Saturday, January 06, 2007

Standing up for Tea Drinkers

Today is day 69 of our kitchen remodeling project. I won't blog about it -- that's just too suburban, middle class, and dull.

This entry is about tea.

The dust and disarray from the remodelling project have taken their toll on my emotional health, so I checked into a Bed and Breakfast. Studies show 69 days is the absolute limit for living without cleanliness and tidiness; 100% of the population cracks up on day 70. I had to get out and the B&B was a quick solution.

I stayed at the Cliff Crest Inn at 407 Cliff Street near the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. I could write about the Cliff Crest, but it would just be redundant with the entry at and how many synonyms are there for charming? Answer: not that many and they connote witchcraft which would be way off base.

I stayed in the Apricot Room, it was pleasant, quiet, citrus-smelling. I heard a few sirens in the middle of the night, but very little traffic noise.

At breakfast in the morning, I was offered fresh persimmons from the garden, but unfortunately, I never acquired a taste for them, so I declined. Then I asked for tea. I did not see a kettle of hot water and only a few tea bags labelled "Lipton" in a small basket. This is not a good sign. I became very concerned.

Before I get into the horrors and terrors of Lipton tea, I know that hostesses prefer coffee drinkers. They are the majority and coffee is easier to serve and prepare. I used to be a coffee drinker. It is part of the my cultural heritage from the super cold North of my youth. Come in from the cold to a home, an office, a store in the Northland, and you are greeted with "How about a cup of coffee?" Afterall, you need to warm up so you say, "Sure." "You betcha."

One cup of coffee changes me for the worse. The very worse. Before your very eyes, a pleasant, soft-spoken woman transforms into an attack dog leaping for your jugular. After a few incidents with these unwelcomed, coffee-induced, personality changes, I switched to tea.

Tea is an acquired taste. Teas offer bouquets, like wine. The tea plant produces a flush of a full complement of leaves on the average of every 40 days. The flush of leaves is plucked and the gathering of the flushes is called a crop. The first flush of leaves in the Spring are the most tender and best tasting tea leaves. The second flush is less tasty. At the end, the tea leaves are tough and quite bitter.

I believe Lipton tea is made from the last flush, using the toughest and most bitter leaves. So if you want to offer the worst possible tea to a discerning tea drinker, serve Lipton and demonstrate to everyone that you are leading an inauthentic life.

When Plato described the cave imagery in the Republic, this is exactly what he had in mind. Plato said that in our quest for truth and beauty we are chained like slaves only seeing the shadows on the wall at the back of the cave. The real objects are behind us, illuminated by the light from the mouth of the cave, but we are only seeing the shadows on the back wall of the cave. Mere two-dimensional reflections, the shadows are sans light, sans color. Seeing the shadows are not even close to perceiving the true nature of the objects casting them.

Lipton tea is an inauthentic, insubstantial shadow of what true tea should be.

However, I am sorry to say the situation worsened. I asked "is there any other tea?" The hostess brought me a basket containing two kinds of green tea, chamomile tea, English Breakfast tea and one other herbal tea.

Ah... green tea. Huge health benefits. Very au courant in the Western world. Hugely variable quality. I have not developed a taste for it yet.

Chamomile tea. Great if you have a stomach ache or want to calm down and go to sleep. Not the type of tea to motivate you to get up and do what needs to be done first thing in the morning.

English Breakfast Tea. This tea could only be produced by the same country that offers you a piece of bread, fried to death, in grease from last night's dinner. (I am not making this up. I was offered this for breakfast on my first trip to England and I never set foot there again.) Strong tea but obviously also made from the last flush. If "flush" and "last" makes you think of the last thing in your body and a toilet, you would be having the right associations and images for this tea.

So, what should a Bed and Breakfast offer to their tea drinking guests?

Only teas using leaves from the first and second blush and these teas:

Earl Grey
Hojicha (a roasted green tea)
Lapsang Souchong
Constant Comment (a general purpose orange pekoe)

In the herbal tea family:

Constantin, the proprietor of the Cliff Crest, asked me if I enjoyed my stay enough to return. I said yes, but, I would actually only return if they provided the teas indicated above, or, I brought my own tea.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gideon's Trumpet - beginning of the decline

I just finished reading Gideon's Trumpet by Anthony Lewis. The book is a sort of legal history of the famous Supreme Court Case, Gideon v. Wainwright. In this case, the Supreme Court decided that an indigent defendant, accused of a crime, would be appointed an attorney if he could not afford one.

The year was 1963.

Prior to this Supreme Court decision, it was up to each individual state to determine their policies and procedures for representation. In Florida, where Gideon was accused and convicted of a crime, he had to represent himself. Of course, he lost. While he was in prison, he figured out how to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court decided to hear his case. As a result, the Supreme Court determined that the 6th and 14th amendment were intended to mean that all defendants must be represented by counsel in order to get a fair trial.

What I found interesting about this book was the absolute joy and enthusiasm that Anthony Lewis conveyed about the wonderful workings of the U.S. Judiciary system. He relishes the idea that a poor, somewhat pathetic man, like Clarence Earl Gideon, can have his day in court. Literally. Anthony Lewis is definitely an UBER fan of the U.S. system of government. He is almost like a sales person for the American judiciary.

The copyright on the book is 1963. Authors usually finish writing a book the year before the copyright, so probably Anthony Lewis finished it in 1962. In November of 1963, President John Kennedy was assassinated.

I don't think anyone has written a positive, enthusiastic book about the U.S. Government since.