Thursday, January 27, 2005

More Tea and Aging

I've dispatched Erik to San Francisco this week to check out all the teahouses there and generally sniff out the state of things tea-related in the West. If he doesn't get too distracted by the latest offerings from Apple Computer, Inc., I expect he'll come back with lots to tell. I'm sure we're all looking forward to that.

Since I went so nuts for Betjeman & Barton's Pouchkine tea over the holidays my loving wife cleaned out the shelves at Williams Sonoma so I will never be without it again. Man, that stuff is good, but here's something: the original tin I received has a best before October 2003 sticker on the bottom. The new tins have a 2006 date. I'm not a scientist or anything but I would surmise that there's a 3 year age gap somewhere in there. The thing of it is, the tin that I should have enjoyed a long time ago tastes a lot better and I'm trying to figure out why. A blend is a blend so it might just be a different crop of tea or an off day for the tea blender or something, but these are established, old-school, probably not stoned tea merchants and one would think they would aim for (and achieve) a consistent product. The international tea community demands no less. So it's got to be some sort of accidental aging process in which the tea itself loses a little flavor, the added flavors step in to fill the void but lose enough of their original character (orange-lemon-bergamot) to create a new flavor that is better than anything, even the New England Patriots. Not that there's anything wrong with the newer tea, it's top shelf, but it tastes like the description on the tin - a blend of black teas with citrus flavoring. The older stuff tastes exotic, mysterious, sensual, like a wet kiss from a virgin bride who's just eaten a fruit from another planet and all that crap. Go figure.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Vive La France!

I'm pretty materialistic when you get right down to it so I tend to judge the holidays by the amount of loot that's scattered about the floor on Christmas morning, or in my case, protectively heaped on the couch next to me. Yeah, it's shallow but what the hell. This year yielded a rich bounty including the best tea I have ever had. Really. I got a tin of Betjemen & Barton's Pouchkine and it just knocked me flat. I'm not sure how to describe a sipping double-take but that's exactly what I did when I first tasted it. The cartoon version of me did one of those little moves where my legs swing up off the ground and my eyes bulge. If it hadn't been piping hot I would have chugged it. Maybe I'm exaggerating a little but I really like this tea. It's an old-school blend that reeks of refinement. Makes those groovy west-coast tea blenders look like chumps. Vive la France, baby! I've seen it at Williams Sonoma (uncomfortably close to the premium pancake mixes) and I'm sure it can be found wherever the wealthy send their help to buy food.

Drink it.

Lick the cup when you're done.