Sunday, September 5, 2010

Teatotalers Tea Review Tally: Delicate Tea, Crude Mouths

Each month, LP and I meet for brunch at Esselon Coffee in Hadley, Massachusetts in order to “collect data” in our quest to find our favorite tea on their extensive tea menu. After years of saying to each other, “Which one is the tea I love?” (to which the other responded, “I dunno. Which tea do I love?”) we finally decided to ferret out our prize once and for all by taste-testing all the teas. Therefore, LP and I can be found at Esselon one early-afternoon each month engaging in thoroughly highly scientific, thoroughly ridiculously subjective research. We usually sit by the window (LP likes to be available for fans and paparazzi) and are the ones laughing way, way, waaaaay too loudly. Sometimes after brunch we head over to Trader Joe’s to “greet our fans” and perform in a large room with narrow aisles (as LP likes to call it). And go grocery shopping (as I like to call it).

The Mildly Linear Rating System (from worst to best):

Must Flee---Sorry---Oh Gee---Good Tea---Glee---(subcategories: Glee-Teehee and Glee-Jamboree)---Yippee!

Very cool flow chart from

Ceylon White
  Rating – Sorry (from both of us)
For details, see below.

Yin Zhen Silver Needle (white tea): Rating – Sorry (both)
Esselon only has two white teas, so we decided to test them both at our first trial. According to, white tea is the “mightiest of the teas.” What makes it so dang mighty? “Simply put, white tea is the least processed form of tea, made of beautiful silver buds and select leaves which have been steamed and dried.” LP and I are suckers for works like “mightiest” and “beautiful silver buds,” (sounds like a girl you’d want to meet, right?) so it was a no-brainer that we start with the white teas. When my tea arrived, I was momentarily flummoxed by my teapot, which refused to dispense my tea. I tipped and tipped, but the tea stubbornly remained in the pot. We were making such a ruckus the server came over to help. I may have accused her of providing me with a trick pot (Later LP said, “So what did you think, Pam, that you were being Punk'd by the servers at Esselon?!” Uh, could happen. Totally.) Somehow the server poured my tea into my cup with a humiliating amount of ease. This sent LP and I into a long bout of hysterical laughter. When we told our spouses this story, neither of them found any humor in it whatsoever.

Once we weren’t at risk for spewing tea through our noses, we tested our white teas. I must confess, we were both disappointed. We found the teas too delicate, thin and subtle for our crude mouths.

Bai Hao White Tip Oolong: Rating – Glee (LP), Good Tea (Pam)
This is a fun tea to order but challenging to say without sounding culturally insensitive. I enjoyed its woody bouquet. It reminded me of the cedar A-frame cabin “Up North” (northern Michigan) we had when I was a kid. This tea had “a lot going on” and seemed delicately complex. A very enjoyable scent. According to the Esselon website, Bai Hao “is also ‘tippy’ meaning a high proportion of the tea is made up of tender white buds which give the tea a soft, delicate flavor.” LP and I both like tender white buds though we prefer a more engaging and in-your-face brew. We don’t know what the f* “tippy” means, and we’re too old and ADD to really understand it at this point in the game.

Darjeeling 2nd Flush Oolong: Rating – Glee-Jamboree (both)
         We rated this oolong as Glee-Jamboree because it was like a happy party in our mouths. (In a good way.) We both enjoyed the bouquet, which we described as “heady” (that was me) and “meaty” (that was LP.) The word “astringent” came to mind, which LP contends is a fancy-pants tea word for “bitter.” Apparently, we both like astringent teas. LP called it “winey” (not whiney, which is what she called me.) My taste buds were not in tuned for subtleness at testing time (LP claims it’s because I had wicked PMS), so I simply noted it as warm, comforting and ultimately pleasingly “tea-ish.” LP delighted in the fullness and woodiness of this Darjeeling 2nd Flush, saying she could taste it “all the way down my mouth. It’s like licking wood.” I fully concur, my only caveat being that I felt like my teeth were wearing fur coats after drinking this tea. It’s too bad the name of this tea makes me think of a stubborn poop in the toilet. Nonetheless, we would definitely order this tea again.

Pam and LP making comedy together
About your teatotalers:  

LP is a married mother of two adorable doggies (one of whom is my nephew, the poodle.) LP grew up in the Upper West Side (Manhattan, duh) where she acquired many city smarts that fail to do her any good whatsoever in western Massachusetts. She no longer, however, thinks carrots grow on trees. To know LP is to love her, especially if you are a child, a small animal or me. She is funny, wise, and truthful. Also, when she was twelve, she was in a Movie of the Week (“The War Between the Tates”). LP is the best BFF in the world. We both agree that we couldn’t love each other more than we do already, but we remain ever open to the possibility.

I am a married mother of two people who are taller than me. We are a homeschooling family. I like to teach. I like to write. I love to perform, especially comedy and super-especially improv comedy. LP and I have been performing improv comedy together for over seven years in our troupe The Ha-Ha’s (formerly The Ha-Ha Sisterhood).

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