[This was the first tea blog I ever wrote. It was posted on Myspace in late ’07. (Remember that site?) The entry garnered 30+ responses over a week and even spent some time ranked in the Top 20 “Romance & Relationships” section. I have yet to top it, but I have also never revealed it to my tea circle. Until now.]

I’ve been asked on multiple occasions what started my unsurpassed obsession with tea. My leanings are neither hippie or New Age-y, and I shy away from most holistic approaches. The reason for my reluctance in relating this story is simple. It’s downright embarrassing. However, even I must acknowledge that it is a tale that must be told, and – so – here it is.

The origin of my fascination with tea.

It all started with a quest, a very manly quest.

It began in the fall of 2004, my first year back in Oregon. College was a somewhat distant memory, separated by summer’s lack of whimsy. Already, the four-year sabbatical to the desert state of Nevada had taken refuge in the recesses of my mind. The last six months were akin to a purgatorial nightmare. I was now home, back in the bosom of the Northwest. Real life – or so it felt – had just begun. The academic reverie was over. I was 27.

Changes occurred rather rapidly. My parents had moved to California and offered their three-story behemoth as a rental to my sister, her husband, and myself. Within a month, I was saddled with two jobs. In late-October I even landed myself a girlfriend. Quite quick indeed.

About a month into the relationship, it had reached “that stage” – the to-do or not-to-do dilemma. My experience level was infantile at best. College had trained me for many things, but I’d shied away from Hook-Up 101. Or more to the point, I think I fell asleep in class. Maybe it was geek thing, I dunno. Eh, we’ll blame it on that for now.

Our dates up to that point were mostly informal outings, occasional Blockbuster nights, a party or two, nothing grand. It was time for that next step: Inviting her to my place.

I made the necessary preparations:

Booze? Check.

Protection? Check.

Breath mints? Check.

Change out single bed for the guest room’s queen-sized? Check.

(Trying to explain the furniture move to my mother/landlord was a difficult task.)

The night was upon me.

She arrived with a batch of Coupling episodes she received from Netflix. We sat on the couch, popped the DVDs in, and cuddled a bit. Cuddling led to kissing then to the notorious “heavy petting” teenagers are condemned for. She whispered The Question as she straddled me on the couch. I cocked an eyebrow in confusion. She reiterated. I nodded.

Upstairs, we went.

Everything proceeded according to plan; the undressing, the massaging, the Trek-like exploration of vitals. Things were moving along like clockwork, textbook even. I caressed where I thought I should caress, kissed (and/or licked) where I thought I should lick. 80s sex comedies had trained me well, or so I thought.

We were go for Phase Two! That whole “unity” thing. But there was a problem. Nothing happened. The knight was suited, but for some ungodly reason…he’d forgotten his bloody horse.

My heart sank.

The mainsail hadn’t hoisted. The soldier didn’t salute. The batter never left the cage. The car wouldn’t leave the garage. Oh, hell, you get the point.

The night was officially a botch.

I drove her home. She was silent, and I was sullen. She may have put the blame on herself, as women often do in that situation, yet I knew where it lay- squarely on my shoulders. Something was wrong with me, and I didn’t know what. Everything had been perfect! The timing was right! Lust was in the air! Pheromones had fireworked! I had to learn what went wrong.

To the Internet!

According to various sites, the causes for impotence were innumerable. There was performance anxiety, reactions to medications, high blood pressure, obesity, illness, mental health, physical impairments – the factors were endless. I was stumped. Mr. Happy-Pants worked well enough for me during solo training, why the hell had it caved under pressure during the actual mission? (Maybe it was my terminology? Er…no.)

Eventually, I ruled out the physical causes. I wasn’t that obese, blood pressure was normal, and – for the most part – all my limbs were working. Well, except the bloody key one. That left the mental.

Only methods used to combat sexual anxiety were rigorous therapy, hypnotherapy, or resorting to the infamous “blue pill”. I really didn’t want to do that. To admit that I was under 30, moderately healthy and in need of boner-meds made my stomach knot. That left one other viable alternative. One I hadn’t ever dreamed I’d explore. It was notoriously out of character for me. I looked to male enhancement products.

Everyone has seen these big bottle-jars with names like Mega-X-Tone or Testost-X-Treme…or anything that had a bold-faced “X” in the title. They are a ghastly sight. Just looking at them makes one think they’re buying into the biggest scam on the planet. Not to mention even the staunchest atheist would think he was making Baby Jesus cry.

I read the ingredients. Some were elements in nature I hadn’t even heard of; herbs such as yohimbe bark, ginkgo biloba, kava kava, and…wait…

Green tea?

What the hell did green tea have to do with male enhancement?!

Each of the products I looked (or winced) at had one ingredient in common. Aside from the weirder African-sounding herbs, they all had a generous helping of green tea extract. I was no stranger to tea. At one time or another I’d partaken of Earl Grey or chamomile. The black teas tasted like smoky burlap, and chamomile knocked my ass clean out. Green tea was unexplored territory, and here I was seeing it on the back of a cheesy “X” label.

This revelation needed some back-up. My cousin’s girlfriend (at the time) was somewhat well-versed in the ways of green tea. She’d touted it for as long as I’d e-known her. While she couldn’t confirm the virility claim, she could attest to its other health properties. These were not limited to: weight-loss, lowered blood pressure, lowered cholesterol, increased immunity, the elimination of free radicals in the body, and increased blood flow.

The last benefit caught my interest. I won’t go into the inner workings of the male anatomy. If you don’t know by now, then there’s no hope for you. The Cliff’s Notes version being, erections rely on healthy blood flow. Hurray!

I started drinking green tea. To my surprise, I actually liked it. Grassy aftertaste and all. It was quite refreshing. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice any immediate “changes”. What can I say? I’m the impatient sort. As such, I browsed the tea aisle to see what different types of green tea were out there. One stood out above all the others.

Honey Lemon Ginseng.

When researching the herbal extract info on the aforementioned “X” varietals, I ran across mentions of ginseng. Panax ginseng, to be precise, was often touted as a sexual tonic in Asian cultures. This was news to me, so I bought a box.

The first test-drive was a train-wreck. It tasted good. Damn good. Lemony-green-ish goodness. I had five cups of the stuff in a two-hour sitting. Moderation? Who needed it! What I should have read more closely was that this blend was caffeinated.

Anyone in the herbal know is aware that Panax ginseng, while beneficial in some areas, is also a stimulant. Not as earth-shattering as caffeine, but rather one that is slow-building. The box even highlighted that the blend was for giving someone an extra kick in the morning. And kick it did.

The first day I tried it, I was jittery and buzzing. I went and saw a movie to calm myself down, can’t recall what. I called my Dad, rambling a mile a minute about feeling weird.

He said, “Maybe you should lay off the ginseng.”

I knew he was right, but I was stubborn. A part of me thought maybe this was its way of working. None of the other green tea blends ever made me want to run through walls while singing a merry tune. I gave it a second chance.

Day Two came around. My girlfriend and I were set to have dinner at her parents’ house. For the first time ever. I was another four-ish cups of Honey Lemon in, all jitter-buzz-a-go-go. Why four? I dunno. I thought we were going to do stuff later and wanted to be aptly prepared.

I had three mini-panic attacks during dinner. No one noticed, thankfully, but my breathing was fast and labored. My eyes darted from corner to corner. Sounds were sharper. Smells irritated my nostrils. I existed in a tunnel version of my own head.

She drove me home after. I went through some sort of Lamaze-style panting to keep from freaking out. Nausea crept up in me. She asked if I wanted to come over. I said I wasn’t feeling well. It was the truth, but try explaining that to a girlfriend convinced you weren’t attracted to her.

In a huff, she dropped me off. I went to the kitchen and threw away the lemony-goodness box, never to touch the stuff again. Back to square one.

December rolled around, and I made another discovery. I entered the world of herbal supplementation. My first foray was multivitamins, but on a whim, I purchased a bottle of ginkgo biloba. In addition to its X-pantheon tonic-like qualities, I also read it was good for memory and mental alertness. The extract gave me abdominal cramps almost instantly upon taking it.

I read the label after the fact and discovered that – in some rare cases – ginkgo could cause “gastrointestinal discomfort and irritability”. That was the same month I discovered I was sensitive to a lot of things. Certain health foods made me queasy, I couldn’t hold my liquor, I reacted quickly (and sometimes adversely) to certain herbs, and caffeine booted me in the head and gut at the same time. Reading side-effect information on anything became second nature.

Then I discovered a green tea online that had ginkgo and Panax ginseng in it! I read the label and ingredient information carefully. It was decaffeinated. I gleefully ordered a batch. It came in the mail about a week later. I poured myself a cup, nursed it gingerly, and waited for any adverse ginkgo-like stomach punches to occur. None did. It even helped in…uh…that area from what I observed.

Too bad it tasted like tree bark…and ass.

I tried to mix it with other teas to mask the flavor. Ginkgo has a distinctly tangy and leafy taste followed by a rough aftertaste, reminiscent of eucalyptus. It really is quite offensive to the tongue. The only other tea that would compliment it was a lemon-ish green tea blend that contained Siberian ginseng.

The potential horrors of Panax ginseng were firmly established, but I didn’t know much about its redheaded stepbrother, eleuthero (Siberian ginseng). I did some reading and learned that it had only mild stimulant effects, no sexual tonic properties, and mainly worked as a mental alertness enhancer, which was fine by me.

By the time I was ready to field-test the stuff, the relationship with my girlfriend had gone south. She was through waiting. This was a clear case of gender reversal. Instead of the girl being hesitant towards sex, it was me. I was the reluctant one. Part of this might have been due to our seven-year age gap or my continued anxiety, I dunno. We parted ways somewhat amicably.

Aside from a couple of dating stints here and there – one physical, others not-so-much, none long-term – sex had receded to non-issuedom. My tea habit hadn’t regressed, though. In fact, the addiction blossomed.

A love for green tea graduated into a love for white tea. A reverence for generic bagged teas grew into a quest for more esoteric blends. Eventually, I was ready for loose-leaf teas. I loved them. All of them. Black teas still hadn’t caught hold, but herbal blends, fruit fusions, and designer teas did. An amateur tea snob was born.

Work shifts without a cup of hotness seemed an irregularity. Tea became synonymous with, well, me. I would go to friends’ houses with a mug of some herbal concoction in hand. Often times, I would forget to take it with me. Proposed tea dates were my standard meet-and-greets with new women. While not a successful way to prove one’s self as more than a Friend Zone dweller, it did provide for a nice day out.

Knowing the locations of local teashops helped me broaden my leaf-like horizons. Beforehand, my knowledge of Portland and peripheral areas were limited to bars, clubs and tourist traps. The teashop quest allowed me to seek out odd-ended nooks and crannies of the surrounding area.

I also felt considerably better, rarely getting sick. And even if I did, the duration for the ailment was considerably shorter than usual. Colds were a rarity, flues were still commonplace but not as dreadful and bed-ridding, and stomach flues were cast aside after a day thanks to good ol’ Captain Chamomile. I was a proud herb-a-whore.

The ginkgo tea I took was the last vestige of my original purpose. Eventually, after further research, I learned that I was taking the medical equivalent to an Alzheimer’s patient’s dose per day. A normal healthy adult only needed, maybe, 120 mg of the stuff. The tea I drank contained over 600 mg. No wonder I felt surprisingly irritable. Like ginseng, ginkgo was also a stimulant. Sure, it helped in the one area I set out to improve, but in lieu of other health considerations, it had been rendered obsolete. By the end of 2005, I limited my intake to once a week, and eventually substituted it for it’s lesser ginseng-only cousin.

It wouldn’t gain favor again until February of 2006.

I won’t (i.e. can’t) go into detail as to the encounter, for I’m sworn to some amount of discretion regarding the finer points, but I will say that Ol’ Man Ginkgo came to the rescue. For a good three hours. Okay, yes, there were “union breaks”, but it didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things. The stuff really did work!

There was still the taste issue, however, even with the Siberian ginseng’d green tea’s citrus-y cover-up. Nothing could get rid of the tree-bark-ness of it, nor contribute to the virility issue. Er…not that anything really needed to top what was already included, but – hey – while your kicking ass, might as well jot a few names. Right?

The final breakthrough wouldn’t appear until February this year. Perusing a tea store – which was conveniently located in my stomping grounds, huzzah! – a fellow tea-nerd and I noticed a strange line of herbal blends. The cashier informed us that they were herbal fusions specifically designed to coincide with each of the bodies chakra points – all seven of them.

I bought the sample pack to try each one.

If you don’t know what chakra points are, well, I really don’t have time (or space) to go into the finer nuances of it. Just look up any yoga-related material on Google, or you can be extra nerdy and watch a couple of episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Those will give you a basic rundown.

I digress.

The one that grabbed my attention was for Chakra #2, the dragonfruit blend. The bag and box describe it as vital for “tantra and sexuality”. Contained in the blend was an herb known as damiana. Further inquiries revealed that the herb was often used as a sexual tonic for women in Latin America. Studies regarding its potency were still in its infancy, but apparently it also worked on men. Hoo-boy, did it! I found out the hard way at work…pun quite intended.

The taste was also pleasant – light citrus, faintly tangerine-like without the tartness. Very pleasant and very subtle. So, I tried it with the ginkgo tea. The bark-ass taste was gone. No aftertaste either. I no longer felt like I was tasting tree! Victory was achieved.

Which brings us to the present.

I have yet to try my newfound Sex Tea blend in a practical setting. Not quite sure where/how that’ll happen in the near-ish future. But when it does…

And I do mean when…not if…

She won’t know what hit her.