of tea

Good Wednesday evening, friends and lovers. Tonight the trash goes out; I’ll never cease to marvel at the fact that I can drag 15lbs of stuff I no longer want down to my curb and wake up with it gone. Garbagemen don’t get the respect they deserve… that’s an essential job, y’all. Now to the canned stuff.

A long time ago, in the early days of my Taiwan travel, I received some local tea as a gift from a customer on a visit (hey sawmill gestapo, it weren’t an ethics violation – I was assured it was less than $20). The tea came in an attractive tube-shaped container, with faux gold Chinese characters and decorations “lacquered” on the outside. I even came equipped with some of that traditional Chinese red-tassle stuff tied in pretty bows and knots around it. Thankful, I accepted the tea and brought it back with me to America (US Customs was never informed, take that Big Brother). When I got home, I showed it to Sharaun and proceeded to put it, unopened, up on the highest, normally unreachable, relegated to seldom-used items, shelf in the pantry. And, until last night, that’s where it stayed.

What jarred it loose from its dusty enclave was an episode of a show I enjoy called Bizarre Foods. On this episode, the host was touring the beautiful isle of Taiwan, sampling its many strange foodstuffs. At one restaurant he was treated to a multiple-course meal in which every dish was based around the tea leaf. Seeing how much the Taiwanese love and value their tea reminded me of that red and gold tube hiding way up in the back of the pantry. So, I pulled over a dining room chair and climbed atop to peer into the dark recesses of our dry goods. There, pushed all the way back into the corner, sat the tea. I yanked it down and proceeded to open it. Inside was a vacuum-sealed foil packet, and absolutely nothing in the way of instructions, guidance, or information (well, at least not in English).

Now, I should add here that, on the TV, the Bizarre Foods host was receiving a lesson in “rare” and expensive Chinese teas, and was browsing some of the insanely priced high-end teas one can purchase in Taiwan. The leaf he was looking at came out to about $7,000 USD per dried pound. At this point, I began telling Sharaun that, when the customer had given me the tea so long ago, the Taiwanese national who was with me had told me that it was very rare and expensive, and likely worth about $800 for the entire tube. This story was completely false. So, as I’m examining the sealed foil package, she’s all the while harping from the couch, “Don’t you dare open that! You need to put that stuff on Ebay! Do not even think about opening some $800 tea!”

I wanted to maintain the ruse a little longer, and besides, I was truly unsure how to make the stuff and needed to do a little research. So, I left the bag sealed and hit the internet to figure out how to “brew loose leaf tea.” The internet, for the only time ever, was largely a disappointment. That’s when I remembered another long-lost item I’d seen gathering dust in our house (we really need to do some large-scale cleaning and purging, it would seem): an electric tea-brewing gadget that was sitting, also unopened, somewhere in the garage. Since it was only 11pm, I decided to go have a look. I located the “Mrs. Tea” right away, and brought my prize inside.

“What are you going to do with that?,” she asked. “I know you’re not thinking you’re going to make that tea… you need to sell that stuff, not drink it. Let’s make $800 on that crap.” “Babe,” I said, as I pulled out the paring knife to cut open the foil package, “I was just messing with you, this stuff isn’t worth $800.” “I knew that,” she replied.

I sawed off the top of the foil tube and gave the rolled, dried leaves a nice sniff. To my surprise, they still maintained the very strong and pleasant aroma of Chinese green tea (I didn’t even know what kind of tea this was until I saw it). Luckily, “Mrs. Tea” came with some teaspoons-of-loose-leaf to cups-of-tea guidance, and, by 11:30pm, I had a nice hot pot of traditional Chinese green tea. I must say, the tea was delicious. Reminded me of the stuff I had at the fancy teahouse on the shores of the West Lake in Hangzhou, China, although not as fresh: we had some of the last green leaves of the tea season when we visited on Tombsweeping Day this year. Anyway, in the end it was quite a journey for that little tube of green tea from Taiwan. I look forward to drinking some more of it now that I’ve broken the seal. Like tea? You’re welcome to come have some with me, friend.

Oh my gosh y’all (tea stuff is over now), I was watching a TiVo’d Seinfeld episode tonight and saw a certain Public Service Announcement. At first I was confused, but when I realized at the end that the PSA was warning kids about the dangers of blogging… I was ecstatic! I immediately hunted down the clip to post here. So, remember kids: Think before you post.

Wow, an entire entry about making tea. Good job me. Goodnight.

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