Sunday, May 15, 2011

An Anastasia Moment

It's inevitable. One can not possibly go through an obsessive Russian streak without colliding with the romance, nostalgia, mystery and tragedy of Anastasia. She was delivered to me via American Tea Room in response to my inquiries of a Russian Caravan. As usual, David had not one but three blends to immerse me irrevocably into a Russian Tea State of Mind.

As the 4th daughter of Nicholas II, her life was one of contradictions. She and her siblings had the Russian titles of "Imperial Highness," and yet were made to live simple lives, sleeping on camp cots, forced to take cold baths each morning, and fulfilling chores of cleaning and needlepoint, which was sold for charity. Anastasia was said to be impish, charming, and charismatic with dazzling blue eyes and strawberry blond hair. But she suffered from bunions that caused a deformity on her left foot.

Her family's fate would be tragic, despite rumors that the 16-year old Grand Duchess survived. After being forced to abdicate the throne, Tsar Nicholas and his family were held in house arrest, and finally executed by firing squad by the Bolshevik secret police.

A strong willed daughter of a Tsar. A wicked sense of humor with scathing wit. A girl who loved to laugh, tease, and put on a good show (she was known to be quite the actress). Despite having 3 sisters and a brother, it is Anastasia, the second youngest, who captured hearts and imaginations around the world.

And so it is with my own mind, fascinated with this Russian tsarina, that I indulge in the first sip of this dark black tea bearing her name. A robust flavor with dark heavy tones, lifted up by a lovely floral scent, and a subtle undertone of spice. Clove, perhaps?  Enchanting and addictive. Quite like its namesake, I think.

What is it about Russia? So severe, so hard, and yet whimsical and dramatically beautiful. It's an entire country and culture of contradictions. Maybe that's why I'm so intrigued.