Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Month: February 2013

Ginger Has Soul

Meet my brother…and his obscenely large dog.

RobAbacus

If you’re no stranger to this blog, then you’ve read my references to them in prior entries. My brother is my landlord/roommate. The dog? Well…he’s just there – acting all cute and hyper. To my sibling’s credit, he is a casual tea drinker. I say “casual” because he doesn’t worry about things like seasonal flushes, nebulous leaf grades, or what mountain his oolongs come from. I, on the other hand, do take those factors into consideration. What I’m about to confess, though, is that my brother has oftentimes influenced my tea drinking routine.

I sort of hinted at this in a prior entry about chamomile. Through him, I used to have an affinity for the relaxing flower. However, my palate has changed since then, and now chamomile – to me – tastes like…well…floral-flavored ass medicine. No, I can’t think of a better comparison.

But back to the subject at hand.

Roughly three years ago, my brother embarked on a bit of an experiment utilizing a jar, some teabags, and simple sunlight. Before him, I hadn’t even heard of “Sun Tea”, nor that it was a southern staple. All that was required was a three-hour wait, then presto. The results were eye-openingly delicious. Crude but credible.

A couple of years later, we tried it out with a couple of loose-leaf sachets of Smith Teamaker’s Exceptional Iced Tea blend. The results were “like” iced tea but slightly different. A good different, I assure you. When Summer comes around again, we’ll probably do the same thing. And to those that warn against bacterial growth. Well…we Normans are rebels.

Exceptional Sun Tea

On a simple day back in…uh…I think it was November, my brother up and decided that he was not going to fall ill anymore. His magic solution to this “ailment” was an old wives tale – apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp. a day. Normally, he added it to his tea. I thought the idea of that sounded disgusting.

Then I heard about the nationwide flu outbreak.

At my new job, I hadn’t earned health insurance yet. Nor did I have the money to get vaccinated. While I knew green tea helped to curb colds and influenza, it wasn’t a sure-fire answer. So, in the early morning before work, I would brew a pot of something dark, and the third cup was always doused with a dash of apple cider vinegar. And guess what? I liked it. The stuff went really well with an over-brewed black tea. Somehow, the tannins and the vinegar made magic – not sure.

Brother-made naan on the left.

Brother-made naan on the left.

February is almost over, and I still haven’t been sick. So…I guess there’s something to the stuff. Score two to the bro.

Some weeks back, brother dearest and his girlfriend tried another experiment. This time, it was an attempt to boil a tisane of fresh ginger by the pot. I – at my tea-snobbiest – said snootily, “The best results come from using dried ginger.”

They politely entertained my pontification, but humbly disagreed, and went on with their experiment. That gave me a moment of pause, and I turned to the FaceTwitPlus-o-sphere to garner second opinions from the rest of the tea community. The results were mixed. Some said better ginger flavor was yielded from brewing the dried stuff, others were proponents of fresh. On a second go-around, my bro and his lady-love tried it with smaller cut pieces of ginger.

Fresh Ginger

It was at this point I gave in and tried some. Small confession: I’m not a fan of ginger. At all. I went through a phase of drinking it every day but ended up with a wicked case of heartburn. That turned me off to most tisanes with the stuff. Same with peppermint. I could only stand blends with those ingredients if they were used sparingly.

My brother’s fresh ginger experiment was a game-changer. Sure, it tasted like ginger, but the flavor was more citrus-heavy than spice-laden. That and the fresh stuff was oddly cooling. Strange, considering ginger is normally a “heating” herb. The overall sensation was gentle, like a warm, relaxing electric blanket in liquid form.

Brotherhood Achievement: Unlocked.

My tea-snobbery was curb-stomped. I don’t know when I’ll ever learn to keep my preconceived notions at bay, but I suppose that’s what siblings are for. To bring you back down to Earth when you become to big for your beverage-y britches. Oh well…I did introduce him to Greek Mountain “tea” and Golden Yunnan…so I guess that means we’re even.

Oh wait, that’s three-to-two.

Damn.

© Jason Norman

© Jason Norman

High-Fives to O5 and a World Tea Expo Update

Late last week, I received a package in the mail. A tea delivery – my favorite kind.

o5 Tea

This was the last of my frivolous tea purchases for a while. The reason? I was in hunker-down mode for financial reasons. Before that declaration, I had made one last buy of some rare and unique offerings from a tea bar in Vancouver, B.C. called O5 Tea. There was no way I was missing out on a wine-casked Nepalese black from an estate I’d never heard of.

When this (and a few others) finally arrived, it was my intent to wait until a special occasion to cup it. Either that, or as a reward for a job well done on…something. Well, I didn’t hold out that long. A mere week after, I tore into it. And, boy, was I glad I did.

Justifying the cupping reward as payment for a hard work week endured, I brewed a pint of this sucker. It was nice to see other tea vendors answering my indirect call for more alcohol barrel-aged teas. So far, only Smith Teamaker had done it to any degree. Others had merely added alcohol flavoring. That was no fun. The joy was in the scenting of teas.

This wine-casked Ghorka estate autumn flush wasn’t as strong on the winy note as I was expecting, but part of that could’ve been due to the tea base used. A lot of Himalayan teas are naturally muscatel-ish to the palate. So, any wine-grapiness might be dulled by the flavor the leaves already impart. That said, I did pick up a bit of Cabernet Franc on the aftertaste. A second steep confirmed my suspicions.

ghorka

While I was in the middle of my second pint, I decided to give my Dad a call. I hadn’t spoken to him for well over two months. Neglectful in my sonly duties, I decided to rectify that. Amidst the conversation, I casually mentioned I had won an iPad from my work.

He said, “Y’know, you should give that to your dear ol’ Dad.”

“Fat chance,” I replied.

“Okay, I’ll buy it off of you.”

That triggered something.

I hadn’t even opened the iPad since I got it over a week ago. Truth be told, I wasn’t even sure I wanted it. The only use I had for it would’ve been as a word processor, but that would’ve required the additional purchase of a keyboard and stand.

Coupled with that was the fact that I was trying to save money for a trip to Vegas in June for World Tea Expo. I had no idea how I was going to pull that off, given the fact that I lived from paycheck to paycheck. My Dad’s offer changed all that. There was my ticket to Vegas.

So…

The wine-casked tea wasn’t the reward for a job well done, but it was the prologue to something wonderful. The Tea Fates are smiling on me. And I’m returning the gesture with cup (and eyebrow) raised.

Noel

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