Lapsang Souchong

Friday, October 02, 2009

Or: What have you bought at Whole Foods lately?

Out of gratitude for Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's stand for physician and patient freedom, I decided some time ago to do part of my shopping at the grocery chain on a regular basis. Not being familiar with Whole Foods or in agreement the anti-technology philosophy underpinning much of the "whole foods" movement, this posed a quandary for me at first: What would I buy?

I didn't want to end up like some "buycotters," who are apparently loading up with things like, "weird juice stuff" and "brown rice" that I'd never use. (I'm definitely laughing with them here. One such "buycott" reportedly generated over $45,000 in an evening in St. Louis, based on 70% of its participants' receipts.)

As I learn my way around, I'm starting to see that the answer will lie among the trove of gourmet and hard-to-find items the chain stocks, as well as certain things my usual store doesn't do that well. For a one-shot thing like a buycott, it might be fine to save time by reaching for the nearest steel-cut chicken breast or free-range grapefruit (I'll never pass as a regular here.), but I don't do handouts. These trips are going to be trades, to his and my mutual benefit.

For example, I recently made this Guinness and lamb stew, and noticed that my normal store barely had enough lamb on hand to make it. I'll see whether the Whole Foods meat department does a better job at this the next time I'm there. If so, I plan to go straight there the next time I want to make it -- and I will want to make it again.

But on an earlier trip, I hadn't thought about that strategy and I wasn't in the right mood to look around. The only thing that saved me from leaving empty-handed or making a token purchase of ordinary items was the pleasant memory of a smoked tea I hadn't had in a while that an old friend introduced me to ages ago. I recalled that he bought it at Whole Foods, so I looked for it and found it. That tea, a smoked tea from China, lends its name to the title of this post. Seven bucks for fifty bags. Not bad! (No, I didn't catch the irony of purchasing tea at the time.) In any event, I'm now set with one of my favorite kinds of tea for the next couple of months of cool weather.

In closing, I'll briefly note that I'm glad to see that the buycott effort to offset the continuing, if sporadic leftist boycotts of Whole Foods is continuing. If there are any minds to be won in the shopping aisles, I think our side will win easily!

-- CAV


Burgess Laughlin said...

Laughing, I can suggest that if you like the taste of smoked tea, you might enjoy my favorite tea: gunpowder green tea. Anyone who has been around firearms will recognize the fragrance.

Aside from similar tastes in tea, we will have to part ways. I buy the gunpowder green as a "whole" tea, that is, they are the whole leaves curled into tiny balls. I make three cups from 1/4 teaspoon of tea. And to show you my credentials in the "whole foods" movement, I can say I buy my tea in bulk, not in those paper bags.

Gus Van Horn said...

Very funny!

I've nothing against buying in bulk and either missed the bulk tea at my store or it doesn't have such a section. I was in a hurry that day, so when I saw the boxes on display, I lunged.

Also, perhaps I should clarify something. I have nothing against so-called "whole foods" in and of themselves. I don't go out of my way to get them, though, and unless I start spotting some of them costing significantly less that what I would normally buy -- I haven't looked at that yet -- I don't see a reason to go all the way over to Whole Foods (10 blocks, on foot) when I can just schlep across the street to my other store.

That said, I do like the flavor of smoke and I'll use finding it (and hopefully, other teas) in bulk my next mission at Whole Foods. Thanks for mentioning it!

Martin Lindeskog said...


I am an avid tea drinker and I have enjoyed Lapsand Souchong for many years. My favorite tea is Assam. I went to Hong Kong and Taiwan R.O.C. in 1992 and visited a couple of tea companies. I imported some fine Formosa Oolong (often called the "champagne" of tea) bulk tea from Taiwan (Formosa is the old name of Taiwan) and tried to sell it to serious tea drinkers.

I want to talk more about tea with you in the near future...

Gus Van Horn said...


I like tea, but have not explored it as much as I have beer, or even wine, so I appreciate your mentioning this favorite of yours.

(I was hoping some tea drinkers like you and Burgess would show up and offer suggestions when I wrote this post...)


Anonymous said...

Whole Foods store brands are usually pretty good buys. Their spices are much cheaper than at the local supermarket, and their olive oil is also cheap and good.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the tips.

As it turns out, I just happen to be running low on olive oil.