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Se Chung in snow

by Niraj Lama February 08, 2013 0 Comments

Nemo, a rather sweet name for a blizzard, came down at 9 am just as forecast. It is potentially for the records storm in the north east US.  We could fortunately be out of that deep purple band - the most affected area in the map of weather.com.

Nemo Rochester

Lucky enough to be indoors, I decided to take  advantage of the snowy show and bring out my deep roasted organic Se Chung oolong from China's Anxi region. The fire in this oolong should balance out the ice, I thought. I brought out my gaiwan and went for the traditional gongfu style of making tea, which is basically brewing the tea repeatedly in short bursts of time. I began with a 30 second brew. It was strong. Smell of wood and charcoal, burnt brown sugar and pepper filled up the room. Last time I brewed this tea, my wifet thought I had opened my bottle of scotch.

Se chung oolong

Indeed the earthiness of this oolong in its early stages of brewing recalls the peaty smell of some single malts. It is a strong cup and it warms me right up.

It is only after the fifth infusion that the delicate smells begin to emerge. I discern an almond like nutiness and floral notes coming through.

Se Chung oolong, nutiness, floral

It feels like an exquisite dawn break on an enchanting night. Every infusion builds upon the impressions of the previous one, a smooth natural progression. They read like a book, chapter after chapter revealing a riveting plot.

Se chung

On the ninth infusion the plot dramatically changes. The color of the liquor is now sparkly amber. It has the buoyancy of spring. I see dark green emerge from the colors of what has been until now almost black tea leaves. The nose now has a fresh and sweet vegetal aroma. And aftertaste is now a lingering sweetness.

se chung oolong

I keep turning the pages as it were. Tenth infusion. The heavy roasted smell is now a faint memory in the cup. I lower the water temperature and go for longer infusion. At eleventh infusion the cup is still strong. On the twelfth the floral character is now overtaking the rest. I feel warm, almost hot, and awake. The languor of the morning has fully dissipated and I feel awake, really awake. I see the snow fall and I see the flakes are coming down thick, each nearly an inch across.

Se Chung


Those flakes, each of them, the way they flicker past my window ought to be called Nemo, I think.

Niraj Lama
Niraj Lama


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