Tea for 200 (Dollars)

While there are many joys of Christmas, one new joy we have realized is that our nest starts to fill back up around the holidays.  Finals are over and the children trickle back to the nest if only for a few weeks.  The rut we had started to create for ourselves is now flipped upside down.  The gallon of milk which comfortably lasted a week or more is now downed in a couple of days.  The messes start to return and we begin to find ourselves in the rut we’ve know for the better part of 20 years.

As we enjoy the comfort that full bedrooms bring, I turn my attention to the joy of giving, a Christmas tradition started many, many years ago.  I have many fond memories of Christmas gifts, from hockey skates and a table top hockey game to GI Joe and Twister.  There was, of course, the gifts that came in the famous clothes boxes which unfortunately ultimately carried the item for which they were intended – clothes.  When you are 10 years old, clothes under the tree is a most unwelcome sight.   After receiving more than a few gifts in my many years, I thought I was fully qualified to be one of the best Christmas gift giving Dads ever.

Sometimes, on my gift giving excursions, I venture outside of my comfort zone and move into the women’s clothing section.   Selecting the right size for any of the females in the family can be quite the challenge.  After more than a few missteps, I decided purchasing two of the same item was the way to go.  This way you could give your loved ones who may be a little size fussy the larger of the two sizes.  If that item fit, I could keep quiet and act like I knew exactly what I was doing all along.  If I was lucky enough to get a size too large, I could use the old I thought it looked a bit large for you so I bought this smaller size just in case.  Since this usually didn’t happen, the smaller sized item to be returned was all set ready to go with the original tags and bag.  If both items purchased were too small, I was pretty much stuck returning two items.

In a few rare instances, I ventured into totally new territory to snag the perfect gift on one of my girl’s lists. This year I ventured into a tea store.  A place I never even considered entering.  One thing I have never been conflicted about is whether or not I like coffee or tea.  The answer is clear – no, I do not.  The actual smell of coffee unboiled can be somewhat appealing, but when brewed and put in a cup it is quite indescribable.  Clearly any drink that requires all kinds of things added to it to make it even remotely drinkable, needs to be seriously questioned.  It’s an acquired taste I have been told.  Odd, I never had to acquire a taste for chocolate.  For the first time in my memory, tea appeared on one of my children’s lists.  I figure how hard can this be, no sizes are involved and I even knew the color of tea I was looking to purchase.

I laid out my game plan fairly carefully and scouted out the store in the mall, waiting for a clear opening, which meant a motherly type clerk who would be a little sympathetic to my plight.  Instead of the kind, understanding and obviously knowledgeable lady behind the counter, I was directed to a handlebar mustached fellow whose listening skills were seriously lacking.  In my best ” I have no clue what I am doing voice”, I asked the gentleman behind the bar for some oolong or chai matte, both confidently mispronounced.  There were these fairly large tins lined up behind my inattentive tea expert with some, what I thought, reasonable prices.  One was $12.98 and another $24.98.  That seemed fairly reasonable for a tub of tea leaves.  After correcting my pronunciations, the tea tender grabbed 4 tins and began popping them open.  One by one he tilted them in my direction and beat his hand, vigorously up and down, as if to take flight, in hopes of giving my nose a hint of the tea flavor.  After the second blast, I kindly told the gentleman to please desist from his hand beating and just give me his recommendation.  Unfortunately, I must of used a bad choice of words since the beating continued until the stink from all 4 tins had been floated in my direction.  Resisting the temptation to tug on both ends of his mustache simultaneously in hopes of finding a listening ear, I politely asked again what would he recommend.  After clarifying that the price was actually per 2 ounces, and that there was a 10% discount if I bought a pound, my mind went into brain lock mode, undoubtedly due to the fact that my mind was still in a fog from the tea leaves.  Ok, was it 16 or 32 ounces to a pound?  Trying not to look too cheap,  I thought I asked him to take the expensive one out of the equation and move on with what was becoming a very confusing transaction.  After searching my memory for my last jujube purchase, I confidently decided that there was 16 ounces to a pound.  I asked him to pick out 2 flavors and total up to one pound (after all I can’t pass on a discount). I had already purchased this $20 tea making thingy so now it looked like I would have 2 little tins of tea to flank my earlier purchase.  I wasn’t quite sure, but I thought he managed to leave the expensive option in the mix – do these guys work on commission? Shuffling to the register,  I nervously waited for my totals.  After dinging me for the two small canisters needed to hold the tea, the $20 tea making thingy, and a pound of tea, I somehow ended up north of $100.  Wow, what had I gotten myself into?’  At those prices, how long does a pound of tea last for your average tea drinker?

After leaving the store in a tea induced daze, I somehow was not getting that warm fuzzy feeling I get after most of my Christmas purchases.  A lap around the mall parking lot with the windows rolled completely down to help clear my fuzzy mind was enough to convince me that returning to the store was the best decision.  Swallowing my pride, back I went.  My luck changed as the motherly type clerk was waiting at the entrance and was more than willing to come to my aid.  After mumbling something about not knowing what I was doing the first time around, she graciously agreed to return, at least I thought so, about $40 of my original purchase.  She fumbled around the counter for a minute or two and then brought out a small container of tea needing me to witness her tossing it into the garbage.  Wonderful, that was quite the waste.  Now, with a more reasonably priced package in hand, I left the store vowing never to return.

Merry Christmas – Happy Brewing

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