Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fantagraphics & Upton Tea - Two Great Catalogs

It is definitely catalog season. And time to recognize our mail carriers, who labor to deliver the weighty, four-color appeals of enterprising retailers. I'm not fond of the volume, or the waste. There are, however, some exceptions to the rule.
Earlier this week, I received two catalogs that I rather enjoy. Fantagraphics Winter 2008 Catalog and the Upton Tea Quarterly.

Fantagraphics carries my favorite comic artists, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, and a host of others including Robert Crumb, Peter Bagge, Drew Friedman, Linda Medley and Miss Lasko-Gross. Not your drugstore comics, these novelas are exquisitely drawn with quirky characters and strong points-of-view (strong language and situations as well). I had a friend who was an underground comic artist in Berkeley back in the day, and I never got over the fascination I developed for street comics. I am pleased to report my own collection remains intact, and I'm privileged to own two signed Rick Griffin posters as well.

The Hernandez bros. are particular favorites. I've blogged about their convention-breaking Love and Rockets series before, here. The catalog features a new graphic novel from Gilbert, and all of the previous volumes from both bros.

The Upton Tea quarterly is a wonderfully produced one-color, 50+ page catalog that always features an interesting bit of tea history - along with an enormous selection of single-estate and blended teas from all major tea producing countries. Orders come with personalized, "especially prepared for [your name]" labels on tins and packets. And each order is accompanied by a free sample. Both are good things, as this is high-end tea for true afficianados. We've purchased a lot of tea from Upton and from Special Teas, another fine vendor of single-estate varietals.

We drink a variety of teas. Our principal brew is a hearty Assam blend, which we occasionally blend at home with single-estate Kenyan. We take our tea British-style, with a little milk (and in my case, a little sugar). So the stong, malty Assam teas make sense. In the afternoons, we brew high-mountain Taiwanese Oolong - often Gaiwan style.

Our favorite Taiwanese brew is Jin-Xuan from the Alishan district, which has a sweet delicate flavor and a delightful floral aroma. Whole-leaf or gunpowder green teas stand up to multiple infusions, and produce a lot of endorphins. No wonder they are well-known conversation stimulants. We purchase our Oolong tea from Ten Tea. Check out this YouTube video showcasing the proper way to prepare Lapsang Souchong tea Gaiwan style. Lapsang Souchong tea is another, specialty brew for us. It's dark and smokey flavor is perfect for special occasions.

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