Diamonds in the Rough: the We Ball Harder Guide to Adams Morgan
Adams Where? The Weekly 18th Street shitshow? What does WBH have to do with that? Well, your author lived for two years on Calvert Street, just past the insufferable weekend crush of shwasty-faced hoodrats, gang-bangers, interns, fake IDers, and drunk-ass bros, and despite having a sweet apartment, was not thrilled with said swarm of ragers providing a ruinous end for an otherwise nice night out in a different part of DC. So why the hell am I writing this? Because nearly three years later, new delights have opened, old stalwarts have remained, and I’ve discovered under-the-radar gems that I overlooked in my previous desire to avoid 18th & Columbia and environs at all costs.
DISCLAIMER: 18th Street is still chock-a-block with absolute SHIT bars – and I’m gonna name them: Grand Central, Tom Tom, Town Tavern, Columbia Junction or whatever it’s called, Shenanigans, and many others. Avoid. It also still home to most dubious pizza by the slice ever – Jumbo Slice and its derivatives. No level of drunkenness makes this a good idea. Also avoid.
So with that out of the way, let’s get on with it, starting from the top of the hill to the bottom.
DC Gets a Proper Teahouse: Abu Nawas
The post I just made about Iraqi tea was a necessary precedent for something I’m very excited to share with you. There is now an IRAQI TEAHOUSE (Chaikhana) IN THE DC AREA. Abu Nawas Tea Gourmet, in Fairfax. OK, so it’s in Fairfax, but everything good and ethnic in DC is in the suburbs for the most part (case in point, it’s in the same shopping center as Bon Chon, home of the best fried chicken in the universe, no arguments allowed).
Read on to see why it’s so special:
Tea: Chai, the Iraqi Way
Quick quiz, loyal readers (why by now ought to ball quite hard indeed): what was the first proper We Ball Harder post?
It was Tea: an Introduction. Now, nearly a year later, it’s time to get specific, to talk about the most badass, caffeine-straight-to-the-veins, hard-wired psycho-strength tea out there: Iraqi style tea, chai, as found on the streets of Baghdad and in Iraqi restaurants, cafes, and households worldwide.
Tea: an introduction
Like many of you, I have a caffeine addiction. Don’t deny it. Are you an insufferable beast if you go a day without coffee? Can you not function until your first latte? Do you crash in the afternoon or feel uneasy if you haven’t had any caffeine? If you answered yes to any of those questions, congratulations, you too have a caffeine addiction!
I often need to start the day with coffee just to zap me out of “GOD DAMN IT, IT’S BEFORE NOON, GO BACK TO BED” mode, but my true addiction is tea. I can go days without coffee and be OK, despite mornings sucking (We Ball Harder does not endorse mornings). But give me a couple days without tea, and usually by the second or third day, around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, I’ll just stop and have a profoundly out-of-place, something-is-wrong feeling. This has happened enough (by accident of course) that I know tea will remedy it immediately. Comparable to the greatest endorphin rush or moment of ecstasy, a sip of tea after a few days off is a reward for enduring the punishment of being without it, which was probably your own fault because you were too busy to make some tea. I suggest readjusting your priorities.
That being said, at We Ball Harder, as with everything, I must be specific about tea. It can be black (my preference), oolong (interesting), green (also very nice), or white (subtle and refined yet lacking real zing), but if it’s made improperly you might as well just settle for Red Bull, Monster, Amp, Crunk Juice, or NOS. At which point all your dignity and sense of class will be gone, so be sure to make your tea properly.
Proper tea is made from LOOSE TEA, not bags.* Got some Lipton or Bigelow at home? Throw that shit out. Brands, etc, will be recommended in a later post. You also need BOILING WATER, preferably from a kettle. Hot water from your tap or water cooler will not work. Here is how a kettle works: You put water in it, you put it on the stove (or switch it on if electric), and when it boils (for black tea: identifiable either by whistling or lots of rumbling noise and steam emissions, or both), you pour it over your tea. What your tea is contained in is less important. Obviously a teapot is pretty sweet, but if you’re feeling cheeky and don’t mind the occasional tea leaf in your teeth, you can brew directly in your mug, or in a strainer fitted in your mug. For black tea, water must be poured over the tea while STILL BOILING. For greens, whites, etc, wait a minute or two after the kettle is taken off the heat/switched off, as the water should not be boiling. I like my tea strong and put about a tablespoon per mug or two tablespoons per teapot, and if brewing Western-style tea, let it go for about 5 minutes. Give it a stir, and there you have it: tea. Some black teas can be drunk plain, others are rather strong and astringent even when brewed properly and are best complemented with milk. Note, milk, NOT CREAM. Cream ruins tea and once again you may as well go back for a foul, rancid, “energy drink.” Milky tea is probably nicest in the morning (in which case coffee can sod off), though it’s excellent in the afternoon too.
Many more tea posts are forthcoming, concerning more specific types and their virtues.
For now, consider George Orwell’s masterful treatise on the subject, “A Nice Cup of Tea.”
*Note, certain brands of tea bags are acceptable. For strong black tea with milk, I am rather partial to Ahmad English Tea No. 1. Numi also do an excellent range of bagged teas, unquestionably the best I’ve had.