In 2014, this made you crazy. They’re back. Future Islands. If Marlon Brando sang, he’d be Sam Herring. I'm slightly obsessed with this song. Lyrics here.


Tea Forté

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Mar 01, 2017
Category: Food and Wine

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There are people living in tents in refugee camps and sick people crowding town halls to tell their representatives they will die if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, and here I come, concerned as I am about refugees and the ailing, to tell you about seriously expensive tea.

What can I say? “It’s complicated.” And that although I often need to buy fancy gifts for fancy friends I never heard of Tea Forté until about five minutes ago. And that I’ve learned this is precisely the kind of gift that mothers like to send to their daughters, and daughters to their mothers, and friends to their bridge club besties. And — not a small point — it’s superior tea.

Peter Hewitt, an American product designer with a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design, knew exactly what he was doing when he conceived of beautifully packaged products that “elevate a cup of tea into an extraordinary experience for all of your senses.” He came up with a “sculptured pyramid infuser” — in English: tea bag — that’s derived from a Japanese tetrahedral design. But beyond chic packaging that becomes a branding tool, this shape gives loose tea more room to swell in hot water. That extra room allows the company to use whole leaf teas that steep better in larger packages than they do in conventional tea bags. And then there’s that adorable leaf on top of the infuser that hangs over the rim of the tea cup, making removal easier. And, for the hard core, there’s even a tea cup, with a cover that has a hole in the center for the leaf.

So you’re paying for packaging. So Tea Forté makes great gifts. But how does the tea taste?

Mostly: special. Oprah endorsed the tea. The brewing system was one of her Favorite Things. And Tea Forté’s Blueberry Merlot won the 2011 award for best “Flavored Herbal Blends” from the North American Tea Championship.

Choices: Each assortment comes in three sizes. Thus…

To buy the Presentation Box Sampler with 20 infusers from Amazon for $30, click here. To buy the Petite Presentation Box Sampler with 10 infusers for $17, click here. To buy the Tea Chest Tasting Assortment with 40 infusers for $55, click here.

To buy the Herbal Tea Tasting Assortment with 40 infusers for $55, click here. To buy the Herbal Petite Presentation Box with 10 Handcrafted infusers for $17, click here.

To buy the Presentation Box Sampler of Indulgent Dessert Teas with 20 infusers for $30, click here.

To buy the Porcelain Tea Cup with Custom Cover for Steeping — which, inexplicably, comes without a saucer — for $20, click here.

Before you click to buy the Herbal Assortment, you might consider the reader reviews of Blueberry Merlot. They’re mixed. Many find it too tart, requiring honey. Others simply wonder how it won a competition.

At these prices, it’s reasonable to hope that you can get two or three steeps from each bag. (With Pu-erh tea, you get as many as eight.) And that does seem to be the case with black teas: English Breakfast, Earl Grey and Black Currant. Other favorites: White Ginger Pear, Winter Chai, Ginger Lemongrass, Raspberry Ganache, Belgian Mint, “estate” Darjeeling, and China Gunpowder. For those who like “dessert” teas, Hazelnut Truffle has fans.

Come for the presentation, stay for the pleasure.

[A large cup of thanks to KMM]

Short Takes

PREVIEW: Garland Jeffreys, “14 Steps to Harlem”

His mother worked in a Domino sugar plant. His father took the train from Sheepshead Bay to his job in a Harlem factory. Thanks to their dedication and love, their son was able to go to Syracuse. And in 1973, when Garland Jeffreys got a gold record for “Wild In the Streets,” he gave it to his parents. “That was fantastic,” he says. “They knew that was valuable, right in front of them, and that their investment in me had paid off.” Half a century later, the kid who grew up on doo-wop and used the sound of the streets to become one of the kings of New York soul music has recorded a CD that looks back to his heritage. “14 Steps To Harlem” won’t be out for months, but if it’s like the title song, you can see the movie in your head. [To pre-order the CD from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]

Frank Delaney (1942-2017)

Long ago, when a girlfriend fired me without notice, I started each day by writing “She doesn’t love” me 50 times because until I burned the fact into my head, I didn’t believe it. I feel that way about Frank Delaney’s death. I can grasp, with difficulty, that he had a stroke and died. What I can’t grasp is that his mind died as well, because Frank’s mind was about the greatest piece of living architecture I’ve ever encountered.

He got the Great Man obit in the Times — deservedly. As a broadcaster for the BBC, he interviewed 3,500 writers over three decades so knowledgeably and crisply that he was described as “the most eloquent man in the world.” As a writer, he published 16 novels and 6 non-fiction books. And as a champion of Joyce, he was devoted — each week, he did a podcast that dissected a line or two of “Ulysses.” That was, he estimated, a 30-year project. Readers were happy to take the ride: The 300 episodes of “Re:Joyce” have been downloaded more than 2 million times.

Re:Joyce is a good demonstration of Frank Delaney as a reader’s reader — a popularizer. Here’s a bit from Episode 1, in which he tackles the famous opening sentence (“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed”):

“Stately” means dignified, especially in ceremonial. In important processions, people adopt a stately way of walking, but here, the word ‘stately’ is followed by the three words, “plump Buck Mulligan.” Nothing stately about the word “plump,” is there? In fact, it’s a term you poke fun with.
So here’s a man with a stately walk and he’s called “Buck,” which indicates some capacity to roister, and he’s plump. So what’s going on? If you ever want to understand multitasking in prose, James Joyce is your man.
Every sentence in “Ulysses” has more than one meaning, and sometimes many meanings. Here, he’s poking fun at this character Buck Mulligan, who is something of a fun-poker himself, which is why his walk is stately. So the man doing the mocking is also being mocked.

But what made Frank Delaney a treasure was the force and vitality of his personality. Here he briefly profiles James Joyce — in rap:

And he compares beating writer’s black to an affair that strengthens a marriage:

Imagine this personality at dinner. For a great talker, he was a great listener. Once I went on a bit in praise of John le Carré. Frank heard me out and then told some personal stories about the legendary writer which, if repeated, would get me sued in England. He didn’t present this information as a corrective or a rebuke; he just thought I might like to know.

To wear erudition lightly, to not intimidate, to reject intellectual snobbery — in my world, these are rare gifts. Liberating gifts, at that. When I was writing my play, I didn’t hesitate to send Frank the first act, and he didn’t hesitate to point out its flaws and urge me to keep going — he took me seriously as a playwright, which was just what I wanted and needed. And he was immensely funny. When a writer who downplayed her stunning good looks served up precious sentiments about Art on the Web, Frank and I traded retro male comments with a glee that often inspired Diane Meier, his adoring wife and partner, to step in with a schoolmarmish “Boys…. boys…”

It was glorious to be his friend.

Nam Prik Asian Chili Hot Sauce: the next Sriracha?

When I met Erick Yi, he was an investment adviser at Merrill Lynch in Los Angeles. (I can personally attest: honest, creative, successful). And then he was gone — to launch a hot sauce. I thought he was having a pre-midlife crisis. In fact, he was having a genius insight: He invented Nam Prik, an Asian chili sauce that was both spicy and sweet. Erick launched Nam Prik at farmer’s markets in LA, and was soon as popular as Adele. Again, deservedly: Nam Prik (pronounced: nam-preek, literally “fluid chili”) isn’t like all the other smartly-labeled sauces you see on grocery shelves. It delivers fire and flavor, adding personality to eggs, Mexican food, Asian dishes, meat and chicken entrees. Now Erick’s in the big leagues —you can buy Nam Prik on Amazon as well as on his web site. And in the full-service spirit of the banker he used to be, Erick offers some recipes. Try the crispy Nam Prik chicken wings — you’ll forget all about Buffalo.

If you haven’t read it, this is still The Book To Read: ‘When Breath Becomes Air’

At 36, Dr. Paul Kalanithi was finishing his residency as a neurosurgeon. At 37, he died of cancer. In the final year of his life, he wrote a book, “When Air Becomes Breath.” It’s dazzling and important, less about death than you’d expect and more about love — love of his work, his wife, their child, of life. As Janet Maslin wrote in the Times: “Finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option.” Read Paul Kalanithi on his last day as a surgeon. Read Lucy Kalanithi’s op-ed about a marriage that didn’t end when her husband died. And then… [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here. For the Audible audio book, click here.]