The last two weeks were a busy time. Yes, tea was included in the list of activities, but it wasn’t the central occurrence. Instead, the most common element in everything that happened can be summed up in one word: “Potential”. I’ll try to explain…
A Teaneer Tandem Tasting
At the start of January, I “attended” yet another Tandem Tea Tasting with the girls – Jo “A Gift of Tea/Scandalous Tea” Johnson, Nicole “Tea For Me Please” Martin, Darlene “The Tea Enthusiast’s Scrapbook”/”Tea Lover’s Archive” Meyers-Perry, and Rachel “I Heart Teas” Carter. This time, it was Nicole’s turn to provide the wares for discussion. These were teas I was particularly excited about.
In Nilgiri, India there’s a new organic tea outfit called Vijayalashmi Natural Tea Farms. So new are they, that they don’t even have a website up yet – just a Facebook page, at the moment. One of the fantastic things about this outfit – and their spokesman, Teaneer Suresh – is what they’re doing to change the face of Nilgiri teas in general. The region sometimes gets a bad rep for low quality, CTC-grade bulk teas. Rarely is it considered a region of orthodox exploration – save for a few estates like Tiger Hill.
What I found fascinating about Teaneer Teas was their emphasis on other tea types besides the old Nilgiri standby – black tea. Of the four Nicole sent to us, none of them were blacks or oolongs. One was a white, one was a yellow, and two were green. A bit on the impatient side, I dug into the white tea before the tandem tasting, and found that it hit all the right marks.
The flavor was odd – like salted grapes – but the character was very White Peony-ish with a Nilgiri lean.
During the tandem tasting, I put the Aristocrat Green Tea, Flow Green Tea and Yellow Tea back-to-back. The greens reminded me of one other Nilgiri green tea I’d tried – same kelpy taste and everything. The yellow was the real surprise. Never had I tasted a “yellow tea” outside of China that actually resembled a Huang Ya. Peppery, nutty, and vegetal only in a “cooked green beans” sorta way. This was my favorite of the four. The yellow also seemed to be the consensual favorite of the group – or from what I gathered.
It was also (mostly) agreed upon that while Teaneer was off to a good start, they hadn’t quite reached greatness, yet. I could almost compare their upward progress to that of the Doke estate in 2012. They were still in their experimental phase, trying to find the approach that worked best. The teas were good, but I saw a greater potential. (See? There’s that word again.)
And speaking of potential…
After discussing the teas at length, we segued into a discussion about the tea community as a whole. Particularly about “bad eggs” in the social fray. There were some dissenting voices to one of Nicole’s posts about tea snobbery toward the end of 2013. I also had my disagreements with it, but only to one aspect – that of defending a discerning palate.
We agreed overall that while there were…unpleasant tea drinkers on the fringes of the community, they were given many chances to prove themselves. No one was automatically shut out of the discussion – no matter how blowhard – just because of one social infraction. Forgiveness and tolerance were prevalent in all the “corners” of the cuppa circle. All I had to do was point to the tea community’s tolerance of me. If they could put up with my antics, they could put up with anybody. That is…for a time.
We – no matter how splintered, jaded or clique-ish we got – saw potential in any tea drinker new or old. No one was exiled…except under circumstances of extreme douchebaggery. Even teabaggers were welcome. Hey, sometimes I’m one. Yeah, I admit it. What of it? Come at me, bro.
And speaking of anti-teabaggers…
An Infusiastic Trip
Last week, I was drafted by my Mum to help her road trip from Wyoming to Oregon. There were more job opportunities in the rainy state, and she wanted company for early winter trek. I burned three vacation days and agreed to fly out. (On her dime, of course.)
Being the neurotic sort, I liked to arrive at the airport early. If mobile Internet didn’t provide enough of a time-waster, I went with something old school – a good ol’ book. The only one I grabbed from home was Robert “The Devotea” Godden’s story collection, The Infusiast.
I’d intended the book to last me the entire trip, thinking it would last through several spurts of reading. The moment I started the damn thing, I couldn’t put it down. By the time I arrived in Wyoming, I was at the epilogue. And I’m not that fast of a reader.
The book was potential realized – a humorous, touching and thought-provoking guide to all things tea. Sure, it only hit certain bullet points of interest to the author, but they were intriguing ones. And it was nice to see his humor and wit display on good ol’ fashioned paper. My favorite bits were the ones dealing with Orwell. Yes, that Orwell.
My least favorite? The tea/food recipes. Truth be told, I skipped them. I can’t cook; didn’t apply to me. Although, I would totally taste-test someone’s attempt at a tea pizza. Like, the entire pizza.
Steeping Lady Violet
The first thing I wanted to do the moment I arrived in Wyoming was sniff a certain tea. Darlene had sent my mother a bag of her new Tea Lovers Archive blend – Lady Violet – after I mentioned she was a Downton Abbey fan. During the tandem tasting, Darlene mentioned the blend was made of black tea, malva petals and violet flavoring. While I’m not much of a blend person (er, anymore), this one had me curious. What the heck does “violet” even smell like?
Apparently, it smells like blueberries, at least to my odd nose.
I dug into it the next morning, and it tasted exactly like it smelled – a floral and berry-ish black tea. I steeped that sucker twice, and the flavor never let up. In fact, I think I preferred the second steeping to the first. More refined and witty, like Lady Violet herself. It was good to have a good tea with Mum again.
Throughout the two-day drive to Portland, my mother and I had many discussions. The focus was primarily on transition. I felt like a self-centered idiot having not realized she had been in a bit of a winter funk since the beginning December. Throughout all our phone conversations, she never let on that she’d been down at all. Either she was sparing me the worry, or she was glad to speak to someone else about their issues, I have no clue. Point being, I felt like I’d let her down by not inquiring about her.
But I made up for it on the car ride.
She was hoping that a brief stint in Oregon would reinvigorate her. I, for one, was glad to have her back. The woman was one of the few people who motivated me out of my lazier habits. We talked of future plans and hypotheses for two straight days. And it was glorious.
Upon returning, we also learned that my sister/roommate had a hard week at work, and that my niece had passed all of her classes by the skin of her teeth. Sis had realized that there were limits to even what she could accomplish and realized her potential as a proper delegator. Whereas my niece realized that she was indeed smarter than what her earlier grades indicated.
That Sunday, we relaxed in front of the television – three generations of people in transition – and partook of a double-helping of Downton Abbey and Sherlock. So much potential in one room, all in pajamas. And me, slippers donned, raising a tea-laden Chewbacca chalice in celebration.