NaNoTeaMo, Day 17: “Bedroom of Tea Sugar”
As a self-confessed fat man, I’ll admit I know about sugar. But I’ll also admit that I don’t know a lot about sugar. I just eat a lot of it. Perhaps too much.
If it weren’t for the amount of tea I drink, I’d probably weigh 300lbs. Yes, I know that’s no laughing matter. Who’s laughing? I’m not. And I look positively jolly. Need proof? Here’s your damn proof!
I’m just a little too jolly to be holding a Vietnamese puerh cake. And look at those chins. Those are well-earned chins.
Moving right along.
Over a month ago, I received a peculiar message from tea pal Lisa Kunizaki-Choliy. I met her at two different World Tea Expos (maybe three?). She was one of the funniest women I ever encountered. Positively overflowing with humor.
When I first talked with her, I thought she was just another tea vendor. After that brief conversation, I learned she was involved in the industry in a very different capacity. Her angle was artisan sugars. I should’ve guessed that immediately, given that her company’s name was Chambre De Sucre. Which was French for . . . uh . . . House of Sugar? Hold on, let me look that up. *Pulls up “The Google”*
Oh . . . oooooooh! . . . wait . . . whaaa?
Bedroom of Sugar?
My mind went to a very bad place. Thank Amaterasu I didn’t Google Image search that. No! I will resist that urge. Okay, I failed.
Oh wait, nevermind, that’s . . . kind of adorable.
Wow, I’m getting way off topic here.
Anyway, Lisa’s outfit imported artisan sugars from a family-owned business in Japan, which has been crafting sugars for 270 years. Not much of a surprise, if one considered the fact that Lisa herself was third-generation Japanese. Her grandparents originally hailed from Fukuoka prefecture in Kyushu. She spent many summers there. Hand-crafted sugars was a part of her life. Bringing that tradition with her stateside, even in a vendor capacity, seemed like a forgone (and sentimental) conclusion.
The message she sent was cute and to-the-point. She wanted my address to send me a care package. Usually, when merchants sent me care packages that meant only one thing – review samples. I was already drowning in a backlog of samples. Replying to her, I said as much.
Then I added, “I wouldn’t have a clue how to review sugar, anyway.”
Roughly an hour later, though, a thought hit me. There was something I could do – an experiment of sorts. A certain tisane existed that I could see going well with artisan sugars. I mentioned this to her; I think she heard me cackling all “mad scientist”-like on the other end. She agreed to send it.
Several weeks went by, and I received it.
In a mesh bag, with her stitched logo, were various sugary wares to play with. And I had no clue where to start. As I mentioned above, I’d never reviewed sugar, or even gave it much thought – other than NOM!-ing it. Looking at the display of fanciful sweeteners, and my mind drew a blank.
I might as well have been looking into the eye of a time vortex.
A week or so later, an idea hit me. The tisane experiment would have to wait. I had a better idea.
The picture above is a tea box that was found at my work. I brewed a bag of it up one morning – while on the job – purely on a whim. I didn’t even finish the cup. It was one of the worst teas I ever sipped. Seconded only to powdered puerh.
I have no clue what DisneyParks was thinking, but it certainly wasn’t, “Hey, we should put out a really good Earl Grey.”
It was more like, “We need an Earl Grey knock-off. What do we have? Sawdust? Great, lather it in citrus and bag it!”
And that’s what it tasted like – sawdust. Specifically, Mumbai sawdust. I don’t know what that tastes like, firsthand, but I’m sure it’s what’s in these “Topsy Turvy” bags.
That was going to be the experiment: To see which Chambre De Sucre offerings made this absolutely gross tea taste . . . palatable.
I had three options.
- Diamond Stirrers – Cane sugar crystallized over li’l stir sticks for easy sweetening of a tea.
- Sucre Carré – Not even going to look up what that means, for fear of another lengthy tangent. They looked like what Peeps aspired to be. Li’l sugar cubes meant to be plopped in the brew.
- Coffee Sugar Balls – Because why the hell not? And they had the best name ever.
Admit it, you were thinking it, too.
For simultaneous brewing, I set out three of my good steeper cups.
I hated having to subject them to this, but it was for science. Then I put the three sugar offerings next to them. Following that, I added a bag each to the cups. I brought the electric kettle to a boil, and poured the contents over into each cup. The smell of steeped sawdust wafted into the air.
Damn, that was foul-smelling.
First up, the Diamond Stirrer.
This wasted no time evaporating into the tea liquor. How did it do? Whoooah man! I was attacked with sweetness. All signs of the sawdusty tea were vanguished by pure saccharine surprise. As I downed the brew in one fell swoop, the sweeter it got toward the base. Remnants of the crystalline stock still remained at the bottom. Very pungent but definitely super effective.
Next, the Pee-er, I mean, Sucre Carré cube.
This one took forever to evaporate into the tea. I wish I’d kept the stir stick from the Diamond to agitate the liquor a bit, and speed the cutesy cube along toward its demise. After a while, it finally did dissipate and contributed . . . not much. I still tasted sawdust with a hint of sugar. I probably would’ve received a better kick had I put in two lumps rather than one.
At one cube, it was definitely meant for a lighter, more subtle tea. Even – dare I say it? – a Darjeeling.
Last, but certainly not least, was the Coffee Sugar Ball.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. It wasn’t being used for coffee. Who cares? I wanted to use it for tea, so I bloody well used it for tea. Like the Carré cube, the Ball took a long time to dissipate. But what it did in the meantime was awesome! It spewed out bubbly fizz as it drowned in the tea. Like an Alka-Seltzer puck or something! For some reason, I got a big kick out of that.
When fully dispersed, it wasn’t quite as strong of a sweet presence as the Stirrer, but not as negligible as the Carré. It balanced well with the . . . uh . . . sawdust, smoothing out the rough edges and contributing a brown-sugary, almost molasses profile to the brew. I could see this gentling a French roast coffee, or even a really shady Da Hong Pao.
Coffee Sugar Balls for the WIN! If only for the name.
I still prefer to drink my tea straight-up/no-frills. Yet it’s nice to know that there’s a company out there that can make sure my shitty tea doesn’t stink. And the fact that the owner is cool as hell is an excellent bonus.
Editor’s note: It is House (or Home) of Sugar. That’s another possible translation. The writer – being the short-sighted half-wit he is – just chose to pay attention to the worst translation.
You are a scientist of sorts with all of these experiments. I had never thought that a sweetener could make a “bad” tea less so. I still like mine unsweetened, good or bad.
Cheerio and carry on!
Keepin’ on keepin’ on.
Good job with the review. I had been wondering about her sugars and now I know. Thanks!
I wondered, too.
Thanks for adding a bit of sweetness to my day
This is one of the best reviews I’ve ever read. I love it! And I love Lisa’s sugars. They make life (not to mention tea) sweeter!
Thanks, and agreed on all counts!
Maison is more house and chambre is room (usually used for bedroom).
And Sucre Carré is just squarish (or square) sugar.
I knew I could rely on my favorite resident Smiling Frenchman for a translation.
sugar balls. (that makes me happy too)
i was lucky enough to get a care package from lisa as well and now that i know she is considered by you, one of the funniest human beings alive to be funny herself, well hell, i might have to take a drive over to orange county and take her to lunch, i owe her at least one good meal for all those goodies!
That is a huge compliment. One I can’t possibly live up to. But thank you.