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24 August 2006 — Lapsang Souchong: Strong Tea for People Who Hate Coffee (5)

I hate coffee.

I like the idea of coffee — and I love the smell — but I think it tastes like crap. Literally.

I had a girlfriend in college who once played a mean trick on me. Willamette had an annual marching competition between classes (don't ask) just before Spring Break. The losing class had to walk the Mill Stream through campus. Friends made crazy bets with each other. Amy and I made the following bet:

  • If she lost, she would eat a mug of raisins. She hates raisins.
  • If I lost, I would drink a cup of coffee. As we've established, I hate coffee.

For some reason I can no longer remember, I was gone on the night of the competition. I got back to the dorm (er, "residence hall") to find it nearly empty. Only Amy's roommate, Mari, was around.

"Who won?" I asked.

Mari looked sad. "I'm sorry, J.D. You'll have to drink a cup of coffee."

"Crap," I said.

Mari brightened. "Would you like to get it over with now? I can brew a cup for you."

"Okay," I said. I sat down on the lower bunk and watched Mari pour in the grounds and start the coffee-maker.

Amy came into the room. "J.D.'s agreed to pay off his bet now," Mari told her. Amy laughed. "Good thinking she said."

The coffee finished percolating, and Mari poured me a cup. "Enjoy," she said. I took the mug and stared at it. I smelled it. It smelled fine. Coffee always smells fine. I took a sip. It tasted like crap. "Do you want some cream or sugar?" asked Mari. I shook my head. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. I took another sip.

I'd finished about half of the mug when a very loud and drunk Pat Kurkoski barged into the room. Pat, who lived upstairs, was a fellow freshman. He looked at me with bleary eyes. "WOOOO-HOOOO!" he bellered. "We won! Can you believe it? We won!"

I set the coffee down. I turned and fixed my gaze on Mari and Amy who were silently dying of laughter on the other side of the room. "You owe me," I said. But they were laughing too hard to care.

Amy never did pay up on her bet. I tried to get her to eat raisins at dinner the next night, and for several nights thereafter. She refused. I was sorely angry with her for duping me and then refusing to pay up.

That entire setup is just to lead to this: I still hate coffee, but I've found that I love strong tea. In particular, I've found that I love:

  • Thai tea (the same stuff used for iced tea, but I like it hot)
  • Lapsang Souchong, a smoked tea from China (the "Scotch whiskey of teas")

Both of these are deep, dark teas with rich flavor. The varieties I buy are highly caffeinated. Lapsang Souchong, in particular, is sometimes used as a coffee substitute, not so much for the flavor as the idea of it. I like the blend from Portland's The Tao of Tea.

I've been brewing myself Lapsang Souchong every morning since we got back from San Francisco. I love its smokey almost-tobacco-like smell. Jeff says it smells like barbecue sauce I love the earthy flavor. I love the fact that these teas are rich and robust, not like wimpy chamomile or mint herbal teas.

I love strong tea, but I still hate coffee.


Comments
On 24 August 2006 (11:32 PM), Lee said:

Have you ever tried barley tea? You can find it canned at Uwajimaya (apparently, iced barley tea is a very popular beverage in Japan). It smells a lot like coffee (because it's roasted) but the flavor is very black-tea like and it has the same texture as coffee. It's kind of the best of both drinks, actually. :)

The reason I don't like drinking Lapsong Souchong tea is that it's so thin. It's got a fabulous aroma and flavor but no body at all.

Hey, next time you are up in this part of the woods, drop me a line and I'll take you and yours to Kyan Yin--a lovely Asian teahouse where all the tea are made in its own ceramic pot (no teabags or "to go" cups there!), and there are usually between 50 and 60 different types of teas to choose from. Including Matcha.


On 25 August 2006 (09:42 AM), JENEFER said:

I do agree with you that the best part of coffee is the smell. If you couldn't smell coffee, the experience would definitely be subdued. I love grinding the coffee beans and opening the bag for the first time. Yum. I do enjoy coffee much more now that I have been taught how to brew it correctly and use good quality beans. I couldn;t believe the difference when you know how to do it. I also love ice tea. I probably drink a quart a day. Just as bad on teeth stains as coffee, but very satisfying and refreshing. Isn't it great that we have it all available.


On 25 August 2006 (09:57 AM), Josh said:

J.D. doesn't like beer and he doesn't like coffee?! Jeez, J.D., what kind of Portlander are you? ;)


On 25 August 2006 (03:11 PM), Lynn said:

I'm with you, JD. I love the smell of coffee and even coffee flavoring - but not coffee. Ice cream and candy are wonderful with a coffe flavor. I'm the same with bananas - hate the real thing, love the flavor in other forms.


On 27 August 2006 (08:45 AM), Jim Osmer said:

damn pat kurkoski, he interrupted a romantic interlude in college by barging in the wrong room drunken by mistake.
i remember glee, If I won Colleen would have to read the lyrics for sympathy for the devil, if I lost I had to read several pages from a romance novel (I lost)