Harney & Sons Pomegranate Oolong Tea

It comes in a red brick tin. I saw it while standing in line at my local Barnes & Noble, beneath a sign that said $3.95. The side of the tin said: “Hand Picked Full Leaf Ti Quan Yin oolong, hand-blended with Pomegranate Flavor.”

EFFECTS: Inspiring.

For days, since coming back from Hong Kong, I’d been a little feverish. Yes, the temperature in the Bay Area was a brutal 105 degrees and all around me people were having conversations like this: “Where’d you go to get away yesterday? Moss Beach? It was actually SCORCHING in the City…”

In Hong Kong, I’d stayed at my brother’s vast and pristine apartment overlooking the busy ships of Victoria Harbor. To my left was the Bank of China Tower, all bad feng-shui angles. Directly across my window were the Lippo Towers, two knobby fingers thrusting into the Hong Kong sky, whose previous two owners had committed suicide. I thought of such things all the time in Hong Kong: whether it was bad luck to pick up an umbrella that someone had abandoned on the street (VERY bad luck, my friend Maloy told me) or to drink the red tea that was served in the little sidewalk restaurants (even worse bad luck: you might get dysentery).

In my brother’s apartment was a cabinet that was filled with nothing but tea: Chinese and Japanese tea. I examined these colorful packets every morning: Bojamine, Tenren. Even a few packets of Japanese green tea. I poured myself a cup every morning and night and the steam rising from the hot liquid was unfamiliar and exotic and also bracing.

So, I was back in the Bay Area– or, to be specific, in REDWOOD CITY— and I was standing in the Barnes & Noble, and the sign that said $3.95 (I was almost broke) convinced me that the tea was a good deal.

I grabbed a tin and the check-out girl said: $7.95. Oh. Too exhausted–by heat/ confusion/ jet lag–to argue, I forked over my debit card.

When I got home, I pried open the lid of the little red tin. Inside were gauzy triangles, soft as silk, with little black nubs of indeterminate shape nestled quietly in the corners. The effect was like looking at little clouds.

I lifted each silky triangle and sniffed. A sweet scent, like licorice. Oh.

Every day since then, I take one bag out of the tin. Each time I look and look at the little clouds. It’s always very early in the morning, 5 or 6 AM. I put a cloud in my old chipped ceramic mug. I boil water. I drink essence of Asia.

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