Friday, December 11, 2009

Excellent things

Am accepting the challenge from NowThis to blog things that we find excellent in one way or another. The main thing that I want to highlight is Adagio Teas, an online tea vender that earns its claim to be the friendliest/easiest place on the web to buy tea. What qualifies them for my recommendation is threefold:
  1. Some totally fantastic teas. Their Keemun Concerto has completely revolutionized my view of tea, with its gentle carmel and smoky tastes -- I sometimes spike other teas with a pinch of this, especially if drinking decaf -- and their Yunan Jig (more balanced, but a pleasant surprise every time) and Pu Erh Dante (more earthy and leathery; I love it, but some wouldn't) also rock my world. I have a bunch of other varieties too (Dragonwell green and Jasmine #12, which is pearls, round out my regulars, with ChaCha for days when my throat needs herbal goodness), and the best part is that they're happy to sell you small sample tins for a couple of bucks, so you can try out new varieties or slight variants without committing big bucks.

  2. Adagio's elegant and useful brewing gadgetA great gizmo for brewing loose teas -- it's like a big mug, and you put in the tea and water, and then drain the brewed tea into your cup by setting it on top. As easy as could possibly be, especially for use in places like the office, where you don't want tea balls or other paraphenalia lying around. The latest generation has a removable filter, which eliminates the only problem I ever had with the first one (which lasted nearly 10 years of daily use at work), which was a little dust getting stuck under the filter and affecting other teas.

  3. They not only provide very clear recommendations for brewing their tea (in terms of both time and water temperature), but also offer a downloadable timer widget that lets you keep track of the brewing on your computer (using their times or your own tweaked ones) for a perfect cup every time. Totally spiff!
Plus, their site is easy to use, includes reviews, and stores your preferences, order history, and "frequent buyer points" for future visits. Altogether user-friendly and... excellent!

A couple unrelated things that are great:
  • Any food from Tiffin, who amazingly deliver their Indian delights anywhere in Philadelphia. You can even phone ahead and get on the list for their lunchtime tiffins (sort of Indian bentos). We always order a ridiculous amount of papadum.

  • My digital camera, the Canon PowerShot SD1200 (actually, mine's the 1100, but this is its closest kin), which is very easy to use, takes great photos (without limits on proximity!) and better video than our dedicated video camera (plus being uploadable via USB), while taking up almost no space and rarely needing recharging. My Christmas present last year, and couldn't be happier, which is saying a lot for a parent of a toddler.

  • These five books, that I read in about a one-year period and have been meaning to blog ever since: Ender's Game (Card), The Things They Carried (O'Brien), Doomsday Book (Willis), My Name is Asher Lev (Potok), and Feast of All Saints (Rice). Each deeply evocative, very difficult in spots (or throughout), moving and thoughtful. Each leaves me with a vivid stab of emotion when I think about it . . .
Thanks to Steve for making me think about all these things and send a little appreciation out into the universe!

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