It doesn’t take much to provoke a tea from us.
Especially if the thing you toss into my brain is a thing that has been in the idea file for ages, and you express a specific desire to see that tea.
The first glimmers of what became Clever Girl landed in my brain years and years ago. It was early on in the life of Desert Sage Natural, and our toolbox was fairly bare, at least as far as ingredients primarily or entirely for use in Tasty Teas.
We were still drinking teas that others had made, when something caught our fancy. We’d noticed a tea that claimed to be a black currant tea near-ish the holiday season, and were both Very Happy that it existed.
Until we got it home and steeped a cup. It was … … “disappointing.”
“Currant Black Tea” got added to the ideas file, and that box of tea actually sat in the alcove of my tea workspace for quite some time, meant to be a mnemonic.
If you’ve been following our escapades for long, you’ve probably noticed that tea ideas are not something we lack in. (Phrases like “drowning in” might be more apt for our status regarding tea ideas.)
Unfortunately, this particular idea disappeared into the depths of the file of “Someday these will be Teas” and stayed there. For 5 years.
It was pulled back up to the top because one of my mutuals on Twitter had ranted a bit about being unable to find a black currant tea.
Specifically, about being unable to find a tea that was comprised of tea and currant bits. Nothing extra. Nothing pretending to be currant, and certainly not nebulous “flavours” that may or may not taste like currants.
I saw the rant, and it made me laugh because it sounded very much like some of the rants I have had regarding tea.
Sometimes customers send us a bit of a favourite discontinued tea, hoping we can recreate something similar.
This always starts with a look at the ingredients list. There have been times when my ranting about that can fill up the entire time we wait for the test cup to steep. There was one particular tea that had over 30 ingredients. Which seemed more than a little excessive.
Other times the name of the tea and the ingredients will be completely at odds with each other. “How do you create a lavender raspberry tea with no raspberry?”1
I commented on the rant regarding the familiarity of the rant… and things progressed from there. I wasn’t certain how soon I would get to it, but it definitely moved up the priority list.
Later that day I was speaking with a guildie in Discord2about tea. (Tea filters into all parts of my reality.) She also mentioned currant tea.
Two people. In less than 24 hours.
Now the tea just had to be made. Forthwith.
I’d been meaning to create a strict currant black since the blending of Currantly Nuts. (Still not sure why brain decided our first currant tea should also have coconut – tasty, yes – but I sort of skipped past making a strict currant tea. Probably one of those “this sounds weird but I bet I can make it work!” things. There are occasionally some drawbacks to having my inner child and my creativity on such solid speaking terms.)
The tea came together relatively swiftly. Currant is a flavour I am quite familiar with, due to a semi-obsession that dates back to childhood. Walking to school when I was small involved picking currants and elderberries, depending on the season, and ducking in to wash off berry-stickiness before actually heading to class. (Our headmistress frowned upon messy children and the paddle closet was a thing of intimidating variety.)3
Our appreciation for currents actually led to planting a currant bush here, because fresh-picked fruit is so lovely, but it doesn’t seem to be enjoying existence in New Mexico. I think we’d even had some vague thoughts of drying the berries to see if they would work for tea. That didn’t end up working out as between the birds and its apparent loathing of its current placement, the currant bush has gifted us three berries since its planting. Six years ago.
The test batch of Clever Girl wasn’t an “in-your-face” currant tea, but I loved it. Mister Tea described it as “Earl Grey, just with currants instead of bergamot.”
I thought it was pretty perfect.
There were a number of suggestions for where we could go with the name. Some of them riffing off of the “like Earl Grey, but with currants” description, but none of them really settled home for me.
I was slightly frustrated, as this was a specifically desired and requested tea, but it wouldn’t be able to go anywhere without a name.
Oddly enough, the story clump that Into the Dark Woods provoked was part of what led me towards the name we chose.
Some of the characters appearing within those short stories remind me of myself and a few friends I’ve had in different schools, different locations, over the years.
The odd children.
The ones who process differently, the ones who make connections adults do not expect, the ones who are hungry for knowledge and learning of all types. The ones who make leaps that can be disconcerting or disturbing, by turns.
The ones adults don’t generally know what to do with. Some celebrate them, some denigrate them, 4some try to smoosh them down into a standard “kid” template.
I decided I wanted this tea to salute some of them, in one way or another. And into my head pops “Clever Girl.”
On first glance this looks like a Doctor Who reference. Which it is, and could be. One might also think of Jurassic Park. Which it also could be.
One of the authors I speak with on Twitter reminded me of the Jurassic Park reference, and as we discussed the concept, we realized that this tea is really a salute to a wide array of female characters.
Not all of them perfect representations of what should be, perhaps, but the sorts of characters that gave some of those odd little girls a touchstone.
The kind of characters that could make you realize that the things about you that were strange were okay. Even if you only saw that normalization in fiction, it meant someone had dreamed it, someone had imagined it, and if it could be imagined… maybe it was okay for it to be real.
Some of them also teach that you can survive terrible things, whether those terrible things be physical, mental, emotional – trauma is not something that has to destroy you. And even if it feels like it has, there is the possibility of picking up the pieces, fusing them back together, and moving forward to be the person you know you can be, or the one you want to be.
Newt, Pepper, Sam Carter, Uhura, Jadzia Dax, Sarah Jane Smith, Willow Rosenburg, Lyta Alexander, Kaylee Frye… and those are just the ones that come to mind immediately as I write this post.5 And I haven’t even delved into the realm of books.6
Fiction has power. More than many people realize, I think. I know that, for me, some of those characters, some of those touchstones, helped to keep me fighting for who I was. For who I thought I could be.
And in some of my darker moments, I’m fairly certain they assisted with the decision to stick around and see how this whole life thing played out.
So, Clever Girl is a salute to both the people who found strength and solace and wisdom in the representation offered by those sorts of characters – as well as to the characters themselves, and the people who created them.
Organic Ingredients: Fair Trade Black Tea
No Additives/Preservatives/Colourants: Freeze Dried Currants
Batch Size: 3 ounces, approximately 25-30 servings of tea
Options: Loose Tea (Sample, Bag, Tin), Teabags (Single, Sample, Bag)
- This actually came from an image of a tea label I was sent, but… same principle applies.
- Discord is an internet chat service, in frequent use by gamers. A guild is a group of (hopefully) like-minded people who band together within a game to play the game and (again hopefully) mutually support each other. Technically I probably should have said “FC fellow” as they are called “Free Companies” in FFXIV, but I started with EQ, and guild is the word I fall back on.
- I never actually experienced the paddles in a direct sense, but I did end up staring at them in mute fascination during several ‘discussions’ with said headmistress.
- I almost added “some medicate them” because I have some issues with current practices regarding children and psychiatric medications. I acknowledge that there are cases where there is need, but…
- There are many more, especially in more recent times. This list would have been added to as I worked on the post, were it not for the fact that I’d already recorded the audio…
- It probably bears mentioning that the conversation regarding gender and identity was… lacking… when I was growing up. I knew I was stuck, physically, with the bits I had, and while frustrating, it seemed better overall than the alternative. However, it was good to know that being stuck with those bits didn’t mean I had to be retiring, obedient, subservient, submissive… or turn the wattage of my mind down for other people’s comfort. On an attached note, I am willing to customize the labeling for this tea to include other genders – or create teas in salute to characters that give representation to them.