Irish Breakfast   (2015May07)


Thursday, May 07, 2015                                          3:39 PM

“Yorkshire Gold”®—that’s the stuff—an Irish Breakfast tea I obtain through the English Tea Store. Don’t get excited—the English Tea Store is just one of Google’s ‘Trusted Stores’—it’s not some authentic little old lady with a cat in London or anything ‘Harry Potter-ish’ like that. The only thing English about the English Tea Store is that it offers foreign brands. An ‘American Tea Store’ would have just two brands: Lipton and Tetley—if you don’t count Snapple or Nestea, which are produced in the only way average Americans like their tea—iced and flavored.

But I’m an old man with old impressions—truth be told, nowadays there are a lot of new tea brands on the supermarket shelves—greens, chais, herbals—a whole shelf-section of esoteric tea exotica. But they don’t count—no caffeine. No, the Old World understands that tea is a good drug and that non-caffeinated tea is an abomination against nature. They give their teas arcane names like Earl Grey Supreme or Lap Sang Soo Chong. Those are two of my favorites, by the way—the Earl Grey Supreme has a complexity similar to a good wine, and the Lap Sang Soo Chong includes actual burnt leaves, which give it a smoky flavor that couldn’t go better with tobacco.

While I enjoy a good cup of fancy tea, my everyday taste runs more towards the basics—and Yorkshire Gold’s Irish Breakfast tea is some of the blackest, bitterest tea you’ll ever taste—coffee be damned. When it’s good and hot, it’ll warm your insides like a wood-burning stove is lit in there.

I only recently became interested in tea this last mid-winter—I bought a glass teapot with a strainer and some loose-leafed teas, just to experience the real tea flavor. It was an eye-opener to me, having grown up with nothing but Lipton in a bag, with milk and sugar—which ain’t half-bad, don’t get me wrong. If I hadn’t liked Lipton I’d never have been tempted to go further—but, boy, is there further to go. I had these cute little tins of several loose-leafed teas—Bear asked me to save the tins for her when the tea is gone. I’d brew up a pot of real tea and enjoy it in a small cup; then I’d have to throw away the clump of tea-leaves, and rinse out the pot, especially the strainer bit. Some leaf-bits would always get past the sieve—that became annoying, trying to drink the last of the cup without swallowing the leaves.

So then I tried tea-balls—those little metal containers on a chain used to dunk the ball in the hot water. Still, some leaf detritus came through—it was better than that strainer-coil inside the teapot spout, but it wasn’t perfect. And rinsing the tea-ball out each time was almost more trouble than cleaning the pot had been. Eventually, I found the perfect solution—some company makes empty tea-bag sleeves. I bought a box of them. You just add a teaspoon of tea (it always tickles me to think that I’m one of the rare people who use a teaspoon to measure tea) and close it up—voila, homemade tea-bag of whatever loose-leaf tea you prefer.

It worked so good that I bought a mini-stapler to close them (I didn’t want to keep swiping the one off of Bear’s work-desk). So for a while, I made my own Yukon Gold tea-bags. Then that got somewhat tedious, so last week I decided to buy the pre-made Yorkshire Gold teabags. I don’t like to buy stuff frequently, so I ordered a box of one hundred—this huge case of tea showed up yesterday via UPS. It seemed excessive but then I did a little mental math—one hundred tea-bags, about fifty weeks in the year—that’s only two cups of tea per week.

In reality, I drink three or four cups a day, so one hundred teabags is about a month’s supply—still, when you see it all in one box, it’s a lot of tea. Also, I have several other teas I drink for variety, so it should last a little more than a month. I hope so—this stuff ain’t cheap. I should do a cost analysis—it’s bound to be cheaper than coffee—anything’s cheaper than coffee—isn’t it?

Our kitchen isn’t what you’d call spacious, so I didn’t want to add a crate of teabags. I tried stuffing handfuls of Yukon Gold teabags into the emptied spaces of my existing teabag boxes and into the case that’s already there to hold my loose-tea tins and empty teabags and such. But Yukon Gold went for the deluxe foil packet for each bag—it’s about twice the size of the Lipton and Twining packets, so I had to jam them into the boxes to close the lids. I still had an armful left, so I put them in a Baggie and threw that into the cupboard. Our kitchen is virtually bursting with teabags—but I’ll work through them all too soon. Next time I’ll buy four boxes of twenty, or something.

Tea is trickier than coffee. With coffee, I make a big pot and just keep nuking each mugful after the pot goes cold—very low maintenance caffeinating. Tea is more delicate, so I don’t like to make a big pot—I don’t want to nuke old tea. It just won’t do—so I end up making tea by the mug, a separate procedure for every cup of tea. It’s distracting—especially compared to my old coffee days. But boy, howdy, how a cup of coffee perks me up now that I’m used to tea—wow! That’s an added benefit. It’s like aspirin—if you take aspirin a lot, it doesn’t do much, but if you haven’t had any for a long time, you can’t believe how effective it is. All good drugs have the same tripwire—they’re only good in moderation, but the better they are the more you are tempted to be immoderate. ‘Twas ever thus, as my dad used to say.

Earlier today, when I uploaded “Xper Dunn plays Piano – May 7th, 2015 / Improv – My Neighbor’s Garden” to YouTube I felt I had to add:

NOTE: These pictures are a combination of the flowers in my neighbors’ yard and in mine. The beautifully tended quince and wild bleeding hearts are my neighbors’—all of the messy stuff is from our place.

It had occurred to me that no one else on the block would want to think pictures of our place were theirs. I don’t garden—in the traditional sense. It’s more like spectating. But everyone else is far more adult and competent about their yards—and it shows. They’re really beautiful—especially next door’s yard. Well, the other-side next door is a landscape contractor, so his yard is pretty spectacular too—but they have a fence to keep the deer away from their tulips—and to keep their cute little dog from wandering off. We can see it out our windows, but that would feel more like spying than photography. Besides, that’s why I go outside—it’s hard to take a good picture out a window—I’ve tried.

So the improv went pretty well today. There were a couple of walk-throughs—not that I’m complaining—that’s life when your living room is your recording studio. It does interrupt the thread—I just start in again in a different key but, generally, the less distraction the better with these things. On the other hand, it’s very convenient to have an excuse for failing to achieve greatness. (I gonna get there! I just know it!) Oh well, maybe greatness isn’t my thing.

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