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Tea in the Snow

December 23, 2008

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Seattle and the surrounding Puget Sound region are in the midst of some atypically harsh winter weather. The mix of steep hills and icy streets has severely restricted transportation. This has had a pretty dramatic impact on most people and businesses here.

One of the ways that this strange weather has affected me is that I have not been able to get any more spring water from the grocery store for brewing tea. There are many, many varieties of tea in this house, but no good water. This is not a monumental hardship, but it led to some improvisation.

A few days ago I had the idea that melted snow would be a good source of pure water for tea. So, taking up a couple of large containers, I gathered up as much snow as I could, skimming just the surface off of the freshly fallen snow blankets. It’s quite startling to realize just how much snow it takes to get just a little water. After finally melting enough snow, I brewed some Silver Needle White tea with it. The tea tasted quite nice, although brighter than I expected. It did taste good, and did not taste like it had been made with tap water.

The following day I melted another batch of snow and used this water to brew a pot of genmaicha in a cast iron teapot. This time the tea tasted quite harsh and metallic. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t anything I’d do again. I do not know exactly what the chemical breakdown of our particular snow is, but the water did not react well with iron. It did not taste toxic or dangerous, just brash, without the smooth warmth that the genmaicha exhibits when made with spring water.

The experiment lost its charm after that. The tap water here isn’t that bad, and melting snow is a lot of effort for little reward. It was a good experience in any case.

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