CategoryTea stories

Review: (Tea at) “The Force Awakens”

Last night, we took the time to go and see “The Force Awakens”, which is a new Star Wars film. I mention that in case you missed the scant coverage it has got in the media, on Facebook etc.

So, how to do it? Well, obviously it takes planning to attend such a film.

A few years ago, there was an incident where a cinema in the chain we were visiting banned a patron from taking a Big Mac in, on the basis that ‘hot food is a hazard”.

Clearly, it’s hard to get a Big Mac that is actually hot, and ‘food’ is stretching it a bit as well, but nevertheless, they might well object to a litre of scalding hot tea in a vacuum flask, so we handled this by hiding it in Lady Devotea’s handbag.

We also packed two takeaway cups of the cardboard ripple kind, some sugar sachets for Lady D and a spoon for the stirrage thereof.

But what tea? The Star Wars franchise is at the lower end of sci-fi. It’s  spaghetti western set in space, no thinking required. It needs a bold tea. We settled on Nilgiri Craigmore.

We suffer from the milk dilemma. When it come to milk, I am entirely given over to the dark side. No milk for me. And yet Lady Devotea insists on it. She walks in the light.

I made a split second decision to compromise in the time-honoured way that husbands do, and just do it her way.

It did help that the milk in question is a new one that, if in Australia, you should try. It’s name in Paul’s Farmhouse gold, it’s unhomogenised as real milk should be (or shouldn’t be , if you get my meaning and avoid the double negative) and it’s labelled: EXTRA CREAM: CREAM ON TOP which gives the thing the air of Monty Python’s Mr Creosote.

So, thermos flask full of Nilgiri Craigmore, topped up with creamy milk. Off we go.

Due to a mishap in reading the times, we arrived for a 3D showing and had to pay extra. However, this was offset by the fact that we had our own refreshments, and so saved the standard cinema cost of a choc ice, popcorn  and a drink, which I think they had at a Tuesday special price of $1,342,564 plus your first child.

Anyway, it’s best to wait until the lights go down to start dishing out the tea. I’m not sure if cinema ushers even exist any more, but the last think you need is some spotty faced junior Stasi officer shining a light in your eyes and demanding to know what that suspicious looking ziplock bag in your hand is.

The film started with some nastiness on a desert planet, and as the softer tones of the Craigmore were being obscured by the fact the tea was blisteringly hot, the whole thing fitted together well.

If you get your timing right, you reach the end of the first cup just as one of the characters is finishing a meal, and so you can share the longing wish that there was more in the cup.

So, do the maths. 250ml cups, two people: there’s one cup left each. Working on bladder control theory, and the fact that the film is 135 minutes long, that means the last cup should be served around the 105 minute mark.

My tip is, as soon as two characters are having a confrontation on a narrow bridge, pour. The same holds true for so many movies.

The triumphant feeling near the end of every such movie and the last sip of rich, dark tea go together well: the dark tea and the light milk in perfect balance.

So, I give the tea 5 stars. The film was quite good as well.

AT A GLANCE:

FILM: Star Warsy, has ‘droids, light sabres, good guys and bad guys and explosions.

THE TEA: Lochan’s Nilgiri Craigmore, available from The Devotea in the USA and Australia, and plenty of other places.

THE CINEMA COMPANION: Adorable

THE CUP HOLDERS: Slightly too big for a takeaway cup, so be careful

THE EXPERIENCE IN ONE LINE: A welcome respite from Christmas.

 

 

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.

 

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. 

“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.

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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.

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”.

A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell as Manly…

I’m drinking Rose Blush as I write this. Of course I won’t be reviewing it as it’s one of The Devotea blends: that would be a little self-indulgent.
It’s rose and vanilla and black tea. In order to make sure it looks manly enough, I am drinking it black, straight up out of an imperial pint beer mug.
It reminds me that there is no tea that is not manly, even if it has a girly description. Skulling it down piping hot from a beer mug is a wonderful feat of macho manliness. Really.
There was a time in Las Vegas when three of us men were standing around swigging this stuff. Mr Norman. Mr Giddings. Mr Godden.
No milk.
No sugar.
No fear.
It was like a scene from Walker Texas Ranger.
OK, so the fact that between the three of us we couldn’t open a packet of crisps was a little denting of our pride, but nevertheless, we took this tea on, and came out the other side.

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

The Sipeasy

NOTE: My Forthcoming book has 7 or possibly 8 pieces of tea-flavoured fiction included. Here’s one in draft form. Your comments are welcome.

I’m in a seedy, not exactly legitimate establishment. I’m wearing a trench coat and a hat.

The problem with being a Private Investigator is that sometimes you have to look like a cliché in order to have the client take you seriously.

Even if your client is a known criminal.

When I say “known criminal”, Little Clarence is a respected businessman. Despite their best efforts, the Force have never managed to convict him, or even arrest him, for anything.

No, the reason that I say Little Clarence is a known criminal is that his selling of illicit substances is known to me. Personally.

I’m one of his biggest clients.

Hey – if doctors, lawyers, teachers, journalists, electricians and politicians, just to read the last six months’ headlines – are out there buying and using, then don’t judge me, OK? Sometimes, the law should just leave well enough alone.

So, Little Clarence calls and asks for “a favour”. I’m not really in a position to refuse, am I? So, I amble into LunaLatte.

I sit down where he has a large table to himself, covered in books. A stout walking stick rests across the top.

He passes me a latte. He has a short black himself. I grimace as I taste the fake coffee and fake milk.

“It’s a beautiful sight, isn’t it, Baycroft?”, he asks, pointing at the planet swimming into view through the long, long plastic window that makes up the entire wall of the public parts of this place.

“Sure is, Clarence.” I sip the latte again and regret it again. It’s worse because I know what’s really available here. “But you didn’t ask me in here to watch Earthrise”.

“Let me get straight to the point”, Clarence rasps. “I’ve been robbed”.

I’m immediately concerned. “When you say robbed…”

“All my Lapsang. All my Yunnan. A little Silver Needle. And two artistic balls I was saving for a special occasion. And my A through M order book”

I slumped back as though slapped.

“So you see, Baycroft, you’ve got some skin in the game.”

I considered the situation “It wasn’t The Force?”

“No, the cops are clueless. I’ve walked through customs 29 times now with contraband. Not once have they figured it out. They even stripped me after that ChaSniffer dog went ballistic. Found nothing.”

I make a mental note that I also had no idea how he did it. Turned out to be an unnecessary mental note.

He stood up, grabbing the cane to balance himself.

Of course, he wouldn’t have needed the cane if he still had two legs.

*

Back in my office, I pondered what I had just learned.

Little Clarence was called ‘Clarence’ because his parents were unkind. He was called ‘Little’ because he was very tall, and we appreciate that sort of subtle humour out here at Mooba Cinquo.

He’d just told me he’d started life as just plain Clarence, and as a young adult, he was about 180 tall. Then he hatched a plan. He had his legs amputated, and hollow biomech legs installed. As long as no-one knew the legs were fake, he could stuff them full of contraband.

While he was at it, he increased his height to 202. That’s when he became “Little Clarence”,

He is the guy they can’t catch. It took him two years to afford the coffee lounge, another one to build the Sipeasy out the back. With seven exits across three levels from the lounge and a Rubik’s door into the Sipeasy, the cops can never prove what was going on.

And yes, I am a regular. I never claimed to be a saint. I’d be there two, three times a week, sipping away, not looking at anyone else, just drawing that hot nectar into myself.

So half my income goes on illicit tea. So what? I have no family, so responsibilities to anyone other than myself.

I find in life, someone always wants to interrupt you mid-ponder. And as always, it’s that time.

The buzzer sounds and again I wish that I had a full-time receptionist. It seems she’s never here when I get a visit from a client.

I rise from the desk, somewhat unnecessarily, as the door is kicked in and The Force’s finest stand at my threshold.

“May we come in?”, asks Delaine, his huge bulk smirkingly falling back a tad to allow Crompton ingress.

Ah, Crompton. Not many people know we had a thing going on back when I was on The Force. Small and powerful, androgynous looking, expressionless face.

Known as “The Robot” behind her back. Even by robots.

She sweeps into the room, grabs the leg of my chair and upends me onto the floor.

It’s going to be one of those days. I roll under the desk as Delaine aims a kick. He viciously kicks the metal desk and howls in anger and pain. He draws his Taser.

I press a tricky little button I’ve installed under the desk and roll out.

“Ouch!”, I say, plonking myself back on my chair. “Can I offer the Moon’s finest a cup of coffee?”

Delaine punches me in the stomach but he is off-kilter, and besides, I have implants.

I breathe out suddenly.

“Cocoa? Some water?”

“Listen, Baycroft”. Crompton puts her face near mine.

“We don’t want coffee or cocoa. This is not a social call. What we want is information”.

“There’s an information station just down the hall. On the left, you can’t miss it”, I wheeze, slightly exaggerating my discomfort.

Delaine slaps the back of my head, but then, he’s not much of a conversationalist.

“You just met with Clarence, and we want to know why”, Crompton continued.

“Lost cat”, I said, extemporising in a less plausible manner than I’d hoped. “Back on earth, in his Lima home, he’s lost his cat”.

Crompton puts her face very close to mine, and it’s a less pleasant experience than it once was.

“We asked him, you know? And you know what he told us, Baycroft? He told us he had lost his dog. From his Canberra property”.

“Ah, that’s why I’m not still on The Force”, I observe. “I’m not good with detail”.

This time Delaine’s kick catches me square in the ribs. I tip off the chair, and pretend I’m stunned whilst sprawling across the floor. A great bit of acting, if I do say so myself.

Crompton bends over, and says very deliberately: “We will be back. And you will talk”.

She flounces from the room, Delaine trailing her like a pet rhinoceros.

I right my chair, download the stored kinetic energy from my implants, and press the button again to stop videoing. Two minutes later, the vision is with the Chief of The Force, and that should keep Crompton and Delaine out of my hair for a while.

Next, The Hand Of Lenny.

Sorry about the capitals, but if you’ve got a secret mummified hand, it deserves them.

Back in ’06, when the Mexican Shoe Cartel built the Mooba, they hired Lenny. Leonard Q. Leonard of Arkansas, as he used to introduce himself.

A security expert of some note, he was also a career criminal. He’d just never been caught.

He told me this in a letter I received after he died. Also, he left me his mummified hand. It’s not often that you get a special delivery that both clears up the mystery of your parentage and has a preserved appendage.

He was the ultimate security expert and exposer of white-collar criminals, famous the world over for bringing the very worst embezzlers, hackers and con artists to justice. His only ever failure in a long and industrious career was to track down the White Whale, the greatest criminal of his time; his arch-nemesis, and, it turns out, also him.

The secret died with him. In fact, The White What ran a criminal enterprise for two more years, then vanished – thanks to Lenny’s skill with Artificial Intelligence.

So, he built the security systems up here. And what is shown on the map as a disused and filled in aircon shaft that runs through every room in the entire city is, in fact, a private, secret passage. With a few listening devices, cameras and even a few refreshment stations and a bed or two, if you need to hide out. It’s also scanproof.

It can be entered via secret doors scattered around the place, or access hatches in most rooms.. As long as you have Lenny’s handprint.

It’s easy to see why I am the best PI there is. I can go anywhere, see anything, hear anything and enjoy a beer along the way.

With a suspect in mind, I stepped into the shaft in the usual way, and turned around, only to be pistol-whipped by a vision in blue.

*

Blue corset with odd panels. Pearl-handled revolvers. Serious headache.

All reasonable thoughts, given the circumstances.

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Jupe”.

What? I open my eyes fully and there she is. In blue: two guns, small yellow bag dangling from belt. Dark hair, air of menace. The sort of woman us Private Investigators are supposed to consort with all the time, according to the stories, although you shouldn’t believe all that you read.

It wasn’t a dream.

The lady in question really did offer both something special to look at and a definite air of mystery.

I also had a shrewd idea who she was.

“Yes, yes, I’m the Goddess of Tea”. She looks impatient. “Get your head together, we’ve got work to do”.

While I struggle to be less sprawled across the floor, she checks the time and seems to be consulting an LPS – she obviously doesn’t know these tunnels as well as I did.

“I need you on Earth. I figured you’d want to sort this first, so let’s go check on Arkady”.

I still seem to be a bit behind on current events

“Arkady?”

“Yes”, she says, her impatience obvious. “It’s this way, Jupe”.

There it is again.

I finally get vertical, just as she disappears around the corner. I wobble after her. I’m thinking of those reports of the Goddess of Tea, the vigilante that has upset NestCo ‘s applecart more than once. Sort of a Scarlet Pimpernel, but with added tannins and more sex appeal in the media.

When I get to the corner, she is twenty metres ahead of me. My limbs are starting to feel co-ordinated again, but she’s still halfway up the ladder by the time I get there.

“Stop hanging around, Jupe”. She jumps the next dozen rungs and heads toward AccomoThree.

Four minutes later, we’re at a grille. Arkady’s room is there for both of us to see.

No Arkady. No tea. But there’s something on the bed that tends to hint at the suggestion of a rumour that we’re on the right track.

The missing leg.

Well, this will be easy.

“Sort this out, Jupe, and I’ll see you later”, says my odd companion, ambling back in the direction we’ve just come from.

I nod.

I start by pulling out my little box that kills every video feed at Mooba Cinqo for about four minutes. It’s very handy for when I’m worried about appearing to have gone from one room or another without popping up on a security screen. I check the monitor, press the button, and use The Hand Of Lenny to enter the somewhat unhygienic digs of Arkady Mott. I remove my hat and pull my mini-taser from the lining.

Whilst waiting for him, I ponder my new and somewhat exotic acquaintance. I think I’ve avoided doing so until my head came back on line.

Okay, she was in the tunnels. The only way into the tunnels was with The Hand of Lenny. Or was there another way? Unlikely. Lenny was a freak.

My brain turns to where I didn’t want to go.

The Goddess of Tea has turned up in MY corridor. An international fugitive; she’s not only annoyed the NestCo board who had made Chindian teas illegal in the first place so much that there was a bounty on her head, she’d upset the Democratic People’s Coalition of China, India and Mongolia so much that, at least officially, she was wanted there as well.

Even though she was an international hero to billions of frustrated tea drinkers, I suspected that that was because those billions hadn’t actually met her. Up close she was bossy and a tad violent. I could add presumptive and lacking in social graces like patience, kindness, polite introductions and not hitting people. It seems that the thorn in everyone’s side is now a thorn in mine.

My mind was filling in the backstory. It needed to go deeper, and I was a tad unwilling.

I was six. My sister was five. We’d lived in the home our whole life. When Nic was adopted, we had twenty minutes to say goodbye. She cried. I didn’t understand why she was leaving me. I slapped her and left the room. I never saw her again.

The door opened and interrupted my reverie.

“Arkady!” I exclaim, mildly tasing him. “What a delight to see you again”.

He demonstrates the verb “to crumple” with admirable conviction.

“I didn’t do nothing”, he mumbles from the floor.

I do so hate a double negative.

“Great”, I say. “As long as you’ve done nothing, and therefore I haven’t found this leg in your room, I guess no-one will ever be able to say I beat you to death with it, will they?”.

I shove the leg under Arkady’s arm, take a photo, smile at him, then stash the leg under my coat. I pull open his bottom drawer, fling his tacky clothing on the floor, and find the stash taped to the back.

“You know I get a double bonus if I deliver you to him, right?”, I mention quite conversationally to Arkady, who has the good grace both look ashamed and to wet himself. Perhaps it was the tasing; perhaps not.

“One day, Arkady, you’ll be useful to me. And on that day, I’ll destroy that photo. Until then, stay away.”

I leave through the front door, and make my way across a few blocks to LunaLatte. This time, I go into the bathrooms, select the end cubicle, flush three times and turn the lock counter-clockwise. I open the door, and I’m in The Sipeasy.

The décor is underwhelming, the lighting dim, and the whole place just looks like somewhere I don’t want to be.

I breath.

There it is, the tannins, the leafiness, the impossible anticipation of a cup.

There’s Little Clarence. Or Lopsided Clarence, as a stupider man than me might rename him.

I sit down in silence. He waves, and a small cup of tea arrives in front of me. I can already see it’s a Darjeeling.

I look Clarence in the face, and slowly take a sip.

I withdraw the tea. Then the leg.

He looks grateful for about half a second.

Then two goons appear at my back.

“Finish your tea”,

It all clicks into place.

I know about the leg. He’s not going to let me live.

My mind is racing. What to do? Offer to work for him full-time as trusted goon? Attempt to tase all three of them.

I take another sip.

“I’m grateful, Baycroft”. I can sense the goons reaching for weapons.

I consider throwing the tea in their faces, but, hey, it’s too good. Time to use the old charm. I clear my throat.

“Baycroft, you are not to talk. I like you. I feel bad about this. I don’t want to hear it. Business is business.  Arkady is already dead; you were spotted coming from his rooms. Now finish that Darjeeling. It’s as good as it gets. The last of my ’22 First Flush”.

I calculate angles. Trajectories. Rolling. Tasing. Shouting. Stomping. Crying. Laughing. Phoning my elected representative. Calculating pi to 47 decimal places. Conjugating Latin verbs. Let’s face it, I’m low on ideas.

I reach s-l-o-w-l-y under my coat, and pull out The Hand of Lenny.

I figure a mummified hand will buy me some time. I drain my cup with a flourish and bang it down. I was hoping it would shatter, but pseudochina is a little too tough.

“You can’t buy more time with a mummified hand”.

Clarence starts to nod. All hell breaks loose. Sonically as visually.

Goon One pitches forward. I’d begun to throw myself in that direction. So he just lands on top of me. Goon Two has the good manners to look surprised before collapsing.

I see the counter attendant reach for a cupboard. The hand that is doing the reaching pulls back; it’s now doing some bleeding.

Clarence leaps to his feet – make that his foot – and promptly falls sideways. He looks as bit embarrassed as we both glance at the leg still on the table.

No-one expects projectile weapons on the moon. No-one is insane enough to fire them here. Which makes the two smoking guns, the two dead goons, the counter attendant with the hole in his hand and the ringing in my ears all a bit hard to process.

She points at the counter attendant. “Over here, now”.

He trembles and obeys. She sits him down next to Clarence. A smoke shrouded blue Goddess with twin revolvers.

“Me, I love a bit of violence”, she smiles at them. “So, if it was up to me, I’d just shoot you both.”

Clarence starts to speak, and she shoves a placemat in his mouth.

“Shhh, Clarence – don’t speak while I’m being overly dramatic.” He looks like his eyeballs will explode.

“You see, I need my brother here to help me on Earth. And he’s not that comfortable with killing as a means to an end. So instead, I’ll take your memories”.

Quickly and efficiently, she plunges a syringe into each. They slip into unconsciousness.

I stand up. After giving the inert Clarence a kick – I’m only human – and removing the tea stash from the table, I turn to find my rescuer opening another hatch – with Lenny’s other hand. She slips it back into the dangling bag at her hip.

“Go pack”, she says. “We leave on the next shuttle.”

I quickly exit the Sipeasy, emerging from the bathroom in LunaLatte and consider my next step.

I don’t consider for long.

I’ll be on that shuttle.

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