Real Men Drink Flowers

A post about chrysanthemum pu’er, in which Johnny encounters the supremely manly musk of this testosterone-laden tea.

I am sick and tired of people decrying flowers as froo-froo, prettified, sissy-bait, or the like. When correctly viewed and ingested, flowery teas like this Chrysanthemum Pu’er brick can contain all of the necessary ingredients for the Exercise of True and Powerful Masculinity.

Behold

1) Like all great shou pu’er, this tea smells of the earth, worked by the hands of the swarthy and well-hung since time immemorial.

2) The flower used in this tea is Snow Chrysanthemum, which has been shown to contain masculianine, the botanical equivalent of human male pheremones. While drinking the tea, the vapors will send the signal of Man to all man-loving people nearby; when drunk regularly, it increases the power of the drinker’s pheremonal attraction by a whopping 790%, making Johnny (at least) the most desirable side of beef in this two-bit town.

3) The smooth, musky aroma of the brewed leaf, the gaiwan lid after brewing, and of the liquor itself is heady and intoxicating, like a memory (though certainly not the actual scent) of over-applied Old Spice on your favorite high-school quarterback.

Smelling and drinking this tea, infusion after infusion, I fall in love with myself…

and there is nothing manlier than that.

Sheng, for shame!

sheng pu'er tuochaToday, in his own inimitable way, Johnny Teacup wrestles with the conventional “wisdom” of sheng pu’er goodness. He lays a copy of a local free paper on the floor, improvises a gongfu set with a couple of swag teacups, and makes the tea sing like Mohammed Ali and Maria Callas rolled into one.

Read this post and behold a work of genius. You owe it to yourself.

 

The Perfect Pairing, You Young Whippersnappers

I’m over tea pairing with food. Ho hum. All I hear some days is “Lord Devotea, what tea should I have with my Mars Bar foie gras?”

Listen folks, we don’t have to be as dull as wine folk. Their product is just old grape juice. They need to oversell. “Please, please drink Chardonnay when you’re eating a ham sandwich. We beg you” . It’s undignified.

That’s not to say there is not a place for educating the ignorant. If people have not taken the time to try a few hundred teas, they may be unaware of the options for a nice tea to go with their filet mignon or bag of doughnuts. Even though in this case the ignorance is their fault, a little gentle coaching now and then is acceptable. So, as an example when kind-hearted people like @jopj offer a class so that the truly ignorant can better themselves by learning about pairing tea and chocolate, then I can be charitable.

But for those of us who make, blend, write about, sell, review or serve tea, to pair tea with food is such a narrow thing.

Tea is for pairing with LIFE ITSELF!

I have previously remarked that the best pairing in the world is a cup of Lord Petersham and a new episode of Downton Abbey. This I wholeheartedly believe. And judging by an upswing is sales each time it comes on, I’ve managed to pull that off.

So I could expend another 3,000,000 words giving you ideal tea pairings for everything from delivering sextuplets to learning Hungarian, from your first driving lesson to committing bank fraud.

I could, and you know I could, and it’s probably making you nervous, so let me calm you down by saying I won’t.

However, it seems I have a certain reputation for ranting, Who knows why, I’m usually pretty reasonable. It’s been ages since I’ve advocated setting fire to anything or anyone.

Nevertheless, I am going to offer now a selection of rants, and a tea to go with them. Strap yourselves in!

THE RANT:

Why is the world suddenly being run by young people? Back in my day young people were basically half-formed semi-sentient creatures who barely got up by the crack of noon in time to fill the fridge with beer. Now they are heading soulless accounting firms, running on-line businesses selling unproven products and even standing for parliament. How can you stand for parliament if you have to be home by 10 pm weeknights and need to borrow $20 from Dad every day because your clapped-out car chews through the petrol? Young people should be wasting their lives at university earnestly discussing how they will fix the world, not poncing about in three piece suits with over-sized wristwatches or hanging about clubs wearing $2000 designer skirts from a ‘designer’ who just staples pipe cleaners together.

THE TEA:

There’s an undercurrent of bitterness and lost opportunity in that rant, so let’s counteract it with a nice, smooth mellow Mokalbari East or similar Assam.

THE RANT:

Look, that guy is smoking in public. Why is he smoking out here? Or at all? It’s the 21st century! Surely there are small coffin-like spaces we can shut smokers in endlessly recycling their smoke back at them ’til they die? Or apply a public beating at least.

THE TEA:

A lovely Lapsang Souchong is called for here, or a Russian Caravan if you’re chicken. Prove to the world that you can get a bit smokey without offending those around you. Set a dignified good example, and ignore the knocking sound, growing ever feebler, from the wooden box full of bound and gagged smokers in your basement.

THE RANT.

Why is this TV station showing the same commercial twice in the same break? Do they not realise how annoying that is? No wonder piracy is the new TV. What sort of idiots are they? Even if I ever want to buy a new car / sanitary product / loaf of bread / annuity /  ear wax remover, I’ll buy one from a brand that hasn’t annoyed me in 30 second installments 57 times in one episode of SVU.

THE TEA:

You might think you need soothing, but I say NO!! Fan your rage with a highly caffeinated, over-steeped dark Keemun. An extra minute takes these teas from being the perfect gentlemen in your cup to a snarling beast climbing the sides. Use it to fuel your righteous anger. Three cups and your living room will look like a hotel room that The Eagles have just left, circa 1979.

THE RANT:

I ordered tea. I didn’t order milk. And the milk I didn’t order isn’t on the side, it’s in the damn tea. What’s wrong with you people? What if I had stapled a live tarantula onto the fiver I just handed over? You didn’t ask for it, but hey, you got it.

THE TEA:

Now, that’s tricky, as you already have tea. The perfect answer here is to just ask for hot water, reach into your jacket pocket or handbag and pull out your emergency tea-sac full of good tea. I always carry Fleurs de Provence, as it has an aroma that people love and makes them jealous. But whatever you’re carrying, it’s bound to be better than whatever they have just served you.

And there you have it.

So, for your homework, I’m going to list five obvious opportunities to rant. Let me know your options for dealing with any or all of them.

  1. Colleagues who eat tinned fish at their desk
  2. Drivers whom you politely let in in traffic and who don’t acknowledge that with a jaunty wave
  3. Hall and Oates on a jukebox
  4. People who use the wrong word repeatedly, like “pacifically” for “specifically’
  5. Medical receptionists who act like er, well, medical receptionists.

Please share your thoughts in my comments. I plan to rant about those who don’t, accompanied by a nice silver needle.

 

“Lapdance Souchong” – The Changing Face of Lapsang Souchong, Part 3

This is the final installment of The Changing Faces of Lapsang Souchong trilogy. For Part 1, go HERE. For Part 2, go Here.

Warning: This installment is not going to be anywhere near as sophisticated or educational as the last two…which is why it’s on the Beasts of Brewdom page.

The Changing Face of Lapsang Souchong, Part 3: “Lapdance Souchong”

Amidst the wet and blizzard-like conditions nationwide, let’s flashback to last summer. Specifically, July. I just got done with one of the best experiences EVAR! picking tea for the very first time in Burlington, WA. The next day, I still had time to kill before I made the mad-trek back to Portland proper. Instead of exploring the insanity that is Seattle, I chose to hang out in one of its burbs – Burien.

I warned Cinnabar Gongfu of my intent to loiter at the Phoenix Teashop for the better part of the day, and she put up with me like a trooper – metaphoric helmet donned. Before I left, Cinnabar mentioned in passing that Phoenix carried both smoked and unsmoked Lapsang Souchong offerings from Fujian province, China. I asked for a price, deemed it worthy, and picked up an ounce of each. Somewhere in the transaction, I had uttered the phrase, “Lapdance Souchong”. And a thought emerged…I love it when that happens.

Why not do a side-by-side comparison of the two Lapsang styles and compare it to a Saturday stint at a strip joint? Jeenyus!

strip club

So, while most single men with money were at an actual strip joint on a Saturday night, I was home comparing teas to being at a strip joint. On a Saturday night. Hey, I said it was a thought, not a good thought.

The leaves for the Unsmoked Lapsang Souchong were medium-sized to whole, rolled and reed-like in appearance with some gold-tipped and red-tipped pieces in the fray. The aroma was quite dry, reminding me of a forest on a hot summer day. Astringent-seeming and slightly harsh, yet at the same time, welcoming. This dancer worked the weekend day shifts. She wore a dazzling red-and-gold one-piece that hugged her figure wholesomely, if not sexily. A looker but not a go-getter. Shy-seeming. Cute face, though.

Unsmoked vs. Smoked

The Smoked…well…

The leaves were similar in appearance – if more curled and crooked. They were also more soot black than the unsmoked, which was to be expected. The aroma was straight campfire and steak with a back-whiff of peat. This gal came out in a two-piece pleather thong bikini-something-er-other with devil horns adorned – tail lashing and trident at the ready.

hellfire

Saturday night shift, all the way.

I brewed both at three minutes a pop (enough for one song in the champagne room) in 6oz. steeper cups. Boiling hot water and a teaspoon each. All’s fair in lust and Lapsang.

The Unsmoked liquor came out darker by a head, belying a shade darker copper than the Smoked. She also gave off an aroma of wood and bitterness – as if she had just gotten done with a twelve-hour stint, and her clear heels were killing her. The taste was straight malt with a hint of astringency on the finish. Like a Keemun only less refined. She wasn’t relegated to day shift; she was a newbie, still learning the ropes. But talented at that. And the things she did with her tongue – yikes!

The Smoked was a veteran of the stage. Sure, she didn’t have as bold outward appearance as the Unsmoked ingénue, but she glided across the palatial runway with all the swagger of a seasoned seductress. Her liquor color was dazzling yet left an air of mystery intact behind the copper sheen. The aroma wafting from her vessel was smoky but not pungently so. Hickory and backwoods campfire, yes, but it was downplayed once water hit her form. On taste, she shined like a phoenix-flamed goddess reaching her zenith. Raw talent can go a long way, but in the end, a little smoldering discipline edges ahead.

Brewdom

Smoked Lapsang for the WIN.

That isn’t to say I wouldn’t visit the Unsmoked often. There’s something about her that says, “Stay with me.” A come-hither stare and a bright-eyed innocence behind the malt and wood. I would visit her in the afternoons, but it’s the Smoked I’d wake up to in the mornings.

***

A quick aside: After I was done brewing both Lapsangs back-to-back, I forgot to photograph the finished steeps. I didn’t realize this until after I drank them. I had to re-brew them just for the photo finish. But then I couldn’t let those infusions go to waste…so I drank them. Four cups of tea. For one photo.

Yeah, I was up for a while.

insomnia

The 20 Health Benefits of Tea: 1686 style.

Lord Devotea’s List Week: List 3*

Thomas Povey was a 17th century man about town that history seems to recall as titled, incompetent, rich and powerful, and not surprisingly, a British Member of Parliament. He seems to have done well under both Cromwell and the restored King Charles II, and he was on the spot when tea was becoming big in London in the mid/late 17th century.

He is remembered for a bunch of lawsuits and bunfights, but also for a list he translated from Chinese explaining the health benefits of tea.

Today we celebrate Povey’s list. With some additional commentary from me.

1.     It purifyes the Bloud of that which is grosse and Heavy.

Getting all those gross, heavy things out of your blood is a really good idea. You don’t want lumpy blood.

2.     It Vanquisheth heavy Dreames.

Heavy dreams are like, heavy, man, as they said in the 60s. The 1660s. And we don’t want that. Safely vanquished, thanks to tea.

3.     It Easeth the brain of heavy Damps.

Tea drinkers will be light as a feather once all this heaviness is easethed. And nobody needs a damp brain. A clear, dry untroubled head can be achieved, it seems.

5.     Prevents the Dropsies.

Dropsy is basically accumulated fluid in body cavities. Do you want that? Well, do you? No, you don’t! Good ol’ tea to the rescue again. Tip top, empty cavities are only a swift cup of Lord Petersham away.

6.     Drieth Moist humours in the Head.

There’s nothing funny about moist humours in your head. We’ve already set our goal for a head untroubled by moisture, so this has to help. Problem Solveth.

7.     Consumes Rawnesse.

If you have a touch of rawnesse, then having it quietly consumed is a good thing. Stops people asking impertinent questions, such as : “I say, my good man, is that a touch of rawnesse about your person?”

8.     Opens Obstructions.

Fantastic. It doesn’t explain whether the obstruction is a polyp on your bowel, a distended tonsil, an overly ambitious supervisor at work or a rolled-over truck on the highway, but tea will no doubt fix them all.

9.     Cleares the Sight.

Throwing away my glasses now. Where did you all go?

10. Clenseth and Purifieth adults humours and a hot Liver.

Humour can be downright dirty, we know that, but a quick mug and you’ll be telling nice grandmother-friendly jokes about kittens and squirrels whilst your liver cools.

11. Purifieth defects of the Bladder and Kiddneys.

I think we all know that after a few cups of tea, the bladder and kidneys are up for a spot of purification.

12. Vanquisheth Superfluous Sleep

Sleep is wasteful enough, but Superfluous sleep? It’s enough to drive Jon Bon Jovi mad. Luckily, it’s about to get vanquished, and vanquished hard.

13. Drives away dissiness, makes one Nimble and Valient.

Even though I chose not to be a professional ballet dancer, I feel great knowing that the next time my nimbleness or valour is required, I won’t be sidetracked by dissiness.

14. Encourageth the heart and Drives away feare.

Fear can’t stand up to tea. We all know that.

15. Drives away all Paines of the Collick which proceed from Wind.

I think we know what he means here. The 16th century diet was quite robust, unlike what we eat these days. On second thoughts, scratch that, and order a tea with your cheeseburger and fries.

16. Strengthens the Inward parts and Prevents Consumptions.

It’s great to have really strong inward parts. In this case probably the lungs as ‘consumption’ is tuberculosis. If only medical science had known!

17. Strengthens the Memory.

It really does. Tea drinkers have usually memorised pi to more decimal places than non-tea drinkers according to a scientific study I conducted using myself and a cat as subjects. The cat had little memory, and also did not drink tea. I was going to use goldfish, but they kept forgetting to fill in the form.

18. Sharpens the Will and Quickens the Understanding.

Stands to reason, doesn’t it? If you have a better memory a la point 17, you’re not going to go all vague at times when you need to be on the ball.

19. Purgeth Safely the Gaul.

I know enough history to know that Gaul was the Roman name for France, Belgium, Luxembourg and a few other European hot spots of miscreants. So it appears once you’ve imbibed your Earl Grey, you can safely remove Frenchmen. This is a bonus, although my friend @xavier may not agree. Some historians believe this relates to the gall bladder, not the French, but where’s the fun in that?

20. Strengthens the use of due benevolence.

Well, isn’t that just the best. We get to be all benevolent, and show great tolerance for every thing and everyone, except moist brains, heavy stuff and Gauls.

So there you have it. That’s all you need to know!

*This is List 3 of “Lord Devotea’s List Week” a spectacular week of lists that will be spread over the Beasts of Brewdom and Lord Devotea’s Tea Spouts blog. 

10 Of Your Opinions That Tea Lovers Don’t Give A Damn About

Lord Devotea’s List Week. List 1*

At some point, someone has probably offered you proper loose leaf tea. And perhaps you don’t drink it.

That’s OK- and this list is for you!

When offered, you may have made a hugely offensive comment. After all, you don’t drink tea, you’ve probably got other character flaws including little or no judgement.

So, here’s a quick and polite guide to stop you embarrassing yourself with your own ignorance and stupidity.

(1) Tea is Just Tea

You think all tea tastes the same? That it IS the same?

So you think it’s OK to say “I don’t like tea” because you tried a stale Liptons tea-b*g in in 1987?

To tea drinkers, that’s just as credible as if you’re standing on a street corner, clad only in alfoil shorts and a banana-leaf halter top, with cymbals strapped to your knees. You’re clashing the cymbals together whilst screaming at the top of your lungs that ferrets are planning to take over the world, and the International Ferret Revolution will be happening next Tuesday at 5:37 a.m. GMT.

Think about that the next time you’re offered a decent cuppa.

(2) You think you might drink Oolong to lose weight

It’s not our fault that you think Dr Oz is the real life equivalent of Gandalf. Yes, you should drink tea, and buckets of it, but if you try to lose weight without diet and exercise, it will be exactly as successful as trying to become the number one tennis player in the world by wearing the same aftershave as Roger Federer.

Also, I can sell you some magic beans. Send $1000 to me in a self-addressed envelope. Ask your carer to post it.

(3) You think tea-b*gs are good enough

No , they are not. Idiot.

(4) You think, “But, but. Lord Devotea, silky tea-b*gs with ‘whole leaf tea’ in them really are good enough.”

No, you’re still an idiot. And when you say that sentence, there’s a definite whining quality to your voice that makes us want to drown you.

Listen, “silky” tea bags are usually made of plastic or corn starch, not silk. Did you really fall for that? And the wonderful phrase “whole leaf tea, cut up” is like describing your car as “A space shuttle, but with a few less features”.

(5) You think I’m a ‘Tea Snob’

This one makes my blood boil. All I have to do is take a moderate amount of care to make a cuppa – about the same level of care I take to put petrol (gasoline), not diesel, in my car’s fuel tank – and I’m a tea snob?

Get this: just because someone has a set of standards that is minimally above your level of “how many gallons of Coca-Cola do you want with your greaseburger” gastronomy does not make them a “tea snob”. It makes YOU sadly inadequate.

(6) Tea is for when you are sick

There’s no denying that tea is great when you are sick. But only having it when you are sick is like SCUBA diving but only breathing in the air when you’re passing out.

And if you drink tea, you’ll probably get sick less anyway. Science says so.

(7) Tea is an old person’s/ woman’s/ homosexual’s/ Kanka Bono/ Asian/ British/<insert other group here> drink

Of course it is. It’s everyone’s drink. IT’S THE MOST POPULAR BEVERAGE IN THE WORLD, you moron. It’s more popular than the Dr Pepper or Jim Beam you drink for breakfast, the rap music you listen to, that TV show you watch about that dude who does funny stuff or the illicit magazine you are hiding from your mother/significant other/warden.

Yes, everybody! Except you. We’re not only drinking tea, we’re laughing at you behind your back.

(8) But I drink coffee

What do you want, a medal?

So you drink coffee? Do you eat more than one type of food? You know, Burgers AND fries? I’m pretty well over talking to you at all!

(9) But I don’t like all those fussy little China cups.

Look, we’re done here. Seriously? If that’s the best you can come up with, then I recommend you have a crack at voluntary euthanasia. Just do it somewhere quietly, away from the tea drinkers, OK?

(10) But drinking tea doesn’t fit with my politics because, you know, the ‘Tea Party’ and all that…

Oh shut up. I’ve stopped listening.

*This is List One of “Lord Devotea’s List Week” a spectacular week of lists that will be spread over the Beasts of Brewdom and Lord Devotea’s Tea Spouts blog. 

 

“The Souchong Strikes Back” – The Teabeer Trilogy, Book 2

For BOOK 1 of The Teabeer Trilogy, go HERE.

Not too long ago in a public house relatively nearby…

The Souchong Strikes Back logo

It began with an e-mail.

I’m not even sure how I got on their list, but The Green Dragon sent me an e-mail at the beginning of the month about some of their Fall events. Part of the image was about their upcoming Pumpkin Ale Fest.

F**k pumpkin, I thought.

Then my eyes scrolled down to the bottom half of the poster.

2290

Barrel. Aged. Lapsang. Souchong. Porter.

No five words in the English (or Chinese) dictionary could’ve been strung together so poetically. For those not in the know – or don’t read this blog much – Lapsang Souchong is a pinewood-smoked black tea from China. It tastes like hickory and campfire. Many legends exist about how it came to be. I even wrote one. No, it’s not true.

For years, I’d wondered what a Lapsang beer would taste like. I even tried to convince brewer friends of mine to take up the challenge. Most were frightened by the prospect of including a heavily-smoked tea into a beer of any kind. Especially without having an established recipe to go on.

I had experimented with Lapsang Souchong concentrate and a smoked porter once…with less than amiable results. But now Rogue – arguably one of Oregon’s brewery titans – had taken up the challenge. Or more specifically, the Man Behind the Beard – John Maier, their brewmaster.

john-with-big-barrel-crop-web

Rogue’s Big Ass Barrel series (as far as I know) were beers aged in 1,500-gallon, custom-made Oregon white oak barrels for 60 days. I remember reading somewhere they had two of them – named Chuck and Kate – but I can’t seem to find anything online to corroborate this. Maybe I dreamt it; I dunno.

Point being, some awesome beers were coming out of these – aptly named – big ass barrels. I had the pleasure of trying a strong ale in that series during my impromptu teabeer jaunt to The Green Dragon. It was on said jaunt that I inquired about when the Lapsang porter would be ready. Green Dragon’s bartenders weren’t exactly sure, but told me to give a call to Rogue’s NW Flanders location for further info. I gave ‘em a call the moment I got off work.

The conversation went like this…

Me: “When will you have the Lapsang Souchong porter available in bottles?

Bartender: “I’m not sure when they’ll start bottling it.”

Me: [le sigh] “Any idea when it will be on tap?”

Bartender: “It’s already on tap.”

I was on the road minutes later.

The moment I got in, slightly panting, I went up to the bar and said, “Lapsang Souchong porter, please?”

The bartender looked at me and replied with, “Were you the one I just talked to?”

I nodded, still wheezing.

They poured the black monstrosity into a fitting chalice.

1382394501704

I cradled it for a moment as if it were the Holy Grail itself, then I gave it a sniff. Wood, malt, chocolate and smoke met my nostrils. The first sip was akin to being transported to another place in time. Campfires, Norse mead halls, and Mongolian caravans danced and warred on my tongue. Flavors as strong and gentle as any warrior attacked my palate with grace and a grimace.

It was the greatest beer I’d ever had…and I’ve tried a lot of beers.

ratatouille8

While I was sipping it, I informed my friend NinjaSpecs about its awesomeness. We planned an outing for the following day. Yes, I went back. It was that good. As I was waiting for him to arrive, I ordered it. There was a new bartender manning the taps.

I asked for it.

He looked at me, “Are you sure? Have you had it before?”

“Positive,” I said flatly. “I love Lapsang.”

“Those who know what it is, love it,” the ‘tender explained. “Those who don’t…really don’t.”

A couple of out-of town-businessmen confirmed this by expressing their disapproval.

Pussies, I thought.

NinjaSpecs arrived a half-hour later, ordered one, and stated in a matter-of-fact tone, “I wish I’d brought another pair of pants.”

My work here was done.

For now.

Concluded in Book 3.

International Coffee Day

It’s international Coffee Day. (It really is, look it up on Wikipedia if you doubt us.)

It’s an important day.

Over their lifetime, most people in Western countries will suffer from coffee at some time.

It’s a debilitating condition, and as we swill the last of our Darjeeling FTGFOP1, it’s important that we put aside this special day to think about those less fortunate than ourselves.

So, it’s time to do your bit.

Make tea for your friends, your family. Remember, every cup of tea you make someone removes the threat of coffee for between 30 minutes and 2 hours.

Let’s hope in the future, we don’t have to have an International Coffee Day, because it is but a distant memory, like smallpox or Hall & Oates. Even if our memory has been enhanced by drinking at least 4 cups of tea every day.

And share this post, so we can get the message out there.

Beast My Guest

I just had a guest post published on Tea health Studies. As part of the deal, I told them they should have all the Beasts do a post for them. Poor bastards.

Here’s my rant: http://teahealthstudies.org/2013/08/22/guest-post-when-tea-meets-science/

Die Hard With a Cuppa

In mediaeval times, one could pour boiling oil from upon one’s tower onto invading hordes. And it certainly learned ‘em a thing or two, let me tell you.

Obviously, when we get door-to-door electricity company salespeople or certain doorstep-obsessed religious orders turning up at our castles tat an inconvenient time, a bit of boiling oil would be an effective discouragement strategy, but oh, no – in these whiny days you’d be litigated against for sure.

This is why I love a story from Kenya about a householder who turned to boiling hot tea in a run-in with debt collectors.

Apparently a bank came around, with a tame cop in tow, to take someone’s possessions in a way that was not strictly correct.

The householder – a teacher, not a professional wrestler or drug dealer – explained his position by scalding three of them with very hot tea.

And this guy is all class. He then went to the police station and reported the incident himself. The police actually had some sympathy for him and have some questions for the bank.

I have no doubt this will inspire the next Bruce Willis movie: “Die Hard with a Cuppa”.

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