How I fell in love with oolong tea - part 1

Where I come from, which is eastern Poland, tea has always been an important part of people's lives. You start your day with a cup of tea and then drink it throughout the day, at any time, also at meals. Hot tea is drunk by adults and children alike and recommended for its medicinal properties whenever anyone (an adult or a child) complains about a health issue: strong tea for stomachache, tea with honey for a sore throat, tea with vodka (yes!) for a cold.

When I was a kid however, which was during the communist era, access to good quality was very difficult, if not impossible. Which was maybe for the best, as the way we made tea in my region of Poland would kill the taste of a more subtle brew. To make tea, you had to put a lot of leaves into a teapot, cover them with hot water and leave steeping for a long time while heating the teapot. This would result in a bitter,  almost black substance called "esencja" which would then be diffused with more hot water. You needed to pour a few drops of "esencja" into your tea cup and top it up with hot water. Those who liked it sweet, would add some sugar. I definitely don't remember my first cup of tea as I have been drinking it since I was old enough to hold a cup but I definitely remember that one day I was considered adult enough to stop adding sugar and how proud I felt to discover that I actually enjoyed drinking bitter tea.

 My first memorable tea experience was a visit at my parents' friends who happened to be important people in our town with the man of the family belonging to local authorities. They served us tea and for the first time in my life I've tasted something excellent - completely different than the bitter "esencja"-based tea I have known my entire life. I couldn't help myself, I kept asking for the next one and then the next one... By the end of the evening my parents had to ask me to stop as I have been bothering our hosts too much. Before we left I asked to see the packaging of the tea they served us. It said "Ulong" which is the Polish transliteration of oolong. Having drunk many tea types since, I'm pretty sure that it was the exceptional Da Hong Pao oolong tea.