F**k Flavored Matcha

First, let me go on record by saying: “I am not against flavored tea!”

As a well-versed/rehearsed Earl Grey drinker, I can’t say I’m above a little dash of something extra. Some of the best teas I’ve tried have fallen under the “flavor”-ful moniker. Granted, I’m more prone to traditional(-ish?) approaches to scenting teas rather than the addition of gobs of extract. (And if it’s aged in an alcohol barrel, I’m all over that shit.) However, there is one recent abomination that I have to draw the line on.

Flavored matcha.

I noticed the trend back in the fervor of my reviewing days. It seemed like something that would be a passing gimmick. The first I ever ran across was a strawberry-flavored matcha. It was…vaguely strawberry-ish, and even possessed strawberry seeds in the powder. Did I prefer it to regular matcha…oh heck, no. The second one I tried was a blueberry matcha, and it had no flavor at all.

But it got worse.

In the ensuing year, other flavors began cropping up. Caramel, banana, lavender, cheesecake (!!!), chocolate, vanilla derp-dee-derp and…maple syrup?! That was the final straw. Maple syrup-flavored anything is a gateway drug – one that leads to bacon. Yes, folks, you heard this prediction here first. We are a mere flavor agent away from having a bacon matcha!!!

Granted, to some of you, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing…but ask yourself this: Do you really want green tea with your bacon?

That is my limit. I can’t take it anymore. Matcha is a ceremonial beverage, one that induces a feeling of calm when it’s prepared. It doesn’t necessarily have to be prepared correctly – just to the drinker’s liking. As long as it is still matcha, then I have no qualm. But I’m putting my snobby foot down at flavoring the damn thing.

Tea leaves are universally known for being able to pick up flavor from either (a) the surrounding environment or (b) surrounding ingredients. Rose-scenting, jasmine-scenting, osthmanthus-scenting, masala-ladening – these are all very common and ancient practices. But have you heard someone say, “Do you know what this powdered green tea needs? Cheese. It needs cheese.” The closest thing we have to natural dairy tea is milk oolong, and it should bloody well stay that way!

I’m willing to give a pass on the existence of matcha blends, though. Case in point: Green tea powder blended with goji berry or acai. Those fruits can best be had in powdered form, anyway. Even better? Matcha blended with actual useful herbs like Gymnema sylvestre (the “sugar-destroyer” herb) or lemongrass. Those work! I’ve had ‘em.

In the end, I guess I just want one thing that’s left untouched. One thing that is still sacred and sucrose-less. If I have to, I’ll horde the good stuff to make sure that it remains pure. Because some powders are worth saving.

Fuck flavored matcha.

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Monday, October 15th, 2012 Steep Stories 1 Comment

2010: A Year in Rant…er…Review

The quintessential and clichéd way to begin an entry like this is to declare, “What a wild ride it’s been…” And with other years, and other people, that might be entirely applicable. 2010 was an entirely different beast, however. I can’t say it was wild by any stretch, but strange things did happen – some good, some life-changing, and others terrible. I’m not even entirely sure how this entry will play out. So, I thought I’d summarize my year – to the best of my ability – and reach a conclusion. I have some idea of what that conclusion is; still finding the words to voice it, though. Here we go.

Good ol’ Baby New Year ’10 began with a “THUD!” in the form of a road trip, one I took in order to see a girl again. Funny what men will do in the name of the opposite gender.  Wars have been started for and about the fairer sex. And in my case, near crashes and snow storms. The former of which should’ve been my first clue that this trip was a bad idea.

A mere ten miles outside of home, a car spun out in the fast lane. I caught sight of it before it 180-ed in front of me, put on the breaks just in time, and then veered around the “ruh-tard” by inches.  In a flurry of curses, I pulled off the Wilsonville exit to catch my breath. That should have been my cue to turn around in the complete opposite direction.  But I didn’t, I continued on unimpeded, blind in my resolve.

The good? By the time I made it down to SoCal, I was able to see my grandparents, Dad, Evil Stepmother, uncles, aunts, and cousins again. A new tea shop was notched off with friends, I saw Air Supply in concert (I know…”WTF!”), did a mad-dash through Disneyland, and – of course – spent quality time with said girl.

The bad? Just about everything else.

Fast-forward to the spring. I hate that time of year, and it has no fond feelings for me either. I’m not sure what happens to me when things “spring” forth anew, but I tend to go completely batshit. Not “rifle-on-a-clock-tower” nuts…but still impressively annoying. Usually, my changes in mood (of which there are many) result in loud declarations and hermitism.  In essence, Seasonal Male Menstrual Syndrome.

The trigger this time around was social networking sites – the Internet’s drama lubricant. Several friends of mine who followed me on Twitter found my plethora of tea updates boring and annoying. They had a point. Not everyone is as fascinated as I am about dead, dried leaves steeped in hot water. As a result, these several friends “unfollowed” me. I didn’t take that well.

To me – at the time – unfollowing was akin to a friends’ list removal. It was a very clear sign, in my mind, that I was an irritant. Instead of puttig up with online disapproval and “butthurt”, I ranted, then deleted all my social networking incarnations – Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Buzz, everything. My only outlet to the “Intel Inside” world was my website.

I kept this e-embargo up for the worse part of four months. Parallel to that, I sunk into a deep and denial-based depression. I rarely went out and rarely corresponded online. I went to work, I slept, I drank tea; rinsed, repeated. The one bright (and sometimes frustrating) spot in all of this was the adoption of a furry, cuddly, and whiny Maine Coon mix named Georgia.

But we won’t go into the flea epidemic she brought upon us. You can read about that HERE.

There was another momentary distraction in the wake of my netizen exile. The parents required help in June for a cross-state move to Wyoming. I was asked to take time off from work in order to help with the endeavor. At first, I was ambivalent to the travailing trek. I was a wuss, completely useless as a mover. Added to that, I wasn’t a fan of readjusting my sleep schedule (I worked nights) to accommodate the request.

My mood brightened on arrival. The process of moving went rather quickly, and the rest of the trip was spent bonding with the bros and stepdad over various microbrews. What started as a weekend I dreaded became a three-day trilogy of remembrance. To this day, it’s one of my more memorable trips.

That reverie wouldn’t last long upon my return to Oregon. I was greeted with a lay-off.  My job was posted on Craigslist, or at least a part-time version of it. My occupational existence of the last six years changed with a blip of the computer screen. Luckily, the parting was somewhat amicable given the circumstances, and I tried to view it as a necessary evil.  Finally, I got the kick in the proverbial pants I needed to move on with my life.

On the suggestion of my mother, I attended various job and networking groups to “get out there” again. With six years gone, I was a little rusty on my job-hunting skills. Wrestling with the unemployment office was also becoming an arduous experience.  By the end of summer, I was down to the wire financially. My bro/roommate was (thankfully) patient and understanding during the process.

In the interim, one of the biggest recommendations made by the job groups was to put my online presence back together. I returned to Twitter and Facebook, actively updated my blog again, and put feelers out there among friends that I was seeking employment. Unfortunately, due in part to my long absence, my social circle had decreased by half. Part of the blame rests with my outburst and subsequent hermitism. That sudden realization – and my car going “kaput” – made August a very dark month.

My brother changed this a bit with the declaration that he wanted to adopt a puppy. Not just any type of puppy, a Saint Bernard. I joined him for the jaunt to Camas to pick out the little fella. In the litter there were many to choose from, but one in particular stood out; a fuzzy, forehead-dotted little critter that was licking my shoe. I pointed to him, my brother picked him, we named him Abacus, and the rest is history. (My cat can’t stand him. We’re working on that.)

September saw two more gestalts to the ol’ routine (or what was left of it). My sister also decided to move to Wyoming and – again – I was drafted to help with the move and clean-up of her old place. While I can’t claim the task was easy, it was a welcomed distraction from the work-related/wallet issues. By coincidence or fate, right as we were about to take to the road again, my first unemployment check arrived. A summer-ton weight was lifted from my shoulders.

Partial gainful employment appeared a couple of months later in two forms thanks to the feelers I put out three months prior. I landed two temporary gigs doing floor sets and meeting setups, and a return to an old art gallery cashier job in October. Things were looking up.

November rained down soon after with the arrival of mounting debts. Red tape held up my unemployment benefits, and I was making nowhere near enough to pay my bills. Searches for additional part-time work were next to impossible given my limitations in availability. I could only work on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. Other days affected my art gallery gig.

Additional help would arrive once the red tape with the unemployment office cleared up. And – again – thanks in large part to a very patient and humble housemate.

Which brings us to December. Sales at the gallery were good; I had many writing posts under my belt. I sampled new teas from far-flung locations, and still found time to hang out with friends. The only speed bump was a speeding ticket. Christmas came and went, spent in the company of intermediate family and candlelight services. (Although, my first present on Christmas Day was a computer virus.)

And – now – here I sit, reflecting on the “Year That Was”. In the middle of concocting this narrative lump, I had to backtrack as other significant moments popped back into memory. “I almost forgot the dog!” I inwardly exclaimed. Had this been scribbled on a piece of paper, it would look like a jigsaw puzzle.

So what does 2011 promise?  I have no clue, and I’m not just saying that to be cheeky. My temporary “contract” at the gallery ended today, and I’m back on the job hunt. I will hopefully start up a novel of some sort, while simultaneously juggling a blog/review schedule. My “Tea Want” list has grown to thirteen – including (but not limited to) a British-grown and blended Earl Grey. Not that many of you care. (*Cue chuckle*) Beyond that, I don’t care. It’s a start.

Conclusion? 2010 was a ride; not a wild one, not a slow one. I liken it to driving my Ford Focus. It doesn’t look pretty, doesn’t stand out, but at least I can see where I parked.

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Friday, December 31st, 2010 Musings 4 Comments

I work for tea money.


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