Tschanara, Germany’s First Tea Garden

NOTE: While I usually don’t update this blog with tea-related articles, I had to since my main tea blog was having server issues. However, if it’s working by the time you come across this article, and you require a mobile friendly version, go HERE.

Growing tea in Germany . . . of all places . . .


Blame Wikipedia for putting that fantasy in my head. I remember reading up on tea customs in European countries, and there was a sub-section on East Frisia. It was one of the few regions in Germany that even had a tea culture to speak of.

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Thursday, August 25th, 2016 Steep Stories 7 Comments

The Sasquan Signature

Back in July, I decided to get out of the house and see a movie – Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, if I remember correctly. Unfortunately, I’d arrived at the theater an hour and a half early. This meant I had far too much time on my hands. Luckily, there was a pseudo-mall nearby with a giant bookstore attached – Powell’s, to be precise.

I went into Powell’s not expecting to buy anything . . . and that was my first mistake. Or at least, so many people have told me. One should always be prepared to buy something; it’s Powell’s. It has that effect. The place is like the cocaine brick of bookstores. But I digress . . .

When I went in, I moseyed to where I was always comfortable – the sci-fi section. From there, I bee-lined to my favorite author’s name – Mike Resnick. I’ve written about him before on this blog; heck, I even interviewed him. Ever since I was a child, I always checked his corridor in the bookstore to see if there was something new. There usually was . . . but nothing prepared me for this.

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Friday, September 25th, 2015 Musings 5 Comments

An Open Letter to Delta Airlines and Bank of America

Dear Delta Airlines and Bank of America,

I’m writing this, now, four hours after an attempt to resolve an issue to explain why. In a public fashion, no less.

On August 6th, 2015, I attempted to purchase a ticket through Delta Airlines. The reason, unfortunately, was a somber one. It was for the funeral of my grandfather, and I very much wanted to go. In order to book the ticket, though, I had to use my Bank of America credit card rather than my debit card. Little did I know, this simple act would set off a chain of events that would frustrate me to the point of wall-punching rage.

I tried twice to book the airline ticket with the credit card, but the website wouldn’t accept the security code I entered. Seething, I bit the bullet and used my debit card, instead. Ticket was purchased, and I thought all was done.

I was wrong.

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Tuesday, August 11th, 2015 Musings 9 Comments

Remembering Nelson . . .

There’s an old saying regarding manners, that if someone offers to buy you dinner, you don’t order the most expensive item on the menu. This often leads to the joke of said patron replying with, “I’ll have the lobster, then.” When I was a young(er) lad, my grandfather took my cousin and I out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. We both ordered burgers, and we were quite perplexed as to why this vexed our grandfather. It wasn’t until years later that it was made clear to us.

The one time we were expected to “order the lobster” . . . we didn’t.

And that’s the sort of person my grandfather – Nelson Francis Norman – was. He wanted the best for his children and grandchildren. He was a gentleman and a scholar. (Seriously, he had the Harvard degree to prove it.)

On Saturday, June 6th, 2015, the Norman family was dealt a tragic blow when the 97-year-old Nelson passed away. I wasn’t there to see it happen, nor was I there to witness his gradual decline. But I was assured by family in the area that he went peacefully.

Luckily, I was able to see him before he passed. In early May, I was down in California for World Tea Expo, and before flying out, my mother and I stopped by to visit with my grandparents. My grandmother was looking well, but my grandfather was quite frail. He was in and out of consciousness, quite depressed, and could barely speak. He did put up quite an effort to converse with me, though.

I may be biased but – as far as family patriarch’s go – he was the best. Of his six children, umpteen grandchildren, and burgeoning number of great-grandchildren, he somehow kept tabs of (and found time for) all of us. He also made sure to keep us updated on family happenings, and his views on world affairs . . . in the form of his Norman niche-famous “Sunday Reports”.

His Sunday Reports were a comforting constant in my life. They didn’t always make sense, but they were always topical. And he sent that group e-mail almost once a week like clockwork, for nearly two decades. I regret admitting that I didn’t read all of them, but I was always assured when those e-mails came. As his health declined, though, so did their frequency. Eventually, he needed someone else to transcribe them altogether.

Several years back, he requested a “guest-Sunday Report” from me about the origins of tea, since he’d heard I’d taken up writing about it. He wanted to inform his loyal readers what tea was all about, at least from my perspective. Alas, I never got around to writing that “report”. One of my many bouts of procrastination.

If I were to do it now, though, I think I could only manage one sentence, “Tea is about people.” And follow it up with, You were one of the best of ‘em, Pappy. Or something equally as schmaltzy.

I have yet to cry. For some reason, I can’t manage a tear. But the sadness is there, deep and burrowing. My biggest regret is that I hadn’t accomplished something truly “great” before he died. No Great American Novel badge of honor to show him. Yet I’m fairly certain he wouldn’t have cared either way, just as long as I – and the rest of the family – were happy.

Next time I see you, Grandpa, I’ll remember to order the lobster.


Thursday, June 11th, 2015 Musings 7 Comments

Knights in White Sparks

Back in April, my mother and I went to see The Moody Blues.

For men well in their 70s, they put on a great show. And as expected, they ended their surprisingly long set with their most memorable song, “Knights in White Satin”. I still don’t understand it. Sure, I’ve read the lyrics, I assume it’s a love song, but I have no clue what knights or cloth have to do with it. Maybe it has something to do with the death of chivalry?

What’s this have to do with what you (fair reader) are about to digest? Probably nothing; probably everything. But it does – albeit awkwardly – transition to what happened a week later.

Mum and I decided to travel together to Southern California. We determined that the best way for us to get around was to split a rental car while we were down there. She would get it for the first few days to do whatever, and I would have it for my “the business trip” up to Long Beach.

The car we prepaid for was this:

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Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 Musings, Steep Stories 8 Comments

Two Trips, Bootleg Botanicals, and Shorty Cigars

As some of you know by perusing this website or my tea blog, booze and botanicals are kind of my thing. Especially, when they’re combined somehow. My love of teabeers, for example, is practically synonymous with my Internet persona. Imagine my surprise when my latest discovery in this pursuit…came from an old childhood neighbor.

It had been years since I’d seen Ryan Belshee (the childhood neighbor) and his wife Melanie. The last time was by sheer accident at a house party. My contact with Ryan over Facebook was a new development. When I heard that he and his wife were starting a business after a successful Kickstarter campaign – and that it somehow involved absinthe – I’ll confess I paid it only half-attention. Not a fan of absinthe.

However, when I learned that they were opening the brick-‘n-mortar space for this new venture, I thought it high time I give it a looksee. And my jaw dropped.

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Friday, October 17th, 2014 Beverage Blog 4 Comments

The Road Back

The Road Trip Sextet, Part 6“The Road Back”

For Part 1, go HERE.

For Part 2, go HERE.

For Part 3, go HERE.

For Part 4, go HERE.

For Part 5, go HERE.

The June California trip – for all intents and purposes – was a success. I notched off World Tea Expo, a beach house tea party, hung out with many family members, and (most importantly) spent some quality time with my grandparents. For only a week’s worth of time allotted to this, I accomplished…well…a lot.

There was only one thing left to do – make the road trip back. In more ways than one.

I had one more thing on the docket to do – something that was decided relatively at the last minute. During the road trip, my mother/travel partner informed me that she had a breakfast to attend to with some old high school friends in Oceanside. The location was mere blocks from the street I grew up on.

Mum and I came to a compromise. She could do her breakfast meet-up unimpeded by me, and I would have a quick look-around the old homestead.

I grew up on a long cul de sac off of a busy intersection. As far as neighborhoods go, it was pretty idyllic for a kid growing up in the 80s. One could even picture a brat with a bowl-cut on a bicycle, carrying an alien in the front basket. Turning off on my old street, one thought occurred to me: The place hadn’t changed in the 26 years since I lived there.

All the houses, for the most part, looked the same. Save for new paint jobs, newer cars in driveways, and cleaner sidewalks. Nothing was all that difference. Well, except for one thing.

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Monday, July 28th, 2014 Musings 6 Comments

Moments with My Grandparents

The Road Trip Sextet, Part 5 – “Moments with my Grandparents”

For Part 1, go HERE.

For Part 2, go HERE.

For Part 3, go HERE.

For Part 4, go HERE.

These are my grandparents, Nelson and Dottie. And they are awesome.

Both are well into their 90s and are approaching their 70th wedding anniversary.

This was the primary reason for my road trip in early June. Yes, I had a tea expo to go to. Yes, I had a beach party to attend. But the one reason that tops all of those was to see my grandparents for the first time in four years. Mainly for the stories they tell. And, boy, do they have stories aplenty. For this article, I wanted to highlight a few of them that were imparted just during this one visit. In the form of vignettes.

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Monday, July 21st, 2014 Musings 3 Comments

A “Date” with “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

So, Transformers: Age of Extinction came out last week.

I saw it opening night in GXL 3D (whatever that means). I refrained from expressing any opinion for or against it. Not because I was incapable, but rather that I hadn’t exactly pieced together my thoughts into a cohesive stance. Well…a friend of mine forced my hand when he posted a link on my Facebook to an io9 article dubbed: “Transformers: Age of Extinction: The Spoiler FAQ”. It was basically a rundown for the entire plot of the movie, and a well done one at that. I could find no fault in the logic posed about the movie’s illogic.

In the byline of the posted link, this friend wrote: “Is it really this bad?”

I sat on a reply for a couple of days…and now I have the perfect reply. In the form of an analogy.


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Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 Reviews 1 Comment

Three Trips, Two Kilts, One Miracle

The Road Trip Sextet, Part 1 – “Three Trips, Two Kilts, One Miracle”

At the beginning of 2014, I’d already come to the foregone conclusion that I wouldn’t get a vacation. That prior December, I burned through all of my paid time off to make ends meet at work. Hours were scarce, money even more so. The only trips I could afford were ones that were close to home, and some evenings that involved beer.

On one particular evening off, after a horrible work day, I decided to notch two breweries off my list. (Yes, there’s a list.) One was called Stickmen’s, and the other – the subject of this blog – was Two Kilts. The latter’s brews weren’t entirely new to me. I had tried their Scottish ale at a couple of house parties. It was – in an inappropriate word – fan-fucking-tastic. A trip to the source was in order.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I made the trip to Sherwood, OR. The “pub” itself rested in a business warehouse area off the only major “highway”. The fairly new op housed a bar in the office portion of the garage, whereas the body of it housed benches for sitting and the brewery lab in back.

The bar was instantly inviting. Various memorabilia lined the walls and bar proper, a giant monitor listed the beer specials, and the taps were front and center. Even the visually-impaired wouldn’t have difficulty adjusting.

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Sunday, June 8th, 2014 Beverage Blog No Comments

I work for tea money.


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