Monday, October 30, 2017

Tea Befitting Neptune - New Tea Review

Once again, I'm reviewing a tea that I purchased while attending the Midwest Tea Festival!

This time, I'm going to take you with me as we visit Nepal - the Himalayas and TEA! While at the Midwest Tea Festival, I took a class about the history of tea from Nepal, followed by sampling two teas processed by the company Nepal Tea LLC. The small group chose a white tea and a gold (black) tea, although I really wanted to try a green tea called Ganesha Green. Thankfully,  the tea company sold a sampler bag of their blends, one of which being Ganesha Green! From the first time our presenter told us about the blend, I knew I had to try it. Now, after enjoying many cups of it, it's one of my favourite loose leaf green teas of all time.

Ganesha Green is a lovely green tea with an oceanic feel to it - kelp and seaweed make for a delicious addition to the tea. The scent of the tea leaves is refreshing and clean, while the scent of the tea itself is vegetal and slightly ocean salty but not disgusting at all. When I tried it the first time, I remembered that I smiled as images of strolling on the beach during a cool Spring day came to mind. The tea is refreshing to the senses - no need to add any kind of sweeteners. I think that adding a sweetener to the tea would change the flavour in a not so good way. Enjoy this tea by itself and allow yourself to be drifted away. Neptune would certainly enjoy this tea.

One habit that I've gotten into is to study the leaves after they've steeped. I love to smell and look at the leaves after their contact with the hot water - beauty can be found anywhere. In any case, I can't recommend this tea enough to you. I know I'll be purchasing a larger container of Ganesha Green very soon!

Join the Leaf!

(the sampler bags from Nepal Tea LLC - so much tea!)

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Soundtrack of the Necropolis

(I'm currently playing this CD while writing out this review, of course!)

Valentine Wolfe is a breath of fresh air within the Gothic/Dark Victorian subculture. Combining dreamlike lyrics with dark music to soothe your soul, this band does more than just play music - they experience it. And they make sure that you do as well. When I learned that they were coming out with a new album through Kickstarter, I knew I had to contribute money. Of course, when I learned that the album was a love song to Death, I knew I wanted it even more.

From the first track of Sin Eater to the final song of Last Kiss, The Elegiac Repose is a damn near perfect album. Sarah Black's voice pierces through the Veil with grace and respect of the Dead, while Braxton Ballew's upright bass fuels the darkness in a proper way. Each song is its own creature, beautiful and deadly, yet you will want to turn it up wherever you are playing the album. Although the entire album is quite lovely, my favourite songs are Porcelain Creature and Melancholy is the Devil's Bath - these two songs really stand out to me. I also enjoyed the cards that came with the album - each song is represented with a beautiful photo and the lyrics on the back.

The Elegiac Repose is to remember those who have passed, those who are currently dealing with the loss of a loved one, those who enjoy excellent Gothic music, or those who are of the Death Positive persuasion. For those of you who don't know, the Death Positive movement is all about respecting Death and the mystery that surrounds it. In learning about Death do we learn to live. Two of the more well known organizations are the Order of the Good Death and Death and the Maiden. If you are interested in these organizations and what they are all about, I highly recommend checking them out.

I can't recommend The Elegiac Repose enough - please, purchase this album. You won't be sorry.

I am sure the inhabitants of the Necropolis in my stories would enjoy this album very much.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Tea Review - Kagoshima Japanese Green Tea

Once again, I'm reviewing a tea I purchased from the Midwest Tea Festival and this one makes me giddy. Kagoshima Japanese Green Tea was the first tea I tried when I entered the festival. Harney and Sons is one of my favourite tea companies - I give them much love whenever I visit a Barnes and Noble. I had the pleasure of meeting Emeric Harney at the festival as he told me of their teas to sample and enjoy. The Kagoshima quickly won me over as I drank my sample then moved on to other tea vendors.

The tea smelled of grassy green and green bell pepper - light and fresh with a hint of a "twang". As you can see in the above photo, this tea is vibrant in colour - just makes you feel happy and content. Once prepared, the tea liquor, pale green in colour, smelled very much like steamed green bell peppers. I know that sounds strange but it's true - it even says so on the box! Although the tea is also supposed to have hints of lemons and roasted walnuts, I could not detect those flavours yet the tea is by no means less than delicious.  The taste of the tea is light and refreshing to the palate, with the green bell pepper taste to enjoy. The mouth feel and finish is soothing and "wet". A calming influence with just enough to sharpen your focus. Drinking the tea reminds me of walking through a farmers market on a cool Saturday - fresh vegetables, clean air, and a feeling of good will.

Yes, I did get all that while sipping the tea.

I can't recommend this tea enough to those who enjoy good Japanese green tea. Do yourself a favour and order a box of this tea!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tea Blend Review - Tangerine Sage Green Tea

I'm still enjoying the teas I purchased from the Midwest Tea Festival. Each tea so far has been a wonderful adventure and I still have so many more to go. Queen's Pantry Teas, located in Leavenworth, Kansas, had quite a display area at the festival, complete with many blends to try and even more to purchase and take home to enjoy in your home. Tangerine Sage, one of the green tea blends, is a pleasant blend to savour at all times of the day. I prefer to drink this tea blend after dinner as a nice dessert dish.

The tea blend colour is vibrant, with leaves that look as through they've just been processed. The scent of the blend is very much tangerine with a faint hint of sage. The scent of the green tea is barely there, as overpowered by the tangerine. If are NOT a fan of anything citrus, then I do not recommend this blend for you. However, if you do enjoy anything citrus, then read on! The tea liquor aroma is vegetal and citrus with sage hiding right at the very end, while the taste is all tangerine. As it cools, the taste of the tea gets smoother and more mellow. The mouth feel and finish are refreshing and reminiscent of a summer day with popsicles and walking along a beach. In fact, I'll dare to say that drinking this tea refreshes your breath better than chewing gum! (as I'm typing out this review, I'm drinking the tea and enjoying how fresh my breath smells!) If you are looking to expand your taste buds within the green tea realm, you can't go wrong with Queen's Pantry Teas Tangerine Sage Green Tea.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Bright, Precious Days of the Shallow

The first book I read by Jay McInerney was Bright Lights, Big City - a young man who succumbs to drugs and the fast life in New York City. I knew that McInerney was part of a literary group known as the Brat Pack (Bret Easton Ellis and Tama Janowitz are members of the group). The books written by these authors delved into the world of wealthy young professionals or artists who lived life on the edge with much drinking, drugs, and other "afterschool activities". It had been years since reading Bright Lights, Big City, yet when I learned that McInerney would be at Square Books, I knew I had to meet him. He read his passage from his new book, Bright, Precious Days, with a tone that had done and seen much and had the scars to prove it. The book signing was a memorable experience.

Let me start by saying this - I truly disliked almost every character in this novel. And yet, my eyes were glued to the pages, wanting to know more about these people and their lives. McInerney wrote this book as though they were friends of his and that the scenes were just times when they all hung out and "lived life". He wrote them with such familiarity that I almost want to email him and ask if these characters were based on real people. Bright, Precious Days is the third novel involving Russell and Corrine Calloway, the darling couple in New York and the center of their friends' circle. Russell works in the publishing industry while Corrine works in the world of non profits. They have two children and they are very typical in acting their ages. I confess that I have not read the previous two novels, yet with this one, it's pretty easy to learn about their history. The Calloways had a friend, their third wheel named Jeff - a genius who died much too soon. Russell and Corrine were, and in some case still are, the living embodiment of the 1980s. Drugs were looser then, people had sex with no shame or regrets, and life was meant to be lived by the fucking seat of your pants. It was a time to show the world what you were made of and damn them if they didn't understand you. Now that the Calloways and their friends are older, they face new challenges with a spark that is no less bright yet different.

I found myself wondering just how these people could keep up with their lives. People cheating on their spouses, alcohol that never seems to stop flowing, backstabbing each other with smiles, and ways to keep yourself looking emaciated because how else will you EVER fit into that Chanel dress you purchase for the latest benefit for some cause you couldn't care less about? Like I said earlier, I only liked one character - Russell - and the like I have for him was more out of pity than anything else. He sticks to his values and morals when it comes to publishing, and yet that blows up in his face. He loves his wife yet has no idea that an old flame re-enters her life. He sees his friends wandering off on their self destructive paths with a mixture of pity and sad familiarity. Yet, in the end, the Calloways remain the epicenter of the world they have created, if not for their friends' sake then definitely for themselves.

I absolutely loved this book - call it a guilty pleasure of mine. I love reading about characters who continue to spiral downwards all in the name of their values or the values held high by their friends. And when they seek some sort of redemption, you cheer them on and hope like hell that they make it "this time". When I finished it, I was sad to see this version of New York leave. Reading this book was anything but a bright, precious day.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Adventures of a Tea Merchant - Persia

Tea is very much a universal language that can be obtained in most of the world. Being a Tea Merchant allows me to travel the world without leaving my home city. By chance, I decided to enjoy lunch in a small Persian restaurant on a nice Saturday afternoon. When the waiter asked what I wanted to drink, I asked about their teas. He quickly mentioned a Persian blend, to which I readily accepted. Several minutes later, the waiter brought out my tea and I knew I was in for a treat. Although he brought several kinds of sweeteners, the tea did not need it after one quick sip. As the music played in the restaurant, I felt myself swept away to a bazaar laden with exotic items and finding a cafe hidden away that served good food and refreshing tea. I finished my tea within several sips and knew that I had to purchase a box of the tea. However, the waiter informed me that the blend was the owner's special recipe and that it was not for sale. It keeps the customers coming back for more, he said. Although I was a little upset that I couldn't take the tea home, I was still happy to have found it.

Persia, by way of Memphis.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Fantastic Arrival

Ever locate a book in a bookstore that you KNOW has to come home with you? That's how I felt about The Arrival by Shaun Tan. I had heard of the book before yet never purchased it until I located a copy in a used bookstore. After viewing several of the pages, the book quickly stuck to my hand and refused to leave.

The Arrival is a fantastic story about a man who leaves his wife and daughter to make a home for them in a new city. Sounds lovely, right? However, this new city is no ordinary city. This city is straight from the imagination, of fantasy and nightmares combined. Even the "spoken language" is unlike anything you've ever seen before. Creatures that defy logic. Food that looks more like works of art. People with clothing that would be deemed insane. And yet, this is the city in which the man begins his new chapter in Life.

There are no words in this book. The entire story is told in images that appear to be faded and obscure, yet no less fanciful. We travel with the man from his home in the old city, then aboard the ship, and finally to his new home. We struggle with him as he tries to get around, all the while getting used to the sights that now surround him. I found myself smiling as I viewed each image.

The Arrival will appeal to those who love the work of Dave McKean, Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Audrey Niffenegger.

I'm so glad this book finally arrived in my life.