I haven’t been anywhere fun in a while and work has been steam-rolling me almost everyday this semester. I really needed to break away and get outside the county for a couple of hours. As it happened I ran across someone on Craigslist that was selling some really expensive riding breeches for dirt cheap and I couldn’t pass it up. Naturally, the woman lived in Bloomfield Hills (read: nowhere near Ann Arbor), which made for the perfect getaway. And it just so happens that Bloomfield Hills is right next door to Birmingham… I think you can probably guess where this story is headed. ;)
For those who’ve never visited, Bloomfield Hills is one of the most expensive real estate areas in Michigan. I was worried my presence alone would put people off and offered to meet this person at Starbucks. She said no, I should come visit her at her place… >.>
She was a very nice person and took $40 for 3 pairs of $200-300 breeches. Someone once told me, the more money someone has, the nicer they are to the less fortunate. While I rolled my eyes at the time and nowadays the mere thought gives me apoplexy, it is true they have some really nice things to get rid of when they choose to do so.
After such a trip, a visit to the plain old ultra-rich Birmingham environs was a cinch. I somehow managed to arrive at Eli Tea Bar at the same time Eli was relieving one of his staff members on the counter.
So apparently in addition to his many talents, Eli has become either telepathic or just out right omniscient, because as soon as he heard my voice he started grabbing unlabeled canisters and emptying the last of teas he’d squirreled away into bags. We didn’t actually talk much. There was no need. I would notice something on the wall, and suddenly it was in my hands or i’d be told it wasn’t worth my time (and I’d get it anyway). I’m not really someone who’s all that predictable or especially easily understood. Apparently however, when it comes to tea, I expect the creme de la creme? Well, i don’t know about that, but when it comes to Eli, he’s always right on the money and never fails to disappoint. This time he even showed me a magic trick. I shit you not. An adorable magic trick. I’m not sure if I should start calling him “The Wizard”, or just Tea God Incarnate.
If you’d like to see the magic trick I was treated to, ask for the Thai Blue Flower. It’s definitely a subtle beverage, but you’ll enjoy the show (yes, that was a play on Aoi Hana).
So by this point you’ve scrolled down past all my bizarre, uninteresting storytelling and want to know what I acquired. Well, I’m happy to oblige.
The first thing that caught my eye on the blackboard was Genmaicha Kagoshima (not currently available online). I love Kagoshima (…I’ve never been to Kyushu. I mean the tea they export… Though I do have a close friend from Oita). It has a great sounding name, and of course, makes for a show-stopping tea experience. I’m not huge into Matcha yet, but what i do enjoy is Matcha-iri, so I may experiment with adding his Japanese Imperial Matcha, which I also picked up (for the first time? Not sure). Please, please take note this ridiculous pun: Matcha came to Japan through Zen monks who read about the benefits of powdered tea in Song Dynasty liturgical texts. Eventually it somehow became part of the Japanese Tea Ceremony (probably owing to how it looks in celadon). The Japanese Tea Ceremony eventually became a part of courtly life, but there is absolutely nothing linking Matcha to the Emperor or pre-War Imperial Japan. Nor has this tea been somehow plundered from the Shōsō-in. This is simply poking fun at how often Chinese teas are referred to as being “Imperial Reserve” in the West.
I also managed to snag one of the last bags of Bandaling Yellow Tea (definitely not listed online). I’m very glad I didn’t miss that. Despite slowly gaining exposure from TeaVana, Yellow tea is still nearly unheard of in the West. :)
Although I have previously reviewed Eli’s Kenya Safari White, I had not been able to get any of his Kenya Kosabei (not lis… Well, you get the picture) Black before now. Cannot wait to steep.
Speaking of Blacks, I also had him bag up his Blood Orange Black and Black Rose. I have tried the Black Rose once when he was first experimenting with it, and I can only imagine he’s perfected the ratios since then ( though it was already incredible at the time).
And oh yes, Eli now has Pu-erh. xD Three kinds of Pu-erh. I picked up his Green Tuocha (which is also somewhat rare in the West, though I hadn’t gotten around to reviewing one yet), skipped the Dark Heart this time around and snagged a Mandarin Pu-erh.
Wait… Mandarin Pu-erh?! Mandarin is… Eastern Chinese… Pu-erh is a city in Yunnan (one of the furthest places West you can go). Well, so this is one of those all-but-completely unheard of Display Teas. I don’t even have this one listed in my tea books (but then again, there are 20,000 teas out there). An actual Mandarin orange coated in Pu-erh and sealed. The idea is a little scary, even to me… but again, this is why I swear by Eli Tea. You just cannot get more exciting and rare tea in Michigan than Eli.
Additionally, a cute ribbon-wrapped Chai sampler gift box caught my eye, and before i knew it the entire contents were made known to me and they all sound just perfect. Indian Masala Chai (which I think I’ve tasted once) is his normal level spice, Thai Chai (which is basically Thai Tea as we understand it) and a Rooibos Chai blend of his own devising. Amusingly, unlike everything else I listed, you can buy all three Chais online. I wish I had a serious Chai lover I could gift this box to, but I suppose I’ll settle for getting a few blog posts out of it.
On the Teaware side, I finally replaced my previously reviewed and well-loved thin-glass Forlife Bola infuser that had died some time ago. Eli reached into the aether and found one for me in Black highlights, when there were only two left on the shelf and none in the backroom. I’m telling you… Hogwarts will be beating his door soon, just you watch!
Finally, I found a breath-taking bamboo Yunomi for next to nothing (you’ll see it soon when I have something liquid to show off ;).
I feel like I should just move to Birmingham. It’s like a giant hand scooped up a store from LA, shook out all the pedestrian tourist junk and plopped it down an hour’s drive away from me for temptation’s sake.
Speaking of making a sojourn to Eli Tea Bar, for those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying of Eli’s hand-crafted magic in the shape of tea, he has now posted a list of his in-house liquid masterpieces to entice you to make such a visit. And you must.