Like any good tea drinker, I occasionally frequent teashops. There is one in particular that I’ve gone to for the better part of three years (or more?). It has a bar. Note to future teashop owners: Get a bar. People like me will hang out there. Or don’t…if you want to avoid that sort of thing.
Point being: In my regular loitering, I’ve seen teabartenders come and go, learn and grow. Sometimes, they even tap into my overflowing well of useless knowledge. One particular teabartender started working there about a year-and-a-half ago – about as green as one could possibly be, couldn’t tell a jasmine green tea from a Dragonwell. Now? She could even stump me on tea plant varieties. (Note: There are three, not two – sinensis, assamica, and the oft-debated “java bush”. Color me informed.)
For the sake of this write-up and anonymity, we’ll call her Michigan-Grown Teashop Girl – or MGTG, for short.
One particular week, I came in to try whatever they had that was new. MGTG informed me that there was a new Japanese black tea they acquired. I requested a piping-hot mug of it…and proceeded to hang out for an hour or so – all the while, hugging the mug lovingly. (What? It was warm.)
Between her customer rushes, we discussed American-grown tea. I told her of the Hawaiian ones I’ve tried, bonded over our mutual love of a Washington-grown white, and so on. Then…she stumped me. I’m not used to being stumped when tea is involved.
Okay, not true. I’m stumped all the time. But still!
She said, “Have you heard of Light of Day Organics?”
“Nope,” I said dismissively between sips. When I hear the word “organics”, my brain usually glazes over.
“They’re a garden in Michigan,” MGTG continued. “They apparently grow their own tea and sell it.”
It was at this time she mentioned she was from Michigan, and was interested in trying their homegrown orthodox offering – a limited edition white tea. As I do when presented with new information, I immediately took to my smart phone. How did a tea garden in Michigan of all places escape my notice?!
After a brief perusal, I realized I had run into it before…but skated over it. Tony Gebely had mentioned it in his article on U.S. tea growers. Light of Day Organics showed up in other articles I had seen, also. So, the fact of the matter was…I was just dense and unobservant.
Light of Day Organics is the only biodynamic tea farm in the U.S. It was started in 2003 by Angela Macke – a registered nurse/organic horticulturist. The 25-acre outfit dedicated its space to (obviously) organically-grown ingredients for the various blends they sell. But the jewel of the operation was their Camellia sinensis “branch”.
One would not think that tea plants could grow in Michigan, due to the weather conditions. Normally, that would be true, but in this case not so much. Light of Day Organics utilizes un-heated hoophouses and greenhouses to keep the harrier aspects of Michigan weather at bay. Or so I’d assume.
Long story short, a week later, I bought some of their All White Tea.
It arrived the following week.
The leaves were, well, leaves on first impression. As is often the case with Bai Mu Dan-style white teas, there were green-to-brown larger leaves followed by the occasional fuzzy buds in the mix. Stems were also quite omnipresent, but that wasn’t a deal-breaker. Not by a long shot. Some of the best White Peonies I’ve ever had were quite stemmy. The aroma from the leaves was also rather trippy – hints of wintergreen, autumn mist, and maple.
For brewing, I went with my typical white tea approach – 1 teaspoon-ish in a 6oz. steeper cup infused for three minutes in 160-ish F water. Yes, the A Light of Day Organics website had some brewing instructions…but I didn’t pay attention. I figured I’d been doing this long enough to know what’d work. Okay, sometimes I’m wrong, but not often…-ish.
The liquor brewed pale yellow (as all good white teas should) with an oddly coniferous aroma – reminding me of pine needles and some type of incense. I was reminded of a hippie-esque rave in the middle of a forest in Bend, Oregon for some reason. (No, I’ve never been to one. )
Taste? Hoo-boy. Where to start…
That same fir-tipped, pine-needly presence continued on the palate presentation. I’ve had my fair share of needle-oriented things – be they beer, tea…er…actual needles (long story). Point being, this was a very pine forest-like taste. More so than any tea I’ve tasted, white or no. It was like a pine tree and a mint bush hugged it out after a big fight in a field of Silver Needle tea leaves.
Short answer? Perfect white tea.
Once I was done with it, I began plotting. To me, it seemed only natural that I…well…gift some of this white tea to the very girl that brought it to my attention. Michigan-grown white tea for a Michigan-Grown Teashop Girl – perfectly natural, perfectly innocent.
When I finally had a day that allowed me enough time to get from work to the teashop, I prepped a care package. I went in, grabbed some iced black tea, and waited. Michigan-Grown Teashop Girl wasn’t working that day, but another teabartender friend-o’-mine was. I handed off the package to him.
He said with a knowing smile, “I’ll make sure she gets it.”
I tried to deny any ulterior motive…and left after finishing my cuppa.
Mission accomplished. The girl hopefully got her tea, and the idea of that made me happy. Nothing more was expected than that. Honest.
Why’re you all looking at me like that?