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of the Lazy Literatus

Tag: Sun Tea

Tea is Magic to a Darjeeling-Drenched Dresden Phile

This is the part of the entry – the introduction, no less – where the blogger is supposed to “apologize for not blogging in a while”. This is usually followed by an excuse of some sort – work, school, girlfriends, boyfriends, abductions, pets, zombie apocalypses, what-have-you. Well, I don’t have any excuse – at least, not a good one. I’ll blame it on one word: Magic.

As mentioned in my priory entry, I’m currently neck-deep in The Dresden Files. I’m on book…oh…eight? Cliff’s notes version: It’s about a wizard – Harry Dresden – who acts as a private eye in Chicago, and epic events happen around the man. It’s urban fantasy for the post-Harry Potter set. And damn awesome at that.

dresden

The fourteen-(and counting)-book series also inspired a short-lived TV series. It was nowhere near as epic as the book series. Events and characters were changed to cater to a scaled-down TV show budget. And, hoo-boy, was it ever scaled down. There was one key difference between the books and show that I found interesting – a character trait that the show had over the written word.

In the books, Dresden was a coffee drinker; in the TV series, a tea drinker.

Dresden tea

There were a couple of episodes that focused rather heavily on the magical properties of plants, and they played an integral part of a potion in one episode. On a couple of occasions, he was also seen drinking from a Japanese cast-iron tea cup. No one drinks coffee out of cast-iron. Er, not that I know of.

This made me wonder – in a not-so-serious fashion – if there was something to this “tea-is-magic” stuff. I consider myself a bit of an amateur expert on the subject of tea and magic, but I hadn’t done an anecdotal (read: nonfictional) “study” on the subject. So, I decided to reflect on the last month or so using one common factor for this little meta-tea study: My last three encounters with Smith Teamaker teas.

What? It’s not a scientific theory unless it’s been proven three times, right? At least, I think that’s how it goes. Oh, right…on to the magic.

Fraud and First Flush

When I received the phone call, I was under a bed. At work.

cat

I won’t say what I do for work, or why I was under a bed, but I will say that it was an inopportune time to be answering the phone. The call was from a third-party fraud department that worked in tandem with my credit union.

The woman on the other end asked, “Did you make any purchases in Georgia or North Carolina?”

I said, “Um…no.”

“You’re still in Oregon, then?” she continued.

“Yes,” I answered. Slightly more annoyed.

“Well, your debit card was used in the following locations,” and then she went on to explain that said debit card was now frozen as a result. I had no access to funds until my credit union branch opened on Monday.

In the interim, whoever the mysterious fraud culprit was continued to rack up charges on my debit card, thus negating the claim that my account had been frozen. By Sunday of that weekend, I was penniless. That and a credit card payment that I’d made in advance was going to bounce.

Come Monday morning, I had a rather heated exchange with a bank rep about the situation. At first, she was un-empathetic to my penniless plight, but seeing me on the verge of a breakdown softened her Sikh heart. I filed the necessary incident report, noted the fraudulent charges, and signed on the dotted line. She agreed to contact me once everything was resolved, but warned it might take a day or two.

As catharsis, I journeyed to Northwest Portland to have a relieving pot of first flush Darjeeling from the Chamong estate at Smith Teamaker HQ. Claire – the tea bartender on duty – patiently listened to me rant about my banking woes. While I slowly sipped away at my two-person pot, I received a phone call from the bank rep. Everything was wrapped up in a tight little bow. All fraudulent charges were removed, and any overdraft fees were refunded.

Chamong

I called my credit card company to make sure that the payment from my credit union went through without a hitch. They confirmed there were no issues. I stared at my phone – shocked.

All crises were averted…in the time it took me to down a pot of tea. Coincidence?

Sakura and Sun Tea

I’ve already talked about how my brother introduced me to “sun tea” a couple of years ago. On further attempts, we used Smith Teamaker’s Exceptional Iced Tea blend to make more. I still had four huge-arse sachets of the stuff left, and we decided to give it another run on the first warm day of Spring. My brother put it by the cherry blossom tree in our backyard.

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Three hours later, it was ready. We went through half the jar in only two days. On one of those days, I downed at least two pints – right before I was to attend my usually Monday board game night at a friend’s house. The usual default for us is a game called Settlers of Catan.

Simply put, it’s The Game of Life meets Olde World economy. Wicked fun…and I suck at it. I, maybe, win one game in twenty. By the skin of my sheep. This time around, my avenues of settlement expansion were cut in half, leaving very little potential for growth or gameplay. That’s what I thought at first.

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Not only were the dice on my side, but by some stone-‘n-mortar miracle, I made a massive comeback. By the end of it, I earned the ten points needed to win the game naturally with no development cards or added sundries. I left that game night practically glowing and in tears. A board game victory should never be that poignant and powerful.

Yes, I blame the sun tea. That’s all I had to drink the entire day.

A Darjeeling Tea Tasting

While at work (yes, again with the work moments), I received an e-mail from Alex – Smith Teamaker’s tech-‘n-sales guru – about an upcoming Darjeeling tasting thingy. The next day. New 2013 first flushes had come in. The problem with my job, though, was that I had no clue what time I’d be done. I was a supervisor of a staff of six or seven, and our departure time was contingent upon their speed.

In anticipation, I called my boss’s boss to see if I could cut out early for the tasting. He said, “Yes.” And I kowtowed in extreme appreciation. Luckily, the need for his permission wasn’t necessary. The day of the tasting, I ended up getting out an hour early!  Truly, magic at work.

The tasting itself was hosted by both Alex and Blender Tony. The latter of whom described the importance and minutiae of Darjeeling teas from a vendor perspective in great detail. We tasted roughly ten teas from seven different estates. My favorites were from the Phoobsering estate – known for their kick-arse oolongs.

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As an added bonus, I got to take those home with me.

The remainder of my week was spent finishing the last few chapters of Dead Beat – arguably the best book in the Dresden series. I can see the pro arguments. I mean, Dresden rides a zombie T-rex into battle – how cool is that?!

What I found particularly odd, though, was that there was a heckuva lot more tea drinking in this book than in the prior installments. Very little mention of coffee. I’m not sure if the books took a page out of the TV series, but I smile a bit at the coincidence.

Bah, I think I’ve proven I don’t believe in coincidences.

As I sip my second pot of Darjeeling while writing this.

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Ginger Has Soul

Meet my brother…and his obscenely large dog.

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If you’re no stranger to this blog, then you’ve read my references to them in prior entries. My brother is my landlord/roommate. The dog? Well…he’s just there – acting all cute and hyper. To my sibling’s credit, he is a casual tea drinker. I say “casual” because he doesn’t worry about things like seasonal flushes, nebulous leaf grades, or what mountain his oolongs come from. I, on the other hand, do take those factors into consideration. What I’m about to confess, though, is that my brother has oftentimes influenced my tea drinking routine.

I sort of hinted at this in a prior entry about chamomile. Through him, I used to have an affinity for the relaxing flower. However, my palate has changed since then, and now chamomile – to me – tastes like…well…floral-flavored ass medicine. No, I can’t think of a better comparison.

But back to the subject at hand.

Roughly three years ago, my brother embarked on a bit of an experiment utilizing a jar, some teabags, and simple sunlight. Before him, I hadn’t even heard of “Sun Tea”, nor that it was a southern staple. All that was required was a three-hour wait, then presto. The results were eye-openingly delicious. Crude but credible.

A couple of years later, we tried it out with a couple of loose-leaf sachets of Smith Teamaker’s Exceptional Iced Tea blend. The results were “like” iced tea but slightly different. A good different, I assure you. When Summer comes around again, we’ll probably do the same thing. And to those that warn against bacterial growth. Well…we Normans are rebels.

Exceptional Sun Tea

On a simple day back in…uh…I think it was November, my brother up and decided that he was not going to fall ill anymore. His magic solution to this “ailment” was an old wives tale – apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp. a day. Normally, he added it to his tea. I thought the idea of that sounded disgusting.

Then I heard about the nationwide flu outbreak.

At my new job, I hadn’t earned health insurance yet. Nor did I have the money to get vaccinated. While I knew green tea helped to curb colds and influenza, it wasn’t a sure-fire answer. So, in the early morning before work, I would brew a pot of something dark, and the third cup was always doused with a dash of apple cider vinegar. And guess what? I liked it. The stuff went really well with an over-brewed black tea. Somehow, the tannins and the vinegar made magic – not sure.

Brother-made naan on the left.

Brother-made naan on the left.

February is almost over, and I still haven’t been sick. So…I guess there’s something to the stuff. Score two to the bro.

Some weeks back, brother dearest and his girlfriend tried another experiment. This time, it was an attempt to boil a tisane of fresh ginger by the pot. I – at my tea-snobbiest – said snootily, “The best results come from using dried ginger.”

They politely entertained my pontification, but humbly disagreed, and went on with their experiment. That gave me a moment of pause, and I turned to the FaceTwitPlus-o-sphere to garner second opinions from the rest of the tea community. The results were mixed. Some said better ginger flavor was yielded from brewing the dried stuff, others were proponents of fresh. On a second go-around, my bro and his lady-love tried it with smaller cut pieces of ginger.

Fresh Ginger

It was at this point I gave in and tried some. Small confession: I’m not a fan of ginger. At all. I went through a phase of drinking it every day but ended up with a wicked case of heartburn. That turned me off to most tisanes with the stuff. Same with peppermint. I could only stand blends with those ingredients if they were used sparingly.

My brother’s fresh ginger experiment was a game-changer. Sure, it tasted like ginger, but the flavor was more citrus-heavy than spice-laden. That and the fresh stuff was oddly cooling. Strange, considering ginger is normally a “heating” herb. The overall sensation was gentle, like a warm, relaxing electric blanket in liquid form.

Brotherhood Achievement: Unlocked.

My tea-snobbery was curb-stomped. I don’t know when I’ll ever learn to keep my preconceived notions at bay, but I suppose that’s what siblings are for. To bring you back down to Earth when you become to big for your beverage-y britches. Oh well…I did introduce him to Greek Mountain “tea” and Golden Yunnan…so I guess that means we’re even.

Oh wait, that’s three-to-two.

Damn.

© Jason Norman

© Jason Norman

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