Product Placement: Black Metal Tea Party
Grape soda is my all-time favorite drink, but it’s not what I need when I wake up in the morning. And I’m not a coffee guy for reasons that are too gastro gross to go into here. I want tea upon waking. Lots of tea. And once I’ve had a couple of cups of green (the roasty variety, not the tastes-like-wet-lawn kind), I’m ready to move on to something darker and more difficult. That’s where Occulter comes in.
Occulter is the ongoing project of Derrick R. Cruz, art guy behind Black Sheep & Prodigal Sons. Its brick-and-mortar location is attached to An Choi, a Vietnamese restaurant on New York’s Lower East Side. There, you can thoughtfully consider purchasing a giant scrimshaw-adorned straight razor, a replica of a human jaw cast in silver or, less expensively, a rubber-sealed copy of The Anatomy of Melancholy. And luckily, for people living in cities where there’s not already a store full of excellently weird lifestyle accessories, Occulter is also an Internet destination. And they sell “Black Honey.” So I ordered some, along with a couple bags of their “Black Smoke” and “Sun-Withered White” tea. Finally, my friends would stop calling me a lesbian about my tea consumption (even the lesbians) and would bow to my heaviness and doom.
Now, in the wrong frame of mind, you might dismiss what arrived at my front door as simply smoky Lapsang Souchong, some dried white tea leaves and a very strong-flavored, deep purple buckwheat honey (although it is, admittedly, often known as “black honey” by bee nerds). But design matters, even with food. Would you eat a Pop Tart if it was called “Dry Square Crust Filled With A Stupidly Thin Ribbon of Fake Strawberries?” No. You want a happy talking toaster on the box and bright colors jumping into your face to make you think of real fruit ready to burst out when you tear it open. And I’m a huge fan of design that caters to my niche tastes, so when my tea needs showed up in a cloth sack with the Occulter label silkscreened on the outside, I was already halfway to happiness.
Then I looked inside the sack to find teas and honey covered with the Occulter logo sticker, Dymo-style morgue-black embossed labels and, mysteriously, an empty black plastic resealable pouch. I decided it was a body bag for the remains of deliciousness and I’m saving it for when all this stuff runs out. At that time I will conduct a midnight funeral downstairs in my building’s recycling bin.
Until that stormy evening, I’m drinking this great tea and this difficult honey (note: true to its suggestive name, it’s heavy stuff and if you use too much it’ll overpower even the burnt-offerings quality of the tea, so spoon it lightly) with drawn shades and some Wyndham Hill-meets-Gorgoroth mood music from Tomb Of…
It’s a grimly civilized way to start the day.