I’ll never forget the first time I saw a “presentation” or “display” tea. I was at a tea industry show and saw a mob of people surrounding a table. I’ve never been a very patient person so I maneuvered my way into the swarm and finally saw what everyone was staring at – a glass pot with an amazing flower that was expanding in the water in the center of the pot. It reminded me of fireworks: the sky is black, you hear a muffled explosion and then you see a series of colorful bursts followed by an audible gasp, “Aah!” I arrived too late to witness the flower opening, but the finished product was indeed amazing.

These hand- tied bundles are expertly crafted by artisans and represent an art form. I’ve researched this craft and learned that these were banned during the Cultural Revolution because the powers that be perceived the flowering teas as being frivolous and wasteful. I can imagine that all art could be seen from that limited vantage point.

I’ve come to learn a bit more about the wasteful part, however. Because of the delicate nature of the tea leaf, it must be cared for with considerable attention if it is to remain fresh and optimal for the brewing process. It needs to be carefully stored away from light with minimal necessary handling. It is the very act of precision manipulation and tying with silk thread that causes the flowering teas to be handled excessively. The varietal of tea leaf is also different from other green teas as it is particularly supple, allowing for the elaborate and intricate tying into bundles. You can imagine the acids released from the hands of the artisans as they tie these tiny bundles into art. If you haven’t seen a display tea yet, please check it out. It’s truly unbelievable.

When I went to China two years ago, I looked for some of these teas, imagining what might be available in China. The only places I saw them offered were in tourist areas. It was apparent that the Chinese didn’t drink this tea. I have sampled numerous such teas and the best I can say is . . . some of them weren’t too bad. But, it’s not what I’m looking for in my cup of tea. I demand a delicious cup of tea. I am a strong advocate for the arts, in all forms. I believe this craft is quite fascinating. By all means, dazzle your friends and family with a presentation tea in a glass pot or cup.; just be sure to provide another pot of tea for their gustatory satisfaction.