Your rippling torso is, no doubt, straining to contain the thousand pleasures (calories) that accompany celebrating the birth of the Holy Infant. Surely, massive consumption of alcohol and rich foodstuffs is in the spirit of the season. Somehow.
What better way in which we might collectively work off our accumulated requirements for penance than in the confessional of the teatable? Brothers and sisters, let us pray.
We are gathered here today to celebrate the nuptials of this tea (interestingly packaged, very Indian) with my hongcha teapot. If anyone knows any reason why this delicious-looking subcontinental filly should not be married to my charming old red pot, let them speak now or forever hold their peas.
"Wouldst thou wish to imbibe the produce of our labours?" quoth an e-mail from GOLDEN TIPS, apparently writing from their warm and comfortable position somewhere around the middle of the 18th century. "Hellz yah", responded your humble correspondent.
And thenceforth, the two fabric-wrapped missives did subsequently wend their way from the Indies all the way to this sceptred isle. Against the envy of less happier lands!
Fat stacks from India, pictured above, in their plural and munificent beauty.
2014 Arya "Ruby"
Reader, there is much written about the throbbing undercarriage of tea that is pu'ercha, not some little of it upon these threadbare pages. However, as those among you serving a particularly long sentence for violent crimes against humanity will know, Gentle Reader, much of my Actual Life is spent sucking down hongcha.
In all its myriad forms, from "ENGLISH BREAKFAST" (i.e., the tea equivalent of 100% proof potato vodka, feel the healing power of the capslock) through to "Lapsang", hongcha maintains a firm and constant nippletwist on my affections.
It is a common enough trait among my kind. We are conceived in hongcha. We float in it from the womb. It is the amniotic fluid. It is the silver sea. It is the waters at their priest-like task, washing away guilt and purpose and responsibility.
2014 Arya "Ruby"
When I hit up the local taverna on my travels; when I am slumped facedown in my gruel at some overpriced St. Pancras venue; when I am sat quietly weeping into my scones at Cream Tea in some country cottage or slick city-hotel alike; my bibendi prima is The Hongcha.
If they have it, I will wrap my consonants around the word of power, DORJELING, while Anglicising it (and therefore anaesthetising it) into something that sounds a little like "Darjeeling".
2014 Castleton "Moonlight" (leftmost), 2014 Arya "Ruby" (rightmost)
I drink a lot of very mediocre DORJELING, Gentle Reader, and I am not afraid to admit it. From time to time (read: when my homes from Chennai buy some for me), I tantalise my hongcha pot with Nilgiri. This one time, in band camp, I drank Ceylon.
Strangely enough, though my father's family is from Kenya (like Obama! Have we seen Hobbes' birth certificate?!), I only had my first Kenya single-estate tea last month, after getting a helpful new research programme funded over there. The tea was OK.
2014 Castleton "Moonlight"
Imagine, then, the rapturous trance into which I slipped when the entire contents of this article were revealed unto me, like some warm, orange, sweet-smelling Apocalypse.
2014 Okayti "Silver Needles" (leftmost), 2014 Giddapah "Muscatel" (rightmost)
I actually enjoyed these teas between November and December of last year (2014). The dudes over at GOLDEN TIPS keep sending me e-mails, slapping my figurative backside, and asking WHENOHWHENAREYOUGOINGTOWRITEABOUTOURGDTEAS. Trying to get me to do anything (at all) is difficult; if you slap my figurative backside, Gentle Reader, I might add that you are not expediting the situation. You are, if anything, causing me to pause and reflect upon the figurative stinging sensation in the posterior homoerectus. And you do not want me reflecting upon the posterior homoerectus, rest assured.
Nothing good ever came of such reflections.
Nothing good ever came of such reflections.
2014 Okayti "Silver Needles"
So, then, the teas. Suffice to say that some of these teas are, like the cherry pie of Agent Dale Cooper in the 1990s, damned fine.
Names like CASTLETON and MARGARET'S HOPE are, to me, a little like reciting the names of the Thundercats, or the Masters of the Universe. That is, they are words that are burned into my consciousness - they are concepts that are part of my hindbrain, the primitive id. The package was like a "greatest hits" of Darjeeling. It got my toes tapping.
Other names are previously unknown to me, but not, it seems, to Google. Names such as ARYA and OKAYTI. Names such as GIDDAPAH, which rather sounds like the start of James Brown's "Sex Machine".
However, all of these teas, without exception, were doubleplus good. My favourites, perhaps expectedly, were the second-flush DJs. Unlike pu'ercha, second-flush DJ is not lower-quality than the first-flush. As Michael Caine would say, not a lot of people know that. The first flush is nambypamby ladyboy tea (a little like the lace and frills of girly Jingmai), while the second flush brings the proverbial motherblanking ruckus in B minor (a little like the rusty juggernaut of nasty Bulang). Needless to say, I like my battery acid, and so I loves me a pot of heavily overbrewed second-flush DJ.
Classics of the genre, such as Castleton "Moonlight", continued to thrill. It was a little like Biluochun, actually, in that modern DJ way. It pads the mouth with cotton wool. Drinking the previously-unknown Arya "Ruby" was like listening to "Shame On A N*****" for the very first time. That is some serious shi'itake. ("BLAOW, HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW")
Plus, the caffeine from these DJs is like the aforementioned nasty Bulang: it slams into the consciousness like a the oft-lyricised vehicular homicide. It will wake you up.
Other highlights of this assassin's backpack full of weaponry included the surprisingly hardcore "Avaata Supreme Nilgiri", which was a well-calibrated sniper rifle, in the Chinese lucha style. I had no idea that my aforementioned homes in Chennai were drinking what tastes for all the world like real Chinese green, yet somehow given a badboy Tamil twist.
So then, to draw my conclusions, if you like your hongcha, then you will probably like GOLDEN TIPS. Just let your mouse pointer wander - pretty much the only thing I didn't love was the Okayti "Silver Tips" and that's simply because I don't dig on white tea.
No-one really likes white tea, anyway, as everyone knows.