Come late autumn, tea plays an even bigger role in my daily routine. My transplanted mid-western friends laugh and tease me, "Teri, Oregon is so mild, come on." I cringe, I moan and grab another layer of wool to protect my unseasoned California skin and a seventh cup of hot tea. After thirteen years, I'm supposed to be used to it, but, I'm not. I came into tea by way of this damp climate so I should be grateful for it, not to mention our verdant cityscapes and parks and lush forests for hundreds of miles. "It's special here!" as my pal Chris Israel used to say when he left So Cal for better horizons in 1989. Special: Yes! Cold and Damp eight months of the year: Yes! Come November, the kettle is on almost all day long.
In fall, I move away from lighter, lyrical green teas like Chelsea Morning towards richer, deeper brews. Darker, oxidized teas beckon more when the sky is grey and the trees drop their leaves. Even the red rusty color of darker teas feel apropos. I still crave Japanese teas, but I tend to let them infuse just a bit longer than summer steeps. I want depth, comfort and richness in these brisk Pacific Northwest days.
One of my favorite autumn teas I sell is named Shine On Brightly. Most know it as Bai Hao, a dark oxidized oolong tea from Taiwan. I appreciate its lush depth that arises on the second steep and the earthy complexities on the third and fourth. Bitten by an insect called the leafhopper, the chewed, hole-laden tea leaves that make up Bai Hao (Oreintal Beauty) turned out to be a sort of happy accident. Pesticide would ruin the Bai Hao, as the bugs would be repelled and the deep fruity components would never develop thanks to early oxidation caused by the bug bites. This tea is so delicious and really complements some of the other flavors in the autumn culinary spectrum. Think persimmon pudding a pot of this oolong tea. Or, serve it alongside a roast pork sandwich laden with cranberry sauce. Maybe even in your favorite whiskey cocktail after a long week at the office. Alone, or with a snack, you will love the beauty and surprise of this favorite autumn brew.