A month ago, during a tea-‘n-matcha-fueled dinner pairing, a university educator asked me this:
“What do you do?”
“I’m just a tea blogger,” I replied.
She sort of tilted her head, confusedly—like a Saint Bernard.
Then asked, “Why?”
The follow-up question caught me off-guard. I was both hurt and offended by it. Not because she meant it as a slight (it wasn’t and she didn’t), but more because . . . I had no clue how to answer that question.
But I’m getting ahead of myself . . . let’s get back to that tea pairing I mentioned at the beginning.
Following the first, frenzied day of World Tea Expo, Team Tealet had organized a late dinner event. The subject? Simple. Tea and food. The venue? Niu-Gu Noodlehouse. It took me weeks to stop calling it “Nooey-Gooey”.
I’m not one to usually care about tea-‘n-food pairings. I leave that sort of malarkey to my more seasoned, foodie-leaning colleagues in the tea community. But this one held my attention for the simple fact that Tealet was putting on, and I was a fan of what they do. Sure, I have had . . . issues with some of their ideological choices (of which I’d been far too vocal about). However, I was still a fan.
That and I was always hungry. Food quells all.
Naomi was all a-giddy over the fact that James Norwood Pratt would be attending the dinner as well. She fangirled . . . just a tad.
“Just so you know, yes, you are all at the dinner, but as far as my mind is concerned, I’m on a date with Norwood Pratt,” she told us. With great conviction.
Neither of us objected to this delusion.
When we arrived, the place was still sparsely populated.
Most of the attendees had yet to arrive. We chose the only empty booth remaining, one closest to the tea station/kitchen entry. My figurative inner fat man was okay with this.
Within a half-hour, the place was packed with an assortment of folks. Team Tea Journey occupied their own table, and there were several other folks I couldn’t identify. The hungry attendees were also quite a multicultural mix.
The biggest surprise, though? Tea community head cheerleader—James Norwood Pratt—and his wife were assigned to our booth. Naomi just about fainted . . . on the inside. Rachel was . . . well, I’ll get to that in a second. There were two others seated with us as well; Sarah and Leonard, respectively. (At least, I think that’s what their names were. It was a long day.)
But back to the tea-‘n-food pairing spiel. Tealet’s resident tea fairy, Elyse announced each tea as the meals were being served, and she provided backgrounds on the farming families who provided them. The breakdown went thusly:
First Course: Lobster Salad Paired with Meijawu Long Jing Green Tea.
Niu-Gu staff did the honor of brewing the tea while we munched away on salad.
The lobster was peeerrrrrrfeeeeeect. The Long Jing . . . not so much. It was over-brewed. (Sorry, it was. Y’all who were there know it was. Don’t look at me like that.) Too much grass, even when paired with a salad. A second steep faired better, divulging its usual floral/winy notes, but it was still a bit bitter on the back-end. But I think that of a lot of green teas.
Second Course: Steak-Fried Rice Paired with the Chen Family’s Da Hong Pao.
Rie took over the pouring duties for this Wuyi oolong, but this time . . . it came out peeerrrrrfeeeeecttttttt.
So perfect, I almost forgot to eat the steak rice. It complimented the roastry/cliffy oolong well. Beyond that, I have no further thoughts. Mind: Blurred.
Third Course: Beef Short-Rib Paired with JhenTea Ali Shan(s). PLURAL!
This time, a JhenTea representative—Fang Kuei—took over the brewing duties.
The two teas she poured were Ali Shan oolongs from the same garden . . . but from separate altitudes on the same slope!
Each table were called upon to guess which was the north-side plucked oolong and which was the south. Our table collectively agreed that the northernmost tea was to the left, whereas the southernmost one was to the right. We were right. And there was much rejoicing. Loud rejoicing.
The beef short-rib? Ummmm . . . I think I forgot to eat that one. I was too caught up in our blind taste-test victory.
Final Course: Matcha Tres Leches Cake Paired with . . . well . . . Hattori Farm Shizuoka Matcha.
The final pairing was an obvious one. Elyse made the matcha tres leches cake herself.
The matcha was provided by the teamakers themselves—Yoshiaki Hattori and Kunikazu Mochitani.
I should also add that they ground the leaf powder on site! It was quite a trip.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the matcha because it was from Shizuoka (i.e. not your typical matcha-making prefecture). Then I took a sip . . .
And went back for seconds.
Yeah . . . I was a fan.
So was Norwood.
I suppose I should get to what happened in between all the pairings. Well . . . a lot. Where to start:
(1) I walked away for a mere moment to use the bathroom. When I got back, Rachel and Norwood Pratt were matching each other—wine shot for wine shot. And, somehow, they had negotiated a matcha wrestling match. They even talked about selling tickets and Norwood throwing the fight for the money.
(2) This quote from Norwood, “I wish I knew about all of your blogs, but I’m not good at the FaceTubes.”
(3) The list of “tea”-shirt designs our table came up with. Including (but not limited to): “Talk Dir-Tea to Me” and “I’m Famous on the FaceTubes”.
(4) Eating tea leaves.
Don’t judge us.
(5) Me, uttering to Team Tealet: “I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but I think that matcha gave me wood.”
In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have been crossing my legs at the time.
On my Uber ride home, I gave some thought to the question that was posed to me during the dinner. “Why a tea blogger?”
If I’d been thinking straight, I would’ve just elaborated upon the night that was, or something similar. But if I had wanted to keep the answer short? This is what I would’ve said.
“I’m in it for the matcha wrestling.”
Special thanks to Rachel Carter for letting me mooch some of her photos. For her awesome coverage of the same event, go HERE.