You are drenched, and pale, and beautiful, and sitting on cliffs overlooking a secret waterfall in the middle of a very lush jungle. Honey is dripping from the leaves of trees that shield the sun -- the world is glowing green -- and it's mixing with the pure, nippy water that's splashing all around you. A distant echo of Maria Callas moans through the foliage. Soon a delicate butterfly -- the size of Cupid -- arrives; it floats up gracefully, licks your lips and continues on. Lo, your smackers now taste like cinnamon, an accent that morphs into clove as it hits your tongue, then cardamom, nutmeg, chicory root, roasted carob, dates, ginger root, and black pepper, which in turn transforms into the flavor of the best dream you've ever had, that one that makes your brain glow when you remember it.
You are experiencing Herbal Ambrosia from Meshuggah -- and are quite obviously freaking out. No booze for you this week. Instead, the soft heaven that is this Indian chai-based iced elixir, created by the Loop mainstay that's just spread its wings in a new location, a virtual Mount Olympus on Delmar (the coffee shop used to be just off Delmar Boulevard on Melville Avenue), a few doors down from Subterranean Books.
Herbal Ambrosia is an exquisite spice buffet: The initial flavors arrive in the form of a Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice tea bag, which proprietor Patrick (like Pelé and Charro, he has but one name) drops into a stainless-steel pitcher and mixes with sucanat (natural sugar), soy milk and water. He applies steam until the blessed mess morphs into a fluid, rich and complex, so enticing and magical that the knees of demigods have buckled at the first taste.
Warning: Don't mess with Herbal Ambrosia if your name is Tantalus. Don't do it, or you'll end up cannibalizing your seed. Tantalus, you probably don't recall, was the mortal offspring of that asshole Zeus. Adored by his dad's god-peers, Tantalus once dined with them and tasted their hallowed, highly-addictive-to-mortals vittles: ambrosia. Big mistake, because so overwhelmed was he with the experience that, when returning the favor and inviting the gods over for dinner, he served them the thing he loved most -- his son, Pelops.
He must have misread Deborah Madison's rice Pelops recipe, though, because the gods panned it and condemned T. to a place quite like the jungle room you're tripping in right now: abundant vines teeming with fruit, and water from the purest source this side of the River Styx. The problem? Each time Tantalus reached for the fruit, it recoiled just beyond his grasp. And though he stood in water up to his earlobes, it would recede whenever he dipped his lips to drink it. Bummer.
Luckily, your obviously mortal parents reconsidered before naming you Tantalus, so you don't have to worry about cannibalism, hunger and thirst -- yet. Just concern yourself with securing another dose of spiced orgasm, Herbal Ambrosia.