One of my other passions is reading, in fact I generally set a goal of 52 books per year and chronicle them at my other blog: http://read52in52.blogspot.com/. I am currently reading “The Dragonhead” by John Sack which offers up the true story of the Chinese version of The Godfather… The Dragonhead. It’s a decent book, I’m about halfway through, and I came across a vivid account of tea peparation. I’m always excited to find these kinds of accounts because tea rarely makes more than a passing mention in most books. This one was particularly interesting because it was quite thorough and poetic but more importantly it mentioned a tea I have never heard of, and even after some research still do not have a full explanation of. Here is the excerpt:
“At midnight he’s sitting at a teak coffee table, a troop of monkeys carved into it, a sheet of glass over them, he’s eating the mangos and mongosteens (but not the maloderous durians) brought in a bamboo basket by Mrs. Old Fox. She then brings a tall and red-flowered can of chiu chao tea that Old Fox prepares like an alchemist concocting the secret elixer of life. The tea leaves, he first shakes into a ceramic pot engraved with a mountainside scene. The water (which started as rain, which fell on his roof, then went to a pipe, a ceramic barrel, a bottle, and an aluminum pot, then the old gangster boiled it over kerosene on his monkey-troop table)– the water he pours on the waiting leaves. At once he pours it off again, explaining to Johnny in Cantonese, “The first batch of water isn’t strong,” then he pours a second dose that, a while later, he pours with a flourish into Johnny’s pink-flowered cup. The tea’s almost black, like Turkish coffee.
“It’s wonderful tea,” says Johnny appropriately.”
The Dragonhead: The Godfather of Chinese Crime–His Rise and Fall
If anyone has any insight on “Chiu Chao” tea I’d love to know!