29 October 2012

Tea by Storm

I'm not very patient- or so everyone who's ever known me has said. I disagree, though. I think I'm just the right amount of patient. But sitting here, waiting for the biggest hurricane since the dawn of time to hit, is testing my limits.

Taking Shiruxiang (石乳香)- a Wuyi oolong from Lock Cha- through a dozen steepings has been helping. I don't like to pick favorites with tea, but Wuyis are actually my most beloved oolongs because they are the first kind I experienced (and I remember exactly where I was, and how beautifully different it tasted than anything I'd ever had). The name of this one roughly translates to "rock fragrance," and it does have a smooth, mineral-earthy flavor that goes on and on (kind of like this storm). It's as close as I can get to licking a rock on a misty mountain in Fujian right now, and that's not such a bad place to be.

The other neat thing to do with a Wuyi is to save the rinse- the quick, few-seconds infusion of boiling hot water that you initially pour over the leaves to wake them up a bit. Instead of discarding this liquid, as you may be used to doing with oolongs or pu-erhs, save it to sip after the tea is done. Here, you can taste where the tea came from; the flavors I found in this one were minerally, with a bright but pleasant metallic note.

Of course, you will need something to eat between infusions. I also will blame this storm for the worst chocolate chip cookies I've yet to make- it must be the lowest-ever recorded barometric pressure, right? I'm not even going to show them. They're edible, but barely. Make these ones instead, a brown butter version from Food & Wine that I discovered a few weeks back and never should have turned away from.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes: about 3 dozen

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate

1. In medium saucepan, cook the butter over moderate heat until it is browned and nutty-smelling, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.

2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda. In large bowl, beat brown butter with both sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in the chopped chocolate. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

3. Heat oven to 375°. Spoon small mounds of dough onto baking sheets. Bake about 12 minutes, until the cookies are just firm and golden brown on the bottom. Transfer sheet to a rack until cookies cool.

While we're in the midst of this hurricane confessional: I've also been told many times I focus too much on the past. That one is probably a bit more accurate. But when the wind is starting to bludgeon the walls so much that I can feel them shudder, I don't think that's such a bad quality. Sometimes it's necessary to put the present moment aside and think about something else.

I just found these photos from a tasting day over two years ago, right when I started actually working in tea. I've been thinking about that whole thing a lot lately, and not just because I'm trapped inside for the next week while the world dissolves into a wet pile of entropy outside. Tea is such a part of everyday life now that I can't delineate the two.

I wouldn't change a thing.

21 October 2012

The Far Moon

"Sleep on horseback,
The far moon in a continuing dream,
Steam of roasting tea."

-Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)