Everything that could go wrong this morning – did.
The original plan for today was to be up by 6AM, showered and clothed by 6:30AM, and gassed up and ready to go by 7AM. The destination? Northwest Tea Festival in Seattle. It was the first tea festival I ever attended (back in 2012), and I meant to go again. But every single time, something got in the way. In 2013, it was a financial hiccup . . . until the day of. In 2014, I completely spaced the week it was happening. As for 2015?
Sit back a moment.
My alarm went off at 6AM, like it was supposed to, but I kept hitting the snooze button. I finally shut the whole thing off around 7-something, and didn’t get out of bet until the crack of 8AM. No worries, I thought. I still have plenty of time.
Then I heard my stomach gurgle.
I’ll spare you the finer details of what that led to, but let’s just say that – after showering, shaving and clothing – I ran out the door to gas my car. And pick up some Pepto Bismol. Making it to the gas station was a cinch. An old-timer started the pump (yes, in Oregon we have gas station attendants), and took my card. He gave it back to me a couple of minutes later, and I thought I was done. So, I drove off.
And heard a loud clank! from behind me. The nozzle was still in my gas tank, and I had severed the hose in my spacy egress. Fantastic.
The manager of the gas station then came out to get my information. My insurance information. That was new. I will confess I’ve left with a gas hose one other time in my life, but no one ever asked for my info. The manager, then, informed me that this was a comprehensive claim.
I immediately dialed my insurance agent. After making a couple of calls around town, he – too – confirmed that it was an accident claim. But not a comprehensive one; rather a collision. My dumbass running off with a gas hose was considered a collision. Wonderful. My agent advised – to avoid the ding on my driving record – that I should find out how much the repair would cost, pay it out of pocket, and eat the claim.
Unfortunately, their claims department was closed, and I wouldn’t have an exact total until Monday. The only hypothesis I could get was that it would cost anywhere between $50 to $500. By the time I got this information, it was already 10:30. Even if I left right then and there, I wouldn’t make it up to Seattle until 2PM at the earliest. Giving me only four hours total to enjoy the Festival.
After all that karmic backlash, I decided it was best if I just stayed home. My Mum did snatch me to grab a bite to eat, pal around the local farmer’s market, and hit the library for some leisure reading material. I was considerably grateful for the distraction, or my brain would’ve eaten away at itself. But after that bit of local pleasantry, I was done for the day.
It was now 3PM, and I hadn’t even had my first cup of tea, yet. I figured it’d been over a week since I dipped into something new. My eyes settled on a box that I had almost forgotten about. It contained pieces of this.
A twelve-year-old oolong aged in the husk of a bitter gourd. I had acquired some from World Tea Expo four months prior. It was offered up by the boys behind The Finest Brew, arguably my favorite booth from the Expo. And as I recalled, I liked it . . . and that had been a particularly weird day as well.
Bitter gourd oolong for a bitter day? Perfect!
The oolong leaves were just as I remembered them – soot black, ball-fisted, and giving off a roasty/toasty aroma. But there was also something else to the aroma – an aspect of stonefruit and “old”. No other way to describe it. Like an ancient wizard eating an apple while reading a dusty grimoire.
For brewing, I went with a tried-‘n-true gongfoolish gaiwan approach. Roughly a tablespoon of leaves, boiled water, and three successive steeps. Each one just a tad longer than the last. For giggles, I even included some of the gourd husk with the brew.
As for taste . . .
“Guuuuhuhuhuhuheerrrrrr.” That’s – quite literally – what I said upon sipping the first infusion.
The introduction had all those aged oolongy characteristics – a medicinal lean, a fungal bite, a toasty electric blanket feeling on the tongue – but then there was a point where my brain just . . . shut off. It’s an effect that only aged teas seem to have on me. One moment I’m perfectly lucid, and the next? I’m picking unicorns out of my soul’s scalp like Buddhist fairy dandruff. Doesn’t make sense? Don’t worry. Doesn’t to me, either. On a more concrete taster note, there were noticeable traces of cacao, plum and roasted walnuts. Not in any particular order, though.
Not a bad way to say, “Well, I didn’t need to go to a tea festival, anyway.”
As I whimper silently into my cup. I’m not bitter. Not at all.
Maybe next year.