Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

You’ve Probably Never Heard of this Tea Before

One particular evening, a friend of mine and I were conversing over beers. (Isn’t that when the best conversations happen?) The topic of hipsterdom came up. Being residents of the greater Portland area, we were bombarded with them regularly. The “anti”-clique made P-Town one of its ironic bases of operations. Funny thing, though, no one who is a hipster actually thinks they are one.

Case in point, my friend actually said – paraphrased greatly, “You exhibit hipster traits.”

“I do not!” I remember whinily protesting. “I’m a geek through-and-through.”

“Yes, but you complain about the current brand of geeks.”

Egad, he was right.

Heck, there were some mornings when I woke up with my hair in a makeshift mockery of a faux-hawk. I slept in out-of-season holiday pajamas. The irony wasn’t completely lost on me. That trend toward…well…trend-avoidance carried over to other aspects of my life.

Topics of geek esoterica – anime, British sci-fi, comic book movies, video games, even Bollywood (???) – all of those bits of outer-subculture I cradled had become…mainstream. In the ensuing years, I had some semblance of an identity crisis. What were “old school” geeks supposed to latch onto if their badge/identity was compromised by normalcy?

Somehow, someway, my attentions gravitated to a beverage. Tea became my solace, my self-actualization, my subcultural haven. NO one in my greater circle was into that sorta thing. Obscurity: Achieved! But that wasn’t enough.

Eventually, I did run into like-minded tea drinkers in my online perusal – the extent of which were far more knowledgeable than I ever could be. As a result, I had to find a niche; some sort of tea-ish focus that set me apart. I would say I stumbled upon it by accident.

My goal was to track down new and obscure teas from odd growing regions, and catalog them accordingly. That pursuit launched the (desperately-in-need-of-updating) “Tea WANT!” list. However, even that list wasn’t enough. I could barely keep up with all the new and exciting teas brought to my meta-hipstery focus.

And – in a clunky segue – I would like to highlight a couple examples:

I practically begged a fellow tea blogger for a sample of this. They were able to acquire this black tea through an offer put forth by the YaYa Teahouse in New Zealand. The Zealong folks – yes, the “oolong from MIDDLE-EARTH!” producers – were playing around with fully-oxidized teas now. It was new, it was obscure; it met my M.O.

Zealong

The smell was chocolate. No other way to put it – chocolate and a residual woodiness. The leaves themselves looked like the shavings of a tree that had caught fire. Pure awesome. The taste, however, was surprisingly light compared to the burly aroma. The liquor brewed to a mid-amber color with a floral, Ceylon-ish nose. The taste was almost note-for-note a Taiwanese Ruby black, save for less mintiness. It was light with no tannic bite, and a hint of malt on the back. A second infusion – which I did as a fluke – turned up really surprising results – with a citrus lean on the front and a crisp trail-off, more in line with a Dan Cong oolong.

I picked this up on my “Teattle” trip to the Phoenix Teahouse. It deserved a feature of its own due to its origin story. Koreans – like the Japanese – aren’t known for their black teas; they’re mainly associated with high-quality (and highly expensive) green teas. All produced in small batches. When I saw this single origin “Dan-Cha” black (sorry, “red”…and the reason for the above image) tea on their site, it was one I had to try. I ended up walking out with an ounce of the stuff.

The leaves for this didn’t differ at all from the usual, run-of-the-mill black tea fair. They were dark, they were twisty – carry on. The aroma, however, was unusual – evoking mint, nuts, a hint of caramel and some other unidentifiable feelings. It was really hard to pinpoint what it reminded me of; it was its own beast. The liquor brewed straight amber with an aroma that reminded me of pine needles on a Douglas Fir, for some reason. The taste was, well, incomparable. It was floral, sour, minty, sometimes sweet, never bitter, and it kept changing per sip. I have no basis for comparison. Wonderful, nonetheless.

So, here I sit, in my holiday pajamas – hard-pressed to think of a proper lesson learned from my quirky hobby. Oh wait…no…I do know. I’m not a hipster. Heck, there’s nothing hip about me. I drink tea, I write, I watch cheesy movies, and going outside requires too much effort most times. My desire to be obscure and my whining about being into something before the herd don’t stem from a need for self-identity.

I’m not a hipster. I’m just old.

Now get off my lawn.

lazyliteratus

Tea blogger, professional cleaner of toilets, amateur people watcher.

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20 Comments

  1. I absolutely LOVE it and I’ll get off your lawn if you turn off that awful racket. LOL 🙂

    As for the tea I truly wish I took the opportunity to try it when it was offered. I feel as if I missed something amazing. Such is life.

    • Right after “Matlock”. ;-P

      I wish I could’ve, too. But – alas – I was too poor at the time. I blame the Dan-Cha.

  2. LOL I suppose I can wait. Then I can finish up Dynasty too.

    I understand poor. I experience this at random intervals, that being one. 🙂

  3. Margo

    You are not old, good grief :)….have fun at the movies….more venues like movies need to offer tea…it is so much better for you and more refreshing! Open up a movie theatre that has tea

  4. Ha, love the kitty pic. Is that your clever brother at work again?
    As to being hipster or not, you’re far too cool to be slotted into a category. Anyone who reads your blog knows you’re one of a kind. The good kind that is. The good, quirky kind who wears cuddly Christmas pants in the spring, writes amazing tea posts, and has imagination flowing out of every teapot he owns. Hipster? Pah. Far too meaningless.

    • Nope, it’s an internet meme called “hipster kitty”. It was made popular via Tumblr.

      You dispense comments that invoke man-blushing.

  5. You are not a hipster. Not nerd. Not a geek. You are a BEAST OF BREWDOM. A far more exclusive club.

  6. Zealong black tea: very similar to a Taiwanese Ruby black? – Exactly what I thought. But smoother.
    But I have to say that the photo doesn’t look anything like the Zealong black. Neither the leaves nor the infusion (which is red rather than yellow).
    BTW, you’re doing a good job, keeping up the geekster…

    • I brewed it again this morning just in case – 1 tsp. in 8oz. of boiled water for four minutes The liquor color was still gold:

      Zealong

      But you’re right. That was the wrong photo. I mistakenly used the one for a green tea that was right next to it. The infusions were exactly the same in appearance. Switching it out now.

      Thanks for the compliment, though. 🙂

      • I’m also a bit surprised it was that color. Mine certainly didn’t look anywhere near black, but it was more amber. I brewed it 3 mins. However sometimes it’s hard to tell exact color from pics and although I steeped it in a glass pot, my cup was white.

        • I would say amber as well. I think it probably has to do with me using clear cups and steep equipment for photographing. In a solid white vessel, some teas appear darker. Who knows?

    • I reckon its more like zheng shen xiao zhong than ruby black but larger leaf. As a Hobbiton born girl, this is one of my favourites…the terrior, perhaps? P.S. Side affects may include abnormally large feet!

  7. Did you ever consider yourself a teek (tea geek didn’t sound cool enough)?

  8. I’m glad you enjoyed our Dan-cha. I find this to be a wonderful tea. It is difficult to brew it ‘wrong’. The company that produces it suggests 1 min 30 sec and a little more for additional brews. I’ve brewed it for 5 minutes without a bitter taste. Temperature not boiling. This is a true ‘red’ tea as the name ‘dan’ implies and shouldn’t be brewed like most Chinese black teas. Enjoy

    • Yep, I knew the “Dan” meant red, I was just having fun with the title. *heh* Loved this tea, and you are right…it does hold up to any kind of abuse quite well.

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