Sunday, 8 April 2012

...a hundred visions and revisions, before the taking of toast and tea

You know I like luring people over to the leaf-side. It's one of my passions. I've said it so many times here, but it bears repeating: there's no reason tea has to have the stuffy, inaccessible reputation that seems to be attached to it. I gear this teablog partially to the tea newcomer, as well as the tea curious

There are some people I meet in social media who're hesitant to tell me that they don't drink tea. As if they think I'll have nothing to do with them after I learn that piece of information. 

I have many interests. If you don't drink tea, well then I can politely accept that. Really. I'm not trying to get EVERYONE to drink tea. Just most of you.

However, there are also some people who're rather boisterous about their refusal to drink tea. Today's guest blogger fits squarely in the latter category. She was very clear from our first interactions that she wanted nothing to do with my tea propaganda

Little did she know that it was only a matter of time. I could be as patient as was necessary, but I was relatively sure that there would be tea drinking at some point by her.

And as you're about to read: I was right. Without further ado, here's Amy (to be perfectly candid, I'm an unabashed fan of her blog in particular and her writing in general. You should definitely go have a gander at Lucy's Football. You'll be glad you did).

Oh before I forget, the last few guest blogposts, such as Teascapades of a Tea Newbie, have been from people new to tea. The goal here is to keep encouraging them to try and report on new tea. This is an ongoing project, my fellow tea obsessives. Please read on...

Ken has kindly asked me to guest post. This is exciting because I’ve never done that before. Day of firsts! Day of firsts!

OK, some background.

Ken is one of my favorite humans alive. However, back when I first was introduced to Ken? I wanted nothing to do with him.

Because of tea.

Oh, I forgot. Hi, I’m Amy. And I hate tea.

See, one of our mutual twitter friends, Lisa (@lgalaviz), was always going on and on and ON about this guy who was her tea-friend. And she was all, 'Amy! Have you friended @lahikmajoe yet?' And I looked at his profile. And his tweets. And his blog. Which were all very tea-heavy. And I immediately thought, nope, no interest in this person. Because I hate tea. I HATE TEA MORE THAN CLOWNS. What the hell would I have to talk to this person about?

Luckily, Lisa was persistent, and I grudgingly friended poor Ken, who, come to find out, talks about more than tea.

Now, here’s the tea situation.

When I was six or seven, I was sick and stayed home from school. For some reason, my mom couldn’t watch me. She was a stay-at-home-mom at the time so I’m not really sure what the situation was, but she left me with my grandmother.

Now, I love my grandmother a great deal, but no nonsense is brooked when you are at my grandmother’s house. She doesn’t believe in illness. She’s an old-school farmer’s wife. You WORK THROUGH THE SICKNESS. So she was very skeptical that I was actually sick.

She brewed up a pot of Lipton tea and said, 'This will make you feel better' and put a cup in front of me. I took a sip. I hated it. I told her so.

'Too bad. When you’re sick, you drink tea,' she said. 

She then proceeded to make me drink the entire pot of tea. I was not allowed to leave the table until I did so. There was no milk in the tea. There was no sugar in the tea. Milk and sugar were for WELL children.

I have not had a single sip of tea since. Even the SCENT of tea makes me ill. Except this one perfume I have that smells like white tea, and I have no idea what that’s all about. Is white tea even a thing? Maybe it’s not even a thing and that’s why I like it, I don’t know (ed. note: white tea is a thing)

(By the way, my mother says that a., I’m not allowed to tell this story, and b., it never happened. To that I say, a., I am a grown woman and will tell whatever stories I want, and b., you were not THERE, Mom. You ABANDONED me to the house of forced tea-drinkage).

If a food or beverage item does me wrong, I avoid it for the rest of my life. Other food or beverage items I am currently having a feud with include carrots, most types of beef products, most root vegetables, garlic, liver, onions, and any fried fish at TGIFridays due to the food-poisoning incident of 1999. YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID TGIFRIDAYS.

Now, Ken has been very nice about my fear of tea. He is CONVINCED that it was just the Lipton that was the problem, and not tea itself. I am more skeptical, but, as mentioned, Ken is one of my favorite people in all of people-dom, so I decided, in all fairness, to give it another try.

I’ve been promising him for a long time I’d actually purchase tea. I think he thought I was full of hollow promises. Ha! Fooled YOU, Ken!

Last week, I went to the grocery store, which recently has decided to become fancy and carry upscale things, I think to compete with the Trader Joe’s we’re expecting any day now.

And I purchased, per Ken’s recommendation (and please ignore the fact that I can’t take a photo to save my life and what is going ON with the huge glare from my flash, good gravy):

Equal Exchange Organic Rooibos
And, NOT on recommendation from Ken (but it’s not like he told me I couldn’t buy it or anything, I just was excited about it):

Stash Licorice Spice

The Rooibos was Ken’s decision for me, and the Licorice Spice was ALL ON MY OWN. Well, I asked him if I could. He said he wasn’t against it. I decided it was therefore ok.

See, I have a lot of issues of what I can and can’t ingest. I’m like a delicate flower of a lady. No caffeine. No sugar. It’s a whole thing. I’m probably dying, or something, whatever. But since the no sugar thing happened, I am DESPERATE for licorice. I miss it like crazy. I decided maybe this would be a nice substitute, if the tea part of the tea didn’t make me throw up.

So today was TEA DAY. I needed a nice chunk of time set aside for tea-ing.

First, please let me apologize. YES, I realize these are tea-bag-type teas. I don’t have all the fancy infusers and the like. Because I hate tea. Why would I have such things? I also don’t own a teapot. So a microwave was used. Please don’t kick me out of the Special People club.

I decided to start with the licorice tea and work my way up to the other one because the licorice tea seemed friendly and the other tea seemed like it was more likely to give me flashbacks to my grandmother’s house.

So first, like a good girl, I read the instructions. 8 ounces of water in a mug, boiling. AWESOME. I have a measuring cup. I have a microwave. Which needs to be cleaned because ew. So first I took some time and scrubbed the microwave, because listen, it was the grossest.

Then as I started to boil the water in the microwave, I realized you were supposed to pour the water OVER the teabag. Well, shit, I already lost.

So I took the water in the mug OUT of the microwave (oh, I should explain, I don’t own a teacup? Only mugs. So it was in a mug. Am I in trouble for not using a teacup? I’m really clumsy. There’s no way I wouldn’t have broken a teacup by now, were I to own a teacup) and put it in the glass measuring cup to boil. Nice. I’m winning tea already, only a little later than planned. Then I opened the teabag. It smelled nice. Like potpourri. I’m not sure that your tea is supposed to smell like potpourri, but it did. Like floral licorice potpourri. The ingredients list says this tea has a lot of things in it like cinnamon and orange peel and anise and vanilla and cloves and cardamom and licorice. These things are all also present in potpourri, so that’s a little worrisome. Also, it has not escaped my notice there is no tea in this tea. So, I think this isn’t tea. That seems misleading. Can you call something tea on the box that doesn’t even have any tea in the ingredients? (ed. note: this is a huge bone of contention in the tea community. The general opinion among tea obsessives is that it shouldn't be called tea if it doesn't come from the tea plant or its Latin name Camelia Sinensis)

But I pressed on. I’m very intrepid.

After the water boiled all over the place, I poured it over the teabag. Which floated to the top like Rose’s piece of wood in Titanic. I don’t know if that’s supposed to happen. So I totally smushed it down with a spoon and anchored it. That’s smart, right?

Then the instructions said to wait 3-5 minutes so I set the timer on my microwave and proceeded to tear apart my room looking for the software so I could upload my photos. Of course the software was NOT in my room, but in the fridge. Don’t ask.

Then the timer went off. TEA TIME.

Is it normal that none of the “tea” (I’m totally skeptical of this stuff) even made the water turn colors? I squished the bag. I’ve seen that happen before. Nothing happened. I think the water was a little yellow but not really.

I took a sip. It was very hot so I burned my mouth. ALL FOR SCIENCE.

drumroll please...

Please ignore the fact I look like a crazy person today. Well, I kind of always look like a crazy person, but it’s my only day off this week. I didn’t do anything but throw on my zombie shirt. No makeup happened. Who’m I trying to impress, the cat? He doesn’t care.

It water. With an aftertaste of licorice. And flowers.

It was not in the least bit impressive.

It tasted like drinking potpourri. I’m not 100% convinced this was not potpourri, thrown hastily in teabags. STASH TEA I AM MAD AT YOU.

So I put some creamer in it and drank the rest really fast. Then it tasted like creamer. 

Fine. Time for the scarier tea. The tea that, when I opened the box? Smelled like tea at my grandmother’s house.

Same setup. Boiled the water in the measuring cup. Poured it over the teabag when it was boiling. This time it said to steep it for 5-7 minutes. The teabag puffed up like a funny little pillow which made me giggle. I did my teaspoon trick again. I’m a quick learner.

Then I waited. I told Ken I had a cup of tea and was waiting for the other cup to brew so I could compare the two. He was duly impressed with my feat of magnificence. I warned him not to be because maybe I did the first one wrong. Unless herbal “tea” is SUPPOSED to taste like potpourri-water.

The timer went off. Here is a thing I learned about Rooibos - it is RED. Cheerily and unabashedly red. I liked that a lot.

It smelled like tea, though. Not like potpourri. Which in a way, was good, but also, super-scary.

I was smart and didn’t take a whopping drink of boiling liquid this time. Instead, I used my handy teaspoon and took some out and tasted it.

It tasted...well, like tea. BUT BUT BUT. Not vomitorious. Not at all. It was...pleasant? Not at all like I remembered. Not at all upsetting. Mild. The tea-taste that I hate so much wasn’t overly present.

I sipped two or three more teaspoonfuls and then decided if I was going to drink the whole cup, I had to add something to it, so it got some milk and Splenda. Ken said to use honey but I don’t even keep that in the house. I don’t use it, so it’d go to waste. I know. Splenda is probably not what you’re supposed to put in tea. When you’re diabetic, I think it is, though.

I drank the ENTIRE CUP. Plus the entire cup of licorice potpourri-water.

Now I have to pee. 

OK, so that was...a success? I think? But mostly, I think it was a success, because KEN WINS. Ken got me to try tea again. And listen, that was NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. What’m I trying next, Ken?

But listen, bub, don’t even try to get me to jump off a bridge. Friendship only goes so far.


  1. Look Amy, There's no easy way to say this, but you're out of the Special People club.

    Now, it can be only temporary. There are two roads back in. First, buy some delicate china and install bubble-wrap carpets to allow for your clumsiness. Also you'll need a device called a Kettle, half a dozen teapots, a few infusers - let's not go overboard. Starting alphabetically and with First Flush, work your way, 8 cups per day, though the entire Darjeeling tea plantation map and once you've mastered the Autumnals, then either head to Nilgiri or even over the Himalayas and get all Chinese.
    Learn to bake incredibly delicate pastries and brilliant scones, buy some wonderful china cakestands, dress all your friends and maybe the cat in Victorian afternoon gowns and photograph yourself having High tea with at least one member of any European Royal Family except Monaco.

    You'll be back in the Special People Club in 2-3 years tops.

    The quicker alternative is to learn to drink scalding Lapsang Souchong, visit a plastic surgeon to get a penis and crib some Chuck Norris one-liners from IMDB, then you can be a Beast of Brewdom like Ken and I.

    No pain, no gain.

  2. Um. I think if these are my options I'm good not being in the Special People club. The only thing I could possibly do here is bake. I'm an EXCELLENT baker.

    The first route is very convoluted and my cat would never stand for costuming.

    And I really, really don't want a penis. Well, at least of my own. They seem cumbersome.

    I'm out. I'll just imagine how awesome it could have been, and hum "Somewhere (There's a Place for Us)" quietly over here. Don't mind me.

    1. i think you need a kettle.

      something weird happens to water in a microwave.

      anyway, rooi (first name terms, see?) is lovely, AND it even comes in other flavours. i like the earl grey version. i'll bet there is a vanilla one, and vanilla is good if you want sweet but don't want to add sweeteners.

  3. Isn't rooibos tea in fact not a tea? It's a herbal tea, isn't it? From South Africa? Called red bush tea or something?

    (By the way, this is my 4th attempt to comment - I REALLY don't like blogger!)

  4. You're absolutely right Andreas. Rooibus isn't tea.

    It's sold as 'tea', because it does fit in the category of herbal infusions. But most tea people reserve the name 'tea' only for those beverages that come from the Camelia Sinensis plant.

    The red bush that this Rooibus comes from grows in South Africa, and is naturally completely free of caffeine. It's one of the main reasons I recommended it to Amy in the first place.

    I'm also a bit perplexed why it smelled/tasted of tea. That makes absolutely no sense to me. It's a delicious brew, but I've never had Rooibus that tasted anything like tea.


  5. It's NOT? Well, this is an odd twist. Maybe my brain made me THINK it smelled like tea because I was expecting it to?

    Now I have to try something that tastes actually LIKE tea. What should I get? I assume there's decaffeinated tea?

  6. I’m not a huge tea drinker myself (more of a coffee fan...I hope that doesn’t get me kicked out), but I’m a big fan of rooibos mixed with honeybush tea (or not-tea, as the more knowledgeable tea drinkers are saying). It’s the perfect blend of earthy and sweet, and I can drink it after 4 pm because decaf!

    I’m also a fan of licorice root. Have you ever tried Aveda’s spa tea? It’s quite wonderful.