The Monthly Brew – September 2023 Recap

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series The Monthly Brew

August was rough and September got away from me and October is not something I am looking forward to speaking of in this format in far too soon a time for comfort.

I marked the second anniversary of the loss of my service dog, Raubahn, and so far, that loss is not a thing that is getting easier with time. It is also a loss that is bound and tied up with so much upheaval and change (both positive and negative) that I know properly grieving him is going to be a complicated process.

The image frames a knee with a giant dog head and paw lying over it. The pup's ears look very soft.

Despite the internal mess, things were accomplished, and progress was made in a variety of areas. It startles me, sometimes, how the mind can trick you into not noticing that you are not, in fact, made completely of failure. (Depression lies. So does anxiety. And then there’s the erosive tutelage of capitalism.) However, since this is the intro to The Monthly Brew and not a Talking About Trauma post, I should probably move on.)

There was a lot of tea lab experimentation in September, a little reclamation, and some fun with making sure of decaffeinated versions of teas. New teas were created, some were batch-sized, teas were re-released, an old favourite was reintroduced, a single ink test post happened, and I came to some helpful realizations regarding some of what came with me from my former living environment.

There was also a lot of maintenance. So. Much. Maintenance. Stock checking, clearing out unusable supply, dealing with some fairly sizable restock orders as I decided that the glimmer of light was an end of the tunnel light rather than yet another train.

Decided to decide might be a better way of putting that. I need to start trusting in things and people and myself again and this is one step towards that.

On to the details:

To start, I finally made some decisions regarding dark roast coffees. The smaller company I had hoped to start a dialogue with, as they had a larger array of matched caffeinated and decaffeinated coffees than I had seen anywhere else has remained silent in response to a handful of attempts at contacting them. I still may go back to gather options to test, but as they did not offer samples, they are not a viable option at the moment, as testing unknown anything in larger quantities ends up feeling wasteful if the answer is no.  

Unfortunately, the local roaster who makes coffees I am in love with conceptually is also not an option at present, as he does not keep all of his decaffeinated coffees on hand all of the time, so I could not count on supply until I get to the point where I know how much coffee I need to regularly have on hand. Part of the reason for the larger restock was because I had gotten an initial first sense of how much of the various teas that I blend with I need to keep on hand. I won’t have a sense for that for the coffees until I have gotten at least some of them back into the shop.

Letting go of these options meant I needed to actually select a proper replacement for the dark roast coffees so that I could start working on bringing all of the coffees back. This is not just for those of you who may have been missing them, it is also for me. Life without being able to have a cup of Cheshire or Malabar or Paris when I wish to has been a little sad-making.

I have now done so, and this means the coffees will be on their way back. I can’t give a timeframe, mostly because the pile of things that are stuck at the “need to make the new labels” part of the release or re-release process is more than a little overwhelming – especially since that task is in the category of fiddley precision that I find actively unpleasant rather than the category of fiddley precision that soothes my brain. Which means it takes more time and effort and will than it probably should.

I keep thinking that I should just set a day aside for label making, maybe with some sort of reward at the end and possibly with the option for people to virtually hang out while it is happening. I would probably have to do this more than once, and if I test this and labels turn out to be a task where a nominal amount of social distraction makes it easier to do, I might make it a regular thing until I get caught up.

I don’t exactly regret the number of teas and coffees and cocoas I created before things … changed, but the need to retool every single label set is definitely A Task of Mythical Proportions, within the framework of Office Tasks, at least.

Choosing my new dark roasts combined with my desire to hopefully cheer up a friend a little, and I blended up a small batch of Paris Lights (the vanilla coffee) – most of which was sent to the friend, but there were two or three cups remaining to keep for myself, and tasting that coffee again made it require multiple willpower and common sense checks to not add vanilla powder to the restock I mentioned earlier. Especially given my discovery that the price seems to have leveled out and returned to merely “yikes that’s expensive” rather than “yikes, that’s close enough to buying gold by the pound to be deeply terrifying.” Might seem an odd thing to fight – given what a lovely ingredient it is and given that several of my vanilla teas have been specifically mentioned as being missed – but one of the things that is making the process of reclaiming and re-releasing everything only slightly overwhelming is that there are piles of tea currently locked behind the “need to add ingredients back into the toolbox” door. Vanilla is one of those. The freeze-dried fruits make up most of the rest.

A small white bowl on a green stone table. The bowl is filled with calendula petals, rose petals, black tea, and vanilla.

I mention this primarily because drinking Paris Lights and being reminded that things like Bad Wolf and Smoke in the Water are out of reach until I manage to get vanilla back into the toolbox properly has probably moved vanilla to the front of the line of ingredients that need to be reclaimed.

In other tea lab and testing news, I have finally found (and tested) a new source for organic jasmine. It has taken far too long, but I think the new supplier has higher quality (and even better tasting) flowers. The testing process involved a side by side with the old and new flowers as well as a first test of one of the primary jasmine teas. It looks like the recipes will be able to stay the same, which is a relief, but there will probably be some volume shifts, even if the weight doesn’t change, so I will still need to do further testing. The good news being that if cup counts are wrong they will be wrong in the direction of more rather than less.

I also tested Moringa, which is an ingredient I have had several requests for over the years, mostly from contacts in the chronic illness community. It tastes good, if not at all like what I expected, and I am relatively certain it will be a fun flavour to have on hand for use. I got around to the testing because a tea survey led me to a tea with one of the types of ingredients lists that make me professionally grumpy and require tea creation. Same general vibes as to why No Sleep ‘til Burque was created. And I needed to take the first steps towards making friends with Moringa before running a test of any tea involving it.

The last bit of ingredient testing was disappointing. I like the Wu-yi Rock oolong that is my current standard blending oolong, but it is difficult to blend with due to leaf length, curvature, and thickness. I had collected samples of several organic oolongs in an attempt to find a replacement. I did not find a replacement. The only one that came close-ish in flavour had the same basic textural and size issues, and Wu-yi Rock far outshines it in tastiness. I did find an oolong I may want to add to the toolbox separately, and it has been set aside for further testing.

The last bit of more basic tea testing work was making sure that the decaffeinated version of Old & Kind matched the caffeinated close enough to fit within my protocols. It does, and that tea has moved on to the next part of the release process.

In the same general vein of more basic teawork news, a couple of teas were batch-sized: Only the Anacrusis (10-487), Raindrops Taste Like Tears (8-408) and Long Distance Stabbing – which will have a latchtin option from release. Monster Slayer: DMG will also have a latchtin option at release, though I did not think to do so when I initially batch-sized it. I rechecked 4-68 and 4-69 for efficacy and batch-sizing because my notes were a bit sparser and more short-handy than usual and I wanted to be certain.

Rechecking 4-68 led me to taking the first steps towards re-releasing all the Migraine Mitigators and the Moon Songs. I also realized that if I’d needed to take the staple tea that is Migraine Mitigator and create a not-peppermint version that I probably should do the same for Moon Song. This means that eventually Moon Song (CinnaGin) will be an option.

Two more teas were created. The first one has been on the books for a very long time. Childlike Empress came out of an idea that was scribbled into Tea Journal 1 within the first few pages. At the time, I did some research into the character, to combine my impressions from the movie with authorial intent and lore. What I came up with is a white tea with coconut, jasmine, and calendula. It is tasty in a different way than I initially expected, which taught me a bit about combining coconut and flowers. It was a good thing, to finally create that tea. I sometimes feel a little badly for the ideas that go into the journals and then sit for ages because of the “so many teas, so little time” issue that I run into with ideas and creation.

A blend of moringa, freezedried blueberries, and white tea.

The second was the tea idea that sparked the need to finally test moringa properly. It is a blueberry moringa white (10-498) and I love the way the moringa plays with other tastes. It is definitely a happy toolbox addition.

Only two tea releases in September – Missing Piece, which is my decaffeinated genmaicha, and Lost in the Mists, which is the chocolate lavender Earl Grey that had the distinction of being May’s standard Tea of the Month Club choice.

The reintroduction was for Baker Street Blend – the first tea made because I needed it to make a different tea, and also the tea that really started to make me believe and understand that tasty blends of just tea were solidly within my skillset.

The ink test post was for Colorverse Quasar. I think I’ve finally figured out a decent system for organizing the ink tests, which is more an October thing than a September thing, but it will hopefully lead to 365Inks being a consistent Friday post – as the recording they require is relatively quick and easy. (This doesn’t keep me from occasionally needing six takes for a single paragraph or one line quote, but at least it is a quick six takes.)

The last thing that I mentioned in the intro was realizations regarding former living circumstance. And speaking to them here is potentially going to walk a fine line between enough information and too much information. It is definitely a topic that will be going on the list for expansion via a Talking About Trauma post.

But the basic realization was this: there were a lot of things I felt responsible for in my prior domicile and relationship. Over the past year I have been slowly coming to an understanding of how much too much a lot of that was, and how very unbalanced the thing that I had thought was a partnership had been. It’s almost funny, on some levels, that it took me so long to realize that I brought some of those responsibilities with me. Even more so given that some of the responsibilities I brought with me involve doing things I probably should have stopped requiring myself to do long before that relationship ended. I just didn’t have the bandwidth remaining to get myself there.

There is no real reason that I should continue to work with fibers where I get an unpleasant skin response from touching that kind of fiber. Even gloved, as the mental/emotional feel of gloved fiberwork is unpleasant for me at the same level, just not physically, and not as visibly.

It took help to come to that series of realizations. It took effort to make that decision. It took an embarrassing amount of effort to make that decision. But it has been made.

So, in closing, I guess I want to suggest that you examine your own reality, for anything toxic and itchy (physically or otherwise) that you are holding onto because of old shoulds or expired have-tos or similar ways of backing oneself into a corner.

Because while it wasn’t a comfortable decision and it wasn’t an easy decision, the relief was fair intense and it needed to be done as part of the foundation for other work.

Best of luck to you for the scant remainder of October, and may the coming season be kind.

Brought to you by: Sad Coffee, Cheshire (De)Caf, St. John’s Verity, Corvid’s Caravan, Drums in the Deep, There & Back Again and the Number 4.

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