Backwards

WOW!

This tea is sensational It’s light and peppery on the tongue, and yet has a full-mouth feel that has an odd similarity to fragrant soap. Except that if this is what having your mouth washed out with soap is actually like, I wish I’d sworn more as a kid.

But to fully explain, I need to travel back four minutes in time.

The Ruby

All this commotion has woken Lady Devotea, so she’ll be wanting her morning tea and the paper. These four teas all look great: two fine oolongs, another oolong, but this one with “severe degree of oxidisation” stamped on it, which appeals to me; and a Ruby Black Tea.

Delaying the inevitable, I look through the material that came with the tea. Aside from the four generous samples – I guess they are 50 grams each – there’s a brochure from each tea farm – some in broken English. (My favourite slogan is now : “We show our proud. We show appreciation”)

Apart from the brochures, there’s a short article on the history of tea in Taiwan. BINGO! That’ll come in useful for the chapter on Taiwan in my forthcoming book.

There’s also a note from Australian Customs saying they opened the package, examined it and found it all in order. It also says they removed nothing. It doesn’t say whether they brewed a cuppa or two to check, though.

But there really is no decision to be made. I simply can’t serve Lady Devotea an oolong first thing. So I open the Ruby; hoping it will be good.

Good? It looks sensational. Jet-black wiry leaves. Wonderful aroma. I decide to get out the best china.

After all, I need to bring this down to a more civilised level.

Unlike five minutes earlier.

The Commotion

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! DING-DONG!

We have possibly the loudest doorbell in Australia, and when it’s accompanied by what sounds like jackboots kicking in the door, it’s a startling combination.

I know that it has woken Lady Devotea. And I’m only a few metres from the front door.

I should open it.

If only I wasn’t a little damp. A little pre-occupied. And stark naked.

Why must someone knock on the door the minute you step out of the shower? Or to be more exact, attack the door with a battering ram while assaulting your doorbell?

“Please wait one minute” I yell, and then grab my too-big, ultra-thick terry-towelling dressing gown. It’s suitable for polar exploration, not for 8:30 on a Friday morning in Adelaide on a day when the temperature is going to crack the old 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark. And I don’t know where the belt is, so whoever is re-enacting Warsaw in 1940 on our doorstep will be sharing a moment of danger with me.

I open the door to about 25 percent of its full potential. I’ve already seen the yellow hi-vis vest through the side pane.

This guy is about the size of Hagrid from the Harry Potter Films, and smells like a jackal’s armpit. He thrusts forward a parcel and an electronic gizmo for me to sign on.

No way am I committing two hands to this exercise, buddy. Not this early in our relationship.

I scrawl “blah” with the stylus where it says ‘signature’ and hand it back, thus freeing up my non-dressing-gown-gathering hand to receive the parcel.

I see the logo on the envelope is “ITFA”. the International Tea Farmers Alliance.

I am so relieved to have this package; as I worried it would never come, and that would be awkward.

Especially after how things went one week earlier.

The Gyokuro

It’s genuine, and traditional, according to the sample packet.

Perhaps making ice-cream from it is not the most genuine or traditional way to make it; but I’m already convinced that I shan’t like it.

What choice do I have? There’s a houjicha. I doubt I’d like that. Two senchas – the imagined taste of their probable thin, bitter liquor makes it impossible for me to open the beautiful packaging.

And there’s a genmaicha . If there’s a more revolting tea on the planet. I’m sure I don’t know what it is. I mean, I love tea, I love rice. I love cooking rice in tea. I love slurping tea with rice dishes. I just don’t know how they manage to take two great ingredients and create this nonsense.

But I have to do something. I am now convinced the Taiwanese package will not arrive.

I think to myself that if I write about the wonderful packaging, the excellent notes that accompany the tea, and the great taste of the tea ice-cream; I can avoid any discussion on the actual tea.

I’ve been preparing for this possibility since three weeks earlier.

The Samurai In My Letterbox

The letterbox is stuffed to the gills. Junk mail, bills and two packages. My own copy of “Liquid Jade” has arrived, after I had to give the library copy back.

And an International Tea Farms Alliance envelope.

It’s big, but is it big enough? I open it, and out falls some folded paper and six tea sample packs. They are all Japanese.

I take a deep breath.

The samples are gorgeously packaged. I see one is genmicha. I’l save that for when I next see my Japanese sister-in-law. And possibly slip it into her handbag when she is not looking. As for the rest, I’ll decide whether to try them, make them into ice cream, cook with them or just pretend they don’t exist.

I could spend time appreciating the irony – that someone should send me a whole pile of Japanese tea, given my well-known aversion to the Tea of The Rising Sun

I momentarily wonder where the Taiwanese stuff is. I tell myself that it will probably be here tomorrow, or the day after. Probably, they come from different locations.

After all, the bonus-offering tweet three weeks earlier never said anything about sending them together.

The Bonus-Offering Tweet

The tweet from @teafarms purported to be good news.

Basically, in addition to the Taiwanese tea that was winging its way to me, there had been an excess in the Japanese samples, so I was getting those also.

Wait up – Japanese tea?

Have I not sent about a thousand tweets about how I hate the stuff? Universally despise every tea that the industrious, inventive and proud nation has ever delivered to my cup?

Oh well, it’s easy. I’ll blog about the Taiwanese, and use the Japanese for other purposes. Ice Cream, smoking duck, tea salt.

I guess I might try them, but for me, Japanese tea has been a lifetime of disappointment.

Never mind, I’m really excited about the Taiwanese that will be coming my way. Particularly after looking at the website last week.

These guys are clever!

I’m on a website. I am loving the website.

Their deal is that six times a year, they send you tea samples from different countries: China, Indonesia and India, whose teas I love, Taiwan from where I’ve enjoyed good oolongs, Korea – I’ve never had a Korean tea – and Japan.

Well, I’m not going to get excited about Japanese teas, but the rest sound fantastic. The Global Tea Tasters Club, from International Tea Farms Alliance. I like the look of their offer, and I like the look of what they do. If they live up to what they say on their website, then I will support them fully.

And the best news is, I’m going to get this year’s Taiwanese shipment free.

Because two weeks ago, they offered it to me.

The Offer

I got a tweet, and it was followed by an email.

Would I care to try some tea? And if they sent it to me, will I promise to write an article?

Whenever I get this sort of offer, I always wonder whether these people actually know what I am like.  Have they read my stuff. Do they ‘get’ me? Or do they think I am a little more ‘standard”.

Many tea reviewers will never write a bad review, They will dutifully wrote “I brewed this at 97.5 degrees for 2 minutes 4 seconds, and it produces a liquor with a puce colour and the aroma of semi-dried mulberries”.

I hope these guys know this is not me. I will write what I think, how I think it. If your tea is not to my taste, I will say so. If I uncover things I don’t like about your organisation in my research, I will say so.

So I make my promise; and I know in my heart I will be compelled to write an article, probably on my blog.

I hope it works out for them. But they really don’t know what I will do, and neither do I.

Knowing me, I’ll probably write it backwards.

Robert Godden

Certified Tea Nutter. Blender. Author of "The Infusiast" and Tea "Stories"

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7 thoughts on “Backwards

  1. You got tea, flashed a guy in your bathrobe, had some ice cream and some rice, tweeted about it, then went back in time. Right?

    Wait, when did you have the good tea and the horrible tea? Wait, was the tea that tasted like soap the horrible tea? I need to go back and take notes. Do you have a timeline or something I can follow? A spreadsheet?

    I am coming back later to read this again. Heads will roll.

  2. It may not look like it but I’m applauding wildly. Well, in my mind. Roommate’s asleep and it’s 2AM. Gotta keep things civil. You’ve upped the blogging anty by a pretty fair margin.

    On a more related (and less gushing) note, I’ve had Ruby Black. I like it. I’ve always liked it, but it’s not my favorite. I think I’ve reviewed – oh – two Rubies now. And recently tried a third at a local tea shop by chance. Overall, good stuff.

    I lament that I am one of those reviewers that won’t write a negative review. Not because there aren’t teas I don’t like, but rather those I don’t aren’t worth writing about. An average review takes two hours. I don’t have that kind of time for biting criticism on a beverage…not when I’ve got fifty others to get through.

    TO end on a point of levity, totally with you still on genmaicha.

  3. How, pray tell, do you know what ‘a jackal’s armpit’ smells like?

    I wish you’d give me your Japanese tea. I love the stuff.

    Genmaicha? Not so much.

    Give that to Lisa Galaviz. She’ll know what to do with it.

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