But why were we brewing it at The Tea Gallery?
Most often used in incense and perfume, Toki thought the wood's fragrance might enhance a basket of liubao tea if stored and aged together. Winnie noted a flavor and scent in certain aged teas that reminded her of Aloeswood. The more it was discussed, the more associations between tea and tree were discovered. Also, making a tisane of Aloeswood wasn't uncommon. We just had to try it oursleves.
While Michael steeped the precious splinter many times that afternoon, the fragrance did not dampen. It was obvious we would have to stop before the Aloeswood did. When I asked Toki if this was normal, he replied, "Not all Aloeswoods are equal." Many believe that the best specimens were harvested to extinction decades ago. The wood that may have scented the perfume or incense of a Ching Dynasty aristocrat may have been far more powerful than the modern grades available now. Many trees are deliberately infected to meet the demand but these are considered an inferior grade to the wild Aloeswood. You can find Aloeswood to brew but the strength and complexity will be determined by the grade and age.
About 6 inches tall and possibly early Ching Dynasty. I'm always impressed when Michael produces the appropriate antique for a tea gathering; it's like bringing the perfect dessert to a party only much cooler.
I asked Michael the age of the carving and he would only say a few hundred years, give or take. When I pestered him for more information, he pointed to the shelves of antique catalogues and books and wished me luck on my research. I'm still searching...
Sometimes it's the other things you learn that bring you back to tea.
Months later we are still sipping water steeped with a little splinter.