Art by David Borzo

Art by David Borzo

After weeks of pondering tea pairings – food, movies, books, etc. – it was only a matter of time before I had to muse on…well…tea and music. While I can say I appreciate many different types of music, I don’t have an affinity for it. I listen to CDs (yes, those ancient things) in the car as background noise for calm in rush hour traffic. I make it a point to discover one new band a year, but I sometimes lapse on that. So, you can imagine that I was overly thankful that there was a vendor that did the music/tea pairing job for me.

The Tea and Jazz House is a relatively new operation out of Baltimore, MD. Their mission statement indicates that tea blends should be unorthodox – just as jazz was (and is). As their musically-inclined site informs, they are in the process of building a teahouse devoted to underground jazz. The first step in that journey was putting out some appropriately named blends for palate perusal.

I chose to sample their one black tea blend dubbed “The McCrea” – named for…um…

To tell you the truth, I had no idea who it was named after. The only “McCrea” name I could find that might’ve fit was John McCrea, the frontman of Cake. Not sure I would consider him jazz, though. If I were to make a suggestion to The Tea and Jazz House, it would be to provide an artist bio on their tea profiles. If only to further cite the inspiration for the blend. (That and “Pureh” is spelled wrong.)

Well, if they intended to make a blend that was inspired by John McCrea, this certainly did smell like cake. Small-cut black tea leaves were paired with mixed berries, strawberry pieces and rose petals. I couldn’t make out any of the fruit pieces in the blend, but the petals were front and center. It was also a relief to see that said petals were the pink kind. Those were best for blending, imparting a sweeter, more subtly floral rose profile than their redder kin.

Brewing instructions on the site linked to a YouTube video about brewing. That was, frankly, far more time than I was willing to devote to brewing, other than the process itself. I went with 1 tsp. in 8oz. of boiled water for a steep of four minutes. My mainstay was usually three minutes (I’m a wuss), but since this was a blend, I risked the extra minute. I prepped it and cued up a YouTube video for Cake’s “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” to pair with the tasting.

(Sidenote: The song choice was oddly fitting for this blend because I found myself – of late – being enamored by blondes in sundresses with Stevie Wonder fixations…and a fetish for strawberries. This smelled like strawberries, and the girl in question had a “mind like a diamond”.)

The liquor brewed to a tawny brown with a strong berry nose. I would even say it was a bit tart. On a blind sniff, I would’ve guessed this had a smidge of hibiscus in it. There was a bitter forefront on taste, which made me think there was a Keemun/Ceylon base. The middle was a fair balancing act between sweet, berry-richness, light astringency, and floral notes. On aftertaste, it left a lingering profile of, thankfully, strawberries.

How well did it pair with Cake? Well, to be truthful, I’m not a fan of Cake – like, at all. John McCrea’s vocals, to me, were often gratingly monotone. “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”, though, was oddly topical, playful, and catchy. That and I clearly remembered the opening riff as the introduction to the TV series Chuck. I don’t know why it took this long for me to make that connection…over tea, no less.

So, end result: Listening to Cake while drinking a berry-blended tea made me want to date a girl in a short skirt that smelled like strawberries and rose petals. Is that a success? I have no idea. But the tea was good; that’s a start.

Addendum: The vendor finally informed me that the blend was inspired by Carmen McCrea…not John McCrea. So, the Cake really is a lie.

Addendum Two: After this writing, musician bios were finally added. So, there’s also that to look forward to on the website.

To buy The McCrea, go HERE.

For more information on The Tea and Jazz House, go HERE.