Thursday, August 11, 2011

On the Tea Caravan Route

Swiss Covered bridge #2

It’s another beautiful day in the neighborhood. The sun is shining, the sky is beautiful, there’s a breeze and it is cool enough to work in the garden. Summer is drawing ever onward towards fall, however. The acorns are in a second drop, the Great Mullein is forming seeds and the milkweed pods are getting fat. Did you know you can use milkweed fluff like down, to insulate clothing? True. Of course, there could be a real problem with it getting wet.

Another indicator of summer ending is the teasels are all hardening up and turning brown. This is a form of thistle and is common to the British Isles and probably many other countries. Sheep farmers in Scotland would use them to “tease” the wool to get out burrs and other dirt before it was spun and woven. There is a very old English song about this but I only know a word or two of it.

It is a perfect day for a nice cup of hot tea. I was going to try a Lapsang Souchong I have, but the smoke was too overwhelming for my mood and perhaps my person in general. So I am having some of Blue Raven’s Fruity Russian Caravan instead. This is named for the teas that would go overland, along the horse/camel caravan route, from China to Russia, taking 18 months to arrive at their destination.  Along the way, the tea would be subjected to many campfires, which is why it usually has a whiff of smoke.  I was immediately struck by the scent - plums, smoke and good China tea. The smoke was only a mere lick, not a bit overwhelming. I brewed up the attractive brown leaves for about 3.5 minutes with boiling water and further enjoyed the lovely aroma, hoping the tea would also be as pleasant.

I am so pleased. This is a very nice tea. You can taste the good blend of teas that are enhanced with the plum flavor. It is as if they were made to go together. You know I don’t say that lightly, as I am generally not a fruity tea person. Maybe I should say I wasn’t, because I am finding more good blends, where the tea is first and the flavors are a grace note. This is a tea that should be drunk on its own, without milk and sugar. The milk adds nothing and I think sweetener would kick up the plum so it would be out of balance.  I should note that thanks to modern means of transport, there is no whiff of sweaty animals or humans to spoil this delicious brew.

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