The day I first brewed my own tea

I’ve been growing tea shrubs for years, but I haven’t been immensely successful. The shrubs are dwarfs with yellowish leaves all year long. They are in fact a second generation – the first died on me. That’s why I rarely thought of using their leaves for tea. Now my five shrubs were infested by some kind of aphids, which is why some more serious trimming had to be done. At that opportunity I harvested a few young healthy leaves and tried to process them the way I’ve seen in many different parts of the world. I decided I wanted black, oxidised tea. It was clear that there were enough leaves for no more than a single cup.

My first tea

Harvest and processing

I let the leaves wither till the next day. It had been an incredibly hot month and it took just twelve hours for the leaves to soften and loose what I reckon was fifty percent of their water. Then they started to exude beautiful flowery scent that I know from all those manufactures and factories I’ve visited. Then I started to roll the leaves by hand. I spent about twenty minutes pressing the leaves against a wooden table and shaking them to come apart. Then I left them to oxidise for 40 minutes and dried them in a clay kettle by Petr Novák that I put on a hotplate. Carefully, I kept shaking them not to burn them in the end.

Moment of truth in a  tea cup

There was enough tea for one cup. I put the leaves in a cup right away and poured them over with boiling water. It became clear it’s not going to be black tea. The leaves were only mildly oxidised, resembling first flush Darjeeling or a slightly oxidised oolong. The brew was light to golden green, very light and aromatic, with prominent vegetal and flowery tones. I was pleasantly surprised. Of course it wasn’t top quality tea, but my expectations had been really low. I reckoned a fiasco was more probable than a tasty cup of tea.

The brew was in fact delicious, pleasantly sweet and strongly flowery. Maybe it tasted too vegetal with the undertones of unripe fruits, but I was still quite excited about it. I drank it from a cup, adding water continuously. It gave three good brews, keeping constant smell and taste. It resembled a spring Himalayan tea mixed with slightly oxidised Bao Zhong. A great success for a first attempt!

I am looking forward to new young leaves. I am going to reassume my tea production. Maybe there will be enough for a tasting and I’ll be able to invite you.

Dan Klásek

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