Throughout each of our tea journeys, there are moments that stick out; Incredible, emotional, and inspiring moments that stay with us. The power of these moments echo deep into our daily lives from out of the cup in front of us. I myself have had many such moments in my drinking career, but above all, one particular moment stands out to me. I was 22 years old and traveling home to Nova Scotia from Toronto with my partner, Eleanor Isdale. The two of us were passing through Montreal and decided to make a stop at a popular teahouse I had stumbled upon online.
At this point in my life, I was a lover of mainly colonial influenced black teas (Assam, Darjeeling, and Sri Lankan Teas) and the limited few ripened pu’ers I had enjoyed gripped my imagination and quickly became my favorite style of tea. I had heard talk of raw pu’er and the additional depth and complexity that a carefully and meticulously aged raw pu’er could offer but up until this point, never had one graced my lips. My intention here, at this teahouse, was to experience the fame of raw pu’er first hand. I had no idea the intense journey that lay ahead.
Walking into the store provided an instant release of tensions and a welcoming, quiet atmosphere that was perfect for the sensory experience I would soon embark on. A quick skim of the menu set my sights to a 1992 loose leaf raw pu'er from the Menghai tea factory and I knew right there that no other offering could more deeply affect my curiosities, nor my desire. I had always heard it said that the best drinking experience with raw pu’ers comes from a tea with significant age. Gazing at the text in front of me I remember thinking: “Well, if this is older than I am it must be a fitting, matured, and the perfect first experience of a vintage tea!” Little did I know of the many vintages that would follow, but how could I? This was as perfect a place to begin as any other and was bound to change my perception of fine tea forever.
The moments that followed are deeply engrained into my memory. The sound of the hot water as it passed from gaiwan, to faircup, to teacup. The warm comforting steam and rich, deep aroma that accompanied it. My first sips silenced everything. I sat dumbfounded and shocked; yet enlightened. The thick, oily and intensely textured liquor filled my mouth with the unforgettable flavour of forest floor, rich vintage wood, sweet earth and refined flavour of aged teas. These powerful aromas and flavours, coupled together, transported me back to the forests of my youth. I found myself suddenly suspended in time, floating in a pure bliss. Within one second, this tea had changed everything. I had experienced for the first time, one of many perfect moments.
I feel the calming meditative energy of the tea I drank that evening even to this day. As if in that moment a seed was planted in my soul. What was planted that day, was a passion, a deep desire, and a life long obsession with these perfect moments. Since then, there have been many more of them. Even in my own home I have found myself sitting in my thoughts with a warm cuppa close at hand relishing in the sheer beauty of it all.
To me, this is my truest and fullest desire with this passion project of mine, Wilderleaf Tea. We strive not only to provide high quality teas, teawares, and events; but rather to deliver a medium through which to share and encourage these life changing, inspiring moments for anyone who has a desire within themselves to pursue them!
Remember to always stay curious, to always be open and in search of the next perspective shifting moment. Tea and the adventures that follow it are full of incredible learning experiences and part of the overall journey. These moments are worth far more than any price could pay.
Daniel Mahoney (Founder of Wilderleaf Tea)