Excursion: The Fire – a Misadventure ~ Water Street Coffee Joint

I will be the first to tell you I suck at travelogues. I’ve tried to “live tweet” some trips in the past and had little success. Also, my stoic frightful writing voice doesn’t exactly lend itself to creating a fun narrative journey.  However, sometimes I just want to journal my ridiculous escapades (what Josiah has often referred to as my “Misadventures”, but to which others will just roll their eyes and consider whimsical, ill-conceived or childish).  Here is one such story.

Over the weekend I visited Kalamazoo, my old college stomping grounds in order to A. attend my Japanese Professor’s moving sale and B. check out some of the new tea options that have arisen since my departure almost a decade ago.  In terms of the first priority, I was successful–though somewhat late to the party I nevertheless found some incredibly bizarre and hilarious treasures. In the second I was stymied.  A couple months back I wrote about my trip to ChocolaTea which has sprung up in Portage (the neighboring shopping district of Kalamazoo) in my absence.  I’d learned of its existence from some close friends of mine who still live in Kalamazoo. At the time, they also mentioned a place that was even better on Lover’s Lane. Well, to be sure, I checked Yelp, the phone book and drove up and down said road and Portage road just in case I was remembering incorrectly, but there was no sign of it. There is a coffee shop on the Kalamazoo Mall that sells tea, but in truth it’s been in operation since long before I graduated and in 2006 I actually lived on the Kalamazoo Mall, and I remember not being much impressed. As luck would have it, my phone died and I lost my connection to Yelp so I took that as a sign that it was time to give up searching. After a fabulous meal and a few decent sake flights at Sushiya (also new since I’ve graduated), I walked up the street a block to my favorite coffee shop from college, The Water Street Coffee Joint.

When I was living in Kalamazoo I really wasn’t into tea the same way I am now. After my trip to Japan in ’05 I began getting into tea, but I was only in Kalamazoo for one more year and since I could still drink coffee at that point, I think that’s probably all I’d ever had at this shop before (you have to understand it’s pretty kickass coffee).  Now though I’m only really looking for tea and tea they definitely have. In fact TWSCJ has an entire wall covered with their own branded (I couldn’t begin to guess the actual vendor) loose leaf teas, complete with mini smelling jars! After searching the menu I surprised myself by skipping their Shu pu-erh Classic, and opting for “The Fire”.  But seriously, with a name like “The Fire” you have to expect it’d be a memorable tea and so it was.

The Fire is an herbal blend of Vietnamese cassia bark (AKA Chinese cinnamon), ginger root, Panax red ginseng root, star anise, Szechwan peppercorn, orange peel and Chinese licorice root.  To put it lightly, The Fire is the most intensely spicy tea I’ve ever tasted.  The cute, dapper gentlemen behind the counter told me he uses it as an alternative antihistamine to open his sinuses.  It actually wasn’t bad–despite being loaded with spice, it’s well balanced and exotic. If you’re not into spicy teas though, it kind of Tastes Like Burning.  Actually I think the licorice helps to cool it a tiny bit, but it’s not all that noticeable.  It’s probably a good thing I was a bit tipsy at the time or it might have been too spicy even for me. I nevertheless recommend it for the adventurous, especially if you happen to find yourself thirsty in the greater Kalamazoo area (and you’re not looking for beer).

Update: it’s possible I used up the last of their The Fire (or it’s no longer available online) since the page I linked earlier has been taken down while I’ve been writing this. I think all the page loads I was making on their site made them nervous. I probably shouldn’t have told that cute patisser I was going to be blogging about them.

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