Winter, at last…

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« I like winter ! » (Thank you to Marie-Benette for allowing me to display her work !)

I hate hot weather, sun-bathing, going to the beach, where one is covered with sand and where I am as roasted as a Thanksgiving turkey… I am a real larva in the summer, I feel alive only when temperatures are under 20°C/68°F.

I love winter, with its bright and cold, freezing days, as much as snow storms. Well, as long as I am snuggled in a warm place (I am not a masochist !) with… a book (no, stacks of books) and… tea.

What do you mean, these pictures are fake ? Not at all : I am so impatient to see snow coming (not Jon, just the flakes), that I posted pictures taken last winter.

But which tea ?

Let me think… Some strong black tea. Some tea reminding of cold and wild places where wood burning is the only way to warm up.

Ah, the stove heat… So special, so impossible to imitate….

In such cold days, I don’t feel like earthy, mushroomy, fragrances and flavors : fermented teas like Puerhs, no thanks. (1)

I do NOT feel like sipping green teas at all, since they have a cooling effect, even when drunk hot. Sorry for green tea lovers, green tea is made for heat, not cold. Keep it for hot days.

I feel like having black teas, teas that carry raw strength and power. No Darjeeling or Qimen, way too refined and delicate. No Assam that turn bitter too quickly, and that often require milk and sugar (yuck). (1) So, what am I to do ?

To make things even more complicated, when winter comes, I love reading stories taking place in coffee-drinker areas, North America or Scandinavia, and fantasy or steampunk books… But I go to Russia as well, where tea is king… I need adventure, Nature Writing, travel stories, outdoor life, pioneer/explorer/trapper stories, and volcanos… Oh. Difficult. (2)

During the cold and dark season, I forget fine china, and I take stoneware, clay, metal, and podstakannik out of the closet (no pun). The what ? It is a Russian tea glass in a metal holder with a handle. It is very finely ornated and very stable. It was invented for people to drink tea on the train, without toppling it (the glass, not the train). Glass and metal, is there anything colder, and then more adapted to winter ? I let you look for it on the photos posted in this article…

To summarize :

Tea reminding of wood burning in a stove or outside, of flames in a chimney, of remote, wild and cold places. Tea fit for a trip to Russia, North-America or Scandinavia… Tea enjoyed as much in a crackled enamel bowl, or an organic, hand-thrown mug, as in a delicate Russian teaglass… Tea loaded with history (and clichés !)…

And the winner is… Chinese smoked tea, or Lapsang Souchong, or its even more smokey cousin, Tarry Souchong. The tea mythology makes it the outcome of a mistake. A tea producer wanted to dry its harvest very fast, either because the leaves were soaked with rain (first legend), or because its storage buildings were requisitioned by soldiers who wanted to shelter themselves from the rain (second legend). That’s why he dried his leaves above wood fires. Alas, the tea leaves, known to easily soak up fragrances, did it with smoke. The leaves were dry, but no Chinese drinker would want this tea. So, the producer, not lacking good ideas, sold it to Europeans as a very typical and traditional Chinese tea… His trick worked pretty well, since Lapsang Souchong is a Chinese tea drunk only in the Western countries !

So, this winter, Thé.Livre.&Co would like to take you :

  • To Russia, and especially to Siberia and the taigaOn the right, a podstakannik.

From left to right : Lost in the taiga (Vasily Peskov) ; The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky) ; The Cossacks (Tolstoi)

  • To Scandinavia and Iceland (3)













Above, left to right : La Saga de Grimr (only in French and German) ; Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne) ;  Thorgal – The Master of the Mountains (Rosinsky/Van Hamme) ; The Sorrow of Angels (Jon Kalman Stefansson) ; Svörtuloft, Hypothermia (Arnaldur Indridason)


  • To North America, Canada and USA : Quebec, Yukon, Northern Ontario, Wyoming, Michigan, Alaska…

From left to right : White Fang, The Call of the Wild (Jack London) ; French magazine (only in French) America ; And the Birds Rained Down (Jocelyne Saucier) ; Farmer (Jim Harrison) ; The Solace of Open Space (Gretel Ehrlich) ; Close Range (Annie Proulx) ; The Big Rock Candy Mountain (Wallace Stegner)


  • To parallel worlds :








From left to right : Bilbo, The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien) ; Waylander (David Gemmell) ; The Road (Cormac McCarthy) ; Island of Point Nemo (Jean-Marie Blas de Robles) ; I, Lucifer (Glen Duncan)


Have a nice trip ! I have to go, my kettle is whistling and my book is calling… Don’t forget your duvet and your wool hat !


Notes :

First, I chose not to present every single book (story, author, and so on). I trust you favorite book dealer (librarian, bookseller…) to tell you more about them.

(1) Precisions about the teas :

Darjeeling : black tea from northern India, world famous for its fine taste. i love it, but not at the moment.

Qimen or Keemun : Chinese red tea (fully oxidized), with « round » chocolate flavors. A bit too mellow for the stories I chose for this article.

Assam : black tea from India, with very strong liqueur, but without the woody aroma of Lapsang Souchong.

Puerh : Chinese dark tea, fully oxidized and fermented, with leather, mushroom, flavors… Perfect for other seasons (especially fall), but not right now.


(2) Literature (Thank you, Mr Wikipedia !) :

  • Fantastic literature is a literary genre characterized by the ambiguous presentation of seemingly supernatural forces (ghosts, dreams, premonitions, demons, angels, alive objects…).
  • Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction set in a fictional universe, often without any locations, events, or people referencing the real world. Its roots are in oral traditions, which then became literature and drama. From the twentieth century it has expanded further into various media, including film, television, graphic novels and video games.Fantasy is distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the absence of scientific or macabre themes respectively, though these genres overlap. In popular culture, the fantasy genre is predominantly of the medievalist form. In its broadest sense, however, fantasy consists of works by many writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians from ancient myths and legends to many recent and popular works.
  • Nature writing is non fiction or fiction prose or poetry about the natural environment. Nature writing encompasses a wide variety of works, ranging from those that place primary emphasis on natural history facts (such as field guides) to those in which philosophical interpretation predominate. It includes natural history essays, poetry, essays of solitude or escape, as well as travel and adventure writing.Nature writing often draws heavily on scientific information and facts about the natural world; at the same time, it is frequently written in the first person and incorporates personal observations of and philosophical reflections upon nature.

(3) To belong or not to belong ? Though historically and culturally close to ScandinaviaIceland is an island, and as such is geographically separated from it. I purposely chose not to include it in Scandinavia. If I am wrong, please let me know.


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