Smoke gets in my nose

(with apologies to composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Otto Harbach—no slight meant to the classic “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes!”)

In all unfairness to B, who reads this blog, today’s fifteen-minute piece will be

How I ended up with Lapsang Souchong, –or– Tea-picking must be taught

So: B comes back to live at Fawn Run for the summer. She is now a tea-drinker, like her grandmother, and is arriving into a household of coffee-people. From the winter break we still had some of her ritual morning blend, the classic English Breakfast, but not much and the leaves were poor quality anyway. I tell her she likely will want to go buy more.

She says she doesn’t know how to find loose tea (her hippie mama doesn’t approve of tea bags, plus all the tea paraphernalia is already on hand for G-ma), so I tell her to go to Central Market, the Texas version of an upscale grocer. There she will find all sorts of teas in large glass jars. She can buy them by the ounce.

I assume she’s done so—she’s nineteen, she can drive herself, she has money, and I’m not the one with an untreated morning caffeine need.

A few days later, she tells me that she can’t drink what she’s bought. “It’s too smoky. I don’t know what’s wrong with it; it doesn’t smell like English Breakfast.”

I look at her blankly. “Why did you buy it, then?”


“Didn’t you smell it first?”

B looks blankly back. “But the jar label said: English Breakfast! How was I to know it would be smoky?”

“Ah.” More pause. “Well, it’s customary to smell the tea before you decide to bring it home. So you know that what you’re getting is something you want.”

To be fair, English Breakfast is generally a clean-smelling beverage, a simple blend of black tea varieties. The chief smoke-scented tea is Lapsang Souchong, which I’ve never encountered in a breakfast blend. First time for everything!

The offending tea is pulled out of the “English Breakfast” tin and tucked back into the tea-cupboard… where it promptly makes the whole space smell like Texas brisket. And the next Sunday, after worship, B and I visit Central Market together.

We stand at the Aisle of Bulk Teas, and I start pulling jars down. “Smell this; what do you think?”

Mom. I just want English Breakfast. And I know what to do—now!”

“Well, while we’re here… .”

There were four? five? other brands of English Breakfast loose tea available. And she agreed to smell non-English Breakfast blends, ones with black-tea bases but fruit overtones. She even was tempted by one of my faves, the blackberry sage blend from Republic of Tea! Satisfied, she brought her breakfast savior home.


Which is how today I came to be drinking Lapsang Souchong that thinks it’s English Breakfast for my workaday tea. As my friend C says, it’s smokier in the nose than in the mouth.

The cupboard continues to smell like brisket.

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