What went through the grower's mind after that formidable storm on Phoenix Mountain in the late 1970's? Emotions first, likely grief and frustration. Which is understandable as over half of a magnificent 400 year old tree was disintegrated. Hit by a one-in-a-million chance lightning strike. So which thoughts came next?
The tree is ruined beyond repair. Time to literally cut my losses before this injured tree dies. What a terrible day fate has dealt me. I will drown my feelings in tea.
Or--I wonder if the tree has a chance to survive. Perhaps all is not lost. This is a strong tree with strong roots and it might yet survive. I will give it a chance and see what happens next spring. I will celebrate by drinking lots of tea today.
The positive attitude paid off. The tree's following year spring tea was different than before, stronger with more gusto through additional infusions. The tree itself had changed as well. Specifically the new spring leaves--what was once round had morphed into a longer more narrow shape. These new leaves were thicker as well when compared to adjacent tree's leaves. Quite the surprise as all those trees shared identical DNA. All were cuttings from the same Mother tree nearly 400 years ago. The once tragic event was now a fortuitous stroke of luck. Tea zealous locals were pining for a taste. Other growers were asking for cuttings. Prices rose. The glass half full perspective really paid off!
The lightning strike is attributed to the changes in that tree, specifically to changes in the genome. DNA itself is an extremely large and complex molecule. Quite fragile as well--for information sake, human DNA gets damaged (and thankfully normally repaired) anywhere from a thousand to a million time per day in each DNA containing cell. UV light, free radical oxidation (more tea packed with anti-oxidants anyone?), environmental chemicals, massive electrical discharges from lightning strikes, and on and on all break and damage the DNA molecule.
If you want to try some of this unique tea, we offer one that often wins awards at the Phoenix Mountain tea competition as judged by the growers themselves. It is from trees grown from the first generation cuttings of the original tree. The flavor is sort of hard to pinpoint. Orchid notes with wildflowers are close but not hitting the bullseye. There is a distinct vibrancy with nuances, ridges and a plush feeling on the tongue that lasts and lasts. Sure there is a difference in the teas from the original and first generation trees, but it is far less than the astronomical difference in price. Plus the original tree's tea is all per-sold to the same lucky few every year.
Storage: Store unused portions sealed in an airtight bag away from light in the freezer at 5F/-15C or below.
Brewing water: Earth2O brand mineral water most closely matches the slightly hard natural spring water on Phoenix Mountain and produces the finest results. Soft water, distilled water and hard water will ruin this tea. Tap water varies wildly and is best avoided as well. If you don't have Earth2O water available please see good substitutions on our water page.
Brewing temperature: 100C/212F
Brewing method: 5g tea leaves (~2 heaping Tablespoons), 100ml (a bit less than 1/2 cup) water each time for 5 seconds in a Chinese gaiwan or a small pot. After the first 10 infusions, increase each infusion time by 5 seconds. To produce lighter tea, either decrease amount of tea, increase amount of water or decrease brewing time. To produce stronger tea, either increase amount of tea, decrease amount of water or increase brewing time. You can easily adjust to suit your individual taste.
Notes: Small quick infusions showcase the changing flavors of each cup. Longer brewing times in larger quantities of water end up more homogeneous, but still very good results.