Short version: It’s been a hectic couple of weeks.
But for once I can say, “Hectic in a good way.” I’m not used to being busy. As my oft-used moniker suggests, I rather enjoy my leisure time. That and any activities I participate in are brought gradually into fruition. Well, the month of May wouldn’t let me. One of the things that got lost in the fray was this blog. Or any writing for that matter.
At present, I’m about three write-ups behind. Eleven-hour work days, general weariness, and generous helpings of whimsy have contributed to my [current] delays in updates. However, as I write this, it is currently 10PM-ish, and I have some modicum of downtime while doing laundry. A necessary chore before packing for World Tea Expo. (Oh yeah, there’s that, too.)
So, I’m going to use this here time (and space) to cram three different topics into one write-up. They were subjects that probably deserved more thorough prose, but I’m on a time crunch. The effort might be incoherent, but it’s late…and I have a vacation to plan at the last-minute. Sue me.
Meeting Tea Pimp Tony
Picture if you will a tea guy that writes a blog, posts it on a forum, and the thing goes viral. A publisher catches wind of the blog and says, “Hey, could you turn that subject into a book?” The tea guy gives it the ol’ can-do. Around the same time, picture – if you will – the same tea guy being interviewed about his blog. And, after some time passes, ends up engaged to the interviewer.
Sounds like my fantasy, doesn’t it? Well, it’s this guy’s reality.
Tony Gebely is one of the most well-known personalities in the tea community. He is the former purveyor of Chicago Tea Garden, and his personal blog – World of Tea – is one of the most frequented. Seriously, I’d kill for that guy’s analytics.
By some stroke of luck, I had a chance to meet him. Business brought him to my fair berg, and I was tasked with showing him the some of the sights. And by that, I mean we drank beer. First stop was the Widmer Brewery – a must see for any out-of-towner. While there, I picked his brain on all things from blogging, books, business, tea, and remaining the statistical outlier to my “tea and dating” theory.
Our second stop – The PDX Green Dragon – saw us talking more about tea…while we drank tea-beer! As if hailed from on high, they had a double-fermented Earl Grey beer on tap. I settled on that while Tony dug into a Chamomile ale.
I dropped him off back at his hotel, or at least as close as I could. No, I was not drunk, but my GPS apparently was. And we hoped to touch-bases again at World Tea Expo. (There’s that name again!)
Pu-erh Into Darkness
It was a Thursday.
Star Trek Into Darkness was premiering at midnight. Throughout the course of the day, I was torn as to whether or not I wanted to stay up that late to see it. A part of me just wanted to wait until that following Tuesday when I knew it would be cheaper, but the Trekkie in me wanted to see it “NAO!”.
It was the product that actually brought me to the attention of Nepali Tea Traders – an outfit that sources from private farmers in the Ilam region of Nepal. They had quite the extensive collection of Nepalese oolongs, but it was the pu-erh that really caught my eye.
The first time I steeped it, I went with the NTD’s Westernish instructions – about a teaspoon of leaves in 8oz. of water for three-and-a-half minutes. The result was a cherry wood red liquor with a very earthy nose. Like, legitimately earthy and not “dead fish” earthy. It tasted like a shou pu-erh twice its age or older. The earthy aspect was complimented by a chewy, almost fruit-like lean – roasted plums or something to that effect.
On a second go-around – this time, gongfu prep – I did four successive at thirty and forty seconds in a gaiwan. With slightly more leave to play with. Each of the four infusions differed, but not enough to relate each steep individually. The flavor more-or-less deepened rather than changed. The infusions were sweeter, richer, more nuanced, and heavier on the Himalayan muscatel lean. A winy note also showed up gradually over each attempt. Plus, it was a treat to see liquor darken as the leaves opened up more.
It was during this second gong-fu-ish go-around when I was having my Trekkie crisis. I don’t know if it was “boldy steeping a tea I hadn’t steeped before” or what…but Trek won out. I went to the midnight showing, hopped up on seven-or-eight steeps of an exploratory pu-erh. Fitting for a kid that grew up Trek.
Scenes from Smith’s
One particular Monday morning, I was obligated to pick up my sister at the airport. I had time to kill before heading out to PDX. I did what I always do when I was around downtown Portland; I headed to Smith Teamaker.
In the span of two hours, over a pot of Uva Ceylon, I observed the following things…and jotted them down. Because that’s what writers do, occasionally:
– There was a short, nerdy guy with a woman that bore a striking resemblance to Sophia Loren circa 1970-something. Strikingly gorgeous. No matter what she said or did. He seemed enraptured. He was just happy to be there in her presence. In his shoes, I would’ve been, too.
– A couple off toward the display wall were arguing over whether or not to by one of their mother’s the Lord Bergamot. They couldn’t remember whether or not she liked Earl Grey. I almost wanted to chime in, but didn’t.
– A gorgeous, sandy blonde-haired woman came in – clad in jogger attire – headed for the display wall, picked out some Brahmin, turned, looked at me and gave a slight smile. I bashfully stared at my pot.
– Another couple were having a conversation with the tea bartender about the pronunciation of “rooibos”. As if on cue, a Smith employee, who was from South Africa, appeared to assist.
– Got to talk with the owner for a spell about travel.
– Tony – the lead blender – looked in my direction and said, “You should have your own plaque over that seat. You’re here so much.”
I love this place.
I meant to turn that two-hour period of time into a longer write-up, one leading into an idea about a tearoom anthology…but it never came to pass. There have been many more such occurrences, but these are the three that stuck out.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I heard the dryer chime. Time to start the actual packing for World Tea Expo.
Oh yeah, one more thing. If you’re going to be at World Tea Expo, you can find me here. I hear it’s going to be hoot.