Back in 2008, I started writing about tea. Not exactly professionally, but rather as a hobby. I started out as many a tea person with a ‘puter did. I wrote reviews. Originally, I contributed to a review site, and then I went on my own with Steep Stories in 2011. Around the same time, I figured, “Hey, I’m tea knowledgeable-ish enough, now. I should apply for a tea job!”
And I did so, figuring I would be a shoe-in.
I was wrong.
The first two outfits I applied for didn’t even grant me the courtesy of a rejection letter. And those who knew who I was – either through my blog or through my visits – had a million reasons to not bring me on board. The most common rejection I heard was, “Well, you’re too talented a writer. This job is beneath you.”
For the record, I clean toilets for a living. Nothing is beneath me. Not even the piping.
I swallowed my pride, whimpered a little privately, but continued doing what I normally did. Writing about tea . . . and not getting paid for it. A year or so went by, and one of the companies I applied for posted a job inquiry again.
This time it was for a delivery driver – two days a week. At the time, I was mostly driving shuttles at my, then, job. Running boxes to clients all around Portland, and not saying a word? Surely, I was a shoe-in for that.
NOPE . . . again.
The reason this time? “You’re too close of a friend to the teashop.”
That was the first time I was ever friendzoned by a tea company. It felt weird.
A couple of more years went by. In that time, major things happened. Like, professional-type things! I was on various panels at tea festivals. I did guest-blogs for other vendors. I had written SEO copy for other companies – both tea-related and non-tea-related. Heck, I even helped curate a menu for a new tea bar.
One day this summer, I brought a charming lady friend of mine to one of my favorite tea shops. We met the owners, and a few of the other employees. They recognized her from a resume she had sent them. Then . . . proceeded to bend over backwards to try and hire her. What do you call it when a teashop interrupts your tea date? Being teablocked? Yeah, I was teablocked by a teashop. Super-awkward.
A couple of scant, heat-waved months after that, one of my other favorite places posted a job opening. And I matched every qualification, save one. Something to do with Photoshop. (I’m still at MS Paint levels, yo.) Before leaving on a trip, I submitted my resume.
I didn’t get a reply back for well over a week. The reason THIS time? “You’re such a talented writer, we wouldn’t feel comfortable making you push papers around.”
Refer back to my earlier statement about toilets. Add toilet paper to that. Nothing is beneath me!
Even now, after seven years as a tea writer and quasi-professional, I’m still on some sort of black list with tea companies. (Black tea list?) Sure, vendors love me writing about them, and adore getting my advice for free. But if I *LE GASP!* actually applied for a job with one of these fine brands, all of a sudden I’m looked upon as a pariah. Like I’ve stepped over some invisible threshold I shan’t cross.
What makes it further aggravating is that I know fellow tea blogger compatriots who have received job offers within the tea industry. Full-time ones. Lucrative, in some cases. Granted, some of these folks are more socially acceptable, charming, and Google Analytically popular than I am. But I’m still cut from the same tea-stained cloth as they are.
So, tea vendors . . .
I love you all. You know I do. There are no hard feelings – honest. I just want a straight answer for once.
What exactly is wrong with me? What do I need to do to be recognized? What do I need to become in order to be considered a serious candidate?
Touché, tea industry . . . touché.
For BOOK 1 of The Teabeer Trilogy, go HERE.
Not too long ago in a public house relatively nearby…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Concluded in Book 3.
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 […]
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 […]
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 hefted the Britannia teapot to chest height. It seemed lighter than when I last lifted it, but then I was twelve back then. It seems strange that all of Auntie Madge’s […]