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Tea Pairings: Classic Jazz & A Book

A compilation of the pairing section of our newsletter, which pairs our teas with jazz albums, chosen by Kenji, and classic literary picks, chosen by Nika.

Southern Wild

Thelonious Monk’s Solo Monk: The piano masterpiece that immortalized Thelonious Monk’s idiosyncratic style. The playful dissonances and characteristic sense of swing is reminiscent of the Southern Wild. This native Taiwanese varietal is, as the name suggests: Wild, untamed and bold. And just like Thelonious, modern and ancient at once.

Anne Garréta’s Sphinx: The inventive and provocative 1986 debut that cemented Anne Garréta’s place in the experimental circles of literary France. Formally daring, Sphinx simultaneously reminds us of the limits of language and transcends them. A perfect companion to Southern Wild: both are bold, elegant, and captivating.

Blossom Dearie

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong’s Ella and Louis: A beautifully romantic, at times tongue-in-cheek and always swinging classic. Some of our guests might recognize these songs as this album was on our previous tearoom playlist, too. The tea pairing would have to be sweet as honey. The Blossom Dearie, so named after another iconic Jazz Singer comes to mind.

Nella Larsen’s Passing: An underrated and thrillingly timeless novel out of the Harlem Renaissance. Nella Larsen’s iconic novel is a story of racial fluidity, sexuality, and belonging that remains as urgent now as it was upon publication in 1929. Understated and poised yet still daring, Passing reminds us of Blossom Dearie.

Oriental Beauty

Charlie Parker’s Charlie Parker with Strings: Diehard Bird fans might object for picking a recording of perhaps lesser historical significance, but this melange of Bebop and Broadway show tunes seems to perfectly encapsulate the 50’s zeitgeist. The string arrangements offer a charming backdrop to Charlie Parker’s blazing runs. The iconic Oriental Beauty would be my choice of pairing. This tea jessid-bitten, high-oxidation oolong also happens to be our most popular tea.

Natalia Ginzburg’s Family Lexicon: As the title suggests, Family Lexicon chronicles the Levi family as Italy spirals towards war under Mussolini. Natalia Ginzburg captures the texture of everyday life in this semi-autobiographical novel in prose that is alive with the pleasures of language. A classic of modern Italian literature that offers something new on each reading, it is the perfect accompaniment to Oriental Beauty.

Green Sanctuary: Vert

Dizzy Gillespie’s Sonny Side Up: Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins along with Dizzy Gillespie at the height of his powers who also sings (!) on the opening track… It doesn’t get much better than this. Bright, resilient and bold: Green Sanctuary Vert would be my tea of choice for this album.

Qiu Miaojin’s Notes of a Crocodile: A cult classic of Chinese-language literature, this posthumously published novel cemented Qiu Miaojin as an countercultural literary icon in Taiwan. Notes of a Crocodile offers an intimate and intelligent look at queer life in 1980s Taipei in beautifully energetic prose. A singular take on a classic form, Green Sanctuary Vert is an ideal pairing for this novel.

Canyon Green

Ahmad Jamal’s Live at the Pershing: But Not For Me: It’s hard to believe that this is a live recording considering how perfectly placed every note is on these iconic piano trio arrangements. A light, silky, flavorful tea to accompany Ahmad Jamal’s elegant touch, the Canyon Green seems like a natural choice here.

Yasushi Inoue’s Bullfight: Bullfight is the deceptively simple story of a newspaper editor who, amidst organizing a bullfight, becomes increasingly consumed by his task as his lover looks on, uncertain of her desired outcome. Elegant, subtle, and deeply existential, this novella is a feat of plotting and character study. A wonderful companion to Canyon Green for an afternoon of reading.

Buddha’s Hand Roast

John Coltrane’s Lush Life: This John Coltrane album will have to go with a spiritual tea. The Buddha Hand Roast strikes the perfect balance of toasty flavors with a surprising hint of sweetness on the palette. Much like this album, it is just as good as a daily companion as it is for contemplative sippings.

Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories: The Swiss writer Robert Walser’s short stories conjure iridescent vignettes of life in a city on the edge of modernity with startling clarity and effervescence. Walser’s scenes and eccentric characters immediately spark to life, only to evaporate just as quickly when the story ends. Just like Buddha’s Hand Roast, these stories make space for contemplation and leave only pleasant thoughts in their wake.

Green Sanctuary: White

Wayne Shorter’s Witch Hunt: It was hard to pick out just one of Wayne Shorter’s output from his Blue Note era. Many of his highly original compositions have gone on to become Jazz standards. The Green Sanctuary White, an unorthodox savory and complex tea perfectly matches Wayne’s rich and mysterious imagination.

Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House: On its face, this is a memoir chronicling an abusive relationship and the traces it left behind. But looks are often deceiving: Carmen Maria Machado explores the history of domestic abuse in queer relationships and the tropes and stereotypes that perpetuate its erasure, examining personal history, legal proceedings, and fairytales for a bold, original, and engrossing book.

Mt. Ali

Miles Davis’s Relaxin’ with Miles Davis: From the legendary Prestige sessions in which Miles Davis recorded four albums over two days in order to get out of his contract. There is a special energy of a working band being spontaneous over these standards. A classic tea for a classic record: Mt. A-li with its nutty, gentle roast is everything one would hope for in a high mountain oolong.

Teju Cole’s Open City: Open City is a probing meditation on identity, memory, and place in the form of the ambulatory reflections of Julius, a young Nigerian doctor whose wanderings through New York serve as a theatre of associations and ideas. Contemplative, quietly compelling, and subtle, Teju Cole’s 2011 novel reminds us of Mt. Ali.

Jade Rouge

Bill Evans Trio’s Sunday at the Village Vanguard: The immortal Bill Evans Trio record made shortly before the tragic passing of its bassist Scott LaFaro. The historic impact of this album on the piano trio format cannot be overstated. A bold chemistry of a plethora of flavors, the Jade Rouge comes to mind here. This lovely black tea, with its distinct savory pine notes, is a wonderful companion to the complex interplay of this band.

J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine: J.A. Baker’s remarkable book, based on his own birdwatching journals, offers vivid scenes of fields come to life, of birds in flight and in pursuit, and of the natural world, told in precise, lyrical prose. Like Jade Rouge, The Peregrine makes for a soothing companion, with just enough of the untamed to keep things interesting.

Iron Goddess

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman: It was tempting to pick a more fruity black tea to highlight John Coltrane’s more gentle, feminine side on display here, but the heavy roast of the Iron Goddess seems like a match made in heaven to Johnny Hartman’s sultry, deep voice. This tea and music is the perfect accompaniment to a romantic dinner.

Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star: Hypnotic and dazzling, often impenetrable, haunting and wholly unique, the work of Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector exists in a world of its own. Her final novel, The Hour of the Star, is perhaps the easiest to follow of her books, but no less profound or mysterious for it. Bold and unmistakable, we like The Hour of the Star alongside a pot of Iron Goddess.

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