This story is a simple one. I had been living in Taiwan for several years and it was time to return to the U.S. I began my transition from Taiwanese resident to American tea importer. In hopes of preserving the vestiges of my Taiwan experience, I employed clever tactics to ease the cultural transition. My creative juices must have really been flowing. As a means of saving space, I loaded the bulk order of my tea collection into 100-gram vacuum-sealed packages and placed them into previously empty tea tins that I was sending to myself. There were perhaps 3,000 tins altogether. Because I was sending myself the tins as sea freight, weight was not an issue. This was my rationale for the endeavor.
Loading the tins was easy. It just took a bit of time. I filled the green tins with 100 grams of vacuum-sealed bags of tea as fast as they were handed to me. This task took a few hours. I remember traveling on my scooter with many unwieldy items during that time, among them large boxes of tea tins. It was dangerous, at best, when the tins were empty, but clearly perilous on the way back with a heavier load. I had packaged 24 pounds of tea into the tins. It wasn’t until I was on the way back that I realized I would need sturdier box to protect the tins from damage during shipping.
My elder Kung Fu brother pointed the way down the avenue that led to a wooden box maker. Was I wrong in noticing a slight tremble in my Kung Fu brother’s voice as he said, “Do your best.” I explained to the box maker that I would need eight wooden boxes made to protect my tea tins. He agreed to do it and I thanked him, leaving only the dimensions of the boxes.
Flash forward to September 2011 in Eugene, Oregon. Earlier this week I discovered one of the green tins at the teahouse, a relic from my farewell shipment in 2004. To my surprise, it contained a bag of vacuum-sealed tea. This is the last tea remaining from the tin shipment, making it an accidental tea capsule of sorts.
In 2004, I packaged three types of tea into the green tins as I prepared to relocate from Taiwan. First, a green Iron Goddess of Mercy from the Mainland; this is the best of that particular genre that I have ever experienced. Second, the An Xi Iron Goddess of Mercy, purchased at rock-bottom pricing from a tea merchant’s basement. As we prepared the tins for shipping, an experienced packager looked over his shoulder at me and said, “Old tea…This is good tea! Wow, it has a sweet fragrance.” Finally, a green oolong designated as Number 28. This oolong would later be added to J-Tea’s Eight Treasures collection (“Green Oolong”) AKA “The Emerald” in our iced tea series.
On a recent evening, I opened the green tin and the burst of Four Seasons oolong aroma filled my nose. It was the #28 Four Seasons Green Oolong. It has aged, but slowly and I would not yet designate it as aged tea. It remains remarkably floral with soft buttery notes. Though I admit I had hoped to discover a cache of Iron Goddess, learning about how a tea changes over time is a pretty cool experience.