Sunday, 17 June 2012

we've no time to wash the things between whiles

`Yes, that's it,' said the Hatter with a sigh: `it's always tea-time, and we've no time to wash the things between whiles.

Howdy, lahikmajoe's teabloggians. Lahikmajoe has been kind enough to let me guest-blog today. This is always a treat because then I get to be goofy elsewhere, other than my home. I’ve been here before. You might remember me. I’m the one who knows very little about tea and is very willing to try it, but hasn’t found anything to make her want to drink it on a regular basis yet.

Today I went on a very grand adventure. This adventure was a few months in the making, so it’s exciting that it actually finally happened. Yes, it was a tea adventure. It would be a odd if I was here and it wasn’t a tea-related adventure, now wouldn’t it? Yes. Yes, it would.

A few months ago, I noticed a sign go up in a field that I drive past on my way to work. 

This is kind of what the sign looked like. ANYWAY, I was all, “Hey, lahikmajoe, I think we’re getting a tea place, or maybe a sewing shop, when it opens, I should check that out, yeah?

Then I kind of totally forgot about it completely because life got in the way. It happens.

Then a couple of weeks ago, the local paper reviewed the place I’d completely forgotten about, and I thought, oh, oh, crap, I totally forgot about that place. I guess it opened. Whoops!

So I went to the website and I brought up the tea menu and I asked lahikmajoe if it looked any good and if I should go there. He said there were plenty of decaf options for me (I’m not supposed to have caffeine, because one of my cadre of doctors - yep, I have a cadre of them, I’m a whole medical miracle - told me that caffeine was a migraine trigger, and it seems to be the case, because when I cut the caffeine out, my migraines mostly stopped, too) but here’s the thing - I didn’t want to go to a fancy tearoom and have decaf, because the decaf options were mostly herbal, and it seemed like going to a tea place for tea that doesn’t really have tea in it would be like going to an amusement park for the people watching. It seems like a waste. You’re THERE, you really need to participate in what’s going ON. 

Plus, I really, really, REALLY wanted to try Oolong. Lahikmajoe talks about it all the time and makes it sound wonderful. Even if I tried it and hated it, I wanted to see what it tasted like. And they had Wu Yi Oolong. Doesn’t that even SOUND fancy and like you’re going on an exotic vacation? It totally does.

So I decided, let’s try something with caffeine, and see what happens. It’s probably been 12 years since the “don’t have anymore caffeine” edict, and I’ve changed a lot since then, so who knows what will happen.

So this morning! I got up at 6:45am. ON A SUNDAY. I know. I’m very dedicated. Oh, last night, lahikmajoe gave me a tutorial on Oolong and oxidation and such, which was nice. It was like going to the tea place with prior knowledge. Like I was a secret agent.

I got to The Tailored Tea at a little after 8am. I had lahikmajoe on call. I think it’s important to have a tea expert on call for situations like this, don’t you? Sure it is, come on.

The Tailored Tea looks like this. I am stealing this photo from the Albany Times Union website, because the photo I took...well, here’s their photo:

inviting, eh? you'd go there for some tea, wouldn't you?

And here’s MINE, because I felt like a weirdo standing in the street to take a good photo, so I stood off to the side and it looks terrible.

incognito photography

I’ll never be mistaken for a professional photographer, that’s for sure. Also, there’s the Midas Brake Center and the Dunkin’ Donuts. Hi, chain establishments!

So I was the first person there. That’s a little worrisome. The staff pays a LOT of attention to you when you’re the first person there.

Now, most of you probably already read the review The Purrfect Cup did of the same place? She’s more knowledgeable than I am. So, if you didn’t, here. This is a much less scatterbrained review of the same place.

Lahikmajoe said I should ask the waitress if they do multiple infusions, and if they did, tell him, because that was the way to go. And that they would know what he was talking about. He’s the tea expert. I said I would.

I was seated at the TINIEST TABLE EVER. So, so tiny. I was immediately sure I was going to break something. I am a total bull in a china shop. Oh, also? There was a LOT of china. This had utter disaster written all over it. I immediately tucked in my elbows and prayed I would be coordinated, just for an hour or so.

The table settings were pretty. All classic linen and mismatched china.

doesn't the china look nervous?

The waitress was young and seemed very sweet. So I was kind of nervous asking her about the infusion thing. But lahikmajoe said to. So I did.

Um...infusions...I don’ you want to know how we brew our tea?” she asked.

I explained that no, I was pretty sure that wasn’t what it meant - it was more about how many times you used the leaves. (Sheesh, lahikmajoe, I hope that’s right. I didn’t know there would be a quiz.)

Oh. We steep the teabags for three minutes,” she said, very happy she knew the answer this weird person was wanting.

Teabags? Oh. Um. I don’t think a fancy tearoom is supposed to have teabags. That’s a worry. (And actually really confusing, because before I left, the owner came and talked to me, and you can buy any of the teas they sell there loose-leaf. So why do they have them in teabags? Do they put them in teabags themselves? Or was the waitress just ill-informed? She was utterly adorable. I don’t want to get her in trouble.)

So I told her whatever they did would be fine and got a half-pot of Oolong, which is supposed to be 2.5 cups. She asked if I wanted her to leave the teabag in or out. She said if she left it in, it would get very strong. “Out, out, please out,” I said. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like strong tea.

I also ordered a big old omelette because it had ham and cheese in it. Yum.

She brought out the tea. The teapot was bigger than I expected. She poured me a cup in my tiny, very delicate-looking teacup. Oh, please don’t let me break this, I thought. That’d be so embarrassing.

first cup of Oolong

I looked around the table. No cream. No Splenda. I’m sure they HAD such things, but I’d have to ask for them, and the poor waitress was busy by then. Three other parties had come in. And they were old, and they were demanding. (More on these shenanigans later.)

I wanted to try it without anything in it first anyway. It’s not fair to try something to see if you like it with a bunch of add-ons. That’s like salting a meal before you even taste it to see if it needs salt.

My take on tastes like flowers. And it doesn’t taste as tea-like as the other types of tea lahikmajoe has encouraged me to try. He wanted to know if it tasted like anything else. My answer is? Probably, but I’m not the person to ask. I don’t have a fancy palate. My favorite meal is honestly chicken fingers. All I tasted (and smelled) was flowers.

And I drank an entire half-pot (without cream or Splenda) all by myself. Without even a grimace. I actually liked it quite a lot. It was smooth, it didn’t have that weird aftertaste, and it made me feel like a fancy lady to be drinking it out of a nice teacup at a table with a tablecloth on it.

And and AND, it’s been a couple of hours, and no migraine. Not even a headache. It could still be coming, I suppose, but the only after-effects I’ve experienced so far are I’m hyped up like a crazy person (listen, YOU try not having any caffeine for 12 years and then having a half-pot of tea, which was supposed to be 2.5 cups but was really 3.5 cups!) and all the peeing. ALL THE PEEING.

Oh, the other people in the teashop? Ok, so there were three other tables of people.
Table one: crotchety demanding couple. They complained about everything to one another. “I don’t LIKE bacon. Why don’t they have TURKEY bacon.” Blah blah blah. (Also, turkey bacon is an abomination of nature, lady. Get with the program.) When the waitress cleared their table, they waited for about .0005 seconds, then the wife went LOOKING for her, out by the KITCHEN, for the check. I could hear her haranguing the staff, “We’re ready for our BILL now!” (Granted, the wait for my bill was interminable, too, but I was nicer about it. I had my phone to entertain me.)

Table two and table three: Old people who knew each other from a billion years ago. Table two said to table three, "Hey, is that you, Mary Alice? We used to volunteer at the church together!" And they were off, reminiscing about old times. The best thing though? The best thing? Table two was telling table three about a diner she liked to go to, and table three said - actually said - “Are there HIPPIES there?” And table two said, “Um. Hippies?” And table three said, “Every time I drive by, there are ALL THE HIPPIES hanging around outside.” Table two laughed uncomfortably and said, “We go very early, so there are there. Then. No.” I was trying VERY HARD not to laugh out loud. THOSE DAMN DIRTY DINER-RUINING HIPPIES.

(I promise I wasn’t being openly eavesdroppy. The people didn’t know I was listening to them. I can listen and look like I’m not. I’m very good at it.)

Also, and I just kept thinking, “This would make lahikmajoe so sad,” because all three tables, the MINUTE they sat down, said a variant of “You DO have coffee here, RIGHT?” I think a couple of the ladies might have gotten tea, but mostly the men they were with were all TEA IS BAD NEWS WE DISTRUST THIS TEA NONSENSE. One guy actually said, “I’ll have coffee. And KEEP IT COMIN’.” OK, Hopalong Cassidy.

When I was done, the owner came and checked in with me about how I liked my food and my beverages (I did! Very much!) and then I went home. Oh, this is their backyard:

the backyard, which is really the airport

The backyard is the airport. Some people really dig watching planes lift off and land. I’m not as charmed. They’re just planes. 

So. The Tailored Tea in Latham, New York. I’m all-systems-go on this place. It’s cute and it’s fancy (so tuck in those elbows, people as clumsy as me) and the food is good and priced reasonably. You will probably be the youngest person in the room by about 40 years if you are my age.

And...Oolong. Well, so far I have tried black tea (in chai), Rooibos (NOT REAL TEA!), green tea, and a weird licorice herbal thing. Oolong wins hands-down.

What’s next, lahikmajoe?

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

and you thought Bubble Tea couldn't get any worse

You probably already know that I don't have good things to say about Bubble Tea. Despite people assuring me that there are versions that aren't obscenely packed with sugar, I haven't found one. And the ridiculous price that one pays for a huge cup of sugar water makes it all that much easier to walk right past any Bubble Tea establishment.

However, there's been a bit of a Bubble Tea renaissance here in Germany, and in Munich in particular. So much so that McDonald's is getting in on the act. Take a look for yourself:

Chan McTi, eh? Mc TEA, get it?

That's not at all racist, is it? He's supposedly Chinese, but he screams out 'Bubblezaiiiii...', which is a play on the Japanese Banzai Charge. So not only are McDonald's being insensitive, but they can't keep their inane stereotypes straight.


I know it's easy to get self-righteous about this organisation. The Golden Arches really do make themselves an easy target. If I ever do find a tolerable example of Bubble Tea, it won't be at McDonald's. I know they have plenty of customers, but I'm most certainly not one of them.

Friday, 8 June 2012

trashing the tea competition

left a withered, rotten taste in my mouth
Was in the midst of my whirlwind tour through Texas, when I sat down to write a blogpost about a certain tea that I'd picked up during my travels. I'd never heard of this tea before, so I did a quick internet search to see if there were any curious stories about the tea plantation or the tea growing region. Instead I found a tea forum that ridiculed this specific tea and anyone who might have ever enjoyed it.

The ugliness of the language in this tea forum so appalled me that the little time since then that I've had thinking about tea blogging was spent wondering how I was going to handle this.

First of all, I hate to admit it, but my first response was to question my taste. Maybe me being this candid about my self-consciousness will be seen as a weakness by some, but so be it. Immediately, I thought, 'Wait, this tea tastes like crap and I liked this tea. Ergo, my taste is crap.'

Luckily, I have enough confidence in both my taste in tea and my knowledge of decent tea that I didn't  entertain that prospect for very long. This tea blogging lark isn't a contest to see who can be snobbiest about this delicious, mostly brown liquid. Well, it certainly isn't for me.

However, the whole experience with this site was off putting. And oddly a bit of a culture shock. See, I've been in Germany long enough that negative comparative selling now rubs me the wrong way. When my German friends visit the United States, they can't believe that it's acceptable to promote your product by trashing the competition.

From what I understand, it's even illegal here to do that. But even if it weren't, it's considered bad form. I've asked quite a few people I know, and they insist that they'd avoid something that was marketed in such an agressive manner.

Let me be clear: writing something negative about a tea on a tea forum is not the same thing as a company trashing its competitor. Sometimes you don't like a tea, and you say it directly. That's something I completely understand and support. Tea reviews lose any meaning if they're all glowing and positive.

But if your tea company has a tea forum where other companies' tea is shamelessly trashed, I begin to wonder about your class (or lack thereof). Is that really how you want to play this game? Good luck to you on that one.