2. I'll be a guest next weekend at ConCarolinas, and I now have my schedule. I have the delight of sitting on panels with some truly fantastic folks, including Jack McDevitt, David B. Coe, and The Blibbering Humdingers, among others. Here's my lineup:
Friday, June 1
5pm: The Legacy of Harry Potter
7pm: The Hunger Games
9pm: The Hobbit
Saturday, June 2
3pm: Young Adult Genre Literature
3. By the way, I'm continuing to drink my way through the Sherlock Holmes-themed tea blends at Adagio Teas. (You can search for blends by name or by creator here.) My niece and nephew created a monster when they gave me the new teapot for Christmas! In case you're interested, here are my updated amateur "reviews" of the blends I've tried thus far, ranked in order of my enjoyment.
"Must Have" Blends
DI Lestrade by Vanessa Harper
Tea? Definitely my division.
Description: Everyone deserves a holiday now and then; especially the long-suffering, lovable DI Lestrade, whose years of trying not to punch Sherlock have left him understandably (earl) grey around the temples (and, well, the rest of his head too). Even if that holiday is limited to a few blessedly chaos-free moments at his desk, everyone's favorite Met officer (still faintly cinnamon-tan from his recent trip to an undisclosed location in the country) might reach for this blend of traditional earl grey with notes of chocolate, caramel, and a hint of cinnamon both to relax and to be ready for whatever bizarre case next comes his way.
Review: I was so excited to see the Lestrade blend added to Vanessa's Sherlock set - and then it turned out to be BRILLIANT. After one cup, I already knew I'd be ordering more. The Earl Grey is the strongest flavor, but the subtle chocolate and caramel notes from the tiger eye follow and add wonderful depth, and the cinnamon pulls all of it together. It's bold and rich and absolutely perfect without anything added, almost as lovely as the DI himself. This goes straight to the top of my list of favorites.
Sherlock's Eyes by Molly Endries
His eyes have such power.
Description: The mint awakens and piques the senses. The green adds some softness and comfort. The Earl Grey provides a lasting, lingering, and comforting base.
Review: Fantastic! I could stand around all day, just inhaling the smell of this tea. The chocolate and bergamot scents really jump out at me from the bag (and the finished cup). The taste, however is more the clean coolness of the green tea and especially the spearmint. It's wonderfully refreshing and complex, and I immediately want another cup. I'm so glad I took a chance with this blend! I suspect (deduce?) that I'll be buying more.
My Dear Watson by Christa Y
The game's afoot, but first you'd better have a spot of tea.
Description: Bergamot-infused Earl Grey combines with delicious chocolate in this deerstocking-capped blend, together with a tiny hint of cream to round out the flavors.
Review: I'm a big Earl Grey fan, so I was worried about the chocolate becoming overpowering, but I'm also a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, so I had to give this a try. It's ideal! The Earl Grey taste hits first, perfectly clear, and then the dark chocolate follows behind and leaves a haunting, yummy aftertaste. The cream brings it all together. The flavors play off each other so well, and I absolutely love how comforting and complex this is. I'll certainly be buying more.
Watson by Cara McGee
A crack shot and brown as a nut.
Description: Queen and Country traditionalist, but still recounting his days in Afghanistan drinking green tea, John Watson prefers his tea with a bit of cream, no sugar, and just a little warm from a touch of cinnamon.
Review: This is my favorite of Cara McGee's blends (that I've tried thus far). It's downright comforting while at the same time feeling strong and energetic. (Perfect for Dr. Watson, isn't it?) I'm an Earl Grey fan, and this note is clear and dominant; there's an added kick from the Irish Breakfast, and the cinnamon comes across subtly throughout and then wonderfully at the end to round out the flavor in a very satisfying way. I'll need more of this one.
Very, Very Good Blends
The Mind and the Heart by Cara McGee
A perfectly complimentary blend.
Description: 'Spicy and Jammy' with a 'buzzy mouthfeel'. Stir a spoonful of honey into this this subtly fruity tea for a surprisingly sweet pairing.
Review: This is quite lovely. It smells wonderful. The first taste is the tartness of the berries and the warmness of the vanilla, but the cinnamon and ginger follow up for the perfect ending. I love that it's strong and it needs nothing added. My favorite of Cara's Sherlock collection (thus far, at least) remains the Watson blend, but I really love this one, as well.
Mycroft by Vanessa Harper
Add a bit of cream and sugar and it just might be enough to make you forget about the cake that your diet has prohibited.
Description: Vanilla green, almond, and blackberry mingle in this subtle and sophisticated tea worthy of a 'minor member of Her Majesty's government.'
Review: This is a brilliant blend, complex and refined, as befits Mycroft. I taste the almond first, then it's smoothed by the vanilla, and the blackberry comes in last and lingers in a delightful way. Not too sweet, not too tart. I drink it hot without anything added, and it's perfect. I suspect I'll be going through this bag rather quickly. I can't seem to stop drinking it! Here's hoping there will be a Lestrade blend in Vanessa's Sherlock-inspired set soon. This one couldn't be better.
Donovan by Cara McGee
Careful, could be arsenic*. (*It's not.)
Description: Hard working and long suffering, this blend comes off a little strong at first, then mellows out with the taste of vanilla cookies laced with almonds.
Review: I really like this one. It smells amazing - chocolate and spice - but the taste is very subtle and mellow. The chai boldness comes out first, but almost immediately the taste turns smooth, with vanilla and almond as the strongest and most lasting notes. Like Sally at a press conference (and not, for example, persecuting Sherlock), this is calming and capable, with a lot going on just under the surface.
Very Good Blends
The Woman by Vanessa Harper
Irene Adler knows what you'll like; this tea will have you begging for another cup. Twice.
Description: A slap of blood-red raspberry lurks beneath a smooth disguise of vanilla and sinfully spicy chocolate chai.
Review: This tea smells like sin in a bag. The taste lives up to the scent. The chai hits first (the chocolate very subtly, the spices more boldly), and then the vanilla follows and cools it down. The raspberry appears last and lingers longest in a delightful way.
Lestrade by Cara McGee
A great cup of tea. And, if we're very lucky, it might even be a good one.
Description: Smoky traces of gunpowder, aged leather, mellowed with a trace of hazelnut. A distinguished, if tired, blend.
Review: This is such an ideal interpretation of Lestrade's character! Down-to-earth, calm, with hidden depth. I love its smokiness. I prefer to drink my tea plain, with nothing added, and this works wonderfully well that way, but it's even better, I think, with a splash of lemon. Normally hazelnut is a bit too sweet for my taste, but the slight hint of it here perfectly offsets the earthy-bitterness to create a rich, smooth taste.
Moriar-tea by Vanessa Harper
If you don't fall for this cup of tea, I'd be surprised, really I would.
Description: Hidden beneath this deceptively harmless Irish breakfast, notes of blood orange and gingerbread reveal a bloodthirsty, good old-fashioned villain waiting to burn the heart out of you.
Review: This is a great interpretation of Moriarty's character. I love the symbolism of each of the ingredients. The Irish breakfast comes through clearest, with the gingerbread a subtle but persistent undertone, and the blood orange joining in with a bite at the end. It needs a longer steeping time than some others for the flavors to develop fully, but it's well worth the wait. This complex blend won't exactly burn the heart out of you, but it's definitely for when you want a "wake-up call." Of Vanessa's Sherlock set, the DI Lestrade and Mycroft blends are my very favorites (thus far), but this one is quite good.
Mycroft by Cara McGee
No brother, I have not been eating more cake. I've been drinking it.
Description: Chocolate chip, rooibos vanilla chai, and cream.
Review: This tastes like drinking a weakly-flavored spice cake. The chocolate scent is strong, but the taste is vanilla and spice. It's a very mild taste. It's pleasant, but rather lacking in personality. I've found that mixing half Mycroft and half Lestrade, however, or half Mycroft and half wild strawberry, makes a far more enjoyable blend.
"A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King."
- Emily Dickinson