A Mountain Storm

Alberta Clipper Tea I should have listened to the folks at the lodge, down at Lake Louise, when they told me not to hike in the high country above the lake, not with the looming threat of a winter storm. But I went up anyway, and sure enough, as the afternoon began to grow late and I thought to turn back, the sky darkened, and a howling wind drove snowclouds overhead as the storm arrived in full force.

I was cold, tired, and lost, and nearly at the point of despair, when through the nearly impenetrable snow fog I saw the gleam of a lantern glowing in the vague outline of a window. Setting my numb legs in motion again, and hoping I was judging distance and direction properly, I stumbled as quickly as I could toward that beacon of salvation, my one literal ray of hope.

Some moments later, I found myself brushing the wall of a crude log cabin. Feeling my way along, I came to a roughly hewn door. Light spilled through the cracks. I knocked and cried out weakly, "Is there anyone there! Please let me in!"

A few seconds passed, and the door opened. A wave of warmth flooded over my frozen features and I smelled the distinctive odour of tea brewing in an iron kettle. Through icy eyelids, I saw the figure of a wizened old man, an undoubted mountain recluse. The man gazed at me for a moment, then said in a rough voice, "Ah, another 'a them city fools that don't know when ta' stay at home! Well, come in, will ya, and warm yer self 'til the weather clears a bit!"

Gratefully, I entered and took the wooden chair the old timer proferred me, near the stone hearth where a hot fire was burning and a tea pail was suspended on a stick. "Don't 'spose ya' drink tea?" the man said, and I replied hoarsely, "Yes, I do." In fact, I've always loved tea of every variety, and to be rescued from certain doom and offered a fresh cup of tea--- truly my fortunes had turned and I was saved.

I took the cup he offered me and drank deeply of the hot tea. Instantly, my taste-buds came alive, despite the hours in the cold outdoor weather. What flavour! I knew it had to be a Darjeeling of some kind, but it had such strength and power.. like nothing I had ever tasted before. I couldn't resist. I had to ask him what tea this marvelous brew was.

"Ah, doubt ya'd know," he said. "It's me own blend. Once or twicet a year, I goes down ta one 'a them cities an' gets me some tea. Then I mixes it up the way I like it. This here, well, I calls it 'Alberta Clipper' an' I makes it with Darjeeling and Assam and Yunnan... not that it'ud mean much to ya", he concluded.

But, indeed, it meant a great deal to me. This must have been a truly extraordinary blend, to conquer the cold of a winter storm with such flavour and aroma. Then, suddenly, I remembered. I had my cellular phone in my coat pocket. Perhaps if I climbed up a little higher...

"I'll be right back," I said, and dashed out the door to the cry of "City fool! You'll get lost!" Little did it matter to me. If I could make it above the tree line, maybe I'd have a clear line to a relay tower...

It seemed like hours later that I arrived at a clearing high above. With numb fingers I brought out my cell phone. The connection was weak and noisy, but it was working! I dialed a familiar number at a familiar address in Calgary. A few seconds passed, and there was an answer.

"Tea Trader, Ted Jones speaking." I had gotten through.

"Ted", I said, "there's something you need to know about..."

( Alberta Clipper blend is now sold exclusively by Tea Trader, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.)

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