee shop, and both of us had valiantly tried to find some sort of palatable tea to order from the menu before we even introduced ourselves to each other.)

At our next in-person meeting, which took place a number of weeks later, she handed me a small, brilliant red and intriguing packet, and told me that one of the Chinese exchange students who she had hosted over the holidays had given it to her. She didn’t know anything about the specific type of tea that it was.

I like the challenge of trying to figure out what something is with very little obvious information, so I looked forward to trying this mystery tea.

When I first opened the package I was struck by a very nice aroma, and noted that the leaf looked like a very nice quality tea, and indeed it brewed into one. My guess was that it was probably some sort of Wuyi Oolong, possibly a medium-grade Da Hong Pao. The packaging is almost useless in providing clues to what tea it is because in the area that I think tells about the tea, the Chinese characters are very small, lightly printed in metallic gold ink on metallic glittery red foil. I don’t think I could read it even if it were in English.

After the tea was gone I flattened out the package and I noticed that there was a faint picture on it. The picture looks to me like it’s a drawing of a mountain, which would seem to indicate to me that it might indeed be from Wuiyi Mountain. Whether it’s Da Hong Pao or not I can’t say for sure, although it does look and taste quite similar to other teas I have had from that same region of China.

Addendum following Charles’ comment and some more research: The answer might have been right in front of me all along. The characters on the left are on the front of the tea package. The three characters on the right are “Da Hong Pao.”

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