Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Category: Tea Musings (Page 2 of 20)

Should “Tea” Be a Safe Word?

Let’s talk about tea, oversharing, and consent.

Of course, in order to do this I will have to—y’know—overshare. So, continuing past this point, or clicking the “Read More” button, will be considered a form of consent. Understood? Are we all on the same page? Great, let’s begin.

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Tea Will Change the World

In the not-too-distant past, I was reading one of my fictional stories to a friend. He stopped me within the first paragraph and asked a very simple question, “What are you trying to say?”

Not as in, what was I trying to say in the story, but rather, what was I trying to say as a writer? And I . . . didn’t have an answer for him. He further explained that some of his favorite authors were always trying to convey one particular message or theme in their various works—no matter how disparate.

J.R.R. Tolkien used The Lord of the Rings as a playground for his knowledge on languages, and as an allegory for the horrors of war. Robert Jordan used The Wheel of Time as a way to cope with PTSD. Whether they intended to or not, authors tried to say something in their writing. But I had no clue what it was I was trying to say.

Shortly after that, I found myself pouring over some of my old tea haikus. (Yes, I did some of those.) And I ran across this little forgotten “gem”:

A pretty tall claim, even for a haiku. However, it made me wonder, Was that my message? If so, it was an unabashedly optimistic (and ambitious) one. As I gave it more thought, the more it crystalized. Yeah . . . that was my message.

Tea will change the world.

Perhaps I should explain.

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The Parts of Portland’s Tea Culture that The Oregonian Missed.

In the summer of 2015, the unthinkable happened. I scheduled an interview with an honest-to-Lu-Yu newspaper. Our local rag, The Oregonianto be precise. They wanted to talk to me in my natural habitat, as a tea drinker. The reason? A soon-to-be-established feature on Portland’s tea culture. Lauren “Mizuba Tea Co.” Purvis recommended they talk to me, since—to some—I was considered the tea fanboy (manchild?) in Portland.

The day of the interview, I even cleaned my old room.

That’s how big a deal this was.

Both of the women that visited were very nice. We discussed many different aspects of tea and tea culture. I tried to get the point across that, while Portland did indeed have a burgeoning tea scene, it wasn’t a cohesive one. Not yet, anyway; not like Seattle.

The reporter and photographer told me they planned for an autumn 2015 release of the article . . . with the possibility of delay. And—hoo-boy—was there ever a delay; a year and a half, to be precise. On the first week of December (of 2016), a tea blogger friend shared with me an article via social media. The article! And . . .

Um . . .

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Tea Tales and Mocktails

Two weeks back, I received an invite to go here:

smith-tea-hq-storefront

Okay, I go to both Smith Tea locations quite a bit on my own, but this was a special occasion. Like last year, this was their media-only holiday pre-release party. They were going to be showcasing their upcoming blends, partnerships, and limited edition holiday offerings.  And I was convinced I couldn’t go. Work and all that.

I was so convinced about my lack of attendance, I even shot off an e-mail to lead blender dude, Tony Tellin, to see if I could mooch some of pre-release batches for an article. Y’know . . . to pretend I was there. I’m good at pretending. None of that was necessary because I was magically able to convince my work to let me off early that day.

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A Transparent Tea Liquor

This is a white tea called Doke Silver Needle.

doke-silver-needle-tea

I . . . may have written about it several times.

I know exactly where it comes from. (The Doke tea estate in Bihar, India.) I know who owns the estate. (Rajiv Lochan.) I know who makes it. (Rajiv’s daughter, Neha “Dolly” Lochan.) And I know who sells it directly to me. (Rajiv’s son, Vivek Lochan.) When brewed, the liquor is as transparent as the entire experience. I know just about everything I need to about this tea, and—each year—it continues to surprise me.

Lately, however, I realized I’ve taken this experience for granted. Knowing that much about a tea is an exception, not the norm. Compounded with that, I’m a tea blogger that specializes in telling stories about teas. So, painting a transparent picture of the tea experience is something I’m focused on. That is also far removed from the average tea drinker. It made me wonder . . . how important is transparency to the everyday cupper?

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My Detox Horror Story

Over the last year or so, I’ve expressed my . . . displeasure with detox culture. I particularly took issue with the belief that someone could eliminate “toxins” from their body by ingesting weird herbs and other unlikely ingredients (like literal silver and gold). When talk of these practices spilled over into my tea life (in the form of “teatoxing”), I grew more vocal in my vehemence.

I made the same counter claims as many other tea friends did. Examples: (1) Unless you had overdosed on a drug or were exposed to an actual poison, detoxing wasn’t necessary. (2) Anything in trace amounts wasn’t overly harmful. (3) “Toxins”—as a malicious, invisible entity—were as mythical as fairy dust. And finally, (4) if someone had a workable liver and kidney(s), their body had all it needed to do the natural detoxing for them. If they didn’t have those . . . they were probably dead already.

Of course, my online ravings fell squarely on deaf ears. My corner of the tea Internet was way below the radar of the twentysomethings, fashionistas, health food folks, and . . . well . . . pretty much everyone, really. I even had to distance myself from a tea shop I loved because they started hocking detox drinks.

The only way I could get through to people was to finally come clean. For you see? When I was in my twenties, I was one of them. This is . . .

detox-title-card

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Tea and Bullshit with Rajah Banerjee

Two weeks ago, I attended the Northwest Tea Festival.

northwest-tea-festival

For both days, even!

It was an epic time of tea drunkenness and cuppa camaraderie. But when the time came to actually write about the two-day tea-stravaganza . . . I had nothing to say. Sure, I drank a lot of tea, met new people, reunited with old friends and contacts, but there was no story there. I drank, I saw, and then I trained home. That was pretty much it. If you want full(er) accounts on the tea fest, I suggest visiting The Oolong Owl and Delights of the Heart. Their coverage was pretty comprehensive, and I probably couldn’t have said it better. (Or more concisely.)

The festive weekend, however, did serve one weird purpose. It was a springboard for a few stories that I need to tell. This is one of them:

The first day of the tea fest, I stopped by the Young Mountain Tea booth a couple of times. One, to talk to the owner, Raj Vable, again—since I hadn’t seen him in (what felt like) years; two, I wanted to meet his guest of honor. Rajah Banerjee, owner and manager of the Makaibari tea estate in Darjeeling.

Rajah Banerjee and Raj Vable

Rajah Banerjee and Raj Vable

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My 40th Un-Birthday Mad Hatter Tea Party

Back in June, my friend Aaron asked me, “Why haven’t you ever thrown a tea party?”

To which I responded with, “Huh . . . why haven’t I thrown a tea party?!”

Then the ol’ mental gears started a-turnin’. In a few short months, my 40th birthday was coming up. I didn’t drink alcohol anymore, and other forms of mid-life debauchery bored me. The decision hit me like an Assam-fueled caffeine jolt.

Mad Hatter Tea Party!

Mad Hatter Tea Party

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A Totem Tea Story

The definition of the word “totem” is thus: “A natural object or animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance and adopted by it as an emblem.” It is derived from the Native American language, Ojibwe; the word, dodaem.

The concept, however, is not limited to just Native American cultures and religious practices. Many cultures worldwide also place such significances on totems as well. Totem poles, on the other hand—at least to the tribes of the Pacific Northwest—use these objects and animals as family crests and as a way to recount stories of that family group’s past.

So why did a tea company use “Totem” in their name?

totem-tea-logo

I’ll get to that.

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Summer Time Tea Montage

It’s officially the first day of September. The outside temperature has dropped twenty degrees. Skies are gray, and big-ass raindrops are falling. Yep, summer time is just about over.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Not that I bear summer any ill will in general, and not that this summer was bad, but—y’see?—I’m a fall kid at heart. However, to usher summer’s drunk arse out the door, I thought I’d reflect on the good moments of the last three heat-searing months. And, of course, all those great moments involved tea. And, sometimes, even people.

In order to wrap up the summer in a quickie fashion, Rachel “I Heart Teas” Carter gave me permission to mooch her “Photo Micro-Blogging” format. Just this once. Brace yourself, it’s time for a breakneck Summer Time Tea . . .

montage

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Page 2 of 20

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