One of our regular's we've not seen in awhile is Biker Rik. I will never forget the first time he walked into my shop. He pulled up to the front of the store on his beautiful candy apple red Indian bike, decked out in leathers, skull ring, and looking very much like a typical biker. Not so much like your typical tea drinker. But, I was soon to find out what a serious tea drinker he was.
He's a merchant seaman on the Great Lakes--First Mate, to be precise. He was stationed out of Cleveland at that time, and on one of his leaves where he visited friends in the Toledo area. I'm not sure how he happened upon our shop, but he came in, ordered a pot of tea and made himself at home. We started to chat, and the next thing you know, we were deep in conversation to solve as many of the world's problems as we could. I couldn't remember when I'd had a more enjoyable afternoon. He then wandered around our tea shelves and did some serious tea shopping.
Since he was on board ship for long stints of time, he bought enough of each of his favorite teas to get him through. Manly teas, like Lapsang Souchong and Scottish Breakfast, along with a cast iron Tetsubin teapot. He had his well-worn wooden tea chest with him, and he carefully packed his tea wares to make sure they would all fit for travel aboard ship. And the other appreciators of tea on the ship all knew the path to his quarters--that's where the good tea was to be had. So, it gave him occasion to pull out his heavy cast iron pot and perform his sea-going version of tea ritual.
As he was about to leave, I mentioned that I was starting my first tea tasting series that evening. He not only came to the class that night, but as it fit into his time on shore leave, he signed up for the entire 4 week series. I think some of the ladies in class just couldn't make him fit into their conventional image of a tea drinker. But, his warm and outgoing personality won out, and they all came to enjoy his company and participation in class.
So, he became a regular and stopped in whenever he was in the area for pot after pot of tea and long, spirited conversations on every subject under the sun. The ship line he'd been sailing on has since been sold, and may not even be in operation by now. Rik had moved to Florida the last I heard. I miss those long, leisurely and most entertaining afternoons. The seaman's version of 'afternoon tea'!