Osmanthus Laoshan Green
Osmanthus flowers are extremely ephemeral. Their trees bloom once every year, for two weeks in October. In a village nestled within the cliffs of Mount Lao, an area to which the Osmanthus trees are indigenous, this is an unmistakable event. For a short time, the area is filled with the incredibly sweet smell of the flowers. The tiny blossoms fall nearly as soon as they have opened, covering the ground in a tangerine coloured snow. In their descent they fill the air with what appear like dancing fairies, inflected by the wind. There are only three days when these delicate flowers may be harvested and still retain the intensity of their smell. During this time Grandmothers in the village patiently collect them by hand, as they have for generations in Laoshan.
Tea leaves are long known to have the remarkable capacity to absorb and preserve the scent of flowers that would otherwise disappear. However, the process of scenting tea leaves is laborious and long-developed; it began in the Southern Song Dynasty more than 1000 years ago. It requires a careful understanding of the ratio of flower to tea, and several rounds of infusions to achieve a lasting transfer of the flower's otherwise fleeting scent. Mr. Tang’s family, who crafts our Osmanthus Laoshan Green, is known both for their skill at carrying this tradition forward, as well as for the beautiful place where they continue to grow and harvest their tea.
The many small plots that make up Mr. Tang’s tea farm are scattered along the ocean, at the foot of Mount Lao. Some are distributed right along the beaches, exposed to the wind that blows off of the water, while others are tucked slightly up into the forested hills, protected by the mountain behind them. There is a great peace that settles over this area of Laoshan. The tranquility of Mr. Tang’s tea farm is resounding, and extends between its many parts. Following a path that connects the plots next to the ocean to the ones tucked away in the forest, the sound of the ocean waves progressively gives way to the sound of forest birds and running springs. There is a remarkable variety of trees along this path. The smell of the ocean gives way to red pines, overlayed with the scent of green plum. These green plum trees surround the small plot of tea tucked into the rocks at the base of Mount Lao. They stand like lace umbrellas, dappling the light as it moves across the shiny leaves of the tea trees below them.
The leaves, harvested by Mr. Tang’s mother and grandmother and then carefully scented by his uncle, remain combined with dried osmanthus flowers in this tea. When we prepare this tea, the flowers will dance in water much like they did in the air as they were falling. However, we must keep in mind that, while this tea appears to consist of two distinct things, the osmanthus and the Laoshan green have blended to become one single, indistinguishable flavour. It is their hybridity we taste for.
Just looking at this tea will warm your heart, all of the fine spindles of Laoshan tea peppered with the tiny, burnt orange osmanthus flowers. It smells intensely like candy, but tastes very clearing and subtle, finishing with just a touch of sweetness. We notice this as a quality shared by many Autumn teas; it is as though they have come to rinse us, and ready us for Winter’s retreat.
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|Steep time||10 - 60 sec|
|No. of infusions||5