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Tea Dragons

Sometimes my wanderings around the Web are a pure waste of time, and sometimes I end up finding something delightful. This is one of the delightful ones.

While browsing DeviantArt (a website for artists), I decided to search for tea-related stuff. Lo and behold, I found some wonderful drawings of “Tea Dragons” by Thomas S Brown. The dragons are whimsical, and each one just cries out for a story — or at least a good caption. My favorite, with my own caption added, is the White Tea Dragon:

White Tea Dragon by Thomas S Brown

Over and over I’ve explained it to you: don’t use boiling water for a delicate white tea. It ruins it, I tell you. See what you’ve done? You’ve made Brunhilde cry!

Tom, who goes by “CopperAge” on DeviantArt, said that he originally started doing tea dragons as sketch cards for cons and steampunk events. He’s done about 20 of them so far. When he showed them to his wife (and creative partner), Nimue, she came up with the idea of writing a tea dragon book. They are currently shopping the book around with different publishers. According to Tom, she channeled Lewis Carroll a bit as she wrote it.

The steampunk origins of the tea dragons show better in “Tea Dragon Moon,” which I’ve also taken the liberty of captioning. Note that I haven’t read the book, so these captions are coming straight from my imagination and have nothing to do with Tom and Nimue’s book.

Tea Dragon Moon

“I say, Mycroft, the only thing that could improve this tea would be a more automated brewing system.”
“Quite right, Abernathy, quite right. I do believe I have a few extra sheets of copper laying about. Mayhaps you could whip something up in that lab of yours?”

I’m sure the question running through everyone’s mind, though, is what Tom’s favorite tea is. Looking at the “Tea Dragon Moon” illustration, I figured it would be some kind of über-industrial super-smokey lapsang souchong. I suppose his response fits just as well, though. He said he likes a strong black tea, but he’s “not averse to Earl Grey and occasionally a bit of Jasmine.” I suppose, actually, that his “Grand Tea Master” might be brewing up a batch of jasmine tea, or maybe lotus blossom

Grand Tea Master

“You did pick the lotus blossoms when the sun was high and hot, didn’t you, Hu? The aroma isn’t what it should be. I swear, if you waited until it cooled off and the blossoms closed, I’m going to whack you with my magic spoon. And nobody wants that, do they, Hu?”

Since we’re on the subject of lapsang souchong, though, Tom did mention that he was recently commissioned to produce a tea label. It’s for an Earl Grey/Russian Caravan blend. Hmmm. That could end up similar to my own Mr. Excellent’s Post-Apocalyptic Earl Grey. I’ll have to track it down when it’s ready and give it a try.

A final note on DeviantArt: don’t be put off by the name, or because members are referred to as “deviants.” The site is simply a great place for artists to share their work and communicate with each other. Sure, it has nude elves, but there’s a lot of wonderful traditional art in there, too. There’s a “family filter” you can turn on if you’re offended by nude bodies. If you’re an art fan, go take a look at the site.

New toy! A Russian samovar


Our new Russian samovar (literally translated: self-boiler) for the tea bar.

We have mostly modern equipment in the tea bar and at home. The Zojirushi water heater does a fabulous job of bringing water up to temperature and holding it there, with multiple selectable temperature ranges and thermostat. But I’ve always loved traditional equipment, and I’m fascinated by the ways different parts of the world prepare their tea.

I just purchased a Russian samovar (see picture) made in 1980. Traditional metal samovars in Russia date back to the early 1700s, when they used charcoal or other fuels to heat the water. A “chimney” ran vertically through the middle of the samovar, where the fuel generated the heat. The vessel was filled with water that would be drawn from a tap on the bottom. Often, a teapot was placed directly on top, so there would be concentrated prepared tea in addition to the heated water surrounding the chimney.

One of the things I’ve always loved about samovars is their steampunk look. They metal is often beautifully worked and etched or engraved. My new one is made of brass plated with silver/nickel. The samovar is designed for a communal tea setting, where it is kept going all day long, and the condensed tea in the pot is diluted by the boiling water in the main chamber every time someone wants a cup.

My new samovar is about 18 inches tall, and powered by good old-fashioned electricity. Since Russian AC power is 220 volt, I’m going to need to make or buy an adapter to let me run it on 110 volt U.S. power, but that’s pretty easy. Given its size and weight, I think I’ll find it a spot to live at the tea bar instead of trying to take it with me wherever I go.

I think this will be a great way to enjoy some of the Russian Caravan tea that I like to drink in the afternoons. Or maybe I’ll get cross-cultural and use it for some Mr. Excellent’s Post-Apocalyptic Earl Grey. No need to be a tea Nazi, right?

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