“I want to buy some Dayuling oolong tea, do you sell it?”
The anxious couple showed up at the teahouse not long after I heard the Oolong Vampiress get off the phone with them. As they walked into the shop and began to look around, they didn’t seem especially impressed by the teahouse or its wares, as if they were expecting a more elaborate setup.
“Where is your Dayuling? I want to try it.” The husband’s Mandarin wasn’t easy to understand, but it was better than his wife’s, who didn’t seem to be able to speak any.
The Oolong Vampiress repeated the same thing that she had evidently told him over the phone. “We don’t have that tea this season. We have a Lishan high mountain tea. It’s good and has some similar flavors as the Dayuling. You can try it.”
Somewhat-frustrated chatter erupted between the couple in a language or dialect that was not identifiable to anyone else. They decided that since they had come all this way, they would try the tea. They asked the owner why she didn’t carry Dayuling this season, and she said that it wasn’t good enough for her customers. Each type of tea is different every season, sometimes moderately so and sometimes very much so. The Dayuling, she felt, wasn’t good enough. Some of the farmers and distributors implied the same when I saw them at the start of the winter tea season. Dayuling or not, the Lishan was quite good.
The affectionately-titled Oolong Vampiress moniker actually carries with it quite positive and good connotations. She is committed to good teas and diligently searches for them every season. When she finds them, she will capture/suck out the essence of the tea’s goodness and infect her customers with its beauty. If she said that the Dayuling wasn’t good, she had probably tried many of them and found that there was nothing good enough for her to carry. If you ask her why she does or doesn’t buy a particular tea, she will gladly explain her reasons.
After a few cups of tea, the couple looked at each other for reassurance. I asked the husband what he thought of the Lishan and he kind of shrugged his shoulders as if to imply that it was borderline acceptable. He wanted a real high mountain tea and this one, not being Dayuling, didn’t seem to make the grade. He again asked why the Oolong Vampiress didn’t buy the Dayuling, then added, “I saw it at other shops. They sell it, and it’s around the same price as your Lishan. Other people have said it’s good, so why don’t you carry it?” Then, in what may have quite possibly been accusatory in tone and manner, he uttered: “You should.”
You see, vampires have big and sharp fangs, so you don’t cross them (unless you’re Werewolf, Van Helsing or Borg). The Vampiress doesn’t like to be told what to do by people who don’t know better, and she doesn’t like to debate over things that are perceived to be nonsensical. Do not pick a fight with her about how to properly brew an oolong or what type of water to use; she knows her teas better than any of us and will not yield. I was expecting her to slap the table with her palm while an eruption of un-restrainable yelling carried forth instructions to the offending party to get the heck out of the store after they had, again, disputed her decision not to carry a particular tea. I have seen it happen with other teahouse owners before.
I was in for quite a surprise, though. Instead of kicking the couple out, she tolerantly asked what it was that they liked about the Dayuling that wasn’t pleasant in the Lishan. It turned out that they didn’t really know because, well, they hadn’t really had Dayuling before. They had just heard that it was the best high mountain oolong, and they had also heard from many friends that this shop sold good tea at fair prices. What followed was a relatively friendly chat and basic education on oolongs. They left that day with a few bags of Lishan and a greater appreciation for the spectrum of teas.
I received an email from the teahouse owner a few weeks ago and she mentioned, as an aside, that the couple had returned to buy tea from her several more times. They had become quite friendly and appreciative of her honesty and patience with them. The Vampiress is powerful indeed, having again infected tea-love in those whom so many others would have (and may have already) written off as a waste of time. She reminded me that the culture of tea can be better appreciated when we have a desire to spread its virtues to others, so that they may more clearly see the beauty of the brew as well. She’s a good tea Vampiress, so put your garlic away and expect that she will share a nice brew with you if you cross paths.
Drink good tea and enrich your life.