Friday, June 10, 2011

A Smoke and Mirrors Moment

A package arrived for me last week, and it felt a little like Christmas. I opened the box and discovered a trove of teas from Greg at Norbu Tea. They had read of my Russian Caravan exploration and had some suggestions for me - and here they were now!

I've been pondering the person of Drew Belmonde, my mystery's Hollywood tea expert and amateur sleuth. One of her peculiarities is her obsession with how her face is aging. The women she looked up to in her small-town background aged natuarally, sometimes ruggedly. In her new home, all women look 37 regardless of actual age due to Botox, chemical peels, face lifts, etc. She struggles between letting nature take its course and trying to fit in. The resulting daily rituals border on compulsive. I like the idea of watching her watch herself in the mirror, sipping a smoky tea. A tea like this one.


They even provide pics of the terrace where the tea was harvested!
It is from the Spring Harvest this year. Jin Xuan Xiao Zhong, from the Janai Township, Nantou County, Taiwan. I love how Norbu Tea provides the exact origin of their teas so that people like me can research the heck out of them. They understand the tea nerd in me. In fact, each tea description makes me feel more intelligent and sophisticated just by reading them. I learned that this tea, while a spin on the Lapsang Souchong of China, was smoked using sugar cane stalks rather than the traditional pine logs, and therefore has a carmelized, smoky sweetness.
So while this black tea does have the smokiness that I'm exploring in Russian Caravan blends, it is much more approachable, subtle and inviting to a novice like me.

The lighting was darker than at home, so she lugged a bedside lamp over to the vanity and removed its shade. With a practiced hand, she set up the mini tri-pod and digital camera a precise distance from her face. She quieted her expression as she looked directly into the lens. Click.  She pulled out her laptop and downloaded the photo into the proper file, then pulled them up so she could view them clockwise starting with the upper left: today, 12 days prior, 12 weeks prior, 12 months prior.
Beneath her eyes was a shadow. Fatigue from the journey. Was it her imagination or did that spot to the right of her nose look darker as well? The line between her eyebrows seemed barely more pronounced. She had been furrowing the brow again. But not much ground had been lost. Not much. Still…
She pulled out her bag of tricks. Creams, lotions, masques, gels, roller ball applications. This one for dark circles, this one for fading, this one for plumping. Moisturize. Moisturize. Moisturize. She checked the computer screen as she selected tonight’s amalgamation.
As she smoothed them over her silky skin, she paused to reach for her tea cup.  Natasha had left the gift basket with a hand-selection of rare teas from her father. This Russian Caravan was said to be the Russian president’s current favorite. She inhaled and was transported to a camp out with her own father. Pine branches crackling and snapping in the fire pit.  She sipped. The robust brew filling her nostrils with a not-unpleasant smoky earthiness.
She looked in the mirror and wondered how much of all of this was just that. Smoke and mirrors.
Win a selection of An International Tea Moment's Best of 2010 teas by voting on what Drew Belmond's self-describing title should be. Vote here by June 14th!