I have been gifted a lot of books lately. One in particular was hand delivered to my West Village flat last year with some beautifully written sentiments decorated on the sleeve. This book happens to be on one of my favorite subjects and deep loves- tea. The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura is a great short read that explains the history of tea and its traveling journey across the globe, something that I know a little bit about. Something that I love about tea is its complex history. Tea, like art, has its periods of time. The evolution of tea is divided into roughly three waves: the Boiled Tea, the Whipped Tea (you may know this as matcha in Japan), and the Steeped Tea, with our generation belonging to the last wave.
The book opens with the first paragraph stating that, "Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life".
This book was gifted to me courtesy of a very generous friend I'll call Bobo*. Bobo is one of those people that you meet that you are instantly connected too. He has a candor about him that is extremely sincere and a passion about all things interesting that extends out of this world. He's quite the entrepreneur and quite the music enthusiast and I've come to very much respect his work across a number of fields. I've become very good friends with Bobo and our relationship is as true in conversation as it is rich in depth. Bobo and I shall be friends forever.
On the continuation of adoring tea, here are a list of some of my favorites that I would possibly live an agonizing death without...
Morning: Jardin Bleu by Dammann. This is a black tea sourced from China with rhubarb and wild strawberry and scattered cornflowers petals. It's THE perfect black to wake you up in the morning and give you a natural boost of energy. I was first introduced to this particular blend back in December and I have to say, there isn't a day that has gone by that I don't think about it and naturally my thoughts extend to the person that introduced this gem to me too.
Afternoon: Paris by Harney and Sons. This is a fruity black tea with vanilla and caramel flavors, and a hint of lemony Bergamot. A lot of tea ateliers have some sort of Paris blend, but Harney and Sons is perfection. It's a great boost of energy during your mid-afternoon tea parties.
Evening: No. 69, Gui Fei by Bellocq. This is a 1960's-style Taiwanese oolong that holds notes of honey and ripe stone fruit with a tree nut floral finish that is topped with burnt sugar. It's crack.
Late night: No. 30, Ashram Afternoon by Bellocq. Featuring organic tulsi, organic mint, organic verbena, organic rose petals, organic jasmine blossoms, organic cardamon, organic star anise and natural essence... it's simply out of this world.
Travel: Madame Butterfly by Marriage Freres. This is a white tea with rose buds, cherry blossom and persimmons. Very fresh, very vibrant and a nice blend for containing and encouraging the excitement of getting wherever it is that you are traveling too. Another favorite by Marriage Freres is Marco Polo, but that's another story.
Special: No. 52, Etoile de l'Inde by Bellocq. This is an organic green tea with organic dragon-well, organic jasmine silver needles, organic flower petals and natural essences. This blend sends me to the moon and back.
As you can see, I am fairly loyal to my brands. I buy David's Tea and Palais de Thes a lot when I am in NYC and on the run for a nice pick-me-up, but if if you open my cabinet, it is filled with Dammann, Harney and Sons, Bellocq and Marriage Freres. Bellocq is possibly the most beautiful packaging for tea that I have ever come across in my life. Whether you take their signature yellow or blue caddy or upgrade to the silver connoisseur caddy, you're in fine company with style as well as taste. They have an amazing factory-like tea shop deep in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where they create all their blends and their teashop boys and girls take the time to walk you through every single blend. Their mixes are unlike anything on this planet and something to definitely be observed by all lovers of tea.
When I was in Shanghai, I had a crude obsession with Song Fang Maison du The located in the French Concession. Also an avid lover of packaging, they create these really adorable sky-blue tins, but I wouldn't expect anything less from their French native/ Shanghinese expat founder, Florence Samson (Song Fang) educated from HEC in France and HBS in America and a sublime work background from Dior and Veuve Cliquot... Honestly, it's no wonder it was my favorite hang out spot for tea parties in Shanghai. Shanghinese friends, do yourself a favor and head there immediately.
I like to blend my own teas and I like to share those blend with those near and dear to me that I keep a handy dandy list that I carry around with me at all times. Usually, my blends include some sort of mixture of rose petals, roasted lavender and fresh mint. I know, I know, It's not fair to exclude people from a secret list of Coco Zaza blends. I can already hear the howls of outrage about who's on my list and who's not. Sorry, but that's the nature of the list. Maybe one day I will be generous and share. Playtimes over. I must adjourn back to work now with my freshly brewed herbal.
*Bobo is a real person with the real name Dan. I thought of the name "Bobo" from the novel Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks, that I read ages ago. To me, my dear friend Dan is a Bobo and as Brooks describes in his novel, "(bobo)... is an abbreviated form of the words bourgeois and bohemian".