Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Reading the Coffee Leaves

In the spring of 2013, I tried a tisane made from the dried leaves of a Hawaiian coffee plant.

coffee-plant

Arabica coffee plant. Image owned by Wize Monkey.

And I wasn’t a fan.

The flavor was not overly offensive, just . . . herbal. And nutty. Nutty-herbal. Okay, on “Internet” paper that doesn’t sound too terrible or unappetizing, but it wasn’t very palatable, either. It reminded me of nettle leaf that had gone slightly off. It would take another two years before I’d revisit the prospect of trying it again.

At World Tea Expo 2015, such an opportunity arose. The culprit? Wize Monkey.

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A Totem Tea Story

The definition of the word “totem” is thus: “A natural object or animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance and adopted by it as an emblem.” It is derived from the Native American language, Ojibwe; the word, dodaem.

The concept, however, is not limited to just Native American cultures and religious practices. Many cultures worldwide also place such significances on totems as well. Totem poles, on the other hand—at least to the tribes of the Pacific Northwest—use these objects and animals as family crests and as a way to recount stories of that family group’s past.

So why did a tea company use “Totem” in their name?

totem-tea-logo

I’ll get to that.

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Japanese Black Tea . . . from Brazil

It may be a surprise to a lot of people, but Brazil used to produce a lot of tea. As early as 1812, even. The ugly truth of it was, though, most of those old plantations were dependent on slave labor. When slavery was abolished in 1888 . . . tea production collapsed.

Enter the Japanese.

japanese-immigrants-on-a-brazilian-tea-plantation

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The Great Guan Yin Duel

Over the years, I’ve had some fun at the expense of Guan Yin—the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

guan-yin

Whether portraying her as having an illicit affair with Scottish botanists, or depicting her as a scorned goddess seeking vengeance against the writer of the illicit affair (me), I can’t say I’ve dealt with her fairly. Hilariously, yes . . . but not fairly. However, there is one area where her namesake is applied where I have held back my more idiot tendencies. That, of course, is in regard to the tea bearing her name—Tie Guan Yin, or “Iron Goddess of Mercy”.

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Summer Time Tea Montage

It’s officially the first day of September. The outside temperature has dropped twenty degrees. Skies are gray, and big-ass raindrops are falling. Yep, summer time is just about over.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Not that I bear summer any ill will in general, and not that this summer was bad, but—y’see?—I’m a fall kid at heart. However, to usher summer’s drunk arse out the door, I thought I’d reflect on the good moments of the last three heat-searing months. And, of course, all those great moments involved tea. And, sometimes, even people.

In order to wrap up the summer in a quickie fashion, Rachel “I Heart Teas” Carter gave me permission to mooch her “Photo Micro-Blogging” format. Just this once. Brace yourself, it’s time for a breakneck Summer Time Tea . . .

montage

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Tschanara, Germany’s First Tea Garden

Growing tea in Germany . . . of all places . . .

Image mooched from Wikipedia. Creative Commons, foo!

Image mooched from Wikipedia. Creative Commons, foo!

Blame Wikipedia for putting that fantasy in my head. I remember reading up on tea customs in European countries, and there was a sub-section on East Frisia. It was one of the few regions in Germany that even had a tea culture to speak of.

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On the Back Roads of Vegas with Bootleg Botanicals

In mid-June, I made a trip to Las Vegas for World Tea Expo, 2016. (As you, fair reader, already know.) It fueled at least six blogs that took me all summer to write about. (They can all be found on my tea blog.) But there was one tale I forgot to tell. It only . . . “kinda” has to do with tea.

I had one more day in Vegas after that whirlwind convention week. For some reason, I scheduled a flight for two days after the Expo. I figured I needed a day to decompress, and—as luck had it—I had friends in the area. Team Bootleg Botanicals—Ryan and Melanie Belshee—agreed to put me up for the night.

Who are Bootleg Botanicals?

Image owned by Bootleg Botanicals.

Image owned by Bootleg Botanicals.

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Agarwood Puerh, and the Tale of Two J(G)e(o)ffreys

At the 2012 Northwest Tea Festival, I met this guy.

Jeffrey McIntosh

The man in my crappy photo is Jeffrey McIntosh. Granted, his version of spelling “Geoffrey” is not the original—as mine is—but no one is perfect. However, he does hold the distinct honor of being one of the first people (younger than me) to blow my mind. During a talk he gave at the festival, he mentioned that puerh teas all came from different cultivars from one tea tree variety—the Camellia sinensis var. assamica.

Okay, for the very well-educated tea geek, that’s not exactly earth-shattering news. But four years ago, that changed my whole worldview, man. I thought that variety only grew in Assam, India because of the name.

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Kuding Cha

About a year ago, I was called upon by a tea vendor to write about tisanes made from holly species. Various caffeinated infusions have been made from holly plants—guayusa, yaupon, and the granddaddy of ‘em all, yerba mate. But in my research, I ran across a beverage made from a holly plant . . . in China.

The species of holly? Ilex kudingcha (sometimes referred to as Ilex kashue). The beverage? Kuding Cha. The name translated roughly to “bitter nail tea”. As the name implies, it had a very bitter taste if over-brewed. And, like its Western cousins, it was also (quite possibly) caffeinated.

After learning of that interesting bit of information, I didn’t pay it any mind. I knew no one who carried it. But then I saw a striking picture by one of my vendor acquaintances on Instagram—Nomad Tea Merchant. They carried Kuding Cha.

Nomad's Kuding Cha jpg

Image owned by Nomad Tea Merchants.

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Aged Oolong from Thailand

In all my years of writing about tea, there’s one subject I don’t think I’ve touched upon in great detail. That being: Aged oolong.

Thai Aged Oolong loose

 

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