by Cassandra Vincent
Though it started in 2016 as part of the 40 year celebration of punk rock, The W in London is still offering their Anarch-Tea with punk inspired sweets and style. Yet another way to share what you love over a cuppa. Check out their site here: http://www.wlondon.co.uk/afternoon-tea
As this is a tea blog written by an entertainer this is a great opportunity to share appreciation for some of the music and style that has inspired me to create, connect and explore. I discovered goth and punk music in two separate moments as a teenager. They were artistically and personally transformative moments that have had a lasting effect on me as an artist.
Now I don’t know what the punk scene was really like for those who were at the vanguard of what has since been referred to as a ‘movement’ in music. I’m not going to romanticize a time and experience I didn't live. I can only speculate and read the stories of those who were there. But I have a visceral response to some of the music and style – I just instantly felt I could relate. After all the desire for individual expression, youth angst, economic challenge and marginalizing did not only exist in the 1970s.
An artistic platform that unites people having a similar experience is a powerful thing. To me one of the greatest aspects of any art form is that it gives the opportunity to connect – ideas as well as people. And punk continues to do this decades after its genesis.
My favourite band associated with the early years of punk is The Damned. I love their sense of humour and intense energy. I have enjoyed all of their albums individually and as a story of their evolution. I also admire that they always seemed to be a band of individuals. They didn’t look like clones of one another but each person had definitive style and I think that came through the music.
Each incarnation of the band resulted in a shift in their sound. There is nothing wrong with signature sound, but I would expect a band that has been around for 40 years would want to continue to explore what they can do. I am so glad they have.
Singer Dave Vanian has been an inspiration of classy vintage/horror style (seen by many as a goth pioneer) and unique sound to me. His instantly recognizable voice, like a sharp blade hiding in a velvet sheath, has the ability to produce a fierce shout and an ethereal lullaby. Marvelous!
The other long-standing member in the current line-up, Captain Sensible, brings a child-like mischievousness and bird-flipping attitude to this day. These two along with the massively fast and aggressive drum style of Rat Scabies and song-writing brilliance of guitarist Brian James were part of the wave that slapped the music world hard enough for it to take notice.
The various incarnations of the band that followed continued to make an entertaining music story on subjects from club life to politics to reflections on the art of others while incorporating musical influences that extended beyond punk without ever losing that soul. It looks like we may even have a new album from them soon! [UPDATE - new album Evil Spirits !]
Punk is a part of our musical history. It deserves to be celebrated, not as a way to freeze it in time or to own it but to recognize the inspiration it gave and still gives to the generations that continue to discover it.
I feel that tea, like music, is a part of the joy of culture. Tea is for all - music is for all - to be experienced and shared in whatever way brings you joy. Hats off to the W for celebrating punk and afternoon tea together. Maybe it will inspire your next tea party.
Just be careful –moshing with hot beverages is dangerous business.
The Go Deeper details:
The Damned is touring this spring! Check out their schedule here: http://www.officialdamned.com/tour/
For more on London’s celebration of 40 years of punk: http://punk.london/gob/
by Cassandra Vincent
Innovation is awesome. I appreciate the brilliant minds and the technical advances they have created that have made so many aspects of my life easier or more interesting – from the illumination of the light bulb in all of its varied shapes and uses to my cordless teakettle (which recently broke sadly, but which gives me a great excuse to try out an even more tricked out model!) to my smartphone to the silly and fun apps on it. All of these amazing machine-made-machines are brilliant. I still feel great appreciation for the handmade. Tea is a great example of a product that still incorporates the nuanced expertise of a trained human hand in various portions of the process.
Aspects of planting and cultivation still use the human touch. Sustainable style estates use hand weeding as one means of avoiding the use of insecticides.
Many estates pride themselves on the hand plucking of the tea leaves. When a tea claims to only use the top 2 leaves and a bud they are most likely hand picked to ensure that claim. The woman’s touch is preferred for harvesting too – recognizing the deftness of feminine fingers. Hand sorting of the tea is also used where a skilled eye and hand separate the best of the tea from the substandard.
In the case of specialty teas there is even more in-depth hands-on skill. Puerh cakes and shapes often involve hand measuring, cake making and wrapping. Here is an informative video from Bana Tea Company on the making of puerh cakes which shows a significant amount of hands on work:
Artisan blossoming teas are hand sewn into tight balls and other shapes, often with flowers in the center, that allow for an opening or ‘blooming’ of the tea into a beautiful work of art in the brewing vessel.
Even when tools are used there is a human behind them, often guiding the process. There is bagging, packaging, label design and shipping on top of all of that. There are the people who auction tea, who create tea companies and work directly with the estates that grow the tea. And don’t forget the hands that steep you a proper cup at your favorite tea shop.
Tea is a beverage that many take for granted as it has been a common part of cultures all over the world for centuries. In the spirit of appreciation of my favorite beverage I am reminded to reflect on all of the human energy, the care, the expertise and the love that has gone into the tea I am privileged to enjoy. From that perspective a cup of tea is a magical collection of many people coming together. I encourage you to explore where your tea comes from. It enriches the experience to understand more about those that are involved in bringing you the tea you consume. I will continue to share more as I learn more too. Raising a glass to you and all of the human hands that create our brilliant tea!
by Cassandra Vincent
Tea fests are a great excuse to get together with other tea lovers and explore both beloved flavors and new tastes. It is always good to see Bana Tea, Harney & Sons, Glenburn Estate (love their Monsoon Darjeeling), Chado and the Master of the Oolong, Thomas Shu of JT & Tea. At the most recent LA International Tea Festival I met a few new faces:
A medical professional and a tech professional share a love for tea and a new East coast tea line is born carrying a wide range of teas in every category including yellow and puerh.
Ceylon tea is one of my favorite single origin teas. Basilur tea is focused on Ceylon tea in various beautiful packaging options including ornate tins and decorative foil bags. I tried a mango and pineapple version. Though I don’t usually like fruit in tea this was surprisingly well balanced with that deep yet floral Ceylon tea flavor coming through loud and clear. www.thebasilurtea.com
Denong tea Inc. is the US branch of parent company Denong Tea Company, and specializes in puerh teas of which I tried 3 each with distinctively different characteristics yet all were smooth. One of those teas was from a wild grown tea tree and another from trees hundreds of years old. The oldest of the trees they source is in excess of 2,700 years old. If that tree could talk! www.denongtea.com
Waterfall Tea - chai
Waterfall tea line is not new to the LA Tea Fest but has a new powdered Urban Chai line including a lemograss flavor and a ginger flavor that was surprisingly authentic tasting. I don’t usually expect a powdered chai to have a traditional taste but these had the thick, creaminess and powerful black tea flavor of a chai from a real Indian restaurant. Being the owners are Indian themselves (The Shah family) they know what authentic flavor is and created a powdered version that stands up well.
Caravan Tea carries single origin teas. I tried a Himalayan Gold which was deliciously ballsy and another called Dark Rose from Hunan, China (fermented though not called puerh in this case) which had a very natural, light touch of rose that allowed the tea’s smooth, earthy yet mellow character to shine. www.caravan-tea.com
Nepal Tea is a single origin organic line inspired by family and a desire to give not just the joy of tea but improvement of life for the people and earth involved in the growing of it. Beautiful images on natural looking packaging with both loose leaf and bagged options. I tried a very satisfying Kanchanjangha Noir black tea that was robust, full bodied, a tad woodsy and sweet – worth drinking straight up or with milk. I also tried a White Prakash that was delicious at both a 1 min and 3 min steep. My palate caught vegetal tones and a touch of smokiness in the background. www.nepalteallc.com
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