Tea Party Tuesday: Elmwood Inn Lung Ching Green

A couple years ago, I started hearing about this place in Danville, Kentucky, serving world-class teas. Like pilgrimage-worthy teas. Person after person told me about this family who had started a tea room in a historic house, which then took off big time, so much so that they had to close said tea room to meet international demand for their amazing teas. Finally, when my friend Stuart, a local historian and expert on the Boyle County area, recommended it to me, I got in the car.

If you are not from Kentucky, which I suspect you are not, this is probably not particularly noteworthy information to you. If you are from Kentucky, I can hear what you’re thinking, which is probably something along the lines of, “k.” Danville is small, very small. We’re talking low five-figure population small.  The idea that it could sustain a world-class tea shop seems crazy. Hell, the idea that it would even have a tea shop is, in and of itself, unlikely.

But not only is there this lovely shop, but this lovely shop is so popular with locals and visitors alike that all three times I’ve gone, there’s been a line to get tea. The secret of the super-nice, extremely well-informed, low-key Richardson family is out, and for good reason: they’ve got an amazing product and they are willing to talk to you about it for as long as you’re interested.

They’ve got a whole range of historical teas (be still my heart) that I’ll tell you about at a later date, but for now, let’s talk about the Lung Ching Green I picked up on a recent visit.

 

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Look at that! This is the platonic ideal of green tea, if we want to get right down to brass tacks. It’s a classic pan-roasted Chinese green tea and it’s got a simple, earthy taste I love things like it to have. It’s also really pretty; check out how nice those leaves look! You can tell it’s high quality because of how flat and light the leaves are (that’s usually a good indicator with dragon well teas; lower quality ones will often have darker, less uniform leaves). I got three good cups of tea out of this and it stood up really nicely to multiple steepings. The flavor developed differently every time I added more water rather than collapsing and becoming sadder and more faded.

In keeping with the meeting-you-where-you-are ethos of the Elmwood Inn tea experience, this is an easy to make, easy to drink tea that has simple-to-follow prep instructions printed right on the label, making it ideal for a novice tea drinker who just wants to dip a toe into the uh, kettle of very hot tea water? That metaphor fell apart, but bottom line: this is a great tea if you’re new  to tea and want to try a clear-cut example of a near-perfect green tea, but it’s also wonderful if you’ve got a more developed tea palate because it’s just…really good drinking.

This Lung Ching green tea is available on their website (or in person at their adorable shop!) for $12.95/4 ounces.

Have you been to the Elmwood Inn shop? Read any of their great books about tea? Do you have a recommendation for an out-of-the-way tea shop for me? Tell me all about it! I’m listening.

The Big 3 at the Kentucky Derby

Jimmy Winkfield, the first and only black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, which he did in 1901 and 1902.
Jimmy Winkfield, the first and only black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, which he did in 1901 and 1902.

A cultural anthropologist told me once that a look at jockeys and boxers will tell you who occupies the lowest rungs of American society– Irishmen gave way to black Americans who in turn gave way to recent Latino immigrants. I don’t know if I buy that theory totally, but it is rough, physical work, to be sure, not to mention dangerous. Regardless, race, class, and gender, a.k.a. the Big 3 of graduate school discussions, make themselves known almost every year in the form of op-eds, short bios, and other articles floating around myriad media outlets.

The field is changing– a Cajun man is arguably the most formidable figure in the sport right now, and a privileged woman from New Jersey is making a bid this year– but this is an amazing article about the current face of black jockeys, Kevin Krigger. If he wins on Saturday, he’ll be the first black jockey to win in over 100 years, which boggles the mind. I can’t wait to see the most diverse field in Derby history run tomorrow. 

Kentucky Mount Rushmore

What Made Kentucky Famous.
What Made Kentucky Famous.

Usually, I try to do a minibio of someone interesting on Tuesday afternoons, but you know what? I’m just going to make an incomplete list of several Kentuckians who are or were awesome and conclude said list with a brief statement, inspired by yet another Will Russell brainchild. Please watch this brief video before continuing.

So, the good folks who wanted to make this a reality (now on hold) asked people to pick their favorite Kentuckians to be memorialized in stone, like the other, less fun Mount Rushmore. With respect to the ones chosen (Lincoln, Muhammad Ali, Colonel Sanders, and Secretariat), here’s an alternate list that is probably equally deserving.

1. Loretta Lynn. I am going to do a little feature on Miss Lady later this week, but a word on the woman: she’s had dozens of amazing records, was a live-out-loud feminist, and somehow still manages to maintain this wonderful place, where a lady (me) may get as many biscuits with gravy as her heart desires.

2. Duncan Hines. Duncan Hines was kind of the original (and not terrible) Guy Fieri. He wrote these little guide books that had out-of-the-way places to get tasty food. One of the places he put on the map was Sanders’ Court and Cafe– the original KFC in Corbin, Kentucky. This was all before he founded the company that brought us funfetti.

3. Robert Penn Warren. RPW was only person to win a Pulitzer for poetry and fiction, but you don’t care about that. Okay, his racial politics were not really to any modern person’s liking, but his work with the Agrarians? Fascinating. All the Kings Men? A feat of intellect and one of the top ten best novels I’ve ever read. His Understanding Poetry textbook? Probably the best poetry text I have read. This guy was a giant of American letters.

4. Hunter S. Thompson. What can I even say? He is from Louisville and attended my rival high school. He was wild. He did drugs I cannot pronounce and he did them with great regularity. He was played by yet another excellent Kentuckian in his own bizarre biopic. I have a series of portraits of him framed in my living room. My roller derby name is Huntress Thompson. Read this. Watch this. Be convinced of his inimitable, unspeakable genius.

Runners Up: Edgar Cayce (Kentuckian Most Committed to Being a True Freak),  George Clooney (Kentuckian Most Pleased About Being Himself), Daniel Boone (Kentuckian with A Great Hat), Ephraim McDowell (Kentuckian Least Concerned About Anesthesia), Thomas Merton (Most Saintly Kentuckian), Bobbie Ann Mason (Kentuckian I Want to Hang With), Diane Sawyer (Kentuckian Most Maligned by Bill O’Reilly, Who Is A Gigantic Ass), Wendell Berry (Kentucky Author Who Most Liked the Pie I Once Served Him), John Scopes (Kentuckian Most Dedicated to Teaching Evolution), Mary Todd Lincoln (runner up, Kentuckian Most Committed to Being a True Freak category), Louis Brandeis (Most Handsome Jewish Kentuckian Supreme Court Judge), Billy Ray Cyrus (Best Kentucky Mullet), Jennifer Lawrence (Kentuckian I See Most Often at Zanzabar), D.W. Griffith (Kentuckian Most Influential in Modern Cinema), Henry Clay (Kentuckian for Whom The Most Things Are Named)

Okay! Who did I miss?

Made by Kentucky Hands

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2bCc0EGP6U]

A Kentuckian made this. I live in a county named for his ancestors, and that, my friends, is a fact. Also, he apparently used to date a dark haired woman with my same last name, so when people ask me if he dated my sister I don’t say no.

Yes, I’m going to do this until the Derby.  I’m not sorry.

Staying In: Louisville, Kentucky

I usually do my travel guide on Mondays, but I’m about to move from Louisville, and I’m getting in my “last ______s” right now. People ask me about what to do in the city all the time, so maybe I’ll just make a list for you right now. It’s timely, right? You’re coming for the Derby, I hope.

Horses may be our civic religion, but there's so much more than that here.
Horses may be our civic religion, but there’s so much more than that here.

After the jump, there’s all I know of the place, condensed into a long-but-Reader’s-Digest-length list. Continue reading “Staying In: Louisville, Kentucky”

Fantasy Life Update: Moving to Charleston

charleston
My front yard, maybe?

Friends, I have a lot of news for you. I’ve accepted a new position as the American South commissioning editor for the History Press, and I’m moving to Charleston, South Carolina in a few weeks to start my new job. I couldn’t be more excited– helping people write books about the South is absolutely my dream. I’ve never lived near the ocean, either, and I’ve always wanted to, so I anticipate a lot of time spent down at Folly Beach, too.

What does this mean for you? Well, I’m still eager to help you with any design work you want done, I’ll be blogging from 600 miles east of where I am currently, and I’ll be actively looking for people who want to write works of non-fiction. In short, it’ll be me with a different driver’s license (I KNOW.). I ask only for your patience in the coming weeks- things might slow down a little bit while I’m moving, but I’ll be back as soon as I can!

Do any of you know anyone in Charleston? Got any great recommendations or good leads? Want to write a book for me? Get at me. I’m excited about this new chapter and I’m grateful for your support.

Fantasy Life Update: Kentucky from Kentucky

HUGE HAIR. DON'T CARE.
HUGE HAIR. DON’T CARE.

I am officially a resident of Kentucky again and I couldn’t be more excited. My hair is also excited to be at the welcome home party. When you move, may I recommend you move from a rural county to a rural county? I got this sucker in 4 minutes flat, including waffling over whether or not I should donate a dollar to some obscure cause like the nice lady asked.

Happy Hour: Rowan’s Creek bourbon

Fun fact: I got my master’s degree in bourbon. That is both a true fact (diploma currently at frame shop) and a useful one. It also means that you must, at all times, take my word on bourbon. I’m going to talk a little trash for a sec. Is your favorite bourbon Maker’s Mark or Woodford Reserve? That’s nice. To quote Macklemore, I call that getting tricked by a business. Maker’s and Woodford have their places and are both quality products, but you’re paying for their marketing. They’re young bourbons, aged just a couple years,  and you’re paying a premium price. You could be drinking a 12 year for less than half the price. Also, “small batch” is a completely meaningless label. I could throw a “small batch” label on a bottle of Kentucky Tavern and no one could say a damn word about it. 

Okay, I’m off the soapbox. I really do believe the best bourbon is the one you like the best, but it makes me cuh-ray-zee when people won’t try something new because they’re sure a four-year-old bourbon with a certain label is better than…say this one:

Please ignore the Comic Sans label and trust me.

So this is Rowan’s Creek. It runs you about $35 a bottle and has distribution in most states. It’s a 12 year, and is a Kentucky Bourbon Distillers product. A fun fact about Rowan’s Creek is that it takes its name from Judge Rowan’s farm, the very farm that Stephen Foster‘s My Old Kentucky Home is allegedly about.

ANYWAY, now for the stuff you care about! One of my buddies described it as “velvety” (this may or may not be the same guy from last week, to remain anonymous), but I would lead with maybe…fragrant? Odoriferous, to me, connotes that it smells unpleasant, but it really is one of the nicest-and-strongest smelling bourbons on the market. You get a ton of fruit and spice in every sip, and the flavor lingers with you for quite some time. It’s a medium-bodied bourbon for sure, so I would enjoy it before dinner, not after. After dinner, you’ll be a little wine-drunk and maybe considering pie, so this is not for then. You want to taste all the pears and honey and lemons, plus the usual leather/oak/vanilla stuff you usually get. 

Give it a shot! There’s a greater-that-fifty-percent chance that you can purchase this fine, fine product in your state. Let me know what you think.