Alone Time and Yan Shan Mu Dan

Alone time is fleeting these days. I have been trying to find the time to write about a tea I tasted last Sunday morning, and I finally found it on a Thursday night after everyone else went to bed. I penned this post by cellphone light– the candlelight of 2020. Oliver snored beside me, raindrops pattered on windows, thunder rumbled across the sky, and lightning flashes brightened a dark room. It was a different atmosphere compared to last Sunday morning.

Last Sunday, I finally decided to explore a 2015 Yan Shan Mu Dan from Old Ways Tea Co.. It was an aged white tea that came in my Countdown to Summer Box from Tea Thoughts. That morning, I allowed myself some quiet, guilt-free time alone on the back porch while an episode of Sesame Street distracted Oliver. It was barely 7:00 in the morning. The sun rose over dew-covered lawns, and fog hung heavy in the humid air. Or, maybe it was leftover smoke from the fireworks from the night before. The only sounds were birds chirping in the trees surrounding my home, the hum of a neighbor’s air conditioning unit, and the quiet clinks of porcelain as I gently shook tea leaves in a warm gaiwan. The cup of warmed leaves offered a sweet and smoky fragrance, and the lid smelled like overripe fruit. The tea leaves looked like Autumn leaves covering the forest floor– muddy brown, pale yellow, sage, and sometimes when the sun hit the underbelly of the leaf just right, red Georgia clay.

As I began brewing the first infusion, I wondered why I was even engaging in any sort of pomp and circumstance with this tea. It is rare for me to drink white tea and taste anything other than peppery hot water, so I was surprised when I tasted faint barbecue smoke and something that is sweet, sour, and vegetal all at once– like chewing the ends of tall prairie grass. Infusion number two excited me even more as I noticed a fruit I could not quite name along with sweet and spicy cinnamon. Infusion three was melon rind, but the mouthfeel was thick and luscious like silk scarves. Infusion four was like a mild but smoky Lapsang Souchong. Infusion five is when everything married together into one perfect honeyed-plum and smoky-cinnamon sip, and it hit me like, “Oh! this is why people like white tea”.

My tasting notes ended there because infusion six triggers a memory of my first apartment with Jon. In that memory, it is Autumn. It is always Autumn at that apartment even though Jon and I lived there for two years. It reminds me of Saturday mornings when Jon would be at work, and I would spend the morning picking out too many books at the library. I knew I would never read them all, but having a stack of new books close by always brought me comfort. Afterward, I would go to the grocery store and pick up soup and a deli sandwich for lunch. Then, I would go home, prepare a cup of tea, light a candle that smelled like caramel apples, and document my library loot because back then, this little space was a book blog called Books & Tea. Jon would meander in a short while later, crack open a Bell’s Two Hearted IPA, and sink into the couch to watch football, while I would cuddle down under blankets to read a cozy mystery novel.

It was an unexpected memory. I still cannot figure out what fragrance or taste triggered it, but it was welcome nonetheless. And, the Yan Shan Mu Dan from Old Ways Tea gave me yet another positive experience with a white tea. It makes me feel optimistic about future white teas that my come into my collection.

Have you been able to indulge in some rejuvenating alone time lately? Tell me about it in the comments!