Spoonful Blues

It’s all I want honey, in this creation is a…spoonful
I go to bed, get up and wanna fight ’bout a…spoonful…

~ Charley Patton, “Spoonful Blues” (1929)dust

Last fall I took up Middle Eastern cooking, specifically dishes from the Levant region. In addition to preparing kabobs and salads with my wife I also got into making homemade booza, a sticky Arabic ice cream made famous at the Bakdash parlor in Al-Hamidiyah souq, Damascus, Syria. While visiting a nearby halal market to buy ingredients I noticed on the shelf a stack of boxes of Lipton Dust tea. This is the cheap brand Unilever ships to Cairo and Damascus. I decided to give it a spin.

Back at the house I put a spoonful of Dust into a coffee filter and ran boiling water through it. The tea that filled my mug was dark. Opaque. I stirred in some sugar and poured it over ice (we’re in the South where iced tea rules). The color in the glass was a dark burgundy. The flavor took me right back to sultry summers in the Carolina Piedmont, when my mom made pitchers of bold, refreshing tea unlike anything I’ve tasted since.

The caffeine kick was exhilarating. I was hooked.

Lipton? Really? This reminded me of that golden moment at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival when bluesman Mississippi John Hurt leaned into the microphone and told a crowd of hipsters, “Just one spoonful of Maxwell House is better than a whole cup of that other [trendy] coffee.” It also underscored the fact that the Lipton sold in U.S. grocery stores is substantially weaker, not what mom used to make.

Wouldn’t you know it. A couple of weeks ago my wife went by the halal market and reported that Dust was no longer in stock. In disbelief I went back last week. Still not there. The worried man behind the counter begged me to try a bag of Çaykur black tea from Turkey. I would have none of it (among other things Dust is cheaper).

I was edgy. Twitchy. I walked out.

I can’t buy Dust online. I’ve looked everywhere. Amazon? No. Ebay? No. There’s an Egyptian site for it but NO FREAKING ORDER FORM.

Hey. Unilever. Customer here in North Carolina who would like to buy mass quantities of your junk. COME ON, MAN!!!

Can anybody, please, help a brother out? Just a spoonful…

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