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Patrol Car 17? There’s a 712 in progress at 3300 Las Vegas Boulevard…


A totally fictitious rookie cop turns to his older, wiser. non-politically-correct, badly-dressed, marriage-falling-apart, nearly-gets-suspended-every-episode-but-was-right-all-along partner.

“A 712? What’s that, Malone?”


The older, wiser and so on partner throws his doughnut – which he can’t spell, being American – out of the car window, engages the sirens, and slams the patrol car into gear, taking off with an impressively illegal burnout to add to the littering offence he’s just committed.


Let’s say an elderly man pulls the dog he’s innocently walking back from the road just in time for Fido to avoid an under-tyre experience, and to top it all off, there’s a huge pile of cardboard boxes that have been stacked alongside the kerb for no apparent reason.

They fly as the patrol car smashes through them, screeching to a halt outside of a tea room just 200 metres from where it was originally parked.


Malone bursts from the car and pops the boot/trunk/bit at the back where you store stuff , pulling a shotgun out and donning a flak jacket.


“Malone?” stammers the rookie.
“Come on, kid, this is the sharp end.” Malone tucks a cigarette behind his ear, cocks the shotgun, and heads for the door.


“Some guy’s just put milk in a Margaret’s Hope First Flush.”

Everything I know about Las Vegas, I know from TV, and by that, I pretty well mean CSI, the original good one, from when it was still both of those.

So I know it’s got a casino or two, it is the world’s greatest example of the difference between having money and having taste, and it’s a place where endless comic heroes get drunk and end up married by, or even to, Elvis.

Incidentally, this phenomenon is not confined to Las Vegas. My two favourite US TV shows are Dexter and Burn Notice, and so I have mixed feelings about Miami – I love the thought of the Art Deco architecture, but there seems to be an awful lot of spies and serial killers there. (I know there is also a CSI:Miami , but not every redhead is worth watching.)

So, I am always staggered by the fact that the World Tea Expo is in Las Vegas.


Can you imagine the briefing at Police HQ?

“OK guys, the tea crowd are in town. So until this is over, no overtime. Johnny, I want you to take that holiday. Pete, you can catch up on some paperwork. Rocky, let the car pool know that it’s time to service all the patrol cars – no, wait-better keep one back in case some old dear can’t hold her Lapsang Souchong. And the rest of you, let’s spend the day at O’malleys. First round’s on me.”

The juxtaposition of tea and vice is, of course, an old phenomena, but tea has cleaned up its act on the last 100 years or so.

So why Las Vegas? It’s hard to imagine keen tea company executives with a scantily clad member of the preferred gender, throwing the papers for a container of Bai Mu Dan on Evens. Or linking arm-in-arm, staggering down the Boulevard after being ejected from the tea rooms for inappropriate behaviour. The entire staff of Mrs Betty Fuller’s Tea Emporium of Truckstop, Oregon weaving their spandex-clad frames through the pokies/slot machine alleyways, then calling for a Nuwara Eliya at the machine because they’re sure it’s about to come up with a big enough jackpot to corner the market in Gyokuru.

I think I’ll just say it again.

Why Las Vegas?

This means that Las Vegas is the second city in my series of US cities I might feel compelled to visit. The added bonus is that if I take @lahikmajoe, I might be able to convince people he’s a younger version of Grisham from CSI and score some free drinks.

 Why Las Vegas?

Hardened and Shameless

The feisty Melbourne lass @joiedetea describe both her and myself as “hardened and shameless” tea drinkers.

The minute I saw that phrase, I felt compelled to write for Beasts of Brewdom. So here we are.

The subject of today’s blog is about exactly how much size matters.

If it’s too small, you miss out on a great deal of satisfaction.


If it’s too large, there’s a heavy price to pay.

Yes, like Goldilocks ordering some Keemun Mao Feng from the Three Bears Tea Company, you want to get it just right.

In the civilised world, where we long ago gave up on things like “pounds” and “ounces” along with cave wall painting and mammoth-wool cardigans, there is a standard ‘postable’ tea size of 100grams, and another of 250grams. Sometimes 50g or 500g come up, but they are a little unusual.

Is 100grams big enough?

I’ve had samples of 20grams where I’ve nursed each gram, re-steeped as often as possible, and they’ve lasted a week. I’ve had 100gram bags gone in a day. I’ve still got tea from 100g bags I bought in 2010. I’ve got a kilo of Wild Cherry Rooibos I’ve had for years, but that’s another story.

Soon, I hope to sell a lot more tea on-line.

What is the right size?

I just don’t know.

And please don’t tell me it doesn’t matter.


Pakistani woman cooks her husband in a pot

Found an article in the paper and this seemed like the ideal place to share it. As a cautionary tale, I assure you.

In order to hide the murder, a Pakistani woman dismembered and then cooked her husband’s body parts in order to hide the evidence. He’d allegedly been making advances on her 17-year-old daughter (from another marriage) and when she’d had enough, she killed him.


Well, she drugged his tea of course. What else?

So, what’re we to learn from this? Firstly, do not try to have relations with your step-daughter(s). Unless you’re Woody Allen and she was adopted, anyway. Then it’s ok. Sort of. Actually, it’s not really ok, but Mia Farrow didn’t have the right tea for drugging and then dismembering him.

If you ladies want to discuss the right tea for drugging your horndog of a man, you’ll have to start your own lady tea blog. We’re not going to cook our own proverbial goose. Not here anyway.

Back to the moral of this story. If you gents are, for whatever reason, participating in clandestine activities with members of your family that may or may not be related to you by blood, just don’t drink any tea you’re offered. To stay on the safe side.

You’ve been warned.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Tea is just the best gift there is.

Now, I know some smartarse out there – male , of course – will say at this point “No, I’d rather be given a Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 with its uncompromisingly crisp contours and 12-cylinder engine in bright yellow, thanks very much”.

But ask yourself this, buddy: When you wake up in the morning with a taste in your mouth like you’ve eaten curried rat,  ear canals like a wind tunnel, the feeling that you’ve lost at least one limb and a non-functioning brain that seems one size too large for your head, is your first thought “A quick spin in a car designed to show the world how insecure I am about my tiny penis will do the trick.” ?

No, it’s bloody well not. It’s a croaking “tea……tea…..tea”

No coffee drinker can ever get this. Coffee slaps you in the face. By the time you get to the end of the first cup, you’re awake all right. And ready for questioning by Laurence Olivier’s character from the Marathon Man. It’s softened you up so that the day can crush you like a beer can on Chuck Norris’s forehead.

Tea works with you, gliding you towards a state of wakefulness that is calm and serene.

And let’s talk about the coffee in most households.

It takes a few minutes for an espresso machine to warm up. Grind some good coffee – for mornings something like a nice mild Maragogype or a little Mysore – get your milk steamed and voila – it’s lovely. A little skill and care and it’s a great experience.

That’s what should occur. Because no other form of coffee is good enough. Anyone who has spent more that 3 minutes conversing with me knows my feelings on the foetid, rancid, stomach-churning concept of teabags. But I’d rather have one every day for the rest of my life that take one sip of the pestilence known as “instant coffee”, which I gave up on a Friday morning in 1981.

Anyway, back to that first tea of the day. It set you up for the whole day. It is nature’s most marvellous gift.

Now, when I say tea is the best gift there is, I don’t mean a nice strong  Harmutty and a playful little Keemun Mao Feng in a basket with some biscuits and wrapped in a bow (though feel free to send me any variation on that at any time).

I mean the love of tea.

And the time to give someone that gift is as a child. Children can pick up a habit in three minutes that will stay with them for life. That’s why the Jesuits say “give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”, though of course they don’t say it as often now since the world noticed the Vatican’s tacit condoning of child abuse.

So back to the children. Children should be given the Gift of Tea, The Gift of a Love of Tea.

I’ve been privileged enough to see some of the creative process behind a book “The World’s Special Tea” by Jo Johnson.

Jo, also known as @theGiftOfTea (as well as a few other monikers) has created a book that is essentially a look at the history of tea, in prose for children. It is designed to be presented at a tea party for children.

Imagine that. Kids love pageantry, ritual and ceremony, and Jo wants to give it to them,. She has the book, she has a blend of herbals to get around the ” you can’t give caffeine to kids” nonsense and she also runs, or is intending to run, such parties as a service in her local area.

Imagine that your kid goes to a party and comes back with a curiosity for tea. What a life changing experience!

And particularly, Beasts and Lady Beasts, we need to encourage small boys to attend. Hundreds of people will tell them that it’s OK to play football, beat up the nerd or jump their bike over gutters, but YOU need to give them permission to feel good about tea.

Not just because eventually they’ll wind up at sixteen as the only boy at a tea event with twenty girls who don’t get out much – as a former sixteen-year-old buy, I can attest that this is a coveted situation -but because the gift of tea will be with them once they’ve kicked their last football, flushed their last nerd and upgraded their bike to a Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 with its uncompromisingly crisp contours and 12-cylinder engine in bright yellow or something similar, like a Toyota.

Then they can become MEN!


So, for that reason: @AGiftOfTea, the Beasts of Brewdom SALUTE YOU ! Keep up the good work and help us to build the next generation of Beasts.

P.S> Oh, and thanks for the White Peony. Very delicate and delightful. Second steep was definitely the best.


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.

And Our Mugs!

Tea_Pain:  Oh hey, remember when we were on Tea Trade?


DukeOEarl:  Wat? Is that like some kind of barter system shit for /t/?  Can we trade in Dart girl for a new model made of Pao?


Tea_Pain: …if it isn’t can we make that our new website feature?


DukeOEarl: Yes. Do it NOW!


Tea_Pain: I’ll look into it. Maybe I can code some stuff.


DukeOEarl:  If you’ve listened to our podcast, you might have heard that we are joining up with the Beasts and Joy’s Teaspoon to deliver some much needed prostate lulz. You know, for science and awareness and shit. It also makes us look awesome for all the Wisconsin-cute ladies.


Tea_Pain: Didn’t know you were getting into the plus-sizes, Duke. How do you put a roofie in a stick of butter?


DukeOEarl: Nah, man, blubber’s just cheaper than paying the gas company up here. And if that shit’s deep fried, they’ll still eat like 20 roofies.  Just gotta tell em they’re crispy M&M’s and then you can get them into whatever room you want, ET style.


Tea_Pain: Touche.  So ya, we’re just here to say “Oh, we’re actually on another blag?” and announce through yet another outlet that we formally accept the challenge of growing mustaches for the reduction of penile-related sicknesses.  Because, let’s be honest, what good are tits if we can’t point them out?


DukeOEarl: Check out Joy’s Teaspoon’s Facebook later today or tomorrow. Tea_Pain FINALLY sent in our before-pics even though he’s retarded and already started growing a beard when he took his picture.


Tea_Pain: My mutton chops will bring all the girls to the yard, Duke. So help me /T/sus, this is going to be an epic No Shave November… much like it was a semi-epic No Shave March and No Shave July.


DukeOEarl: If you can actually grow mutton chops, I will force you to be my wingman while I sport a neck beard.


Tea_Pain: Challenge ACCEPTED.

It’s time to pull the finger out…

MEN: Specifically, tea-drinking MEN!

That’s the way the blurb for Beasts of Brewdom starts.

I wrote it along the theme that in some countries (that is say the US) there is this perception that tea is a drink for women, girls, the elderly and the rampantly homosexual.

Of course, if a “REAL MAN” believes that drinking tea might suddenly make him wish to get sexually intimate with another gentlemen, then let me tell you, the wish was clearly there long before the kettle boiled.

Well, one thing that “Real Men” and those insidious homosexuals that are lurking around every corner waiting to spread gayness have in common is a prostate.

Your prostate (the name in ancient Greek means protector or guardian) does a bunch of stuff that you really don’t need to know, but let’s just say in comes up in two conversations:

  1. It makes sex better and enhances your ability to reproduce
  2. It gets cancer and you die

Certainly what you’d call a double-edged sword there, chaps.

In order to support raising both funds and awareness of prostate cancer, I’ve decided to join “Movember” and grow a shoddy moustache.

I’m proud of the fact that Movember started in my home town of Adelaide, and is now an international phenomenon.

But I’ve not joined Movember in Australia – I’ve joined it in the US. Naomi Rosen of Joy’s Teaspoon has started the “Mo tea” team and I have joined that.

If you’re reading this, please help in these ways:

  1. Sponsor me to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars or send any gold bars you may have, or
  2. Join and grow one yourself. (Possibly difficult if you happen to be one of those chaps that isn’t a chap.

I’ve written a piece on my reasons and it’s here.

In the meanwhile, enjoy some tea, and start thinking about how you want to join in the conversational on prostate cancer.

My Fundraising page is at :


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,” 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.





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


“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.

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.