Liu An; Harvest Moon Tea + the Importance of Learning the Process

There is so much magic within tea. There is so much more to it than its flavors and aromas. There is history, processing, location, and varietal. Becoming more intimate about tea rather than just deciphering what kind it is can lead to so much more appreciation and love for these Leaves.

Today my session began with Liu An, which came from Global Tea Hut. If you don’t know what GTH is, I suggest going to globalteahut.org right now and subscribing. They have a monthly subscription that sends out a Tea and Tao magazine along with Leaves. Very informational and inspiring. It’s also a wonderful gift and surprise each month.

For the March 2017 issue, we all received Liu An black tea called Golden Thread. Understanding and learning about the tea we drink is a huge part of appreciating its uniqueness and its place in the tea world.

This tea is rarely known, even for Chajin. It is from Anhui Province in China and originated in a small village in Qimen Country called Luxi. Full of ancestral history, Luxi Village is surrounded by five major rivers, and thus has rich trade routes. This small home of Liu An is peaceful and clean.

So, what makes Liu An…Liu An?

Like any tea, it is all about location, varietal/raw material, and processing. Liu An is made from the same raw material as Mao Feng green tea, but the second flush. It’s processing is similar to puerh, but it is NOT puerh! It is in a league of its own. It’s almost a green tea, but processed like black, meaning it is artificially fermented post-production.

Liu An takes about a year to make, which also makes this tea very exclusive, and labor intensive. Golden Thread is picked and rolled by hand, which is very rare in this modern world. This tea is picked just the right time (approximately around “Guyu”, end of April – beginning of May) and is from the Zhuye tree varietal. After its initial processing, it is refined (around “Bailu”, mid September), which begins gao huo (high firing)…

After firing, this tea is left outside during the fullest moon of the year, the Harvest Moon, it is then they begin to “absorb the moisture of the “white dew” night”.

Using handmade bamboo baskets, they are packed into baskets. It is tradition to drink the tea with a piece of the basket that they were dried in. Which GTH was very thoughtful and kind to add to our tin this month.

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Global Tea hut was right indeed, these Leaves are magic! Filled with wisdom of the Harvest Moon and white dew, it has a lot to give. It’s very patient, and can fill you up with some good juju.

It’s cooling and Yin. Slightly astringent and sweet. When I took its initial sip, I immediately felt like I was by the sea, feeling the cool breeze that the water brings. It’s liquor is amber/redish color. Thick, strong, yet very delicate.

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I have not tried it with the bamboo yet, for I want to wait for Robert to experience it together. I love my solo sessions, but it’s also very special trying a tea for the first time with someone.

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Taking the time to brew and learn about our tea is just as important as drinking it, I believe anyways. Tea is so much more than a beverage. It’s a lifestyle, and to be a tea lover, it means being in love with tea. My love of tea expands with my knowledge, because learning about the processing, history, etc makes me understand what makes this tea so special. Without learning about Liu An and its uniqueness in terroir and processing, I don’t think I’d appreciate it as much.

Yes it’s absolutely delicious and pleasant, but just drinking a tasty hot drink isn’t enough for me. As my journey intensifies, so does my deep deep desire to become completely drunk in what tea truly is. It’s history is just as important as its flavor. Without knowing where it comes from and how meticulous the processing it is, it’s just a bowl with wilted leaves.

Sure, I could never think of tea that way, nor have I ever, but because of this knowledge, my appreciation has completely transformed into a thirst that the liquor itself isn’t the only part of the brew. For example, knowing how long Liu An takes to make, along with how Golden Thread is picked and rolled by hand is unique indeed, and is not commonly done in the tea world. Knowing that anything made by hand makes it that more special, doesn’t it?

Tea has shaped my life into more appreciation for simple things, and also, more desire to learn about where I get pretty much, everything. Food, my teaware, art….this is essentially returning to the roots of true wabi sabi. Mindlessly getting things, especially tea, could be detrimental to appreciation along with many other global factors, sustainability being one of them.

I enjoy getting my tea that is rich in history, along with knowing where it comes from, who grew it, and how they did it rather than getting my tea from some miscellaneous place that does not give me any information about it. Seems rather heartless…

Brewing a true cup or bowl of tea means getting only the best leaves that takes skill, knowledge, and unique terroir to create. These are the leaves that will truly change your life.

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