Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday tea tunes: Iced beats

No idea who this DJ is beyond his name (Stephen West) and location (Liverpool), but this mix he posted on Soundcloud is chill, is titled "Time for Tea III" and, hey, is an hour long!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tea for two, but not for Ru'

Rufus slept through that day's tea time (above), as he does most afternoons. I'd never thought of offering him a cup, until last night.

While trying to induce drowsiness on an overnight train from Memphis back to Chicago, I listened to a short series of recordings from the BBC — actor Alec Guinness reading bits from his memoir, My Name Escapes Me. (I don't mean to imply that this was dull and thus sleep-inducing — quite the contrary — rather that Guinness' stately monotone was just the train ticket for relaxing one's nerves.) In one of the passages, he mentions his dog's failing health but adds that the dog was feeling better that day, part of his evidence being that the dog lapped up a saucer of tea.

Can a dog or cat drink tea? Veterinary information is surprisingly scattershot online (where's the trustworthy WebMD for cats and dogs already?), but here's what I've pieced together from searches and a call to our neighborhood pooch practice:

Offering tea or coffee to cats or dogs is not a great idea. Sugar is terrible for both, dogs are usually intolerant of milk and, most importantly, caffeine negatively affects those smaller nervous systems (cats, in particular, are prone to heart palpitations and sometimes muscle tremors from caffeine). A small cup of decaffeinated tea — cooled down! — shouldn't hurt, but a habit of it would be bad for both bladders. Tea does not, as has been reported out there, promote growth in dogs, according to our vet.

In sum: enjoy your tea, but give Rowlf and Ruby a straight shot of your fresh, filtered water instead.

And mind where you set your cup. Dogs'll drink just about anything.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dark tea rising

Thoughts and prayers are with the victims' families and all Coloradoans dealing with this awful tragedy ...

(And, yes, that's a Batman tea bag hanging over the rim of that cup.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday tea TV: Willis Earl Beal

One of the revelatory acts at last weekend's annual Pitchfork Music Festival here in Chicago was eccentric soul singer Willis Earl Beal. As I wrote on Friday:

But "singing" seems a flaccid verb for what Beal actually accomplishes. Projecting a massive, versatile voice that hollers and howls, grates and growls, the 27-year-old Beal's bellowing evokes the oldest bluesmen and the fiercest young rappers. It's a voice that swings wide, high and low -- often from guttural yawps to fluttery falsetto within a single line. He's Screamin' Jay Hawkins, then he's Curtis Mayfield.

Now I find this video of Beal, showing some performance footage spliced in with interviews about style — some of which take place in Brooklyn's Ran Tea House, where Beal (discovered first as a visual artist) has some tea and makes a sketch ...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hot tea, cool music

Speaking of drinking hot tea in the middle of the summer heat, here I am this weekend at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago — enjoying a lovely cup of Intelligentsia's Iron Goddess of Mercy, prepared peacefully in the middle of the festival madness in a gaiwan, if you can imagine ...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hot tea on a hot day? No sweat!

If you're here reading about tea things, then you've read the incredulous "hot drinks cool you down!" story a thousand times. An NPR blogger marveled anew at the thought this week, posting information from a neuroscientist about how hot drinks make you sweat, which is the body's cooling mechanism, so in fact hot drinks facilitate cooling off, etc.

Perspiration, though, only cools you down if there's air around your body (moving, ideally) to cause the temperature-regulating evaporation. In other words, sitting in a plush chair and drinking hot tea on a hot day is only going to make your back and posterior a warm, wet mess.

My favorite response, however, to the question "Does hot tea make you cooler?" was posted on a message board ages ago: "No. Taking heroin and going to be-bop clubs in a beret makes you cooler. Drinking tea makes you a quaint old English lady."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

First-flush Darjeelings from Rare Tea Republic

The latest tea company to enthrall me: the Rare Tea Republic, "a company that curates fresh teas from the world's finest tea gardens" that was launched last fall. Don't worry about confusing the name with the Republic of Tea; they're the same company. The Rare Tea Republic was spun off from the already high-end, high-priced brand to focus on small-lot and single-estate teas.

The business is based in California's Bay Area, but its production and distribution facilities are in downstate Illinois, due east of St. Louis. The teas, however, are sourced from across northern India and near the Himalayan mountains. RTR launched with 19 teas from the region, two of which are already award-winners.

I'm still a second-flush kinda guy, but the samples of first-flush Darjeelings I've had in the past year are bringing me around, including a couple of doozies from RTR. Their Jun Chiyabari FTGFOP1 — the packet I have notes its origin (Nepal) and, wonderfully, its plucking date (April 9) — is fantastic, with a rich and peaty odor, which in the cup blossoms into a flowery scent (peonies?) and a corresponding flavor, like sweet chamomile and lime. The widely praised Phoobsering FTGFOP1 (Darjeeling, April 11) was an absolute marvel. Dry, it reeks of camphor and champagne, a bracing aroma that had me huffing the bag far longer than is proper. Cupped, it's a much more nuanced, sly, complex beast, still confident in the nose but remarkably light on the tongue, very much like a buttery chardonnay. (Most previous reviews cite lemons and lilies here; the latter maybe, the former I didn't get at all.) A third sample, the Wah FTGFOP (Kangra, April 12), laid there like an old dog  compared to the other two, perhaps faithful but devoid of any real spark of life. Each of these teas stood tall after long brews and several subsequent steepings.

Intriguing finds. Next, I'll dive into their five white offerings.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday tea tunes: Spell it TEA

Of course, there was a band called Tea. An acronym, really — TEA, for the first names of each founding member, like ABBA — and a (justly) forgotten Swiss group that turned in this cover of the Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City" in the similarly sweltering summer of ’75 ...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Katy Perry's cats (for real) and afternoon tea

An episode of "Parks and Recreation" last fall concluded with one of the greatest ideas ever. A newly inducted group of male girl scouts (long story) celebrates their rite of passage with a "puppy party." Just what it sounds like — a party with rented puppies. Ingenious.

This week I had to see the newest pop star biopic, "Katy Perry: Part of Me," for review. Midway through the chronicle of the megastar's world tour, Perry and three friends spend an afternoon at an establishment in Tokyo with a slightly different spin. It's a kitty party!

"This establishment serves tea and coffee while you hang out with cats," explains one of Perry's pals. "They charge you. To sit with cats."

Apparently, the cat cafes are a trend in Japan, where an aging population relishes the chance to dote on four-legged wee ones. At one cafe, a particular cat likes to nip people's milk tea out of their cups.

Great green tea and a bunch of adorable kittens you don't have to feed or clean up after? Schedule me!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A real American tea party

President Kennedy has a cup of tea with his cousin Mary, 
in the kitchen of her cottage — his ancestral home — 
during a presidential visit to Ireland in 1963.

Happy 236th birthday, America, nation of immigrants!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tuesday tea tunes: Marmalade (no Vegemite!)

Tin Tin was an Australian pop band in the late ’60s who got their start when pal Robin Gibb produced their first singles, including this dreamy arrangement of woozy harmonies, "Toast and Marmalade for Tea":

Monday, July 2, 2012

'Success lies in a single word: care'

This is a tea blog, sure, but most of us enjoy the occasional cup o' joe, too. You'll also, no doubt, enjoy this promotional short film from 1961 — a "Mad Men"-era bit of genius titled "This Is Coffee!" Dig the bongos, the poetic voiceover, the percolating tips and the travel to distant lands ...

How, then, do we make the perfect cup of coffee to our taste? Success lies in a single word: Care. Three simple ingredients go into the brewing process: water, coffee, time. Care will produce a perfect result every time.

We could say the same of tea, yes?