Today, I started with a cup of tea. It was Persian Princess, one of my own blends. Later, I resteeped it, but for a lark, I added a pinch of Rotgut Tea.
Rotgut Tea is what is in a canister I keep on my bench top. Every time I find a box of tea covered in Chinese or Hindi text and it’s worth pennies, I buy it and try it. If I don’t like it, I add it to The Rotgut. Sometimes I buy a well known brand with an iconic name (e.g Brooke Bond’s Taj Mahal Blend) only to find it tastes like tea-stained sawdust, so in it goes. Overall, it’s mostly CTC.
So, I’m drinking a blend you’re unlikely to have had unless you are one of the 50 odd people in Australia who have purchased that blend, and on top of that, I’ve added a pinch of what can only be described as a tea mongrel.
So, let’s review it.
For my method, I stuck the leaves in a pot. Well, the Persian Princess ones were already there. All up, they were kind of brownish and smelt like black tea.
Then I placed some water in a kettle. Of course, I filtered it first, as Adelaide water is harder that Chuck Norris.
I then bought it to boil, and poured the boiling water on the leaves. I gave it precisely the amount of time it takes to let a cat in, collect the paper, send a funny tweet about the paper, let another cat in and the first one out, fall over a third cat and curse.
And I liked it. It tasted like strong black tea, with an edge of danger, a flash of excitement, a six pack of sarcasm, a scintilla of parliamentary democracy and a smidgen of remorse.
I tasted leather, tannin, muscatel, chardonnay, honey, raisin, that gum on the back of stamps, 4 kinds of cheese, walnuts, new car smell, lavender, roast lamb with paprika potatoes, Bertie Beetle and the merest hint of the mythical ambrosia of the pantheon of ancient Greek Gods.
Dear Reader, by now, you’ve probably realised that I’m not seriously reviewing this tea.
But really, why should it be valid if I do? It’s unlikely that anyone else will have the same tea, the same water, the same amount, the same ambient temperature. The same sized pot. The same lingering garlic aftertaste of last night’s pizza. The same mild attack of hay fever.
And even if they did, there’s the small matter of personal taste.
For example, no amount of persuasion is going to convince me that Genmaicha works, except possibly as a stuffing for pillows in homeless shelters. To my highly refined palate, it tastes like stale – perhaps burnt- rice, grass clippings and under all that, thin, bitter, unpleasant Japanese tea.
On the other hand, I like a Lapsang Souching to be similar to a 1970’s Glam Rock concert: loud, brash and so foggy you can’t see a chain-mail-gloved hand in front of your mascaraed face.
So, is there a benefit in my reviewing either?
People who agree are going to nod; people who don’t are going to send me letters, (Dear Sir, I must protest at your drawing a parallel between the 2009 GyoSanTyoHalibutMika and giraffe vomit…) and the vast majority of the world will remain comfortably ignorant of my very existence.
At this point, we need to consider the idea of biting the hand that feeds.
I’ve just been accepted into the Association of Tea Bloggers. Woah!
You might recall I was rather upset to be rejected a while back. Whilst it was true that I didn’t actually meet their standards, I still got on my high horse.
Actually, I have a history that suggests such transgressions, even to those that are kind to me. I’ve written about books by Sarah Rose (@thesarahrose) and Katrina Avila Munichello (@teapages) – and these are books I’ve loved – in terms that would make lesser people hire an assassin. Tea companies that have kindly sent me tea have been forced to explain how well they treat their workers. Well-meaning tea nerds have been lampooned on a regular basis.
And let’s not forget that I have actually aggressively attacked “tea people” who were doing the wrong thing, according to my selective moral compass.
Erik Kennedy (@thetearooms) called me an iconoclast, and after I looked it up to be 100% sure, I agree. And what’s more, I enjoy it.
But I am at a crossroads. As a now respectable member of the Association of Tea Bloggers, do I, as we say here in Australia, “pull my head in”?
Do I stop stirring the pot metaphorically and just concentrate on stirring it literally?
Do I become a tea blogger than follows the tea community standard of “if you can’t say anything good about a tea, don’t say anything at all”?