Tobacco and Cedar

It was our Sunday ritual in Amsterdam. Matt and I attended church at the English Reformed Church ( ) in the middle of a quiet court tucked away from the rest of the city. Called the Begijnhof, this courtyard housed the 400 + year old church (where some of the very pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower would have attended church) as well as a group of women dedicated to the service of others, much like nuns. We would bicycle to church along the canals and then afterward we would stroll along the canals visiting favorite shops and restaurants as well as the Spui Art Markt. One of our favorite shops is an Amsterdam establishment named P.G.C. Hajenius ( Walking into the store was like stepping back into the art deco era and one was greeted by an overpowering smell of tobacco and cedar. Matt wanted to stop there to buy cigars; it was his big cigar taste-testing period. I enjoyed stopping in for the art and the smell. The smell of tobacco reminds me of my Grandpa Zucker who used to smoke and chew cigars. After stocking up on Cuban and Dutch cigars, Matt and I would tuck into a café and enjoy a ham and kaas (cheese) toasted sandwich and a cup of tomato soup. Then, it was back onto the bikes and homeward bound. Beautiful places, beautiful memories.
And a memory that just came rushing back! You see, Uncle Lee and Aunt Anne were up visiting this weekend and they brought me a box full of tea samples. One of them was Earl Grey. Now, I’ve enjoyed Earl Grey tea for a very long time. The Lipton brand, the Trader Joe brand, they’re all pretty similar. Dark, strong, leaves a mossy feeling on your teeth (yes, wine drinkers… tannins!). I was expecting something similar as I ripped open the package. But what greeted me was a unique smell that took me a minute to process. When I did, I went hurtling back to P.G.C. Hajenius in my mind. This Earl Grey is distinctly different! It has the sweet blend of tobacco and cedar in its nose and in its taste. What it lacks is that mossy aftertaste, the tannins. Compassion Tea’s Earl Grey is made with tea from the top three tea growing regions of Sri Lanka, the Nuwara Eliza, Dimbula, and Uva regions. Instead of flavor crystals, flavoring oils are used to enhance the nose of the tea. Finally, Earl Grey teas always use some variation of oil from the citrus bergamot fruit, synthetic or natural. In Compassion Tea’s Earl Grey, you will only find natural flavorings, natural bergamot oil. This gives the tea a cleaner aftertaste. A hearty tea, this will pair well with pastries, coffee cakes, and chocolate.
This Earl Grey, hands down the best I’ve ever tasted, made this rather ordinary afternoon extraordinarily unique between the surprisingly good taste and the memories it engendered. I’m a fan!

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