There is something mesmerizing about watching loose leaf tea in a glass cup. The dry leaves writhe and uncurl, they float, they sink, they dance. Sometimes the colour of the water instantly darkens...sometimes it’s an imperceptible shift that only turns one shade darker. The most fun is when all of the colour remains concentrated around the teabag or filter..and then, when you remove it, glowing, ruddy tendrils of colour unfurl from the center and snake their way around the cup, slowly dispersing into the liquid.
I always wish I could catch that transformational moment when the streams of colour subside into a glowingly warm red tea. It’s like magic- like trying to watch for sparks in a fireplace, or blowing on the smoke from a stick of incense to make it ripple . Such a small, aesthetic pleasure, but it has the same effect on me as the smell of coffee has on most people. What a beautiful thing to wake up to.
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The first time I tried chai was in the kitchen of my parent’s house, and served by my younger sister. “You have to taste this—” she insisted, pushing a mug across the countertop to me. She refused to elaborate on its contents. The flavors, she said, would speak for themselves.
The quality of water affects the taste of your tea; this is beyond dispute. The relative quantities of mineral salts, oxygen and trace elements determine the relative "liveliness" or "flatness" of a particular cup. To that simple substance we add the basic flavor of the leaf itself or an herbal substitute.