; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Obsessed? ;

Sunday, August 14, 2016


Death by Tea is a Finalist.
Vote at saveur.com/blogawards
Two weeks ago I get an email from a Saveur.com saying my blog here is nominated for some sort of award for Obsessed People. Never heard of Saveur before, myself. Sounds maybe like a porn site? In fact, that very week I got an email invitation from some company looking to put paying ads on my site, and it is an adult porn redirect. I almost went for it but then thought how I’d feel clicking on a puerh tea blog at work and oops... So, when I get yet another porn-sounding email I’m thinking, what kind of scam is this now?

In real life I get all too many pieces of snail mail trying to advantage of old ladies who probably don’t have their all food money spent on puerh tea for the next two years. People just assume we have money. Every month I get unsolicited membership cards from AARP and the Holocaust Museum for no reason other than I continue to exist. Initially, I junk-boxed the Saveur email for half a day.

Later on I look again and re-read it. This time I google Saveur. Turns out it is a Food Magazine website with no obvious malware. My blog is nominated in a category called Obsessive. The Obsessed part sounds like an accurate description of someone else's tea problem. And normally I'm not huge on people's food fotos, especially the half-eaten plate ones. Professional food photos are okay though, and Saveur looks like a very fancy and beautiful magazine.

The computer screen catches glare from my silver and white hair. I try to imagine myself, an incontinent old lady with a Fargo-type accent and cracked stoneware crocks in a fancy food magazine, and fail. “The Obsessed Award” sounds a little suspicious, like what my old dad called a “Hemorrhoid Award” back when I was in school. You know the old joke. I think Dad volunteered his services as a lawyer for the school board on purpose, just to make sure the kindergarten teacher never gave his kid a hemorrhoid ever again. The only school prize I won that my dad approved of was a Debate trophy in high school for “Negative of the Year."

I need a family opinion and email my younger sister, Amy. She replies with exclamation points. She knows Saveur and buys copies at various airports that she feels unable to throw out. My sister Amy has a particular quality the rest of the family probably envies, our dad tends to come out of her mouth without her trying to, and it sometimes scares the crap out of me. She is a good reality check for her “out there” older sister. This, along with her considerable and conservative business savvy makes her the family consigliere. Any idea she green lights is okay according to the family creed. And she approves! So I head upstairs to read the Saveur email to my son, including the bit about the awards ceremony in New York City, TBA in September.

“In New York City?” he says. “Are they paying?”

“Uh…yes. Of course they are,” I fudge.

“Because if they are not paying, you can’t go.”

“Why? There might be famous people there.”

“You don’t have the money for a trip like that.”

Leave it to dear son to Debbie-downer Mother’s enthusiasm at every possible opportunity. I wonder which of his credit cards he is least likely to miss. Last week he got an American Express application in the mail. All I have to do is dig out my old tax returns and find his social security number. But he has a point, even if it is the typical Midwestern dig to the self-confidence. That night I sit straight up in bed with a horrifying thought.

Do I have enough tea?

Now this year I managed to get a teeny bit better with the Tea Hoarding, buying a little less than last year. I got the big obsessions out of the way early, buying my Treachery of Storytelling Pt. 2 puerh cake straight away. Chawangshop helped out by pressing fewer cakes overall, thus reducing temptation. But maybe I am well short of the mark of a true puerh hoarder.

The metric ton.

Do I have a metric ton of puerh tea? Surely the metric ton is a criterion of “deserving” Food Obsessed award winners, the puerh-obsessed type anyway. I know at least two people who have this much tea or more. Maybe three, I haven’t actually counted the cakes on the Half Dipper's shelves myself.

Suddenly I feel beset with insecurity. I am grateful for the award nomination, at least in part because I can justify the Mirka Randová tea table I ordered with the excuse “Mother needs this,” and of course some tea shopping qualifies as well-deserved for a month or two. But now, the reasons for tea shopping take on a more urgent significance, because size matters and “too small” is a disqualifier. Even if it isn’t, I will surely feel better knowing I own a metric ton of puerh tea. In fact, I now have an increasingly urgent need to feel better by owning that Get God on the Phone cake from white2tea for $179, and the Bitterleaf WMD Mansa $88 a teeny 100g, although these are about quality and not so much quantity. Right now the thing to do is go puerh shopping.

Thoughts of new tea cakes cheer me up for a day or so, and my son notices the upbeat mood.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” he says, referring to the blog nomination.

We wait a week for the magazine to post the finalists before we can announce it to friends and family. Though I’m keenly aware that no one on my Facebook reads my blog. I don’t get a Happy Birthday on Facebook, not a single one from any of those “real life” friends and family even when they are reminded. In fact, one of my high school classmates was born on the very same day as I was, in the same hospital too, and even he doesn’t remember me on our mutual birthday. I have low expectations of anyone I know in real life reading my tea blog of all things. Plus I have other problems.

“Mom, you don’t have anything to wear. All your clothes come from Bioware.”

“I earned every one of my gaming shirts.”

“You bought them, Mom.”

“And who of us in this room needed help getting the N7 badge on Xbox? I don’t think it was me.”

I’m miffed. But the boy has a point, I could use some clothes. I don’t buy clothes if I can possibly help it. I always split a new package of boxers with him to reduce expenses and save more for tea. He hasn’t ever dated any girls, and therefore doesn’t know that women are supposed to wear different underwear. I buy used Brooks Brothers on EBay for him and if they don’t fit I just wear them myself. I pull up EBay for a few minutes to search through a few suits and put up a couple bids before migrating over to Yunnan Sourcing’s “New Products” page.

A metric ton equals one thousand kilos. Do I have 2505 pounds of puerh tea, or thereabouts? I think about counting up all the kilos, but the idea of it sounds exhausting. Much easier to just buy the tea now and worry about where to store it later.

In truth, I have absolutely no idea who nominated my blog for the Saveur Blog Awards, if anyone actually did. I have my suspicions, but puerh hoarders tend to be a quiet group, they generally won’t admit to anything unless they score Petr Novak tea ware. We worry someone might show up at the house unannounced like the fire inspector, or worse another tea hoarder who knows what we have stored away. Unless the nominator’s strategy is to divert people over to my house instead which is worrying.

Thank you to the person who nominated this blog. If you wish to vote for "Death by Tea," you can do so at saveur.com/blogawards. Votes count toward the editor’s decision. The big plus is that probably no one knows what puerh tea is, and this nomination will bring more people into the hobby. Or is that a minus? I better finish my tea shopping soon.

Cwyn, the Possibly Obsessed minus a few kilos


  1. Just finished counting every last gram....... A little less than a tonne. Wooooo, I'm not obsessed after all!!!! Time to celebrate with a tong of Scott's Wuliang?

  2. Is there truth in getting the link wrong? Anyway I already voted for your blog. I think the categorie is not too far off for most of us puerh dinkers.

    1. Oh I see what happened, one letter is not highlighted. Thanks for pointing that out. I need my bifocals checked I think.

  3. Well here's hoping! Part of me wants you to win because you obviously deserve it, but part of me also thinks you should win just to remind them that people do live in the area between the coasts. I like to cook, and I like to look at pretty food pictures as much as the next person, but I often quit reading food blogs in disgust when I find out their receipts are totally inaccessible to me. Try living in Iowa and trying to cook something whose recipie starts with "ask your local fishmonger" or "sprouted quinoa is obtainable at most markets nowadays".
    Luckily a puerh habit is available to anyone with a credit card, the Internet, and a mailbox.

    1. To get us Midwesterners on the food map is recipes requiring fresh picked corn smut.

    2. Corn smut tacos were once a fad. I used to like to tell farmers how Californians were paying such and such a pound for corn smut imported from Mexico. I've never seen so many jaws drop.

  4. Replies
    1. Yeah I got my eye on you, mister. I am also trying to figure out who has that "cave aged" puerh I just saw on IG.

  5. Some articles on Saveur were actually what got me started onto tea and on the road to puerh addiction. One of their writers, Max Falkowitz, writes some great articles on tea.

  6. The nomination is so very well deserved! Your fellow tea bloggers did a collective leap for joy when we heard the news. You most definitely should come to NYC :)

    1. Thanks so much! I keep forgetting how many tea folks are in the New York area. Been fifteen years since I was last in the Big Apple. We'll see if my body parts hold up in the meantime!

  7. Congratulations on the nomination.

    Anything similar would probably scare the bejesus out of me. It would tarnish my reputation as a serial underachiever that I've been carefully cultivating since 1972...

    1. I am actually scared to death. +1underachiever and +1 very shy. Old Cwyn, on the other hand, is everything I'm not, plus she just pees on the bastards.

    2. > plus she just pees on the bastards.

      There are people who pay good money for that.