Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Month: July 2013

Tardy to a Tea Tasting

Friends and acquaintances can attest to my complete and utter inability to arrive at anything on time. And it’s not for any lack of trying. For some reason, I’m always within fifteen or twenty minutes past due. The only exception to this is movies; for some reason I’m always early to those. I usually shrug this phenomenon off. After all, it’s usually beyond my control. But when tea is involved…

Argh.

Road Rage

I got off work early, 2PM on the dot, mad-dashed it home, and…promptly took a nap after some Internet perusal. There was a Darjeeling/Assam second flush tea tasting I meant to attend at Smith Teamaker at 5PM, and I figured I had ample time to rest my eyes. I set the alarm for 4PM…and hit the snooze button twice. After some obligatory eye-blinkage, I took off from the complex at 4:10-ish. With rush hour, I figured I could make it there in forty minutes.

And I was horribly mistaken.

HWY 26-East was a friggin’ parking lot. Before I could think of alternate routes, it was too late. I was locked in. Smith’s wasn’t that difficult drive even in the worst of traffic situations. No clue what the situation was today. In the span of a half-hour, I (maybe!) moved two exits. Within that time frame, I encountered all the “bad” that Portland had to offer. Obama bumper stickers, “Proud OPB Member” bumper stickers, Subarus, Priuses, and douchebags on mopeds.

On several occasions, I yelled at every car within eyeshot. Not that I’m calm like a Zen master or anything; quite the opposite. But aside from the usual congestion, I found no logical reason why everything was at a standstill – save for an apocalypse.

An hour passed, and I broke down and gave Smith Teamaker a call. At this point, I made it to the zoo exit. If I was going to make any progress, my only solution was to cut through downtown and weave my way there via city streets. Oddly enough, that technique seemed to work. That and constantly yelling, “BLEEP-ing GO, you BLEEP-ing douche-BLEEPs!” Or something like that.

I made it at 5:20PM. Par for course for me. Beyond my control…but typical.

Tony and Alex – the hosts for the tasting – poked a little fun at my truant expense. I deserved it. Luckily, they’d only just started cupping the second flush Darjeelings when I got there. Of the estates represented, the Tumsong offerings were my favorites. Those and the Chamong estate wares seemed to embody the muscatel characteristics associated with the region.

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While discussing the different things a tea taster looks for before buying, Tony mentioned that many vendors were generally unimpressed with the quality of this year’s second flushes. Nothing seemed to really pop out. I could kinda see that. However, I still believed the first flushes this year – of the ones I tried – were up to par.

Next, we moved on to the Assams. When Alex finished pouring the flights, malt wafted through the air like a manly apparition. Ruby red liquors awaited tasting.

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Perhaps I’m a little bit of an Assam layman, but I had difficulty determining which was which, and which was better. Of the – oh – twelve or so, the first one, an Orangajuli estate offering stood out for it’s almost-Keemun-like notes. To me, anyway. The others were malty, a bit on the light side…and that’s about it. I liked ‘em, all of e’m, but nuances eluded me.

As a final treat – after I inquired about gold-tipped garnish in some Assams – Tony brandished a very tippy sample bag from an estate called Tonganagoan – part of the Chamong group. Yes, the Darjeeling owners. That was the most nuanced Assam of the bunch. I said it may have been because of the gold tips, but Tony whispered that it was because of the growth time – early May. I stand corrected.

I left wired and ready to return to traffic. On the entire ride home, I danced in the car…and talked to myself. Too much Assam? Too much Darjeeling? No such thing.

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Himalayan Gold and The Final “Frontier”

It isn’t much of a secret that I’ve been without Internet for the better part of a week. I think I made that point relatively clear in several subtle ways via the social media sphere. Eloquently, even.

Okay, okay…I was a whiny little bitch.

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I’ll start from the beginning. After the big move from the house that I’d called home for three years to…an apartment, I decided to go with a company my brother and I used before – Frontier Communications. What I failed to take into account was that the Internet option we used was a direct line to their fiberoptic network – FiOS. The result: Screaming speeds. I was a YouTube-devouring mo-fo for well over a year. Sometimes at the sacrifice of productivity.

At my new apartment complex, we were nowhere near any fiberoptic network. The only option was cable broadband – which I couldn’t afford – or…well, a bunch of other options I couldn’t afford. So, I backpedaled to DSL and hoped for the best. I didn’t realize how spoiled I’d become. Troubles started from Day 1.

First: When I signed up the new account, I didn’t make sure the information they took down was correct. They misspelled my name – horribly. I’ve seen and heard every permutation of “Geoffrey” there is…”Jeffery” was a new one. Not even the J-folk spell it that way.

Second: I failed to realize that our apartment complex had some sort of handshake deal with Comcast. The building’s wiring was tailored to suit their cable broadband. Hell, a Comcast Xfinity truck had a car port near mine – seriously. As a result, the DSL signal that Frontier piped to us got waterlogged.

Had it!

A really knowledgeable tech came out and jury-rigged something to get it working. All was well for about two days. Then the connection went kaput. I secretly believe it was because I used the word “throttle” on Twitter, and that pissed ‘em off. But that’s just paranoia talkin’.

After some attempted modem-juggling, I played phone tag with their tech support. They were about as helpful as plywood. I decided to call the technician directly, and he promptly forwarded the request for immediate assistance. Someone came out later that week, jury-rigged something again, and it’s been working well(-ish?) since. So, Frontier eventually did pay off.

The only reason I maintained my sanity throughout the blackout was…well…good black tea. Let’s face it, moving is stressful, inconsistent, and jarring. I’m a creature of habit, patterns, and highly resistant to change. When even the most basic routine is disrupted, the rest of my tenuous mental/emotional balance topples with it. In this case, regular access to whining about things in writing…on the Internet.

I kept my tea-ing consistent for the whole week. For the ordeal, I went with my trusty sample pack of Nepali Tea Traders Himalayan Gold. I didn’t think it would hold out for the long haul, but there was enough for two pints every morning. For six days.

The leaves were an interesting menagerie of browns, beiges, and charcoal. But the ones that stood out the most were the gold-tipped – true to the moniker. Their aroma was equally as golden – honeynut with a shade of muscatel character, like a Dian Hong fused with a Darjeeling. The liquor brewed up a rather light crimson with a bit of a sweet note on aroma. Taste-wise…I was a little shocked. This resembled a medium-bodied, low-altitude Ceylon – only more sweet than floral. It was definitely orange pekoe-ish through-and-through.

Himalayan Gold

Image Owned by Nepali Tea Traders

The real joy of this Nepalese gem, though, was that it could put up with scatterbrained neglect. There were many mornings and afternoons – as I pondered a life without consistent connection to the e-world – where I forgot about the pint I was steeping. It held up to several ten-minute steeps, and infused a good two times after. Hearty suckers, they were.

As I write this, Internet has been restored. My fingers are still crossed. And I have a good two-pint stash of Himalayan Gold for the following morning. Things could be worse, but just in case…I have a flash drive and a flask for back-up.

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I Put Tea in the Corner – A Quickie Blog

This is going to be a relatively (and uncharacteristically) short entry from me. Reason being, there’s a clock counting down on a library computer. I am completely moved, but I am still sans REAL Internet (besides my Droid) – thus making more prolific prose improbable. (But still plenty of room for superfluous alliteration.)

In summary, I actually like my new apartment. Or at the very least, I like my new room. It has a wonderful view of straight forest, and the windows are HUGE!

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Perfect for a writing man-cave. The only thing(s?) I’ve effectively unpacked are my computer and my tea corner. That’s about it. I guess I have my priorities kinda skewed.

The only major problem is…no air-conditioning. The week my sister, niece and I moved in, the weather in Portland decided to skyrocket into the 90s. And it’s pretty much stayed that way ever since. This also put off my natural instinct to plug in the hot water kettle. The key detractor here being the word, “Hot”.

As a result, I went three whole days without tea. Three. Whole. Days. With nary a requisite drop. And this travesty never had to happen. I simply justified my decision with, “Eh, I can’t find an additional power chord for the kettles.” Le shrug.

Unfortunately, this vile decision affected my mood and performance – both on the job and out of the job. I never thought my continued…well…continuance was so tied to the Leaf. So, I decided to rectify it.

By moving the kettle into the kitchen. Maybe now I won’t be able to use that as an excuse.

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As my sister/roommate said, “You can’t do everything in your man-cave.”

Challenge accepted.

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