2013 Tasting Notes
Happy New Year, friends. Instead of reveling in the cold last night, I’m reveling in a day of “almost normal” which has been a rare commodity at my house of late. ’Twas a joy to dismantle the tree, set the living room to rights, and sit down to a long-neglected writing project. (Thank You, Lord, for understanding editors.)
Through this weary season, I’ve been craving comfort teas that are spiked with sweet things—chocolate and caramel, and in the case of this lovely little cuppa, sweet cinnamon apples—did your grandma ever make the little apple rings that had been soaked in red hots and sugar water? Yeah, that.
Already watching the tea aisle at Food 4 Less, hoping the Bigelow Valentine-season teas will be in soon so I can restock my dwindling supply!
Nobody beat me to this one? News of Butterscotch Blondie came to me word of mouth from a buddy who isn’t a tea lover, but knows I am. Since dessert-y teas are a Tazo novelty, I snagged a box while the snagging was good at a Walmart Neighborhood Market (grocery only version of a Walmart—considerably better product selection.)
And dessert-y it is. The butterscotch cookie flavor is spot on; there’s a little licorice for sweetness, but the other flavors tone down its cloying personality. First steep needed no help whatsoever…made even tastier by 20 unbespoke Christmas Eve minutes in the glider with some sunshine on the back of my neck. After the past several days, a little peace on earth was heavenly.
Did a second round with the same today; it was plausible with a little milk and honey.
Hope your day was merry and bright.
(Skip this part; the review will be buried a couple paragraphs down.)
First day post-funeral. It was sweet and simple (Dad would’ve said it was 10 minutes too long), and the funeral director took a wrong turn on the way to the cemetery. Nobody upset about that—it’s twelve miles beyond the back of nowhere and six miles beyond anybody’s cell signal. My brother said it was appropriate to give Dad one more long ride through the country.
I recognize the need to merge back into real life, but I’m stalled at the top of the on-ramp.
(OK, now the tea review.)
Somewhere in the chaos of the past week, we stopped inside our new Natural Grocers with a $10 grand opening promo coupon in hand. Tins of Hugo Tea caught my eye; had never seen it on retail shelves before. Was impressed by the pull-tab top on the tin—they want this stuff to come to you fresh!
And it was. Malty, toasty and bready; some reviews have mentioned a burnt caramel essence which was there—everything that signifies a really fine tea. And the fact that it made an impression on me when I was vague and numb and bewildered says a lot. Second steep was a nice echo of the first.
Pricey, it is; around 10 bucks for a dozen sachets, so it’s not for your morning commute. But a lovely extravagant treat for a morning when you need to pause and ponder.
The best cups of tea I have ever had have not been determined by tea variety, but by circumstances—cups that signify the end of a traumatic event because I am home and safe and warm.
I had one those “best cups ever” yesterday after watching my dad pass away. He was warm and comfortable, unhooked from the monitors and machines that had been troubling him, and his kids were there to say goodbye. Arrived in Heaven just in time for morning coffee (he wasn’t a tea guy).
I drove four hours home (it’s hard to merge onto an interstate while you’re weepy; don’t try it yourself) and collapsed with a cup of this Congou. It is excellent, whether you’re in the throes of tragedy or not…as I posted this, I noticed the “dried baked apples” description—I’ll have to pay more attention, but maybe that’s the thing that was making me think, “Something about this is really distinctive.”
I believe I’ll have me another one this afternoon as I bolster myself for a week of funeral plans and bustle and remember how my dad mistrusted restaurants that didn’t have hat racks, loved polka music, bought odd-duck grocery items in crazy bulk quantities, taught me to be 15 minutes early for any occasion, always advised that “it’s just as easy to fill the top half of a gas tank as it is the bottom half,” and what he said to me just before he escorted me down the aisle at my wedding: “Don’t walk too fast.”
Savor whatever’s in your cup today.
There is wet shiny stuff coming out of the sky! (I’m a sunshine person, but how we needed the rain…mulched backyard leaves with the mower last week and came in looking like Bert the chimney sweep.)
Oh, am I supposed to be talking about tea?
Murphy’s has turned out to be a wonderful, solid, no-goof sleepy workday staple. Very Assamy, builders’ tea strength without being too astringent, great with milk if your eyes are already open; effective straight up if they aren’t. And (fingers crossed) still available locally, though it’s a drive across town. Some teas are worth the drive.
US buddies, hope your Thanksgiving was blessed and bountiful. While I was feasting Thursday, I took a 24-hour fast from social media, and do you know what? Much as I like y’all, I didn’t miss it much.
The best part of Thanksgiving weekend, at least at my house, is not hurrying and having plenty of putter time. I did a little tea puttering as well while I was messing around in the kitchen.
Experiment #1 — One part no-name bulk pu-erh from local indie grocery + 1 bag Bigelow Salted Caramel. A tasty surprise. The pu-erh lent a little muscle to the Bigelow, which has a good flavor, but not a lot of body strength.
Experiment #2 — Straight up peppermint + a sprig of rosemary from my own plant. Tasted like air freshener. (But the rosemary tasted great on the turkey.)
My tin of this is long past its prime, but then again, so am I. I’m not a tea legalist—I ignore expiration dates and nurture my old stock just as long as possible. This needed a little nurturing this morning.
Sometimes flavored teas age well; sometimes they start tasting a little metallic. (Lesson to be learned: enjoy whatcha got while you have it.) On the other hand, it still smells like the empty bin the Kraft Caramels come in at the store, and a little milk/sugar bring it back to drinkable. (Other lesson to be learned: value whatcha got, even if it’s old and shopworn.)
Much joy in simple things today—home after a long week on the road, leaves a shag carpet in the yard and still dropping like gentle rain, cat snoozing nearby, Dead Poets’ Society playing gently in the background, and a cup of good green tea that tastes better because it was a thoughtful gift.
The gift was from one of my Sunday sixth grade girls—two of her friends and their moms had an all-girl adventure in Boston, and I playfully asked for some tea from Boston. I expected a tea bag from the hotel; I received two lovely envelopes from the Boston Tea Party Museum with period-accurate loose leaf! (And I just love saying “Oliver Pluff” aloud!)
Y’all know I mangle my green teas more often than I get them right, and I think I was overzealous on the water temp—the taste is a bit more bitter than the crisp, fresh, leafy scent of the tea. But it’s satiny and smooth, fresh and about the shade of the few silver maple leaves still doggedly grasping the backyard branches.