Two Lapsang Souchongs from the Cha Wang Shop have changed my whole approach to morning tea ritual (which still involves gimping along in the dark til I slurp down three cups of black tea in order to become ''functional'').
The luxuriousness of the pleasantly smokey Fujian Zhengshan Xiaozhong and it's more ethereal, lychee-fragrant cousin, the Fujian Waishan Xiaozhong have made my half and half habit untenable. Certainly there are many hongchas that are butchered by dumping in a half gallon of cream, and there a few hongchas I've slugged that I could not bring myself to adulterate with a bronze fat cloud. But I am addicted to the richness of strong black tea (usually a serviceable Dianhong) loaded with lactose. My Morning Milkshake. The fats seem also to take the edge off the tannins in the tea, which often make my stomach upset if I have not eaten.
I've always felt self-conscious about the cream habit. It seems an abomination to pour cream into perfectly good Chinese tea. One of my favorite things about visiting China was the positive effect the nearly dairy-free cuisine had on my digestion.
I've been off morning cream for a few weeks. I feel so much cooler drinking my morning hong cha, seeing the cup's bottom through a sparkling ruby tint. I allow myself the delusion that it's a slight ascetic maneuver- a deprivation for tiny tots. This is kind of nice because my lifestyle really bends toward the hedonistic these days.
And the lack of cream is great for another reason. The thing is, I'm getting fat. My winter desk job combined with my beer, pork and half and half intake have produced my first noticeable spare tire. A slinky-sized roll. My slinky. I don't wish to cut back on the pork. I've slowed down on beer and sped up on bourbon. (Just on weekends, mind you). So I'm glad to be off the cream.
We're leaving tomorrow for our first backpacking trip of the season on the Selway River in Idaho. The elevation is lower and the trillium is, hopefully, blooming. I'll get a chance to work on my spare tire and use some snowmelt to brew up Stephane Erler's Bi Luo Chun from San Hsia. This tea has been my annual introduction to the spring tea season for many years now. I have grown quite fond of it. It is one of those signs of durability, like the crocus. It leads out of bleak times and hibernations into more lit, less dark times.
It'll probably be raining on the Selway, but it will be 70, 60, 58 degrees. You can bet I'll have some hongcha for the cold mornings. And I won't even be missing my morning fat.
I hope this spring finds everyone ready for something different.