Back in June, one of the many wonderful things I came back with from World Tea Expo…was tea plant seeds.
The Camellia Forest Nursery in North Carolina had donated some to the Tealet booth as gifts for passersby. Of course, I was one of those who jumped at the chance. Who wouldn’t want to grow their own tea plant?!
Problem was I was not known for my green thumb. Heck, I killed a cactus back in college. So, a couple of weeks later, I enlisted the help of my amateur gardener brother. He possessed the pots, the soil, and some of the know-how. All we needed to do was set a day…and we did for that following Saturday.
Unfortunately, the day of, I saw a photograph by Smith Teamaker’s resident bartender/photographer – Tea MC Tiff (as I call her).
The bottle of bourbon in particular caught my eye.
I asked about the photo, and if it heralded the arrival of a new barrel-aged tea to Smith’s roster. Tea MC Tiff confirmed that it did. Steven Smith and his blending team got a hold of a Temperance Kentucky Bourbon Barrel and decided to age some Nokhroy estate second flush Assam in the sucker. It was put on the shelves the night before I inquired about it.
I called my brother.
“Um…” I started eloquently. “We have to make a detour before we plant tea seeds.”
And off to Smith Teamaker HQ, we went.
The two teatenders on duty – Claire and Lauren, respectively – allowed my brother and me to share a pot of the stuff.
It was straight bourbon and malt. That’s all I have for taster notes. Bourbon smoke on the front, Assam on the back, like some sort of…tea-alcohol…mullet. Or something.
Short answer, “Wow.”
I lamented the price of a two-ounce box of the stuff, but my brother – to my surprise – said, “Here, I’ll get it. Early birthday present.”
I think I squealed.
In an odd turn of self-control, though, I didn’t break in my personal stash for several weeks. In the interim, I had a newly potted tea plant to take care of. My brother had loaned me a teapot, and – in return – I’d given him one of my tea seeds. I kept the pot by the window, and per his instructions, checked soil moistness once a week.
Then came a “Tandem Tea Tasters” Google+ Hangout. The theme for the night was to present a new, unique tea to “share with the class”. That was a tough one, since…well…most of my teas fell into that category. However, I looked up on my shelf and noticed that the Smith’s Bourbon Black Tea hadn’t been open yet. Decision: Made.
I don’t recall the exact details of the evening, but I do remember those who were there – Jo “A Gift of Tea” Johnson and Rachel “I Heart Teas” Carter. And all three of us were one shade of tea drunk or another. To the point where Rachel insisted on using Google’s drawing function to make me a Ferengi/Klingon hybrid…and Jo photographed it.
After pint…oh…three of the Bourbon Black, I was whistling Dixie. Almost literally. No, there was no alcohol in the tea, but Assam normally packs quite a caffeinated wallop. And, somehow, in my tea drunk haze, I decided I had to water my tea plant.
Forgetting that I had already watered it that day.
Fast-forward to a month or so later. I was over at my brother’s house for dinner, and I marveled at how well his tea plant was thriving.
Vibrant green leaves had sprouted and were reaching joyously to the sun.
Mine on the other hand?
I think it committed seppuku in the soil before drowning.
Moral of the story: If you’re going to drink bourbon barrel-aged tea, don’t do any gardening…I guess.
The monsoon arrived early for your tea plant, Geoff.
I wouldn’t be so affirmative, the results are 50%-50%.