Monday, January 12, 2009

Two Encounters with Tea

(i) C. S. Lewis Tea

So, I recently learned, from a post by Joe Christopher on the MythSoc list, that a online mail-order Tea retailer based in Austin Texas, The Tea Embassy, offers a "C. S. Lewis Tea Blend" (see below for the link). Intrigued, I decided to give it a try, and a few short days later it arrived. In honor of Lewis's well-known statement that 'You can't get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me", I used my biggest (triple-sized) mug. It turns out to basically just be the well-known blend usually known as 'Irish Breakfast', in this case described on its label as a mix of "bold black tea[s] from India's Assam region". I tend to prefer strong China teas (Keemun, Yunnan) over the weaker India teas (Assam, Darjeeling), but this is a pleasant enough cup; I'll definitely offer it up the next time book group gets together here (i.e., Sunday).

That one should have to go to Texas to buy a tea associated with Lewis is somewhat odd, but I take it as another sign that he's far more popular over here than in his own country. They do have the part about him being Ulster-Irish, rather than 'English', right; a point most Americans tend to ignore but which the surviving recordings of his voice make abundantly clear. Here's the text describing this tea on their website:

"Our special black tea blend of estate Assam teas honors the writer C.S. Lewis, since he was born in Belfast, Ireland and an avid tea drinker, we decided to make an Irish Breakfast tea blend in his memory. Enjoy this bold breakfast blend of excellent and tasty Indian black tea every morning or even in the afternoon. Goes well with a book."

and here's the link:

(ii) Vital Tea Leaf (Tea Bar)

Meanwhile, on Friday we went down to the Market as part of our three-day celebration of Janice's Birthday. We'd planned to go on Christmas Eve but the foul weather and uncertain transportation options led us to defer it till things improved and we could be certain of getting both there and back again.

We took a slightly different route walking to the Market from where we parked the car, and came across a tea shop I hadn't seen before: VITAL TEA LEAF, at a spot a few blocks north and a block or two east of Pike Place.* We decided to investigate, and I'm glad we did, since it turns out to be not just a place that sells bulk tea as well as delicate little tea pots and all sorts of tea paraphernalia (rather like Perennial Tea Room in Post Alley) but a tea bar. Unfortunately, their main focus seems to be on green teas, which I don't enjoy drinking. Nevertheless over the next half-hour or so we sampled a vast array of teas of all types, including some fine aged Keemun, and greatly enjoyed our tea-host's hospitality. We eventually left, two new types of tea in hand. During our stay I learned two things I didn't know before.

First, in response to my question of what he'd recommend as the must-see if we shd ever get to China (since the country's so vast that there's no way to see all the highlights), he said The Great Wall.

Second, it had always been my understanding that tea got stale, esp. when exposed to air and light (hence the good folks at The Tea Cup, my favorite source of tea, urge their customers to keep bulk teas in air-tight (opaque) cannisters. By contrast, our tea-expert here instructed me to crumble up some of the aged Keemun and expose it to air a few days before steeping. Interesting. I've now tried some the regular way; next will be to try some following his advice.

Here's the link:

*turns out they have another shop at the extreme southern end fo Pike Place Market, as well as three in San Francisco's Chinatown, two in Seattle's Pike Place Market)


today's teas:
Northwest Breakfast (from MarketSpice)
Keemun Hao Ya A (from The Tea Cup)

1 comment:

Jason Fisher said...

That one should have to go to Texas to buy a tea associated with Lewis is somewhat odd, but I take it as another sign that he's far more popular over here than in his own country.

An alternative explanation: could it just be that Americans are more shamelessly profit-minded than Europeans when it comes to exploiting a famous name for an essentially unrelated product? :)