Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Month: October 2013

Ceylon and Thanks for All the Oolong

Let’s travel back to a more innocent time – November of 2011, to be precise. It was around that time that I finally found a purpose for this here tea blog. My goal was to track down unique teas, unusual blends, and/or teas with fascinating stories behind them. To commemorating that unusual sense of focus (for someone like me), I created “The Tea WANT! List”. I’d made reference to such a “list”-‘s existence for the better part of two years, but it was high-time to make it tea-tangible.

One of the items on the list was oolong from Ceylon (Sri Lanka). I also added the line: “I don’t even think it exists.”

Tea Trade Jackie replied with, “Uh, yeah it does.” And proceeded to show me various links.

In response to that, I did my own digging and ran across an oolong that sounded familiar. Sapphire Oolong from De Vos Tea.

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Why does that sound famil-…oh crap! I said to myself.

A Ceylon oolong (Ceylong?) had been sitting under my nose the entire time! Allow me to explain…

I got my start in tea-writing on a nifty review site called Teaviews. I owe my strange palate development to that site, as well as my exposure to the tea community at large. One of the teas I had a chance to review was a Ceylon white tea dubbed “Virgin White”. The estate that produced it was called Handunugoda, and it was located in the district of Galle – in Sri Lanka’s Southern Province.

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Sri Lanka was the country that got me to like black teas. Before that, I’d primarily been a white tea man. And the white teas from there…ohmigawww! Heaven in a heated cup.

Moving right along, the Handunugoda estate also produced green teas, blends, and – wait for it…a Ceylon oolong, the aforementioned Sapphire. The story behind this stuff was crazy. Apparently, the estate had a plot of land set aside just for the tea plants used to produce the oolong. The soil was laced with tiny sapphires – no bigger than a pinhead.

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Er…a little smaller than those.

What frustrated me was not that this tea was slightly out of my reach, but that it had been in my path…and I didn’t grab it. The tea came up in review circulation twice, and I never requested it. I never put two-and-two together until two years later.

I visited the De Vos Tea website to purchase some and found it only half-working. Every time I tried to make a purchase, the site would fizzle out. Yes, actually fizzle. I zapped them a message to see what was amiss, but never got a reply. About a month after that inquiry, the site disappeared – less than half of it showed up in search queries. I could only conclude that they went out of business.

There was only one thing left to do: Contact the actual tea estate. This would mark only the second time I’d ever sent a message to an estate directly without locating a retailer. The last time I did this was for the Bhartia estate’s Assam Green Tea. It worked out well that time, but I was still nervous.

Then a funny thing happened…

When I inquired about doing a feature on the oolong, I didn’t just receive a reply from their marketing guru. I also got one from the estate’s proprietor, Malinga Gunaratne. Achievement: Unlocked.

They agreed to send me a sample. A couple of months went by and it arrived. Oh my…

Takei

The package was huge.

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I tore it open that night. No, I didn’t care that I had to work the next day. This was for science! Or something.

The leaves resemble Da Hong Pao or a Georgian black tea – long, twisty, brown-to-soot-black. The aroma on these however was pure Ceylon, alternating between osthmanthus flowers and an indescribable earthy lean.

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The first time I brewed this up (like…that same day), I did it Western-style. The 100-gram box it came in recommended about a teaspoon of leaves steeped in a cup for three-to-five minutes with boiled water. I approximated that.

The result was a jewel of a liquor – light crimson – with a surprisingly malty/roasty nose. Very odd for an oolong or a black tea. Almost as if it was struggling with a specific identity, or settling on its own uniqueness. The taste was a beautifully smooth, full-bodied experience. Pinpointing actual taster notes would be difficult. I will say that it gave off hints of nut, vanilla, lotus blossoms, and an Assam-like astringency toward the end. This was a morning person’s oolong, for certain.

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A second infusion done the same way (but with a little more neglect) turned up a liquor with a winy note. Nothing like a little “wine” in the morning to get you started. Gotta love teas that let you make it up as you go along.

In the ensuing weeks, I decided to brew it gongfoolishly with a gaiwan and a few steeper cups. The results were thus:

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First infusion (twenty seconds): A darker, amber-ish liquor resulted with an aroma of syrup-lathered chestnuts. The nutty aspect of the aroma translated to the taste with a bold profile of flowers, caramel and earth. Like a Ceylon OP but with more going on.

Second infusion (thirty-five seconds): The nutty aspects were a bit stronger, as was a malty lean toward the trail-off. This steep was more black tea in character than oolong. The subtle earthen qualities, however, emerged in the aftertaste.

Third infusion (fifty seconds): Probably the strongest oolong-ish presence emerged in this. Totally reminded me of a Da Hong Pao through-and-through…in the best possible way.

Of the two different approaches, I preferred the Western one. The oolong took on more Ceylon-ish notes when I did it that way – floral and fantastic. One of the best non-Taiwanese oolongs I’ve ever come across. And it only took me two years’ worth of hindsight to get to it.

And speaking of hindsight, I just realized the Handunugoda estate also puts out a cinnamon-smoked black Lapsang Souchong variant. Well, shoot. Guess that’s another one for The Tea WANT! List.

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“Tea, Beer and Bingley” – The Teabeer Trilogy, Book 1

Friday

This last Friday was the rarest of occurrences. It preceded an actual weekend off. I hadn’t had a weekend off since…uh…a long time ago. For once, a Friday was my Friday. While I did have plans on Saturday and Sunday, I hadn’t planned on any activity for Friday night.

Then my friend, NinjaSpecs, chimed in via text with, “Informal birthday thing tonight at the Green Dragon.”

Well, so much for no plans.

The Green Dragon is one of those bars where you take people to get a crash course in local Portland culture. Want a wide variety of breweries to choose from? Green Dragon. Want to play “Spot the Hipster”? Green Dragon. Want a teabeer? Green Dragon.

The last one was my reason for going. I was on a mission to track down a certain teabeer, and – hopefully – run into other things by accident. It was a reliable enough assessment.

The rest of the party were running late, but the moment I checked out the beer menu…I knew what I was having. The Green Dragon has an aptly-dubbed “botanical brewery” attached to it called Buckman. They’re often known for doing teabeers and other concoctions, including a to-die-for green tea mead. Today, not only did they have the mead, but they were also featuring a Roobios Red Ale.

I ordered a pint.

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It tasted exactly as the name implied. The introduction and top notes were all red ale with no hoppy kick, followed smoothly by a wood-sweet finish – a red rooibos requisite. Rooibos is not my favorite my tisane, and red-style ales are usually a good standby, but the combination here worked really well. Another beer boast for Buckman.

The rest of the birthday gathering arrived about an hour later. I was already one pint in. Drinks and dialogues flowed throughout the night. I even welcomed a teardrop glass of the Buckman’s Green Tea Mead. It was different this time; it tasted like a sweet apple cider. Took me a moment to figure out what was different about it, but then it hit me – no jasmine!

Such a decision could only stem from the fact that Rogue – the folks that owned The Green Dragon (and Buckman by proxy) – were putting out their own jasmine green tea mead dubbed “Rogue Farms 19 Colonies”. No matter. This was better than their previous exploits, anyway.

I hadn’t “college student” partied like that in years. It also didn’t help that the waitress was hot, and told me of a “secret tap” that was not on the menu. Said worst kept secret was a triple-IPA named “Notorious”, from Boneyard Brewing out of Bend. It tasted like grapefruit and…awesome. What a way to cap the outing.

Saturday

The birthday party had extended from The Green Dragon to one of the party participant’s houses, and some whiskey was involved. I only did one shot…but that was enough. The rest of the night belonged to water, and a vial of aspirin I had on hand as an emergency.

Still didn’t prevent the feeling of “uuuugh” the next morning. The worst part? I was supposed to attend a neighborhood beer party that evening.

By “neighborhood”, I don’t mean my neighborhood. Well, it used to be mine before I had to move over the summer. When I lived with my brother – prior to his marriage – there used to be monthly beer parties at the neighbor’s place. Sometimes we would host as well.

I hadn’t attended one since June because I didn’t feel like I belonged anymore. However, my brother informed me that he was hosting the October gathering, and that the other folks were wondering about me. I decided to give it a go this time. Kinda had to, since I was also the one that helped come up with October’s theme: “Dark beer”.

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After running a few errands, picking up the beers per my contribution, and finding a quick bite to eat, I headed to my brother’s a little early. I even passed on a reminder to NinjaSpecs about the gathering. He was the dark beer sort. More the merrier.

The night was…a blast.

It was good seeing the old neighborhood gang again, and encountering a few new faces at the table. The biggest surprise was the quality of stuff everybody brought. Bourbon barrel-aged Velvet Merkin, regular Velvet Merlin, Back in Black…it was like a pantheon of all the best darks I’d ever had. All in one sitting.

Before everyone parted ways, we agreed on a theme for November: “Anything but pumpkin beers.”

Because…f**k pumpkin.

Sunday

Thanks to my brother, I was able to epilogue the night with some chamomile to chase down the aspirin. This was in preparation for the last leg of my weekend. The arrival of one “Lady Bingley” (or at least that’s what I’m calling her) – purveyor Bingley’s Teas. I was due to pick her up at the airport that morning. After that, the goals were twofold – have tea and track down teabeer. She’d never had teabeer before.

Our first stop was the Tao of Tea’s main shop in S.E. Portland, one I hadn’t been to in a few years. She ordered a roasted Taiwanese oolong (of some sort), and I opted for an Darjeeling-ish offering – Kali Cha. The Indian black was light but pretty good, the roasted oolong was…well, let’s just say I was tea drunk by the end of it.

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The second stop was an attempted teabeer jaunt to The Green Dragon. They’d told me there was going to be a pumpkin ale fest that day, but had informed me that they would allow growler fills of anything not pumpkin. I had wrongly assumed we could nurse a growler on the premises if we did so. Unfortunately, the bartenders informed us that was not possible for fear of “chaos”.

I said it once, I’ll say it again: “F**k pumpkin.”

We opted instead for the brewery adjacent to the Dragon – Cascade Barrel House. They specialized in Belgian-style sour ales, and Lady Bingley hadn’t tried one before. I don’t quite recall what we had offhand, but we both took a liking to the bourbon barrel-aged offering.

So did Mini Jane Austen.

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Last on our “list” was a jaunt to the Belmont Station, a bottle shop/bar with a pretty decent selection. I was too stubborn to admit defeat on our teabeer quest, and hoped that Dog Fish Head’s Sah’Tea would be there. The cashier, unfortunately, told us they stopped carrying it.

Luckily, they did have an iced tea mead I’d never heard of – from a meadery in Portland, Maine! Ram Island. Both Lady Bingley and I agreed that it tasted like a lemon-wedged iced tisane. No detraction by any means. I’ve liked my fair share of iced tisanes, and this one had a kick. Oh yeah, that was the alcohol.

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Lady Bingley’s friend (and host) for her Portland trip met us at Belmont, and we retired to her residence for one last tea leg. Lady B had in her possession, a 30-year-old black tea from Taiwan. What can I say; it was nothing short of exquisite. It calmed the caffeine and alcohol tussle going on in my head, returning me to some sense of Zen after the frenzy of the weekend.

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But this was just the beginning…

Continued in Book 2.

Who Pooped in the Microwave?!

Last week ended in a way no one could ever have suspected. I won’t say what I do for a job, but one of the tasks is checking microwaves. And someone had pooped in one. No, there was no log present, or a diaper…just dark matter, a rancid smell, and a feeling of “I-failed-at-life-choices”. Worse off, my head was in said microwave when I made this unfortunate discovery.

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I mentioned this unique event on Facebook. Robert “The Devotea” Godden – ever-ready with a quip – mentioned that Gary Robson, author of the Who Pooped in the Park? children’s book series, should do one titled: Who Pooped in the Microwave?

Gary’s response was, “I don’t think that microwave could ever be cleaned adequately. I say ‘ick’, and that’s coming from someone who writes poop books for a living.”

That was only the tip of the shitty iceberg, though. On top of having my head stuck in a shitty microwave, I was missing the Northwest Tea Festival. I had arranged for the time off, my handlers had worked their schedules around my absence…but then my finances took a nosedive. As such, I had to opt out of attending.

As fate would have it, though, the day of the teafest, I had money to attend. How…fitting.

Butt!…I mean, BUT there’s a silver (not brown) lining. The tea fest kinda came to me.

Pu-erh and Pizza

That following Sunday, I received word that Jo Johnson was due in. I knew she was making a stop in Portland, but I wasn’t sure as to when. We agreed to meet up for tea in the evening. Since she was staying with local friends in the Alberta area, we settled on Townshend’s Tea for the meet-up.

In anticipation, I got their early and asked for their specialty menu. Because I’m…well…me. As luck would have it, they were in possession of some mandarin orange-aged shou pu-erh. I ordered a large pot of that and awaited her arrival.

Tea Folk Trilogy

I had expected to only see Jo, and maybe her friend’s Jim and Marilyn, but Darlene Meyers-Perry was also with them! A whole mess o’ tea people! Jo and I split the pu-erh pot and talked shop, then joined up with the other three for pizza. They related to me how the NWTF went, and I chimed in…in my own caffeinated sorta way.

A grand way to start the week.

A Tale of Two Canadians

I knew Pedro and Brian – owners of the O5 Tea Bar in Vancouver, BC – were stopping through Portland, but I didn’t know when, how or in what capacity. Turns out it was same weekend. I received a phone call from Pedro right before I met up with Jo at Townsend’s .

(Sidenote: For those who don’t know who I’m talking about, go HERE. I met them while tea-picking. I swear.)

Pedro and Brian were jaunting throughout the Northwest meeting with potential co-op clients. On top of owning O5, they also ran a wholesale tea business called Two Hills Tea. While not the rare stuff that O5 featured, their selection on the Two Hills website was still mighty impressive.

As we nursed beers at Imbrie Hall, they related to me some of their back road adventures in Asia.

Tea Folk Trilogy (2)

One of the things that is unique about this pair of gents is that they source directly from farmers as if they’re on a road trip, then they shop their wares in the States and Canada in pretty much the same way. Seriously, this is the stuff of movies.

They also related some unique teas they’ve tried, including a Bangladeshi “pu-erh” variant.

I must have this.

Gold Nuggets and GABA

My final visitors came in the form of the family Robson. Gary of Red Lodge Books and Tea was in town for a book convention and signing. He originally asked if I knew of any tea joints, and suggested we meet up at one. The closest I knew of to where he was staying was The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants. That Tuesday, I ferried him and his son there.

We went through…oh, hell…I forgot how many teas. Particular favorites for them were the GABA oolong and a Gold Nugget Pu-erh.

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(You can read about Gary’s take on that HERE.)

Afterwards, we met up with his wife Kathy for sushi. It wasn’t in my budget to indulge expensively, so I settled on one eel roll and a dark Asahi. A Japanese beer that reminded me of a German dunkel – very odd.

A very pleasant outing. Now, it’s my turn to venture up their way to their teashop/bookstore. Can’t come soon enough.

Oh yes…I almost forgot. Gary left me with a parting gift. His latest in the Who Pooped…? series. Fitting, given the way my last week ended, but definitely welcome.

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Conclusion

I only have one regret of this last week. Well…besides shattering my favorite tea mug, ripping my pants, spilling beer on myself (and later a computer), and  the aforementioned “micropoop”.

The following Saturday, I attended a green tea tasting at The Jasmine Pearl as part of their Tea Fest PDX program list.

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Among the usual standbys – like Long Jing and Mao Jian, which I adore – they also featured a houjicha from China! I had no idea I’d run into a unique tea at this thing, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. But I digress…

I missed another tea person by a mere two hours.

Michael J. Coffey and his partner were just in The Jasmine Pearl earlier that morning.

Well, poop.

Assam Green Tea?!?!?!?

Let’s rewind back to April of this year.

I noticed a new follower of my “Twit”-arded updates. Their handle was about as descriptive as it needed to be to perk my interest – “@AssamGreenTea”. Green tea. From Assam.

Assam green tea? That’s a thing?! I thought to myself.

I’m convinced that – biologically – I’m equipped with a geekcentric radar that rears its metaphoric antennae whenever something new or unique appears. Especially for those occurrences well within my area of interest. Thus far, I’d notched off Assam oolong and Assam white tea. Both were from the same estate – a possibly magical place called the Mothola estate. This, however, was something different.

The man behind the Assam Green Tea handle was Manish Bhartia, part of the family-owned Bhartia estate. I’d never heard of the estate before, but that’s nothing new. Tea estates in Assam are a dime a dozen. Estates focusing on green tea, though…

Bhartia tea fields

The Bhartia estate – or so Manish told me – was located near Joypur Village in Upper Assam. I wasn’t given any more information about what else they produced, but he obliged a really odd request I made of him. To, of course, sample some of his family estate’s green tea.

He graciously obliged the request, and kept me up-to-date on the delivery’s progress. One thing of note: Shipping from India to the U.S. is an exercise in patience. Sometimes it can take months. And this one did. I remained ever hopeful that the item would make it to my fair berg. This was, after all, the first time I’d ever contacted a tea estate directly for a unique ware.

On an oddly rainy day in July, I went to check the mail. A package had arrived, but it was too big to fit in the mailbox. That and the package cages were in use. I had to travel to the post office halfway across town to acquire it. I didn’t care, though. There was time to kill between errand-running, and a new tea was on the horizon. I remained excited the entire time.

What I did not expect was how big the package actually was. Manish had sent me a lot of Assam green tea. Like, at least 100 grams of the stuff.

Big package

When I requested a sample, I was expecting – maybe – 6 grams. Enough to play around with. The Assamese are hardcore when it comes to tea, apparently. I tore it open as soon as I got home – as I often do.

What was most striking was the visual presentation. This did not look like a green tea at all. Rather, it resembled a typical – if tippy – Assam black tea, except that the tips were silver instead of gold.

Green tea?

Some of the leaves were long-cut, while others were broken pekoe-ish in appearance. What gave it away as a green tea was the scent – straight grass and wilderness. It was quite lovely.

Over the course of the week, I played around with this tea to see what it was made of. It was definitely Assamese in the fact that it had one defining characteristic it wanted to highlight. Assam black teas lean toward malt – all the time. It was only fitting that a green tea from that region would highlight a typical green tea trait – grass. The hotter water I used, the grassier it got. I didn’t mind, no matter which way I tried it. Heck, one wouldn’t be drinking green tea if they didn’t like a little “grass” in their cup.

After some trial and error, though, I came to an odd but interesting conclusion. This tea was…*le gasp!*…delicate. A delicate Assam; my head reeled.

After a week or so, I finally sat down to give it a proper treatment. This time, I took 1 tsp. of leaves, put it in a 6oz. gaiwan, and brewed it in 170F water for three minutes. I went lighter to see what transpired.

green tea

The liquor brewed a pretty yellow-gold with a spry scent of freshly-mowed lawn and herbs. Taste-wise, the first thing I noticed on the front was – of course – grass. While it did indeed have a grassy lean, there was also a slight tickle of malt and flowers. Odd for me to say, but it reminded me of a curly sencha (tamaryokucha) by way of a Mao Feng. Not much in the way of subtlety, but still quite enjoyable. Unlike other Assam teas, though, it required a gentler touch to bring out its strengths.

Like a geek with a metaphoric radar.

Radar

For more information, I strongly recommend checking out Manish’s blog. Kinda insightful about tea estate living. (This is my “jealous” face.)

I Heart Tandem Tea Tastings

I missed the last Tandem Tea Tasting because of prior writer-related obligations, but promised (crossed my heart and everything!) that I would be there this time ‘round. That and I felt it mandatory, since Rachel “IHeartTeas” Carter had sent me samples to contribute. To not go would mean being a chump.

To recap: Tandem Tea Tastings are a monthly Google Hangout event where I and four women try one type of tea, and go on various tangents based upon said tea. Hilari-“tea” usually ensues.

The only obstacle in my way for this tasting was…well…work. While this week’s tasting fell on one of my days off, I decided to pick up extra hours in the afternoon. I’d arranged to be off by 5:30PM, thus giving me a half-hour of rush hour traffic-braving.

It wasn’t enough time; it took me forty minutes to drive twelve miles.

As soon as I got home, I put the kettle on, rinsed out my steeper cups, and joined the chat. I was ten minutes late, even with all the rushing. The gals were well within conversation. In attendance were the aforementioned Rachel (at her very Racheliest), Nicole “Tea for Me Please” Martin, Darlene “Tea Lovers Archive” Meyers-Perry, and a newcomer. Julia Arrasmith-Matson of Bingley’s Teas was sitting and sipping with us this fine evening. I’d met her briefly a couple of times at Expo. The first being a beer-‘n-tea pairing seminar-thingy. She’d seen me at my most light-weighted. Jo “A Gift of Tea” Johnson was unfortunately indisposed because…jazz. I don’t blame her.

The two teas featured this month were both custom blends by Rachel Carter for her IHeartTeas line. One was dubbed Creamy Pumpkin Spice, the other was Winter Frost. Both flavored black tea blends. While I’m usually not one to do flavored blends (er…anymore…often?), these smelled delightful. I went to brewing as the conversation continued.

A quick sidenote: My phone lasted through the entire Hangout. It only crapped out twice, but one of those was my fault. I had to exit out of the chat to photograph the tea for the blog. Y’know, work stuff.

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If called upon to find a favorite between the two blends, I’d still be stumped. I even said as much during the chat. Both invoked the seasons they were tailored for perfectly. I liked ‘em both equally in different ways.

Creamy Pumpkin Spice was exactly as the name suggested without treading into “masala chai” territory. Winter Frost was minty, but not too loaded with peppermint – just cooling enough. Funny thing, since I was quite literally tasting these in tandem, my taste buds got confused. For a moment, I mistook a cinnamon finish in the Creamy Pumpkin Spice with peppermint. In actuality, it was a carryover form the winter blend. How odd.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot…

Rachel sent us a “project” along with the tea samples. We were tasked with creating our own Halloween cards. I didn’t have time over the course of the week to concoct anything fancy. So, I did what I always did – I made it on the fly. Ladies and gentleman, the Sparkly Ghost Manor:

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Yeah, I failed Arts and Crafts.

Other highlights:

-A discussion about certain authors who use tea as a trope in their fiction novels…but don’t actually drink tea.

-Talented artist boyfriends.

-Quote of the night from Julia: “You can go from sipping to kissing with this [Winter Frost].”

-Utah housewives.

-Future writing projects.

-Asian tea-sourcing fieldtrips.

Things I learned about my female tandem tea tasting compatriots:

-Rachel gets more animated the more tea she consumes.

-Nicole remains adorable, even when stricken with allergies.

-Darlene looks like a tea professional no matter where she sits in her house.

-Julia has perfect hair. Like all the time.

I had to crap out early from the tasting because I was overdue for fondue with the siblings and niece. Upon arriving, my sister informed me that her daughter said:

“I heard Geoff talking to a girl, and I got hopeful.”

Yeah, niece. Playing the tea field. That’s me. Sure.

As I write this, I’m sipping an experiment. I took both the Creamy Pumpkin Spice and Winter Frost…and combined them. The sensation was like a seasonal transition. Not quite complete, but almost there. Like a store changing out their holiday products. Still, I’m drinking it…and it’s doing its darnedest to keep me awake.

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Although, I am still wearing my pajamas inside-out. And it’s past noon.

Others:

Nicole – Tea for Me Please

Darlene – Tea Lovers Archive

Rachel – IHeartTeas

Julia – Bingley’s Teas

Jo – Scandalous Tea

A Gongfu Greek Mountain Tea Adventure

Epic tea adventures have to start somewhere. It is sheer coincidence (I think?) that a lot of mine start at Smith Teamaker. Some seemingly uneventful week in late-Spring, I received a message from Tea MC Tiff saying she’d be working the tea bar that Saturday. Those were usually my busy days at work, so I wasn’t sure if I would make it before the shop closed. By some stroke of fate, I got off around 2PM.

When I arrived, the place was hoppin’. I’d seen Smith’s busy before, but this was – like – microbrewery busy. Luckily, there was a free seat available up at the tea bar proper. Tiff was deep in conversation with a very elfin, silver-haired man as I approached.

“And speaking of Greek Mountain,” Tiff began. “This is the guy I was telling you about.”

The man she was talking to – Alex Davis – turned around, and we began discussing the sheer awesome-o-tude of Greek Mountain “tea”. I’d written about it extensively; Alex was starting a tea business that would carry it. This, of course, led me to inquire about his new start-up. He was opening an online op called “AdventureTea, LLC”. Their focus was to be teas from growing regions most people don’t associate with tea.

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Greek Mountain was on their roster, as was a certain Washington-grown white tea I coveted as a favorite, a Nepalese oolong, and a Malawi black among a few others. Quite a unique list. And totally in line with my blog’s mission statement: “To explore strange, new teas…etc.”

We ended up shootin’ the cuppa for a good two hours. Several Ceylons, Darjeelings, and other things were consumed in the interim. I left far more tea drunk than I intended. Alex and I promised to keep in touch, and to touch bases at World Tea Expo in a month or so.

Not like his company’s booth was difficult to spot at Expo.

The booth

Image mooched from the AdventureTea Facebook

The AdventureTea collective went all out. While not the largest display at WTE, it was – by a fair margin – the most memorable. The “adventure” theme was adhered to – to the core. I ended up walking by it at least three or four times. On my last day, while making my final rounds, I picked up some Greek Mountain for posterity. Because…well…Greek Mountain!

I didn’t dip into this stash until early September. My roommates were coming down with various versions of the flu-plague, and I needed something to bolster the ol’ immune system. Finally, I pried open the box o’ Greek I got from Expo. And…decided to gongfu it.

Greek Gongfu

Dunno why I hadn’t thought of brewing it this way before. The herb was strong enough to put up with differing forms of punishment. My only concern was whether or not it would impart flavor after only a thirty-second infusion. Those fears faded when I whiffed straight lemon wilderness upon pour.

AdventureTea caught wind of my tweet about this experiment, and replied with, “Amazing!!! We have a care package for you…”

Well, that had me really curious.

As the week passed, a general sense of melancholy set in. My financial situation was turning dire. Hours at work were being cut. And I was less-than-productive on the writing front. A far cry from the “oolong happy juice” days of weeks prior.

On a Sunday, one day after my birthday, I checked the mail like I always did. A big box arrived. It was from AdventureTea. I hurried inside and pried it open. Several individually packaged boxes were inside, along with a note.

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It read:

To complete your collection! “Tea will get you through times with no money better than money will get you through times with no tea.”

-Alex

More-than-slightly man-teary, I brewed something up immediately – their Malawi Black. Yes, it was late at night, but I didn’t care. And in true adventurous spirit, I gongfu-ed it.

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Turned out darn well near perfect and lasted a good six infusions. It reminded me of a fully-oxidized version of a Malawi white tea I tried several years ago. Nutty and fruity with a blanket o’ malt.

The following morning, I hit the gaiwan hard again with several infusions of their Himalayan Oolong.

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Another six infusions of awesomeness – floral and muscatel with a tickle of…mountain? I dunno how else to describe it.

Both teas were my mainstays over the last three days, and – in short order – my “happy” returned. Tea people are the best people. Tea stories are the best stories. I can think of no better, continuous adventure I’d rather be on.

Oolong

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