Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Whiteness of Tea and Snow

Mid-afternoon, the skies darkened and took on that soft blurry greyness that means it is snowing even if you can't see individual snowflakes. A Silver Needle white tea (source unknown) perfectly matches the way the snow is erasing the definite lines of the landscape. Jean Mouton's Nesciens Mater sung by The Gentlemen of St. John's is the perfect echo of the white tea and the sky. The snow, the tea, the music all have the ability to erase what isn't of the precise moment.

"Even I
am not sure
what my heart's secret is,
but I know
it has to do
with winter,
with the slow wheeling stars
and the stillness of snow."

Michael Spooner/"Winter Nights"
(collected in: A Snowflake Fell/compiled by Laura Whipple)

I think of the times I have sat in the sunroom turned moonroom on frosty January nights, watching the moon snagged in the branches of an oak tree. Yinzhen Silver Needle in a small cup that has a pattern of frost crystals on the interior glaze. I remember the very subtle and velvety cream corn sweetness of the tea I had at one time. It is such a delicate experience of its own, so easily lost in the noise of the day, let alone the "noise" of blending it with other teas or flavors or scent. There is something I love about the smell of freshly fallen snow. It definitely has a scent, almost a subtle sweetness. But it is truly defined more by a non-scent, a light sweet iron-edged clarity that is made up more of what smells are not present than what smells are.
The ultimate white tea experience, like white snow, is defined for me in a similar way.

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