I have no words for how shitty this weekend was.
Okay, not true. I have 1,551 words. Geez, that’s a lot.
It all started Friday—the day the first record-breaking heat wave of the pre-summer hit Portland. I was at work . . . and I wasn’t doing so well. I felt light-headed and nauseous, and I told my boss I needed to make a doctor’s appointment; thinking that it might be heat exhaustion.
I left work early and arrived for said appointment early, the doc saw me soon after. And he told me that it wasn’t allergies or heat exhaustion, but rather the early signs of a cold. Yep, that’s right . . . a cold.
A fucking cold . . . at the start of a heat wave.
For those of you not keeping track, this was the third time I’ve fallen ill during a summer heat wave. Like clockwork, the triple-digit temperatures arrive and my immune system shuts down. And, yes, you holistic/Ayurvedic people out there, I know that’s a sign of a Kapha/Pitta dosha imbalance. Zip it! All of you.
To top that off, my apartment had become flea central. And since there was no longer a pet in the house, I was there chosen meal. Oh, and did I forget to mention that I have no air conditioning? Yeah, that’s a thing, too.
Some respite arrived via Google Hangout. It was the last “Tandem Tea Tasters” (read: online tea nerd group) meeting before our big real-life get-together at World Tea Expo. I was at my most foul-mouthiest.
Before turning in for the night, though, the subject of barrel-aged teas came up. That got me wondering if my next experiment, which I dubbed “Ethiopian Moonshine” was close to finished. This time around, I used Ethiopian grown, fannings grade tea leaves for the bourbon barreling. I pulled the cork and . . .
The cork was green! It wasn’t supposed to be green! That scared me.
I decided to tap the entire barrel that night. I did a quick oven bake of the leaves for fifteen minutes at 250 degrees F. Once I pulled them out, I let them cool for a few minutes.
But then, I took whiff of the leaves. Dear Lord . . . they smelled foul. Not sure what happened in the intervening two weeks, but somehow things went “off”. That had never happened to me before. The barrel should’ve been mostly dry after my last experiment. Oh well, that clinched it.
My barrel-aging tea days were done.
Help arrived in the form of my mother—as it always does. She offered to put me up for a couple of nights while the heat wave was in full-swing. I love my Mum.
After getting off work on Saturday, I headed to her place. She had chicken and salad waiting for me. I bought us scones for our dessert and morning breakfast. We both turned in at 9:30; it was all sickeningly wholesome.
The next morning, I was up by 6:30AM and generally feeling sort of hopeful. Sure, I had a brief hiccup on Friday, but Saturday was manageable—save for the cold I was fighting. I knew it would be a busy day at work, but I was prepared for it. However, I was not prepared for the heat.
It bore down on me within two hours of walking the halls. My job (that I won’t go into) is very physical. I’m on the move the entire time. Try doing that in two layers of clothing—black clothing—in sporadically air-conditioned rooms. I was hurting.
By 2PM, I was downright dragging. The only thing that kept me going were the cold-brewed matcha I had earlier and zinc lozenges. Then something happened.
I can’t go into what that was; it wasn’t my fault. But let’s just say I discovered something icky. And they had to send me home for coming in contact with said ickiness. Even though I was the one who discovered it. I didn’t blame ‘em, and I looked at it as a get-outta-work-early pass.
However, that meant I had to wash my work uniform immediately. And that meant returning to my flea-infested, non-air-conditioned apartment. Grumbling the entire way there, I pulled up to my assigned garage and pressed the button on the opener.
It wouldn’t open.
I tried again.
I headed down to the leasing office. They informed me that maintenance wasn’t there that day, and that they couldn’t take a look at it until Monday. I stormed off.
Grumbling even louder, I returned to my garage. A car was parked in front of it. Someone was moving into the unit next door. I tried the garage door opener again—jack shit.
I put the car in park, and told the family moving in that I needed the space to park my car. They understood, thank God. Small miracles.
After parking my car in front of the garage, I returned to the leasing office. I explained to them what I was doing as a temporary measure. They said I would be towed if I kept it there. Towed . . . away from the front of my own garage rental. Motherf—calm down, Geoff. Calm down. Serenity now. Serenity right bloody now.
Thankfully(-ish), the leasing agent said I could temporarily park my li’l gray cube of a car in a “Future Resident” spot for the time being. Grand. I returned to the apartment. It felt like a well-shaded sauna.
Well, I figured, if I’m going to be hot as hell, anyway, might as well put on some hot tea.
But which tea, that was the question.
One that didn’t take long to answer.
As it so happens, one Andrew Richardson—owner of Liquid Proust Teas—had sent me a care package a month or so ago. Now was as good a time as any to dive into one of his wares. I’ll get to that in a second.
How can I describe Andrew? This blog is already longwinded as is. Lemme think . . . ah, yes . . .
Simply put, he’s the personified lovechild of an unholy union between a Yunnan old growth puerh tree and the collective Id of Steepster.
Yep, that pretty much sums it up.
But back to the tea I chose.
One of the things he sent my way was his Rummy Pu. As teased in the above photo, he acquired a full-sized rum barrel and plopped a hefty load of golden needle shou puerh into it. I’m not sure how long he aged it for, but by the look and smell of the stuff, I’m guessing a couple of month.
When I opened the bag, I smelled two things: Booze . . . and fish. The boozy part was the strongest, though, imparting . . . well . . . an aroma of booze. I really have nothing poetic to say to that. I guess there were rum notes to the booze scent, but I was never much of a rum guy, even when I did drink. The puerh aspect took up the back end. I was thankful that most of the aroma was earthy and sweet, but there was that bit of cooked puerh fishiness that has always turned me off to that sub-category.
The leaves themselves, however, looked gorgeous.
They resembled a gold-tipped Yunnan Dian Hong, only with a more muted, almost-beige/brown color to the leaf buds. And that was also a delight. All the leaves were buds; every one of ‘em! I love buddy teas. (Er . . . and friendly teas.)
For brewing, I just chose to . . . gongfu it. Sorta. I dunno. I didn’t care. I was drained, and I didn’t really time my infusions accurately. I waited ’til they colored up to the deep hue of my RAGE!
For each infusion, the liquor colored to a soft mahogany—like trying to view a manager’s desk without one’s glasses on. (I’ve been there a few times.) Moving on.
The first infusion had a very rummy presence on intro. Earth tones were muted by an overall feeling of . . . booze-battered prunes. That actually sounds rather tasty. The second steep was just as strong on the liquor notes, but they were more balanced with the down-to-earth aspects—like a center-right politician. Er, in liquid form? Okay, we’ll just stick with “balanced”. With the third (and final) infusion, I expected a straight-up cooked puerh palatial experience. But—to my shock ‘n awe—the liquor-y bite hung on. If not, stronger than before.
And, wow, that’s the perfect analogy right there. Stronger than before.
While I was writing this, I got a direct message from Robert “The Devotea” Godden. My favorite quote—upon hearing of my shit day—was: “Life kicks you in the nuts. And my advice is, don’t kick it back. Get new nuts.”
And, dammit, he’s right.
Overall, I have no reasons to complain about anything. Other tea friends have it far worse than I do. Sure, my room smells like cat-pee, and the fleas are out in force. Sure, I’m “contaminated”—whatever that means. And, sure, in the broader scheme of things, I’m just a foul-mouthed fortysomething manchild who writes about tea as his principle hobby.
So. Fucking. What.
If life gives you shit, drink a good tea in return. If it tastes like booze? Eh . . . bonus.
To buy Liquid Proust’s Rummy Pu, go HERE.