My Fat Tea Tuesday

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Ah, Mardi Gras, the visions it invokes. Dixieland blaring, shrimp gumbo, circuses in the streets, topless women in dire need of beads, drunkenness, and a pre-flood New Orleans. I've partaken in my fair share of Fat Tuesday bacchanalias (sans Orleans). College is a wonderful thing. I would anticipate its arrival a week in advance, declaring my frustration for yet another single Valentine's Day...and a dire need to purge my memory of it with gratuitous amount of alcohol and scantily-clad "whoo!" people.

A funny thing happened in succeeding years, however. Perhaps it was age or ambivalence - I know not - but I ceased to remember when it actually was. This year's was a shining example.

The day started with a trip to my mechanic for a gimpy rear blinker. The cute receptionist - said mechanic's sister - yanked my keys from me, handed it off to her brother, and asked me what my plans were for Fat Tuesday. I gave her a quizzical look.

"Is that today?" I asked.

"Yep," she said.

"I completely spaced it," I replied, half-shocked.

Once my car was situated, I figured I had some time to kill. A female friend of mine was meeting me later downtown for cupcakes (you heard right), but that was three hours off yet. My favorite teashop was a loogie's distance away. Sampling seemed like the perfect distraction.

The Tao of Tea shop in Southeast Portland tries - maybe too hard - to be an authentic Chinese tearoom. When one enters the establishment, they feel as if they've entered a scene out of a Zhang Yimou movie; requisite tapestries, stone waterfalls and all. The appearance of a strikingly gorgeous - but very Irish - redhead waitress/tea clerk jars a person from this period piece reverie. She handed me the menu, and I sift through it. As I did so, pure Libra-like indecision grasped me. There was so much to try, yet I couldn't decide which.

The amber-haired clerkette returned, "What'll you have?"

"Um...I remember reading on the website that there was an herbal blend made from the blossoms of the tea plant," I said. "But I don't see it on the menu."

She beamed, "Oh, the Tea Flowers. We have that."

"Sweet! I'll of those." I paused. "A-and some green tea tofu."

It sounded unique, had to try it.

She nodded, took my menu and ducked behind the counter again. While waiting, a young-ish college couple came in and sat at the table left of me. They quickly discussed the blends they wanted to try, and the conversation went from tea to travel. Both students were globetrotters, speaking of an anticipated trip to China. That segued to mentions of Scotland, Ireland, and the teas they hoped to try while there as well.

I couldn't help but smile a bit. Sure they were wannabe beatnik-ish sorts, but their mutual affection for each other and the world around them was a might intoxicating. A part of me yearned for that type of coupledom as well, someone in which to share tea travels with. In the courtship world, I learned the hard way that tea dates were not the way to meet women. America is a coffee culture first and foremost. A man who professes his love for tea might as well remove his testicles upon mention. Such declarations are hardly macho.

Tea dates worked once a man finally landed a partner-in-crime. Prior to that, some posturing was required. I had yet to learn this unspoken rule. With Chia-head hair, wire-rimmed glasses, and a Bogart-esque trenchcoat worn like a grade school flasher, my peacock feathers were a bit underused...and underwhelmed.

My Tea Flower blend arrived. The couple chirpily chatted away as I smelled and sipped the brew. Floral finesse flooded my tongue. I have no idea what it was about blossoms bobbing in hot water - aside from jasmine petals - but flower blends always gave me a relaxing rush. Meditation by way of drink. Safely said, it was the only time I didn't feel neurotic. Right then, I thought I found something that could even top chrysanthemum-flavored teas.

But I was hardly done.

The ravishing redhead returned, "Can I get you something else?"

"Actually, yes." I replied. "I was wondering if you had any tulsi teas."

"The closest thing we have is our Ayurvedic Shanti blend," she explained. "Although it has fennel and citrus."

Tulsi - or "Holy Basil" - had intrigued me for some time, having read about it on a random perusal online. It seemed a fine enough time to entertain a tulsi impulse, even if it was flavored with fennel. The clerk brought it out a few minutes later. In my opinion, they went too heavily on the spearmint, giving an impression of a deflated Chai. However, the tulsi undertones were quite appealing. And fennel...well, golly...I just love fennel. I could have it in anything. After downing the rest of that, I paid and left.

Tao of Tea was divided into two parts. One was the wuxia-esque tearoom, the other was the actual teashop; where one could purchase teas by canister or in bulk. The shopkeeper - a dreadlock-adorned, bespectacled, and bearded fellow - greeted me. I asked if he had any plain tulsi tea. He pointed me to the canisters, then also mentioned that they sold it in bulk. Of the three types of tulsi, they only had two. This didn't disappoint me, however.

Mr. Uber-Awesome-Hippie-Guy hooked me up with two samples. I went to pay, but he shooed by card away. Thus reaffirming why I loved this place so much...well...besides for the redhead clerkette.

Once finished there, it was off to downtown for the second leg of my day - the cupcake shop. Rain beat down hard as it always did in Oregon. I stopped midway to take shelter in a McDonald's for a makeshift dinner. My friend texted me about a potential delay, babysitter issues. I replied and suggested she meet me closer to the burbs for drinks, so as to avoid rush hour. She agreed. But I wasn't going to leave without sampling some homemade cupcakes.

(Shameless Shill: If you have never had cupcakes from Saint Cupcakes in Northwest Portland, then you haven't lived. Google them, love them, worship them. *End of Shill*)

Since I consider myself a nice guy, I got some of 'cakes to go for my friend and ventured back out into the rain. Then a thought occurred to me. I was but a scant few blocks from another teashop - Tea Chai Te - and I had a couple of things I was still attempting to track down; a local distributor for Greek mountain tea, and a decent milk oolong. They were the last on my list of shops to try. I texted my friend as to my delay, parked my car, and bee-lined for the shop.

Upon entry, I sifted through the menu and thumbed the oolongs. None of the descriptions matched what I was looking for, save one - their Velvet Oolong. I asked the clerk if that was a milk oolong.

He nodded.

I practically squealed.

Alas, he shook his head to the Greek tea question. I wasn't too surprised with that. Although, he did give me a potential local contact of a distributor who might. Sure, I could've easily purchased it online, but I have this thing with finding it in a local shop first. Call it nativism at its finest.

Once again, I found myself back in the pouring rain sipping a perfectly creamy milk oolong out of a coffee cup. Some passersby in correct Mardi Gras attire half-littered the streets in preparation of a night's damage. All the while, I - a thirtysomething, male tea drinker - with cupcakes on his breath and creamy tea liquor on his tongue, sauntered back to his vehicle in a trenchcoat and drenched dockers.

And I couldn't help but think there was no better way to spend a Fat Tuesday.

Well, at least I'd have the pleasure of remembering it, unlike the partiers-to-be.

Heh, suckers.
Teaviews Member: Geoff Geoff Reviewer
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2 Responses to “My Fat Tea Tuesday”

  1. Tea Musing: “My Fat Tea Tuesday” | Lazy Literatus Says:

    […] GO LOOKY! […]

  2. Erin Says:

    I like your never ending quest for tea. I even generally find it interesting, educational, and entertaining to read about.

    Reading your thoughts on these things makes me want to try them, and to me, that seems a good result of a review of any kind. 😉

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