Tea Like Leather

It’ll probably help to picture the voice of Sam Elliott narrating this as one reads further. I found that to be the quickest way to get through it. Of course, I picture Sam Elliott narrating everything I write. Because…well…he’s Sam F**king Elliott. Anyway, let’s begin.

The rain was falling pretty hard; the chill in the air could cut right through your pores. Traffic was a mean mistress – construction on the road, an even meaner spouse. The destination was near, but I was always a turn or two away. There’s a message there…somewhere.

I was meeting Dave and crew for our now-weekly round of brew. Such meet-ups were becoming a favorable addition to the grinding schedule I kept. This time we were notching off ol’ Foxfire Teas – a place I hadn’t been back to since…come to think of it, I don’t remember when. I recall it being a pleasant enough place, just difficult to get to. For some reason, it seemed worse now. Parking was a near disaster.

On the walk there, I saw an unusual site – a striking blonde woman in knee-high boots smoking a curved briar pipe. Whatever sour mood I had drifted away at that pleasant dichotomy. I almost wanted to ask her if she was puffing Cavendish but thought better against it.

When I finally found the right door, Dave was already there yacking it up with the owner. I came barreling in out of the cold, bitchin’ about the parking. Hardly the makings of a good re-introduction to a vendor. I said my “howdy”-s and bee-lined to the menu. First thing to catch my eye were the “Sun Dried Buds” in the pu-erh section. I asked the owner for a whiff, and he kindly obliged. Lemon and wilderness greeted my thankful nostrils.

Several sniffs and a cup of four-year-aged Chinese black later, Dave and I were introduced to something entirely different. The owner described it as a Yunnan black tea with a slightly different character called “Imperial Feng Qinch”. The taster notes on the menu compared it to leather. Dave was captivated while I shied from it in favor of a white. That said, I still stole a sip. Ten minutes later, I was driving home with a 1oz. bag of the stuff.

I didn’t brave the brew until a week later. The leaves were so thin and gold one would think they were prospecting for slivery veins in the Sierra Nevadas. The aroma was all pepper, prairie, and bootstraps. I don’t even wanna know how they managed so rustic a presentation. All that remained was to subject it to…my style o’ brewin’.

More often than not, if the leaves look delicate, I treat ‘em as such – like a lady. Having already experienced the bite on this missus, I knew it needed steadier grip. I opted for 1 heaping teaspoon in 8oz. of boiled water. And instead of my usual paltry three-minute infusion, I went with a full five. If she was as tough as thought she was, she could take it.

The soup brewed to the color of rusted copper, but with a glimmer of sunshine to it. Steam rising from the mouth invoked feelings of sun-parched earth, sagebrush, rawhide, and farm country. The taste was dry and smoky on intro and graciously followed that up much-touted leather. A curtsy of malt ended the whole show.

This was one deceptive beauty. Needle-like gold leaves did not make for a thin, gentle brew. This was made to wake you up with the morning dew – preferably after sleeping outdoors. I still have no idea what “Feng Qing” means, and I don’t feel I need to look it up. As far as I’m concerned, it’s like feng shui…

Only for men.



16 Comments so far

  1. Profile photo of xavier  xavier on November 22nd, 2011          

    I am confused. Is it Sam Elliot or Teddy Roosevelt that I hear in the background?

    Do they drink tea?

    • Profile photo of lazyliteratus  lazyliteratus on November 22nd, 2011          

      I doubt either did (or do) drink tea. But a man can dream.

      As to why there’s an exploitative picture of Teddy Roosevelt…um…no good reason. I wanted to end with a MAN! As per the last paragraph.

  2. Profile photo of thepurrfectcup  thepurrfectcup on November 22nd, 2011          

    As I mentioned on Facebook the moment I saw Sam Elliot I began hearing this post in his voice. Kudos to you for that! The whole post had this cowboy walking into a saloon feel to it…which is a good thing. The tea certainly sounds interesting too. Do they have a website where it can be ordered? Even a sample?

    • Profile photo of lazyliteratus  lazyliteratus on November 22nd, 2011          

      Excellent! That’s exactly what I was aiming for. As to a product site, I guess I should’ve added that this isn’t on their website. It was part of their “specialty” menu, which is only served in-store. A sample can be arranged, though. I think I owe you for what you sent me.

      • Profile photo of thepurrfectcup  thepurrfectcup on November 22nd, 2011          

        That would be most awesome of you good sir. :)

        • Profile photo of lazyliteratus  lazyliteratus on November 22nd, 2011          

          PM me an address, and I’ll send a scoop. Along with a couple of other goodies.

  3. Profile photo of thedevotea  thedevotea on November 22nd, 2011          

    I applaud ” The soup brewed to the color of rusted copper, but with a glimmer of sunshine to it”
    Great description of the pictured brew.
    And of course, there is a link between tea and leather:
    “The best quality tea must have creases like the leather boot of Tartar horsemen, curl like the dewlap of a mighty bullock, unfold like a mist rising out of a ravine, gleam like a lake touched by a zephyr, and be wet and soft like a fine earth newly swept by rain. – Yu Lu

    • Profile photo of lazyliteratus  lazyliteratus on November 22nd, 2011          

      I feel uninformed as usual because I’ve never heard that passage before. Where did you fetch that?!

  4.   peter on November 22nd, 2011          

    Looks like Foxfire Teas is holding out on us. I checked their website, but they don’t seem to sell it online. Guess you have to be part of an secret Portlandian tea society to gain access to its leathery goodness…

    I did, however, find a source for that tea. Yunnan Sourcing carries it at what seems to be a good price. I’ve heard good things about them, but I’ve never ordered from them. Here’s a link to the leathery tea flavored with Sam Ellison’s sweat…

    • Profile photo of lazyliteratus  lazyliteratus on November 22nd, 2011          

      As I mentioned to @thepurrfectcup, you’re right. It’s only available in-house on their “specialty menu”. A couple of Portlander tea folk go through Yunnan Sourcing and say it’s tops. Just be patient on the delivery.

    • Profile photo of thepurrfectcup  thepurrfectcup on November 22nd, 2011          

      Have you considered Teavivre? http://www.teavivre.com/black-tea/ They have pretty good prices too and orders seem to come pretty quickly. Unless you don’t mind waiting.

      • Profile photo of lazyliteratus  lazyliteratus on November 22nd, 2011          

        I actually received a bunch of samples from TeaVivre. Sizable ones. And the delivery was actually rather quick.

  5. Profile photo of lahikmajoe  lahikmajoe on November 23rd, 2011          

    This is great.

    I love the voice you achieved in this. One day I’ll catch up with you and Dave in Portland.

    • Profile photo of lazyliteratus  lazyliteratus on November 23rd, 2011          

      …or one day in Germany!

  6.   Katharyn Steski on December 11th, 2011          

    There was a lively discussion this morning about polluting Darjeeling tea with milk. Robert Godden (you might know him as The_Devotea over on twitter) mentioned in passing that his wife insisted on drinking her Darjeeling with milk and sugar. It’s Australia. They don’t necessarily stand on convention in the distant reaches of civilisation.

  7.   Silvain Zakarow on February 20th, 2012          

    There was a lively discussion this morning about polluting Darjeeling tea with milk. Robert Godden (you might know him as The_Devotea over on twitter) mentioned in passing that his wife insisted on drinking her Darjeeling with milk and sugar. It’s Australia. They don’t necessarily stand on convention in the distant reaches of civilisation.