of the Lazy Literatus

Tag: Red Lodge Books and Tea

Montanan Breakfast Tea

NaNoTeaMo, Day 12: “Montanan Breakfast Tea”

This morning, I received a message from Gary Robson, o’ he of Red Lodge Books & Tea fame. I wasn’t quite awake, yet. My hands clumsily fumbled for my phone, and I accidentally activated Facebook’s calling function. No idea how it happened, but it led to a rather spirited conversation nonetheless.

Following that dialogue, I took that as a sign to brew up one of Gary’s signature wake-the-f**K-up blends. In my backlog box, there happened to be a tea he made called “Gary’s Kilty Pleasure”. I received it a couple of summer’s back on a trip to his tea bar in Montana.

Kilty bag

From Red Lodge Books to Odin’s Armpits

Toward the end of August, my mother asked for my aid in helping her drive from Wyoming to Oregon. One can hardly turn down such a request from their mother, but I added one condition. I would gladly assist…just as long as we made a stop through Red Lodge, Montana. The small town was a mere hour away from where we were staying, and I had a particularly personal reason to go. Tea Expo friends of mine ran a bookstore/tea bar.

I emphasized to her that this was mandatory.

I had encountered the Family Robson at World Tea Expo back in June, but I had yet to behold the place they called “work”. I’d seen some photos, heard them regale their experiences in quixotic anecdotes, and I wanted to experience it firsthand. I informed their kilted patriarch, Gary Robson, to prepare for my coming. And he said he “might consider wearing pants”. (Spoiler alert: He didn’t.)

I flew into Billings that morning, and Mum picked me up in short order. By around noon, we had arrived in Red Lodge. Finding the downtown area wasn’t hard. The town, maybe, had two major roads.

The bookstore was…well…



The moment you walked in, it was like going down a dungeon made of books. I made my presence known to Gary, who was working the counter – kilted, of course. I asked him where the tea bar was, and he directed me to the back.

At the end of the tunnel o’ books was the tea bar.

Tea Bar

Mum and I grabbed seats, and I made my presence known to Gary’s son, Doug, who was manning the bar. He was zipping back and forth like a plaid-shirted squirrel, handling three or four requests at a time, and somehow finding time to acknowledge my presence with a, “Good you came now; you missed the rush.”

I’ve always said I would like to work at a tea bar, but there was no way I could do it with as much deftness as Doug. The dude was a machine. Albeit a (possibly) very caffeinated machine.


After Mum ordered her Earl Grey standby, I inquired about the Darjeeling Bai Hao oolong they carried. Doug informed me that there was maybe a cup’s-worth left. I nabbed it.

I’ll be damned if it didn’t taste like the Taiwanese Oriental Beauty style it was trying to ape. Same honey-sweet taste and creepily creamy texture. Very little muscatel intruded upon that.

Darjeeling Bai Hao

After that, I simply sipped and observed. Gary and Doug’s banter was half the reason I came. The other half? Tea, of course.

Case in point:

Gary: (to me) “Oh, you need to try my masala chai.”

Doug: “No, that’s my masala chai.”

Gary: “They’re my ingredients.”

Doug: “…Which I blended.”

Gary: (to me) “We tried to build up his confidence, but I think we overcompensated.”

It went on for a good hour like that, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Alas, all good things had to come to an end. We were on a bit of a deadline, and we said our farewells. Before I left, though, I made it a point to pick up a stash of a few things. Included among them was a blend dubbed “Odin’s Armpits”.

The blend was of Doug’s devising, but Gary named it – Lapsang Souchong, cinnamon, safflower and lily petals. It smelled wonderful, but I didn’t dig into it until a good few days later back in Oregon.

Odin's Armpits

I never would’ve thought cinnamon and smoke would work so well together, but – hooo-boy – does it! It’s like putting your head in a fireplace for breakfast. A perfect wake-up tea. Given Gary’s prowess with Lapsang and Earl Grey, I wasn’t too surprised Robson the Younger could handle such a blend.

I hope to see them, and their tea plant again someday soon.

Pants optional.

Father 'n Son

Who Pooped in the Microwave?!

Last week ended in a way no one could ever have suspected. I won’t say what I do for a job, but one of the tasks is checking microwaves. And someone had pooped in one. No, there was no log present, or a diaper…just dark matter, a rancid smell, and a feeling of “I-failed-at-life-choices”. Worse off, my head was in said microwave when I made this unfortunate discovery.


I mentioned this unique event on Facebook. Robert “The Devotea” Godden – ever-ready with a quip – mentioned that Gary Robson, author of the Who Pooped in the Park? children’s book series, should do one titled: Who Pooped in the Microwave?

Gary’s response was, “I don’t think that microwave could ever be cleaned adequately. I say ‘ick’, and that’s coming from someone who writes poop books for a living.”

That was only the tip of the shitty iceberg, though. On top of having my head stuck in a shitty microwave, I was missing the Northwest Tea Festival. I had arranged for the time off, my handlers had worked their schedules around my absence…but then my finances took a nosedive. As such, I had to opt out of attending.

As fate would have it, though, the day of the teafest, I had money to attend. How…fitting.

Butt!…I mean, BUT there’s a silver (not brown) lining. The tea fest kinda came to me.

Pu-erh and Pizza

That following Sunday, I received word that Jo Johnson was due in. I knew she was making a stop in Portland, but I wasn’t sure as to when. We agreed to meet up for tea in the evening. Since she was staying with local friends in the Alberta area, we settled on Townshend’s Tea for the meet-up.

In anticipation, I got their early and asked for their specialty menu. Because I’m…well…me. As luck would have it, they were in possession of some mandarin orange-aged shou pu-erh. I ordered a large pot of that and awaited her arrival.

Tea Folk Trilogy

I had expected to only see Jo, and maybe her friend’s Jim and Marilyn, but Darlene Meyers-Perry was also with them! A whole mess o’ tea people! Jo and I split the pu-erh pot and talked shop, then joined up with the other three for pizza. They related to me how the NWTF went, and I chimed in…in my own caffeinated sorta way.

A grand way to start the week.

A Tale of Two Canadians

I knew Pedro and Brian – owners of the O5 Tea Bar in Vancouver, BC – were stopping through Portland, but I didn’t know when, how or in what capacity. Turns out it was same weekend. I received a phone call from Pedro right before I met up with Jo at Townsend’s .

(Sidenote: For those who don’t know who I’m talking about, go HERE. I met them while tea-picking. I swear.)

Pedro and Brian were jaunting throughout the Northwest meeting with potential co-op clients. On top of owning O5, they also ran a wholesale tea business called Two Hills Tea. While not the rare stuff that O5 featured, their selection on the Two Hills website was still mighty impressive.

As we nursed beers at Imbrie Hall, they related to me some of their back road adventures in Asia.

Tea Folk Trilogy (2)

One of the things that is unique about this pair of gents is that they source directly from farmers as if they’re on a road trip, then they shop their wares in the States and Canada in pretty much the same way. Seriously, this is the stuff of movies.

They also related some unique teas they’ve tried, including a Bangladeshi “pu-erh” variant.

I must have this.

Gold Nuggets and GABA

My final visitors came in the form of the family Robson. Gary of Red Lodge Books and Tea was in town for a book convention and signing. He originally asked if I knew of any tea joints, and suggested we meet up at one. The closest I knew of to where he was staying was The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants. That Tuesday, I ferried him and his son there.

We went through…oh, hell…I forgot how many teas. Particular favorites for them were the GABA oolong and a Gold Nugget Pu-erh.

Tea Folk Trilogy-3

(You can read about Gary’s take on that HERE.)

Afterwards, we met up with his wife Kathy for sushi. It wasn’t in my budget to indulge expensively, so I settled on one eel roll and a dark Asahi. A Japanese beer that reminded me of a German dunkel – very odd.

A very pleasant outing. Now, it’s my turn to venture up their way to their teashop/bookstore. Can’t come soon enough.

Oh yes…I almost forgot. Gary left me with a parting gift. His latest in the Who Pooped…? series. Fitting, given the way my last week ended, but definitely welcome.

Tea Folk Trilogy-4


I only have one regret of this last week. Well…besides shattering my favorite tea mug, ripping my pants, spilling beer on myself (and later a computer), and  the aforementioned “micropoop”.

The following Saturday, I attended a green tea tasting at The Jasmine Pearl as part of their Tea Fest PDX program list.


Among the usual standbys – like Long Jing and Mao Jian, which I adore – they also featured a houjicha from China! I had no idea I’d run into a unique tea at this thing, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. But I digress…

I missed another tea person by a mere two hours.

Michael J. Coffey and his partner were just in The Jasmine Pearl earlier that morning.

Well, poop.

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