Author Archive

Meet Johnny’s New Friend

Behold! At long last, Johnny is now in possession of the most charming, beautiful and well-behaved tea pet of them all: Carmen the Yak.

Here’s the backstory, for those of you so starved for content that you’ll read any schmoe’s half-baked self-pity party:

I’ve fallen in love with so many tea pets.

First, there was Bradley, the tea bat, who was almost as adorable as myself. One day, I got to Phoenix Tea and discovered that Bradley had gone to a better place, surely basking in the love of better people than Johnny (such people supposedly exist). I was crushed, and drank no tea for 3 years because every sip tasted like the complete absence of bats. On summer evenings, I would hear the tweets of bats in the Autozone parking lot and call out “Oh Bradley, is that you?” until the police came. They never understood.

There was Cornelius, the tea rat sitting on a bag of tea money… who I didn’t love, but with whom I built a suspiciously comfortable mutual tolerance. He left too, clearly feeling as little true affection for me as I did for him.

Then there were the slugs. One after another, they appeared on the tea table; one after another, they were named whimsically old-fashioned names; one after another, they left for distant lands, to drink tea and cavort as only truly free tea slugs cavort.

After so much sadness, I made the only respectable choice: I bought a friend.

Let’s celebrate with a cup of tea, shall we?

 

Tea Time For Pünks

Looking for a soundtrack for your magically patriotic Fourth of July? Throw a French Punk Tea Dance Party!!!

This festive album from French fusion band Morglbl (no, I’d never heard of them either), played loud enough, will bring all the tea drinkers to your yard (and drown out that unfortunate cover of “America the Beautiful” that’s been on repeat at the neighbor’s barbecue party since 9:00 this morning). It also won’t endanger your fingers, like last year’s Roman Candle Juggling Party…

Clickbait Tea: For Shame

teabagThis is for all of you fans of tea bags, teabagging, and juvenile humor!

Please join Johnny in taking the clickbait on this new product: scrotum-shaped tea bags.

This is a product I would never use, nor condone (unless there are extreme, specific correlations between any crime and this “punishment”… and you’re, say, fourteen years old).

These teabags, apparently, come pre-loaded with marigold leaves and Darjeeling… which begs a question or two:

  • How did they choose such an odd blend for this far-from-esteemed purpose?
  • What tea would you like to see in this form?

Tell Johnny what you think.

[Please note: no teas were actually bagged during the writing of this article]

BEEF TEA

Every so often, there are those discussions about whether we can call it “tea” if there’s anything but “True Tea” (camellia sinensis) in it…

And then along comes that old bully, Beef Tea, who doesn’t care a whit for semantics.

BovrilBoneTea

 

(Please note: No actual beef tea was consumed in the building of this post.)

Green Tea: A Warning

Today, I need to talk to you about the EVILS OF GREEN TEA.

Green Tea Narcissus

Green Tea: The Mirror of the Soul

“What?” you say, “Isn’t green tea the kindest, gentlest of warm beverages? Don’t those antioxidants keep away illness, death, taxes and even prevent 97% of all faux-pas? Are you, Johnny, really talking smack about my priceless, pure and life-affirming Competition Grade Bi Luo Chun?”

“Perhaps,” you’re saying, “your hatred of green tea is just because, darn it, you make it with water that’s too darn hot. Many a green tea,” you’ll say, “has been ruined with tap water (strike one) brought to a full boil (strike two) and steeped for five minutes (strike three).”

WRONG.

Green Tea is poisoning you.

In fact, the more “correctly” you make it, the more fastidiously you check the pH, temperature and mineral content of the water–the more closely you time each delightful little steep–the more poison you’re releasing into your perfect tiny cup.

The poison of SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS!

Scientific studies have shown, time and time again, that there is a direct correlation between tea hubris and tea fussiness. In one study that is especially well known in the literature, one tea blogger (an otherwise rather nice fellow) spent 12 years perfecting what he called the perfect brewing method for Taiping Houkui. Near the end of the study, this self-proclaimed Monkey King King was present at a tasting demonstration when a tea seller made a pot of Taiping Houkui with slightly cooler-than-preferred water and gave this “King” a sample in a small mass-market ceramic cup that had not been previously warmed. Out of an inescapable sense of responsibility to teach this poor soul a lesson, our “King” viciously attacked the offender and sent him off to the hospital, covered in bites and bruises, as an example to all who would mis-brew this most perfect of teas.

Less extreme examples abound, with parlor-level tea afficianados the world around spending hours of their lives puffing themselves up with detailed, live narrations of just why and how they’re brewing their favorite tea, while cursing the practices of lesser tea beings.

Johnny says: Why bother with all of these fancy “rules,” and reduce the preparation of tea into a mere contest of “who makes tea right”? Throw those leaves in a cup, put whatever water you have in, steep it until you suddenly remember you’ve had tea steeping for however long, and (most importantly) smile, with the knowledge that you are better than all of those super-careful, arrogrant tea-making jerks. That tea you made may be undrinkably bitter, instantly staining your teeth green and flipping your stomach upside-down–but at least you’re not a jerk.

Now you know how to make tea better than everyone else. You’re welcome!

(By the way: that cheap little Buffalo China cup you tell everyone is “distressed vintage Kutani”? Repeat after me:

It’s just as good as the real thing.

It’s just as good as the real thing.

It’s just as good as the real thing.

Your secret shame is safe with Johnny. I promise.)

TEA PARTY!

cats drinking tea

The REAL Tea Party

 

And when
to a glass dish of clotted cream is
added a sunny morning, a well-laid
breakfast table and a hissing tea urn,
life looks at least cheerful.

From “As the Crow Flies,” by Walter Phelps Dodge (1893)

An Infusion of Masculinity

My latest words of wisdom can be found on Beasts of Brewdom, where I am overjoyed to share the podium with like-minded men who are better than regular people.

Real Men Drink Tea

Our Lady of the Flowering Teas

I am ready for an incomparable experience, a Divine Tea that Blooms. No jasmine pearl this, no hongcha cone. Green orb streaked with promise of new hope.

A gaggle of tea spheresAwaiting the scald 

Even here, in the lair of Johnny Teacup, smelling the exhaust of cars and yellowing newsprint, water pours on this orb in its prison of glass. Intimacy evolves its alchemy. A solemn marble stairway leads to corridors covered with red carpets, upon which the tea steeps noiselessly. The blooming of the tea shocks me, and I fall swooning to the ground, head full of delicious songs of passion and pain.

The tea is still brewing, and now I am afraid. The promise of a delicious and delightful brew pursues me and I pursue it patiently. The blooms are clearly bent on destroying me.

flower-brewedA single petal

Didn’t I see, on my way to the tea shop, seven tea-picking monkeys resting weary from their fierce impossible pickings, questioning the stars through seven pots of teabag tea as they sat around a table that perhaps turned; then, a sun bear on a bicycle who was carrying a message from god to god, holding between his teeth, by the metal handle, a round, lighted tea kettle, the flame of which, as it reddened his face, also heated the water? So pure a marvel that he was unaware of being a marvel. I turn myself from this fantasy of bear and monkeys to the tea at hand, it has bloomed, these underwater fireworks threaten to torch my love for all other teas and leave me bereft and silent…

On me, under me, with my mouth pressed to the cup of blooming tea, I sing to it uncouth songs that move and shiver through its lovely leaves. To no avail: the flavor is gone, if it were ever there.

Bloom of the seaBeached teaSlowly but surely they must have stripped this tea of every kind of flavor, and so made a saint of it.

[this post was inspired by Our Lady of the Flowers, a very special novel by  Jean Genet]

Our Lady of the Flowers (Cover)

 

Sheng, for shame

One thing has always bothered me about the tea world. Sheng Pu-er is supposed to be GOOD? Every time I’ve ever tasted it, it’s been totally DISGUSTING.

Improvised Tea Festival Gaiwan

Today, I got pissed at myself for staying away from the Sheng, not doing battle with its ugly mystery just because it “tasted gross.” When have I shied away from a challenge?

Heck, people won’t realize that I’m a Cool Tea Manly Man unless I can choke down the stuff like a champ, right? So here goes!

Sheng pu'er tuocha

I’ll be using my trademark Gongfu-for-Johnny set: an improvised gaiwan made from a Northwest Tea Festival cup and the lid from a broken travel gaiwan; and another NWTF cup to pour the steamy results into. I’m sitting on the floor, with a copy of this week’s Stranger underneath to catch the inevitable spilling. If all of this doesn’t bring out the magic of this tea, nothing will.

The tea is this tuocha, something cheap, not very old and sporting that acrid scent on the dry leaf that whispers “Beware, beware, I’m a young sheng pu’er!”

Dry dusty leaf

Not wanting to damage the blade of my precious pink Leatherman, I try to break off a chunk by hand… to no avail. Luckily the tea has already been broken into, and there is a pile of dusty leaves in the bottom of the box–just enough for a smashing brew in my NWTF cup.

 

 

I start with what I hope will be the ultimate palate-cleanser: jarring the leaves awake with boiling water for a 1.57 second rinse, which I drink in a single breathless gulp.

212 F reading

Whoah–this is GOOD! Those supposedly “cool tea cats” don’t know what they’re missing, throwing away the rinse.

But that sweet, pleasantly green seaweed-compost flavor and mouthfeel isn’t what I wanted from this experience. Where is the testosterone and toughness? Where’s the challenge in describing something terrible as “the best thing ever”?

 

I’m disturbed now, and realize that  if I want the toughest, manliest tea in the world, I need to slow down and brew this dusty magic ad absurdam. So: boiling water and a leisurely steep while I clean newsprint off of my fingers and wipe up the excess spillage (good thing I don’t actually READ The Stranger, this one’s pretty messed up by now).

pouring tea

This brew, and the next few brews, are more like what I expect: hot, treacherous and bitter. By the 5th infusion, I hope to approximate a kuding level mouthfeel and stomach upset, but sadly even with my mad brewing skills this goal is outside my reach.

Now  the sheng pu’er experience has done the truly  impossible:  made me even more of a man.  Satisfied, proud and slightly sickened, I knock the spent leaves onto The Stranger, crumple it up and toss it out in the general direction of the garden, leaving the cups and spent leaves in the corner to rot until my next Gongfu adventure.

spent leaves

 

Best of all, I never have to drink this stuff again.

Tea Goblins Strike Again

I was going to post a review of a new tea today, but (unsurprisingly) it SUCKED so badly I had to spit out the first steep.
However, still searching for a tea that makes me angry enough–this one had nothing interesting about it at all, it might as well have been newsprint.

Wait, maybe it was newsprint… DAMN IT!  The tea goblins are at it again. When Johnny Teacup gets his angry hands on those twisted, tea-totalling supernatural fuckers… he can’t even SAY what he’ll do to them!

I’ll be back as soon as I take a long hot shower, spend some time with my ADORABLE reflection in the bathroom mirror, and sleep off this nearly-traumatic experience.

Oh, AND find some tea worth talking about.  It may be years, with my luck. But you, my precious readers, WILL be patient.

the natural effect of bad tea

behold the natural effect of bad tea