In a Sow’s Ear 4-19-10
What, who is a “tea lady” you ask? That would be Gracie, who earned the tag because after she and her husband “retired” and moved to a small western town, namely this one, she established a micro business she calls Tumblewood Teas.
Gracie invited me over to taste-test tea. She seated me at her kitchen table in preparation for sampling an array of brews. My job: Help her christen her tea offerings with new and clever “Western” names. As a coffee drinker, I advised her that I might not be the best judge.
“Nonsense, you’re perfect. You’re not biased with previous tea preferences. But you must taste each one in order to make an informed judgment.”
“Informed judgment? Gracie, I don’t even like tea. I’m hooked on coffee – plain, black coffee.”
“You’re merely uneducated,” she sympathized. “There are more tea varieties in the world than there are categories of wine or micro-brewed beer. Tea has been a beverage of choice down through the ages.”
With that kind of encouragement, how could I refuse? I girded my tea loins. Tea testing is not the same as say, a pilot trying out a new plane. Nor was I required to answer questions and receive a failing or passing grade.
“Fortunately, I’m here to remedy your tea-less condition for you,” pronounced Gracie as she poured tea-liquids into a slew of fancy glass containers. They gleamed like jewels in the sunlight beaming through the window. Some rosy, some tan, some dark as blood, some lemony tinted. I was impressed.
“You see,” said Gracie, “I’m developing a menu of teas reflecting Western lifestyle.”
“Gracie,” I pointed out, “you moved here from Florida.”
“That’s where you come in. I’m new here, but you know a lot of Western terminology. I want clever, but appealing names for my teas.”
“Er,” I said.
Handing me succeeding tiny thimble-sized cups of tea, Gracie invited me to sip, savor and sum up the taste with an appropriate “Western” title for each. This went on for a long, long while (including three trips to the powder room to recycle what I’d imbibed).
I taste-tested a passel of types, challenged my kidneys to keep up before I floated away, but bravely soldiered on tasting, tasting, tasting.
Here are some of Gracie’s tea choices – freshly dubbed with “Western” titles and complete with succulent descriptions:
• Sagebrush Song – exotically scented with crushed sage leaves (made me think of prairie chickens).
• Latigo – a robust tea, full-bodied and fragrant (made me think of sweating horses on a hot summer day).
• Prairie Breeze – flavored with bee balm, a sweet light flavor (made me think of hanging the laundry outside).
• Ridge Runner – semi-fermented with crushed cactus flowers (made me think of cleaning out the barn).
• High Noon – a distinctive delicate flavor (made me think of sour-dough pancakes).
• Riding the Long Circle – a blended tea of robust flavor (made me think of cleaning the bunkhouse).
• Saddle the Wind – rich, full-bodied with a smoky flavor (made me think of horse blankets).
I finally escaped the tea testing with the excuse that I needed to stop by the feed store and purchase some goldfish.
“Goldfish? Do you have an aquarium?”
“No, they’re going in the watering tank in the horse corral.”
“You put fish in the watering tank?!” Gracie looked shocked. “Won’t the horses swallow them?”
I bit my lip and finally managed a solemn response, “It’s an old western custom. Goldfish in the water is called Goldfish Tea – saucy and infused with a hint of orange.”
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