Panning for gold in Trace Creek, about a half an hour south of Fredericktown, Missouri, I was delirious from the heat. I could feel my wits rushing down the river, hypnotized by the moving water. It was hot, damn hot! Around 190 degrees I’d suspect. I was into my third steep when I caught a faint glimmer in a tick-hole between the limestone and purple jasper further up the creek bed. Unable to rely on reason, I could not discern if it were the shimmering sunlight or if I was “seeing the elephant,” as folks say when they glimpse some dust.
I raced up the creek bed in 15 to 20 second intervals, but in my fit the river caught my batea pan and washed it down the bend. In a moment of inspiration my good sense returned. I grabbed my tea tray and sloshed back to the water. I took a deep, long, steep and retrieved a miracle of bright luster, the second most beautiful thing I’d ever seen (first being my lovely J.S. those months before). Its long spindles of gold veins shone like her blonde hair. The excitement of triumph tasted like sweet fruit, apricot, and apples and sparkled on the tip of my tongue like honey. A fine treasure indeed. But only lasted a few more steeps before I called it a day and cooled off in the shade to enjoy a mellow, relaxed, cha qi.
Under a present sycamore, I stared at the aurous stones gathered in the front crease of my shirt and I thought about yellow teas in Jingu cradled in their soft cloth bedding. You see, over there in China they sometimes take a green tea and cover it with a fine wet cloth to help ferment the leaves after oxidation to bring out the sweetness and lesson the vegetal flavor and dry astringency. They call this process “men huang,” or “sealed yellowing.” As a partially fermented tea, it carries many of those health benefits that go along with pu’erh such as stimulating appetite, weight loss, and aiding digestion after some stomachlobber serves three-day-old beans.
I guess I’d trade quite a few of these nuggets for some of that Chinese gold. I reckon Bitterleaf’s “2016 Goldrush” would do just fine right about now. I can almost taste its soft mellow swallow and cool “Hui Gan.” Ah! Refreshing as a honeydew melon mixed in a cucumber lemonade!