Archive for January, 2012

The Tea Trolley

“What is it?” asked a passerby.

“What does it look like?” said a grizzly, overalled Brit sitting on a bench.

“A train,” was the American’s curious response. “Not like any I’ve ever seen.”

“That’s because it’s not a train,” the Brit said gruffly. “It’s a trolley.”

And indeed it was. A curious contraption to boot; instead of cars and compartments, it was three brass trays synced together with various clockwork gears and turbines. If one were staring at it from afar, they would’ve seen a go-cart or a push-table. But no, it was an actual trolley of weird and rare design. Like a table on railroad tracks. People milled about, all with teacups in their hands, some in their nicest finery, others in their pajamas. it was a bizarre sight to the newly-arrived American.

“What are they doing?”

“Tribute, I think.” It wasn’t a question.

The American left the gnarled Brit to his sitting and approached the crowd. Various women and men – some in Victorian attire, others in modern garb, and others still yet identifiable – were crowded around the odd locomotive.

Then, as if by some invisible chime, they raised their teacups to the sky. Not a word was spoken. Any murmuring ceased. The American was at a loss, for he didn’t have a cup to raise…nor a reason to raise it. He was confused by the entire display.

“Here,” came a sing-songy voice from behind him. “I have an extra.”

A slender, middle-aged woman in a bonnet and a sweater adorned with the British flag had her hand outstretched. Funny, since she didn’t sound British. He accepted the cup gently and graciously.

“What is this for?” he asked.

“That?” she said with a giggle. “It’s for the tea trolley.”

That is a tea trolley?!” he exclaimed with a furrowed brow.  “Isn’t it…”

“Rather large?” she offered. “Oh yes. Wouldn’t have it any other way. How else can you have tea if you can’t travel?”

“So…it’s a trolley…in the shape of a trolley.”

“You catch on quick,” she said wryly.

“Why this display then?”

She sighed, “Because the tea trolley has ceased its run. All these people were once her passengers.”

“A eulogy,” the American said.

“No, a celebration,” she laughed. “Eulogies are far too dour.”

“Were you a passenger?”

“I better have been,” she said. “I invented it.”

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude, Mrs…”

“Milly.”

“Mrs. Milly?”

“Just Milly,” she smiled.

The former passengers still had their cups raised. None seemed to be tiring with their arms outstretched, or if they were fatigued, they didn’t show it. Probably couldn’t.

“Well, are you going to join in?” she nudged.

“Should I?” he asked nervously. “I mean…I was never a passenger.”

“Don’t be silly,” she assured him.

With that, he reluctantly raised his dainty cup.

“You already are.” Her voice trailed on the wind with an echo.

The American looked behind him…but she was gone.

Author’s Note: Mildred P., a.k.a. @MildewPea (on Twitter) – or simply Milly – was one of the first people I ever talked to when I joined the site o’ Twits back in 2009. She was almost TOO wholesome and incredibly witty. It took all my gumption just to keep up with her.

One of the fun little games played on Twitter was the addition of “#TheTeaTrolley”…and me being the idiot I am, I thought it was an actual trolley. I never let on that I had no clue what a tea trolley even was, but I still considered myself a happy passenger.

R.I.P. Milly, you taught me how a Tea Twit should conduct themselves. Here’s a cup to ya.

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Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 Prose, Steep Stories No Comments

Lazy Tea Prep (with Video)

The art of tea blending is one that has always eluded me. I know of people that consider themselves experts in the field, but I often wondered how much skill it really took to create a blend. Playing with different herbs and teas wasn’t a new thing to me. I did it all the time at home to varying degrees of success and failure. The one I had yet to try to mimic was English Breakfast.

I read somewhere that there was no set recipe for English Breakfast. Typically, there was an Assam base, and other like-flavored burly black teas rounded it out. Sometimes they included low-altitude Ceylon or earthy Yunnan Dian Hong. But I found a snippet that mentioned a truly good blend was done with equal parts Assam and Keemun. Seemed easy enough.

At a par”tea” thrown by a friend of mine, I decided to demonstrate the ease of English Breakfast blending. I went up to the host and said, “Wanna see how easy blending is?”

He nodded slowly.

I took a helping of Keemun Gongfu and another of Rani estate Assam, put them in a bag together and shook it vigorously.

“There,” I said. “I just blended.”

My friend sniffed the contents of the bag. “That smells awful.”

I cocked an eyebrow, whiffed…and came up with little discernible aroma.

Perhaps I needed to rethink my approach. When I got home I looked through my stash of teas to see what would work for a second English try-out. I figured that both ingredients had to have a similar aromatic and visual profile. As luck would have it, I was in possession of a very tippy Keemun Mao Feng as well as some gold-tipped Assam from Glenburn’s Khongea estate. Both had a similar malty profile – albeit the Keemun was sweeter.

The results were…well…how about I just show you.

Now that I’ve been (understandably) exiled to my room, I can reflect upon it. The liquor brewed as I expected it would, very crimson-to-copper. The aroma had the subtlety of a bitter battering ram – very dry on the nostrils followed by something bordering on malt. To the taste, it was extremely tannic on the forefront but eventually settled nicely into a malty echo.

Verdict: If I’m in a pinch, it’s good to know I can shake up something drinkable. As to the art of blending itself…I’ll leave that to the professionals. The ingredients I used were of exceptional quality on their own, but I had little regard for how to portion them correctly. Clearly, I have a lot to learn.

Credits and Acknowledgements

Directed and Edited by:

Robert Norman (my brother). Without his help, I wouldn’t have been able to put together this little “tutorial” video. Sometimes living with a film grad is useful.

You can find more stuff by him HERE.

Our other collabs can be found HERE.

“Written” and “Starring”:

Me, of course. Honestly, other than coming up with the idea for this, writing a one-page script, and doing copious amounts of begging, my contributions were minor by comparison.

Special Guest Star:

Thanks to Robert “The Devotea” Godden for lending me his blender disapproval.

You can find his tea videos HERE.

You can find his blog HERE.

You can purchase his blends HERE.

Teas:

06-June Khongea Golden Tips Second Flush Assam TGFOP1 provided by KTeas.

My thoughts on it – by itself – can be found HERE.

Gift Keemun Hong Mao Feng provided by Vicony Teas

My thoughts HERE.

Tea Props:

Eight Cranes Perfect Steeper

Adagio UtiliTea

Wardrobe:

“Pot Head” shirt purchased at The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants

Pet Cameos:

Abacus St. Bernard

Georgia Poopybottom

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Sunday, January 1st, 2012 Steep Stories, Vids 2 Comments

I work for tea money.

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