Authorlazyliteratus

A Tea Blogger in Vendorland

Back in 2008, I started writing about tea. Not exactly professionally, but rather as a hobby. I started out as many a tea person with a ‘puter did. I wrote reviews. Originally, I contributed to a review site, and then I went on my own with Steep Stories in 2011. Around the same time, I figured, “Hey, I’m tea knowledgeable-ish enough, now. I should apply for a tea job!”

 

And I did so, figuring I would be a shoe-in.

I am job!

I was wrong.

 

The first two outfits I applied for didn’t even grant me the courtesy of a rejection letter. And those who knew who I was – either through my blog or through my visits – had a million reasons to not bring me on board. The most common rejection I heard was, “Well, you’re too talented a writer. This job is beneath you.”

 

For the record, I clean toilets for a living. Nothing is beneath me. Not even the piping.

 

I swallowed my pride, whimpered a little privately, but continued doing what I normally did. Writing about tea . . . and not getting paid for it. A year or so went by, and one of the companies I applied for posted a job inquiry again.

 

This time it was for a delivery driver – two days a week. At the time, I was mostly driving shuttles at my, then, job. Running boxes to clients all around Portland, and not saying a word? Surely, I was a shoe-in for that.

deilvery boy

NOPE . . . again.

 

The reason this time? “You’re too close of a friend to the teashop.”

 

Huh?

 

That was the first time I was ever friendzoned by a tea company. It felt weird.

 

A couple of more years went by. In that time, major things happened. Like, professional-type things! I was on various panels at tea festivals. I did guest-blogs for other vendors. I had written SEO copy for other companies – both tea-related and non-tea-related. Heck, I even helped curate a menu for a new tea bar.

 

One day this summer, I brought a charming lady friend of mine to one of my favorite tea shops. We met the owners, and a few of the other employees. They recognized her from a resume she had sent them. Then . . . proceeded to bend over backwards to try and hire her. What do you call it when a teashop interrupts your tea date? Being teablocked? Yeah, I was teablocked by a teashop. Super-awkward.

 

A couple of scant, heat-waved months after that, one of my other favorite places posted a job opening. And I matched every qualification, save one. Something to do with Photoshop. (I’m still at MS Paint levels, yo.) Before leaving on a trip, I submitted my resume.

 

I didn’t get a reply back for well over a week. The reason THIS time? “You’re such a talented writer, we wouldn’t feel comfortable making you push papers around.”

 

Refer back to my earlier statement about toilets. Add toilet paper to that. Nothing is beneath me!

 

nothing beneath me

 

Even now, after seven years as a tea writer and quasi-professional, I’m still on some sort of black list with tea companies. (Black tea list?) Sure, vendors love me writing about them, and adore getting my advice for free. But if I *LE GASP!* actually applied for a job with one of these fine brands, all of a sudden I’m looked upon as a pariah. Like I’ve stepped over some invisible threshold I shan’t cross.

 

What makes it further aggravating is that I know fellow tea blogger compatriots who have received job offers within the tea industry. Full-time ones. Lucrative, in some cases. Granted, some of these folks are more socially acceptable, charming, and Google Analytically popular than I am. But I’m still cut from the same tea-stained cloth as they are.

 

So, tea vendors . . .

 

I love you all. You know I do. There are no hard feelings – honest. I just want a straight answer for once.

 

What exactly is wrong with me? What do I need to do to be recognized? What do I need to become in order to be considered a serious candidate?

tea girl

Touché, tea industry . . . touché.

When the Smoke Clears: Rita, the Rebel Bride of the Recovery Room

So, Robert “The Devotea” Godden issued a challenge – specifically to his fellow Beasts of Brewdom, and to the male communi-tea in general. He asked others to challenge us to write a blog post with a title chosen from the Mills and Boon romance novel catalog. Naturally, I took up the challenge.

challenge

Heck, I even challenged myself. The perfect title I selected was When the Smoke Clears. That would be easy. I could do something on Lapsang Souchong without much difficulty. Then Robert wondered – slightly perplexed – why I was challenging myself. He had a point. That seemed a little, uh, masturbatory. It was more fun if someone else issued the challenge.

 

And someone did.

 

Tea Trade’s Jackie challenged me to the title Rita of the Recovery Room, and additionally suggested that I date a nurse for research purposes. My mother always said I should date a nurse, but that was asking too much of li’l old me. All said, I agreed to use the title.

 

Around the same time, Rachel “I Heart Teas” Carter reissued the challenge to use the When the Smoke Clears title. Huh . . . well . . . now I had two to contend with. I mean, I could’ve just chosen one and been done with it, but I suck at making decisions. I chose to meld the two: When the Smoke Clears: Rita of the Recovery Room.

 

Over the course of a work shift, I thought of the perfect fictional short story for just such a title. Synopsis:

 

When Rita Farnsworth became a nurse, she never thought she would be sent to another solar system. Earth was near death, and the only habitable discovered world was a lush super-earth dubbed Falme-351. Unfortunately, a sentient race already existed there – a bipedal, worm/humanoid hybrid species.

worm

Technologically un-advanced, though they were, the Falmites had one advantage. They reproduced through mitosis. If one of them died, two more would take its place, thus replenishing their numbers. Human colonists were losing the inevitable war that followed.

 

Until . . .

 

A wounded Falmite was captured and brought to the makeshift hospital where Rita worked. Since she was the only one with any xenobiological experience, she was put in charge of the native’s care. And to prep him for interrogation.

 

Over the course of weeks, she and the Falmite formed a wordless bond. She also learned that they smoked the leaves of a native plant, and decocted them in hot water for rejuvenation. The native shared some with her. It reminded her of Lapsang Souchong she used to have in her youth in England.

 

The day came when the Falmite was removed from her care. She tried to inform her superiors of her findings. They told her that, “This must not get out. We cannot humanize our enemy.”

 

She never saw the Falmite again.

 

Months later, she was called away to administer care to soldiers on the front line. A Falmite settlement had been burned to the ground. Amidst the burning debris, she caught a familiar smell. Leaves from a nearby bush were smoldering; leaves from the same plant for Falmite “tea”.

 

When no one was looking, she began to pick.

 

I informed Robert that I had such a story in mind.

 

He reminded me, “Did you miss the words “non-fiction” in the rules of the challenge?”

 

“Fuck,” I replied.

 

“Indeed,” he returned.

 

Shortly after that, Niraj “Happy Earth Tea” Lama challenged me with another title: The Rebel Bride. Over the course of the day, I thought of how that would  alter the “Rita” story I had already devised. If I had thrown a romance in there, wow . . . weird. A woman falling in love with a worm. It wouldn’t have been the worst pairing out there. Heck, I read a story about a man falling in love with a primate. There was a whole genre of “literature” about women being seduced by dinosaurs.

 

But I couldn’t . . .

 

After all, the original challenge was for a nonfiction blog, and that’s what I was going to do. I just had no idea how I would find such an approach for a title like When the Smoke Clears: Rita, the Rebal Bride of the Recovery Room. Then it occurred to me.

 

Writing a fictional story was against the rules of the challenge, but writing about writing about a fictional story was not. I primed the kettle, broke out some of my stores of Lochan Tea Castleton Moonlight (my favorite Darjeeling oolong), and plugged away.

moonlight

And that, dear folks, is what you just read.

 

Challenge concluded. (With a dash of cheating.)

 

“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 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.

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.

Fortune and the Goddess

This week I was accused of writing soft-core tea porn. Last I check, I had no soft-core tea porn in my repertoire. If I’m going to be accused of something, it damn well better be true. So…here’s some soft-core tea porn to make it true.

He was a Scotsman and a botanist. Strange occurrences followed him like flies to food. “Trouble” was his modus operandi, but nothing from his homeland compared to this. Being chased by a dragon mounted by a beautiful Chinese woman; this was entirely new to him. And all over a bag of seeds.

Robert Fortune’s “humble native merchant” disguise hadn’t worked as well as he hoped. Being run down by a mythical creature was proof of that. It was just his luck that the one garden he chose to steal tea seeds from happened to belong to some famous sorceress – a normally even-tempered sorceress. Apparently, she didn’t take to kindly to thievery. Stern resolve lined her face as she directed her dragon mount forward – fire pluming from its serpentine maw.

The last flaming blast had singed his fake, raven-haired queue.  The ponytail smelled like burnt dog. He barely survived the last fireball directed at his person. Never had he run so long and hard in his life. After hours of this chase, he was close to the breaking point. His lungs burned.

Nary a few moments later, he ran out of breath. Fortune could go no further. He collapsed in a heap at the shore of a solitary lake. Moonlight basked the eerily calm water in an ethereal, pale-white glow. Night-blooming jasmine and lotus blossoms dotted the aquatic surface.

Odd, he thought to himself while panting. Sipalika is not native to China. It’s from Ceylon.

He heard a low rumble behind him. The dragon had coiled to the ground a mere few feet from him. The sorceress dismounted the now-docile wyrm’s head. She looked at him quizzically – fury dissipating from her face. It was an oddly “knowing” look, as if she was reading his very soul.

“Those flowers were a gift from the goddess Indra,” she said softly. “They normally don’t grow on water, but these were a special breed. Spiritually-imbued.”

The tired botanist sat up, “You practically kill me. Now you want to talk flora?”

“You stole from me. It is only natural you be hunted down, foreigner,” the sorceress stated firmly. “But now…you fascinate me.”

“How so?

“You went through a lot of trouble to steal my sacred tea seeds,” she said.

“I didn’t know they were sacred,” he replied hurriedly. “You want ‘em back, here. Just don’t kill me.”

“Oh, I’m not going to kill you, foreigner,” she giggled. It was strangely melodic to his ears. “It’s far too late for that.”

“Too…late?”

“Too late,” she repeated, undoing the sash that held her white robes in place. They spilled off her like a garment waterfall, revealing skin as pale and shimmering as moonlight. Fortune nearly thought she emitted her own glow. It was quite possible. She did own a dragon.

She pointed her slender index finger at him and twirled it slowly. Before he knew it, his own merchant disguise was gone, leaving him clad only in skivvies. The sight of them made the sorceress titter. The sound was hypnotic to him. Fortune desired that laugh for all eternity; there was serenity in her mockery of his foreign undergarments.

“Ao Bing, be a dear and warm the lake,” she ordered the dragon.

With a loud harrumph, the dragon uncoiled and slowly slithered to the lakebed. He parted his scaly lips only slightly, just enough to let flecks of flame part his mouth. Ao Bing kept this up until steam rose from the body of water.  The steam – to Fortune’s nose – smelled of flowers, butter, and…peace. If the latter part could have a smell.

The nameless sorceress slowly waded through the water. Her naked form glistening in the rising steam, like a shroud of spirits providing a transparent nightgown. She took water with both hands and spilled it over her face and hair, letting the droplets caress her porcelain – almost ageless – frame. She was like a goddess statue made human – if “human” was the right word.

“Aren’t you going to join me, foreigner?” she beckoned.

Reason dictated that he make a run for it. Alas, after hearing her tantalizing laughter, he was no longer subject to reason. He did as he was told.

“Ah-ah,” she tisk-tisked. “Your remaining garb.”

The drawers dropped on command.

He waded nowhere near as gracefully as she did. In fact, he splashed and tromped his way into the water – eagerness and nervousness guiding his feet. This caused her to laugh even further until he clumsily reached her position. She pressed her tiny bosom to his chest and wrapped her arms around his neck. Her breath was like warm silk to his nostrils – her touch, pure softness.

“Long ago, I was known as Miao Shan,” she began. “I was human once. Make me feel human again…then I’ll let you go.”

Fortune pressed his lips to hers as his hands dutifully explored every inch of her. The more he touched her, the more he longed to remain in her embrace. This was no ordinary woman, nor a typical being. He had no other words to describe her other than “goddess”. When his hands failed to grasp her essence, his mouth took over. His tongue was humbled by the flesh it caressed, it curled around her as if in worship.

The once-Miao Shan returned the favor in kind, bestowing his unworthy form with pleasure by way of simple touch. Every flick of her finger sent waves of warmth throughout his body, like acu-pressure points of pure ecstasy. It was almost too much to bear. A mere mortal like him wasn’t worthy of her; he could barely keep up.

Before he knew it, he was one with her. The feeling was like being one with nature – a feeling akin to Buddhist attainment only more primal. They writhed together as one being in the water, causing ripples to flow out from their pressed bodies. Steam still rose, floating blossoms bobbed in the water, and the chill night air contrasted the heat within.

They crescendoed together, and then the world fell silent. Fortune found himself floating to shore, arm-and-arm with this unknown woman. When they hit the pebbled surface, reality returned. She parted from his embrace and whispered “thank you” in his ear – in a long-lost dialect. He stretched out a hand as if to grasp her, but she was too far away now. His vision blurred. And before he knew it, he was asleep.

***

“Boss!”

Tap-tap.

“Boss!”

A shrill voice brought Robert Fortune back to the waking world. Sun beamed down through the canopy of trees. One of his Chinese assistants was poking him with a stick. His first reaction was to cover his vitals, but he suddenly realized he was fully clothed.

“Enough, Shin,” he grumbled. “I’m awake!”

“Oh, thank goodness!” the assistant sighed. “We were worried sick. You were gone all night. What happened to you?”

“I was…” he paused. They would never believe him. He looked down at his hands. In a simple cloth was a gaiwan – a lidded cup for pouring tea. On it, etched in blue marble, was the figure of a woman standing atop a green dragon. He held the cup up to his eyes and fixed his gaze on the image.

“Where’d you get that Guan Yin cup, boss?”

“Guan Yin?” he asked.

“Yeah, the Bodhisattva of Compassion,” Shin explained. “That’s her on the cup. Fancy, too. Where’d you get it?”

“I…don’t know.”

“That must have been some tea you had,” Shin chuckled.

“I guess so,” Fortune replied to no one in particular.

He parted the lid from the gaiwan. In it were spent oolong leaves that smelled of lotus, earth, spice, and something else.  It was her scent. He could never forget it.

He clutched the cup to his breast, eyes closed, wishing that night had never ended.

Image "Mooched" from Chan Teas

Smoked Assam-ness

It may come as a shock to some people, but there actually is more to Stash Tea than the 20 ct. boxes one finds at the supermarket. One look at the website will provide evidence of this. They actually possess one of the most extensive specialty tea lines I’ve come across. That and their single estate columns (yes, plural) provide an extensive roster of places I’d never even heard of. Granted, some of those are pricy as all purgatory, but the fact remains that they’re there.

I was lucky on a random Wednesday in September to have both a gift certificate given to me for my birthday and a very easy drive to their brick-‘n-mortar store. That’s right. Their headquarters is in my neck of the woods. Twenty-minute drive – tops.

My goal that afternoon was their Fancy Golden Tippy Hao Ya; it was a peculiar Yunnan-grown beast with a Keemun grade for some reason…and it had “gold” in the title. Their Rwandan White was also calling my name. When I moved from one to the other, though, I came across something I didn’t expect. Three words: Smoked Assam Oolong.

No three words cried out to me with greater urgency than that.

Someone had brought this to my attention as a blog comment a while back. On one of my many loving tirades about Lapsang Souchong, a random commenter mentioned a Smoked Assam from Grey’s Tea. It caught my fancy, but only for a little while. My attention span – I guess – was particularly thin that day. What gave me pause was the mention on the Stash bag that this was the only oolong produced in Assam, India. That made me think that both Grey’s and the one I was buying were one in the same.

A random Google perusal confirmed my theory a bit. The only smoked oolong to come out of Assam was produced by the Mothola estate – the same wacky geniuses that produced the Assam White from Canton Tea Co. I adored so much. I could find no notes on the estate itself, but there was passing mention of the smoking process used. Unlike, say, Lapsang Souchong or houjicha (which I hate), this oolong was smoked over oak wood. The result was an oolong differing greatly from other roasted varieties.

And differ, it did. Appearance-wise, the leaves resembled Da Hong Pao in shape and size, but the variation in color was strikingly different. Instead of being blue or jet black, the pieces ranged from charcoal dark to tippy gold. Yes! GooooOOOOoooold! As for aroma, it earned its “Smoked” moniker with ease, albeit not as pungently as Lapsang Souchong. The feeling of campfire was indeed there, but it ended on a – how to put it – roasted fruit note? Odd, I know.

I was torn on the best approach to use with this. A primal part of me yelled, “Steep the s**t out of it like Lapsang!” While a more sensible, inward gent urged me to go for a gongfu preparation. Against my better judgment, I consulted my inner arbiter and went with both. First the gongfu prep for pretention, then Western-style for the wild side.

The first called for water heated to about 190F, a gaiwan, 2 tsp. worth of smoky leaves, and four successive infusions – the first two at thirty seconds, the last two at forty. In sharp contrast, the Western approach called for merely a filter, a mug, and a three-minute steep.

First infusion (thirty seconds): Holy PEAT! It smelled like whiskey that’d been lit on fire, except for that whole “turpentine” part. The liquor was a pale-to-medium gold, nowhere near betraying the strength of scent that befell me. The flavor had a woody, burnt front that settled into an odd earthiness. A peculiar start so far.

Second infusion (thirty seconds): The liquor was even more deeply entrenched in gold now. That made me happy on a feverish level. The aroma was just as peat-fiery as the first infusion. On sip, the foretaste was just as pungent on delivery but gave way to a mild fruitiness on finish. Very mild behind the initial inferno.

Third infusion (forty seconds): Not much of a color change here, it was still prospecting the gold palette proudly – content in its Midas magnificence. However, a new dimension to the smell reminded me of burnt leather. The taste was bit more inviting in its crisp, lightly smoky, and strangely silky delivery.

Fourth infusion (forty seconds): This was the shiniest of the gold-lacquered liquors. The cup also had the boldest whiskey aroma. The taste differed due to its compromise between smoke and earth. It reminded me of Mark T. Wendell’s Hu-Kwa – a gentle Taiwanese smoked black. I felt like I was blowing smoke rings out of my clear cup.

New infusion, Western-style (three minutes): I was very surprised by the results of this. The cup brewed bright amber – more like a black tea than an oolong. The scent wafting from the cup was still smoky, but there was something else there. Something…plum-like? No subtlety here; the flavor went from fire-whiskey to flaming saddles in two seconds, followed by a burnt apple top note, and finishing with a pipe tobacco sensation. Clearly, the Western approach was not for the sensitive of palate. Well, unless the drinker was Russian.

Verdict? The first time I tried this, I was quite taken aback. Sure, I was a regular Lapsang Souchong drinker, but this was something else entirely. The oak-firing process produced a tea that was initially subtle on the nose but packed a wallop on taste. It was like being punched in the face, then kissed afterwards. On the second – and “official” try – I had my bearings in brewing this properly. Gaiwan is the only way to go. Anything cruder would result in a brew that tastes like burning. Unless you like that sorta thing. I say try it out if given the opportunity, especially if you have stones of steel.

For more info on Stash Tea’s Smoked Assam Oolong, go HERE.

The Sex Tea Saga

Most people turn to tea because of health reasons, caffeine concerns, memories of their grandparents, or some other wholesome reason.

Mine began because of sex.

Here’s the story (i.e. click on the highly suggestive root):

New post about the MANLIEST white tea in existence!

GO LOOKY!

Like, NOW!

http://lazyliteratus.teatra.de/2011/08/04/awesome-assam-is-awesome/

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