Lapsang Souchong: Strong Tea for People Who Hate Coffee

by J.D. Roth

I hate coffee.

I like the idea of coffee — and I love the smell — but I think it tastes like crap. Literally.

I had a girlfriend in college who once played a mean trick on me. Willamette had an annual marching competition between classes (don’t ask) just before Spring Break. The losing class had to walk the Mill Stream through campus. Friends made crazy bets with each other. Amy and I made the following bet:

For some reason I can no longer remember, I was gone on the night of the competition. I got back to the dorm (er, “residence hall”) to find it nearly empty. Only Amy’s roommate, Mari, was around.

“Who won?” I asked.

Mari looked sad. “I’m sorry, J.D. You’ll have to drink a cup of coffee.”

“Crap,” I said.

Mari brightened. “Would you like to get it over with now? I can brew a cup for you.”

“Okay,” I said. I sat down on the lower bunk and watched Mari pour in the grounds and start the coffee-maker.

Amy came into the room. “J.D.’s agreed to pay off his bet now,” Mari told her. Amy laughed. “Good thinking she said.”

The coffee finished percolating, and Mari poured me a cup. “Enjoy,” she said. I took the mug and stared at it. I smelled it. It smelled fine. Coffee always smells fine. I took a sip. It tasted like crap. “Do you want some cream or sugar?” asked Mari. I shook my head. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. I took another sip.

I’d finished about half of the mug when a very loud and drunk Pat Kurkoski barged into the room. Pat, who lived upstairs, was a fellow freshman. He looked at me with bleary eyes. “WOOOO-HOOOO!” he bellered. “We won! Can you believe it? We won!”

I set the coffee down. I turned and fixed my gaze on Mari and Amy who were silently dying of laughter on the other side of the room. “You owe me,” I said. But they were laughing too hard to care.

Amy never did pay up on her bet. I tried to get her to eat raisins at dinner the next night, and for several nights thereafter. She refused. I was sorely angry with her for duping me and then refusing to pay up.

That entire setup is just to lead to this: I still hate coffee, but I’ve found that I love strong tea. In particular, I’ve found that I love:

Both of these are deep, dark teas with rich flavor. The varieties I buy are highly caffeinated. Lapsang Souchong, in particular, is sometimes used as a coffee substitute, not so much for the flavor as the idea of it. I like the blend from Portland’s The Tao of Tea.

I’ve been brewing myself Lapsang Souchong every morning since we got back from San Francisco. I love its smokey almost-tobacco-like smell. Jeff says it smells like barbecue sauce I love the earthy flavor. I love the fact that these teas are rich and robust, not like wimpy chamomile or mint herbal teas.

I love strong tea, but I still hate coffee.

Updated: 24 August 2006

Do what's right. Do your best. Accept the outcome.
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