I was one of those kids that tuned out in English class. Several years later, I received my degree in English. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about me in two sentences. I never read a single book assigned in any literature class I was in. I relied on Cliff’s Notes, movies, and summaries on the Internet for any minutiae about the material. Anything to keep me from reading the actual book.
Reason being? I was a slow reader. It took me over a week to get through one 300-page book. When the average book assignment turnaround was – oh – two days? That didn’t leave me a lot of time to catch up. That is, unless I wanted to devote whole days to digesting the books in bulk. I didn’t have that kind of time; I was too busy being a college student (i.e. partying).
The Great Gatsby showed up at least twice in my college “career”. The material didn’t interest me in the slightest. In summary: Blank-slate narrator has totally hetero fascination with his larger-than-life rich neighbor, who in turn has an interest in blank-slate’s second cousin. Grandeur, posturing and tragedy ensue. I’m not big on tragedies, and – aside from Hermann Hesse – I had no interest in non-sci-fi books pre-dating…uh…me.
When I learned that the flashy Australian director, Baz Lurhmann, was doing a version starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the title character, I took notice. Baz makes shiny movies, and I like shiny things. Moulin Rouge – to me – is still a wonderful, if flawed, musical masterpiece. His take on Gatsby seemed equally as glitzy. Granted both that and Moulin Rouge were tragedies at their core, but they were so on an epic scale. Almost Shakespearean in their gravitas. That I can get behind.
Early reviews poured in claiming that – while true to the source material – it was a flashy spectacle with very little heart. That didn’t dissuade me any. I saw it with friends this last Tuesday, and…
I dug the heck out of it. Sure, it was just as much a spectacle as was claimed. Granted, it probably had the emotional sincerity of a toaster oven. But, from what little I remember about the source material, so was the damn book. The story was supposed to be about the empty lives of the 1920s elite – all personified by a man (Gatsby) pretending to be something he was not. His motivations may have been pure of heart – “Wuv, twue wuv!” – but the role he chose to embody eventually consumed him. In that way, I found the whole affair – to coin a hipster adage – “meta”.
An odd thing happened, though.
I found myself relating way too closely to the narrator – Nick Carraway. His role in the book was mainly that of a cypher, a means for the audience to observe the events as they unfold. He has very little motivation himself. Even his surname states as much. Carraway…carried away, get it? Tobey Maguire nailed this role, and succeeded in giving the blank-slate some much-needed (if pathetic) characterization. The focus of his attentions is on that of the eccentric Jay Gatsby and his struggles of the heart.
Like Carraway, I too am poorer than most of my friends, and oftentimes am swept away on adventures with their patronage. Some of my tastes may be sophisticated, but in the end my budget is too modest to experience them outright. If I had a “Gatsby” to emulate, it would be – not a person – but a thing. And that’s where tea comes in. Yes, this does (somehow) come back to tea.
Several months ago, I read an article about barrel-aged teas. Smith Teamaker’s Méthode Noir was front and center, but another company was also mentioned – Rare Tea Cellar. I’d never heard of this outfit before, but they had an entire product line devoted to barrel-aged teas. Including one I never thought I’d ever see mention of, a whiskey barrel-aged Lapsang Souchong. I’d mused on how wonderful that combination would be. Pine smoke and peat moss just seemed like a match made in heaven.
Rare Tea Cellar’s Barrel Aged Forbidden Forest Lapsang Souchong was aged for six-to-nine months in a Willet rye barrel. I’d had many a fancy-schmancy whiskey, but I’d yet to try rye whiskey. Funny, considering how many rye whiskey barrel-aged beers I’d consumed. The problem was the price tag. A quarter pound was $40. Not the worst I’d seen for a rare type of tea…but well out of my budget.
That’s when I decided to play the tea blogger card. I don’t always feel comfortable doing so, but time and tea wait for no writer. I contacted RTC expressing an interest in doing a feature on the Forbidden Forest, weaving it into one of my usual quixotic narratives. They happily obliged the request. I received samples a few days later.
When I received it, the first thing I wanted to do was smell the bag. It’d been a long time since I beheld the hickory and campfire scent of Lapsang Souchong. I was like an addict in a fit of withdrawal. It was a very Carraway-esque reaction. I tore it open and whiffed smoke…and something else. The smoky aspect was there, but nowhere near as pronounced. Another aroma rounded out the olfactory sensation – peat moss mixed with…bread? The medium-cut, brown leaves had given me a mystery. A wondrous one.
The first time I brewed it up, I did 2 tsps. in a 16oz. glass of boiled water for three minutes – my usual start for any black tea. That…actually proved to be a little too light. While it had somewhat of a desired effect, it was lacking something. The second time around – a few weeks later, a mere day before seeing Gatsby – I went for a full five minutes. Let’s just say…
It brewed up brown-‘n-copper with a smoky/woody lean on the scent. As for taste, holy hell! It was all gentle Lapsang burn on the front, peat and smoke on the top note, and rye on the slide toward the finish. That and there seemed to be an oddly sweet underpinning throughout – maple-ish, even. This was the perfect sophisticated man tea.
I was Carraway, and this tea was my Gatsby. Grandiose, sophisticated, and full o’ smoke. Unlike Gatsby, this was truth in a cup. And my poor-arse self was consuming it like a gentleman. Also, like Carraway, my first instinct was to write about it. I may be poor, humbled often, and lacking ambition…but that doesn’t mean my cup isn’t worth a thousand words.
(No, seriously, I just past the thousand word mark. Awesome.)
To buy Rare Tea Cellar’s Barrel Aged Forbidden Forest, go HERE.
Gatsby has always been one of my favorites although I will wait until this movie makes it’s television appearance. About the tea any extra leaves would be welcomed this way.
Alas, I only have enough for one more 8oz. steep…and I’m cradling it.
I find every movie Baz has ever done to be excruciatingly awful.
Anyway, the Beast Of Brewdom charter requires you to only discuss Chuck Norris movies in the same post as any Lapsang Souchong.
I had that opinion of “Romeo + Juliet”, but I have a soft spot for “Moulin Rouge”. “Australia”…I never bothered with. Still wanna see “Strictly Ballroom”.
As for Chuck Norris movies…um…no. Not even Lapsang can save that dreck.
Was Strictly Ballroom his? Damn. Although bear in mind Paul Mercurio now talks bollocks on behalf of Lipton tea in their Australia TV ads, so it may be that Strictly Ballroom is downgraded for that reason.
That would be worth the ban of all of his movies.
Tempting me to buy tea once again! I’ll definitely be picking up some of this once my tea budget recovers from a recent bag of Hawaiian 1st flush 😛
Ooooo, Hawaiian teas! That would leave me torn, too.
It’s narratives like this that are my favorite thing about this blog. Despite the Cliff’s Notes, you analysis is spot and well described:
Haven’t seen the movie yet, but am looking forward to it. Perhaps I should sneak in a flask of this tea to sip in celebration!
I agree that Moulin Rouge is something of a masterpiece despite its flaws – of course, it helps to have Nicole Kidman as the attraction in that…. 😉
Glad you liked.
Sneaking in a flask of tea to a movie is something I totally want to hear about. Make it happen!
Nicole Kidman DID look her best in that movie. Afterwards, she kinda came across as…plastic.
I never had to read this book in my English classes (probably because I didn’t have English Litterature classes) so I have to thank you for summarizing it for me.
And for the aged in a barel teas…
I still don’t know what to think about them.
Did I say that you managed to analyse the book and the tea quite well and to link both, which is no easy thing to do?
No? Then I just did it.
English classes are kind of redundant. In this country, they’re “supposed” to fine-tune the speaker/writer…but that rarely happens. Heck, most of the writing tricks I picked up, I learned after college.
I know what you should think of barrel-aged teas. You should want to try them.
Thanks for spotting (and agreeing with) the link between the two. 🙂
Are you trying to hypnotise me? 😉
My problem is that I don’t like alcool and I am afraid of the impact of aging in alcool barels could have on the taste of the tea.
And here French classes are “supposed” to do that plus to give a taste/knowledge of litterature and help you structure your thoughts/arguments.
More like a Jedi mind trick. 😉
Not a fan of the Great Gatsby (not the book nor the ’74 movie with Mia Farrow) – I found both dull. However, it’s a good long while ago so I I think I’d watch this movie and see if my tastes have changed.
As to the tea, this is just the sort of tea review I enjoy the most; entertaining and informative. But whoa, the cup certainly looks light there, nothing like what I expected.
It is rather light…which is the bizarre part. That’s been a trait I’ve run into with aged black teas. Odd, that.
Never seen the Redford Gatsby. I was going to watch it for comparison’s sake, but…meh…
I am ashamed to admit it but I haven’t read the book or seen the movie. At most I am aware if its existence. Now however, I am considering a pairing. I need to get my hands on some of this tea and sip a cup while watch the movie. I suspect the two will go very well together and enhance the tea drinking and movie watching experience. I suppose the same would apply to reading the book.