Friday, September 9, 2011

Confessions an Addict (Teaholics Anonymous)

Hi Everybody, my name is *mumbles something unintelligible* and I have a problem. I’m an addict and I need help. I wake up every morning with dry mouth and craving some of that liquid gold, I rush downstairs and put the kettle on, people know not to talk to me, engage me in any sort of activity or expect me to do anything before I have my morning fix.

I work construction so no viable way to have tea through the day which is becoming increasingly problematic. By ten o’clock I’m already craving that next cup, scheming about how I can get my next fix, thinking how close am I to a tea house, is it worth it to deign and get a cup at Starbucks. It’s beginning to effect my performance, I’m preoccupied all day about when I’m going to get my next drink, what new leaves am I going to order what I’m going to have when I get home. My work ethic is suffering, I find it hard to focus throughout the day and formulate plans and goals that don’t revolve around these marvelous leaves.

As soon as I get home I rush to my kettle again to prepare for euphoria, nobody would dare try to interrupt me or attempt to divert my attention to something that does not involve camellia sinensis. I now spend my evening attempting to consume as much and as many different types until my body rejects anymore consumption and begins to shutdown. Ever chasing that nirvanic high. (Nirvanic : of or relating to Nirvana)

It’s begun to effect my relationships and I’ve been distancing myself from people who think tea is something that you get from a bag in the grocery store. When people invite me over for dinner and drinks I ask what kind of tea they have before I accept and then usually bring my mobile tea kit anyways. When friends want to go out for drinks I ask what tea shop they have in mind. I can’t even carry on a normal conversation without bringing up something tea related.

About a month ago a few close friends and family decided to have an intervention and stole all of my tea, I retaliated by going to the courthouse, striping naked and climbing the flagpole, refusing to come down until my tea was returned. This did not end well by any account. Needless to say I now always keep an emergency stash hidden under a loose floorboard.

It culminated this week when I was forced to break up with my girl friend because she thought genmaicha was actually good tea. It’s gone to far I need help, I don’t think I have the strength to do this alone. Help before I allow this to shatter my life, destroy my family, decimate what few relationships I still have and shred what little dignity I am clinging to.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

That's some mighty fine jazz

I was at a coffee shop the other day, don't worry I was only spying on the enemy, and I couldn't help but overhear the conversation at the table next to me, probably 'cause I was eavesdropping. A guy and gal, in their mid twenties, the guy was apparently trying to win the admiration of his female companion for he told her, "Your where I was three years ago, I'm older than you so I know exactly whats going to happen to you." I choked on my cof .. er, uh .. hot black drink, trying to stifle a laugh and perhaps a retort.

I'm sure he thought he was doing quite well, as she appeared to be paying rapt attention, however it was quickly evident that he was her superior in a company and she was merely paying him lip service in hopes of advancing her career. And amusing game when you are watching it from the outside, but it got me thinking and I started looking around the coffee house and watched about a half dozen mini dramas unfold.

Everyone in there was playing a game, putting on a pretense or pretending to be something their not. They all felt like they had to fit into this socially acceptable mold. Everyone was showing everyone else how they were better, whether it was the car they were driving, the area they lived, their career, vacations, clothes, etc. It was really quite amazing, it was like they had put on a persona just like we might put on clothes, I wonder with all the games these people played if they even knew who the real them was, or if they were just a collection of the roles they played.

I even started to notice the judging glances, apparently my plaid shirt, generic denim, and converse shoes weren't up to their standards, and perhaps the fact that I still laugh every time I say grande or use more than three adjectives to order a drink. Nonetheless, my covert spy mission was blown and it was time to haul out of there, I felt wound up, stressed and judged. I needed to get away from the hypocritical coffee drinkers.

Off to find people of my own kind, so I headed for my favorite tea cafe. Now I've been coming here for years, and while I see new and different patrons every time I visit, they all just blur into the background and could all be described in roughly the same way. They are like perfect background jazz music, the song might change every few minutes but the feel and the vibe is the same, and if your not listening closely you don't hear when it changes.

Now i am surrounded by my people, everyone comes as they are, no one is judging those around them, and I don't even see any posturing among the tables. Everyone here is who they are, they know what that is and they don't feel the need to become something else just because what someone else thinks, nor do they feel the need to judge others. To a degree I accredit this as a tea vs coffee phenomenon, however I also give credit to the establishment.

Remedy Teas is by far my favorite tea cafe, they set a great atmosphere and are comfortable, confident yet unassuming. They know their stuff, yet whether you are an old friend an experienced tea connoisseur or first time drinker. They help you become part of the beautiful jazz. They know tea yet are not overbearing about it, they don't shove information in your face but rather let you decide your course down the road of tea, offering to be a patient guide. If you ask them something they and don't know they will tell you, a novel concept indeed! They don't pretend to be what their not.

Yep this is my home away from home, quality tea, knowledgeable folks and good friends. Next time your in Seattle, stop in for an excellent cup of tea, unassuming conversation and good friends and tell them I sent you. Oh and if you see a guy with a plaid shirt, generic denim and converse shoes then pull up a chair together we'll become some of the finest jazz you've ever heard.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Perhaps a monkey could do better ...

One sunny day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight,
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other,

A deaf policeman heard the noise,
And came to kill the two dead boys,
If you don't believe this lie is true,
Ask the blind man he saw it too!

I've always liked this poem, and unfortunately it seems to emulate the intelligence level of people. If you come up with a good enough story that people want to believe, no matter how ridiculous it is, people will believe it and proclaim it as fact. And it seems most so called authorities take advantage of this, politicians, religious leaders, schools, they all make up ridiculous lies, claim them as fact with no proof and people eat it up. For most of this I think that people who believe any old gobbledy-goo that they hear deserve everything they have coming to them.

However that does not extend to so called authorities who are supposedly educating people about tea. There is enough confusion already without blatant false facts to be floating around as well. People who do this should be tortured, shot, killed and then given a job at Teavana. But they should not be allowed to continue to pollute the public information stream!

The reason why I am fired up is I was recently referred to a tea quiz sponsored by the Tea Association of the USA. I thought, "Hey this could be fun lets give it a whirl", I think my blood pressure tripled. Here are some, no where near all, of my results and complaints.

If you'd like to follow along here is the link.

Question 3: How many types of tea are there?

A: There are over 3,000 types of tea derived from many different plants.
B: Counting herbal tea there are five different types.
C: There are only 3 different types of tea all from the Camellia sinensis plant.
D: There are dozens of teas available.

Pretty straight forward right? This has to be one of the most unclear, muddled questions I've ever been asked. Do they want to know how many subspecies of Camellia sinensis there are? Or perhaps how many varieties, or how many categories. Hrmm, interesting, and even more interesting is what these "mighty educators" have decided to tell the American public. They say the correct answer is, are you ready? Answer C. Well given the other choices I guess that's not a bad choice. Oh wait ... yeah it is, cause its wrong.

So what are the three types of tea these geniuses have come up with? Green, oolong, and black. All I can tell you is I'm not looking forward to going home and telling my White's, Yellow's and Pu erh's that they are no longer tea. Talk about an identity crisis, maybe if I make up a cool new name for them they will feel better.

Maybe the test will get better ... oh, you have no idea.

Question 7: What country invented iced tea and when?

A: US in 1904
B: Great Britian 1650
C: Egypt in 1854
D: Iceland 1894

Ah this one they couldn't possible screw up, except for one little thing ... ah right, the correct answer isn't one of the choices, well that is unfortunate. They were close, ice tea was popularized in the US in 1904 like Teausa claims, but not invented. There are records of ice tea in England at least a hundred years before the 1904 worlds fair.

Question 8: Who invented the tea bag?

A: Samuel Twining, 1864
B: Tetly Company, 1902
C: John Sullivan, 1904
D: Dexter Company, 1899

You'd have to work for T by Daniel to screw this one up, oh wait they did it again. They say the correct answer is C, but guess what, ah yeah you know it, they royally botched this one as well. The correct answer is Thomas Sullivan in 1908. I'm assuming the whole John thing was just a typo since they got it right in the detailed answer. Apparently Teausa has this infatuation with the year 1904 cause they keep using it hoping no one will notice. But again they strike out, three swings and misses.

Honestly I think a trained ape could have put together a more accurate and thought out quiz. Teausa if you are going to claim to be an authority on tea education, please spend less time drinking coffee and more time doing your job.

This only perpetuates the stereotype that Americans are idiots, and after taking this quiz I'm inclined to agree. Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the USA recommends this test be used as a teaching tool and everyone in the tea industry take it to keep in touch with tea topics. I recommend that they shove it where the sun don't shine. No wonder its difficult to find quality tea in this country when these guys are supposedly in charge.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Satirical Guide to Tea

I sit here sipping on a cup of tea for I have far to much on my mind to sleep, and yet not enough energy to dance. I figured to pass the time i'd write about something I enjoy and know a bit about, for years I've researched and looked up information on tea, the history, brewing techniques, what to do with spent leaves, how to use tea in cocktails, ect. And I have come a one conclusion there are far to many people with too much time on their hands that need to get a life! That said, if you can't beat them join them. Plus it's either this or plot world domination.

This guide is meant more of something to keep me busy doing something so I don't have to go interact with . . you know . . people, ugh! rather than anyone actually reading it. However if you do great, you too do not have a life, we should start a club or something. If your an amateur to tea and reading this guide for tips, feel free to ask questions in the comments. If your looking for something easy and think that the art of tea is much easier than, lets say, mixology, than might I suggest something more suited to your nature, perhaps pizza connoisseur, rock collecting or perhaps blues dancing. If your already an expert in tea, and most likely tagged, and reading this to riddle me with holes for the information that lies within, most likely because you have a deep seated self worth issues, than I challenge you to a battle of wits, or perhaps something you stand a better chance at, maybe go-fish or crazy-8's.

First off this guide is meant for people that have an appreciation for tea. I know you think that you do but lets answer a few simple questions to see if this is worth your time in reading.

1) When ever your at a restaurant do you order tea? Or iced tea?
2) Is bottled or canned tea your drink of choice?
3) Do you think that Pekoe is a type of tea?
4) If you went to a tea plantation would you want to see the white tea plant as well as the black tea plant?
5) When you open your tea cabinet do you see the words, "Lipton" or "Celestial Seasonings" or "Stash"?
6) Have you ever tried to smoke tea (not referring to lapsang)?

If you answered yes to 3 of the . . . ah heck if you even thought about answering yes to any of the above questions let me redirect you to where your guide is. Click Here

For the rest of you lets begin . . .

The History of Tea

Back in the . . . ok while I find this interesting and could write pages on the subject, the few of you that may still be reading would get board and go back to doing something productive, like playing farmville.

Picking your Perfect Tea

Thats like you asking me what movie you should watch or what song you should listen to with out telling me your mood. Would you like me to hold your hand or help with your homework too. Let me guess your a people pleaser, grow up and develop a back bone and an opinion for yourself.

Tea brewing techniques

1) Always start with fresh cold filtered water. Never reboil water (Re-boiling water is like playing Russian Roulette. It's all fun and games until your brains are sliding down the kitchen walls), never use hot water from the tap and never use an instant hot, and crying out loud do not boil your water in the microwave!

2) Yes temperature does matter!

-for black teas 204 to 208

-for green teas 168 to 186

- for white teas 178 to 192
Note above temperatures are guidelines, accurate but guidelines nonetheless. The sole purpose of them being so precise was to intimidate you.

3) Steeping. This would be a good time for me to mention that if at this point you think we are using tea bags then allow me to direct you to this site. There are many different steeping methods out there, i'm not here to criticize any of them, I here to criticize you for using a retarded technique.

Do not use those cute little tea balls in which you put your tea in a mesh ball, snap it shut, and place in hot water.
Do not use those fancy brewing bags.
Do not use a french press.

There are three acceptable methods for steeping your tea:
-a single cup basket, which fits into the mug of your choice and brews the tea in cup.Shown here. Note use a solid stainless steel basket, not one that has plastic components.
-tea pot basket, usually designed for the tea pot it comes with, and brews the tea in pot, great for sharing tea with friends (better known as Slinky's). Shown here.
-cup strainer, steep your tea in your container of choice than pour into your cup through this strainer to filter out the leaves. Shown here.

The following instructions refer to the first method, but I have faith that with a little common sense you'll be able to figure out the other two (nope your right, your screwed . . oh well).

First pre-warm your cup, take a bit of your hot water, swirl it around in your cup than toss it. Then fill your cup with the hot water from your kettle, no not the instant hot or the microwave (we've already talked about this). Then slowly insert the basket with the tea leaves into the cup of hot water. Do not insert the basket first for NEVER should you pour the water over the tea leaves.

Now allow tea to steep for the appropriate amount of time, then remove the basket.

Steeping Times

Now I am not an expert of all teas, I mostly stick to Assam's and Yunnan's (which are both black for any laymen that are bored enough to still be reading this). Therefore I will give you the information I know and perhaps my tea nerd companions can correct and/or fill in the blanks. Also the below are again guidelines, they are meant to be generic, each different tea within the black, green and white tea families is going to behave differently but this will get you close.

Black teas. On average 4 minutes. The exception being Ceylon's which should only be steeped 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.
Green Teas. A good general rule is 2-3 minutes.
White Teas. Ah white tea that crazy, crazy mistress and moody too. White teas vary wildly, based on many factors, and I do not have enough experience trying to tame this wild young lady to help much. But somewhere between 3 and 12 minutes. You'll have to experiment for yourself. Have fun, she is a great time.

Other Notes

If you have to ask how much tea to use than you really probably have no business reading this to begin with but alas. 1 teaspoon per 8 ounces of water.
And despite what anyone tells you, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER EVER re-steep used leaves. You might as well just open a can of bud light and stick to drinking that.

A Note on Storing Your Tea

The rule of thumb as with most things organic is store in a cool, dry, dark, place in a non-porous, air tight container. Really your best option is to store your tea in an air tight stainless steel canister, ceramic works as well. If your want to be stubborn like me you can use glass containers but they must be kept in a dark cabinet. Do not store your tea in anything wood, plastic, etc. And don't just leave them in paper bags.

To Conclude, no there is to much, let me sum up

This is a comprehensive guide, many questions are left unanswered and statements made without explanation. For one this guide is already too long to hold many peoples attention and two I just got bored and tired of typing at my uncomfortably tall desk. That said if any one asks questions or would like to add corrections or get explanations, I will answer them and add them in the guide where they fit.