Post-Spring Break Special – Tea and Beer, Brown Bag

Tea: Explored, by Mike Lang

Ken’s tea collection hangs on his kitchen wall. White wire baskets hold up the large black bags and silver cylindrical tins, and the labels on the packaging have appealing names like ‘peppermint candy’ and ‘Tiramisu.’ He calls it the tea wall. On the counter sits an assemblage of glass and plastic devices, most of which resemble weirdly shaped French presses. A red kettle of water heats on the kitchen stove.

Ken opens one of the big black bags of green tea and the fifteen-year old in me giggles. I wouldn’t want my mom to find an unmarked bag of this in my room. Rolled up into little green buds, the tea emits a pleasing lemony aroma.  Ken opens another bag filled with what looks like ground up playground mulch. “Rooibos,” he says. It’s a red tea, characteristically spicy. Finally, Ken opens a bag of Canterbury tea and the aroma hits me like a freight train, ruining my sense of smell for a good five minutes.

Ken’s Liquid Paradise

After browsing through the selection I settle on ‘Belgian chocolate’. Scooping a tablespoon from the bag, Ken fills up a container I’ve never seen before. A mix between a plastic pitcher and R2-D2, the device features a mesh filtering system on the bottom, and a spring-loaded release that dispenses the tea from underneath. I realize that it is just for me as Ken gets out an identical one for him and fills it with the dubious looking green tea. Ken fills the pitchers with water and I watch as the tea gets scooped up by the pouring liquid, swirling around vigorously until it settles on the top. The water in mine slowly turns a deep earthy red as the playground mulch steeps. I look over to Ken’s to see the rolled up buds of his green tea unfurling beautifully, transforming Ken’s pitcher into a wondrous 16-ounce liquid paradise. That has to cost extra. After the prerequisite steeping time, Ken places his C-teaP0 on top of his mug and pushes down, and the liquid dispenses. After watching, I do the same with mine.

Not Lipton, but still not optimal.

I struggle with the lack of vocabulary as I attempt to describe to Ken what I’m tasting. In my “tea knowledge” word cloud the words “black,” “green,” “earl grey,” “Lipton,” and “iced” would dominate, while other sparse non-descript adjectives like “hot” and “weak” may add some very minor texture. This lack of sophistication is no doubt shared by my taste buds. The tea is good but I don’t know why. Ken spits out terminology and stories rapid fire: hand stitched tea pearls, monkey-picked Oolong in far off misty mountains, Middle Eastern tea connoisseurs with scorched throats and taste buds. It’s all I can do to stay afloat.

Tea: Explained, by Ken Rosenberg

Though most people around the department know me as the “tea guy,” I began my now-lifelong obsession with loose leaf tea only just a couple of years ago. And, despite how much I spurn the packets and pouches, those were all I would swear by—at first, until a friend chided and goaded me to the point of trying the seemingly awkward practice of throwing a handful of leaves into water. Generally, most green plants (read: vegetables) activate my “negativity bias” and I stay far away; I’m nothing if not a picky eater. So, the notion of imbibing the essence of plants was relatively foreign. Nobody was more shocked than me that amidst a diet of questionable American “cuisine” tea would become such a big part of my life.

Not a social enough tea solution.

And then there is Bloomington. Dear reader, it is important that you understand how much I love my new town and everything in it: the program is wonderful; the people are so nice—not only in the department, but also simply about town; and even the cute shops, nowhere near as comprehensive or numerous as what I’m used to, have their irresistible charm. So, in the grand-level analysis, I have no complaints. However, should you (be so unwise as to) ask me what the biggest First World sacrifice my move to the Midwest exacted, it would be that I had to relegate my tea shopping to a decidedly lacking online-only affair. You can keep your copious coffee establishments; what I long for is a good a tea shop! Socially-steeped tea tastes better, which is why I am happy to brew tea for Fridays’ brown bags.

While I appreciate Mike’s borderline astonishment, there is nothing fantastic about tea. Okay, so tea is rather amazing. It has a long history and deep roots in cultures across the world; it is one of the most popular drinks in the world, second only to water. Its herbal composition is soothing and can even medically enhance your well-being. The time it takes to brew tea is steeped (pun intended) with ritualistic reverence and is almost as important as the liquid itself. There are as many varieties as there are crafters, with a range of flavors from grassy and fruity to spicy and sweet, in all sorts of combinations. However, there are only a few things you really need to know.

  • There are a few main categories of tea, based on the type of leaves: green, rooibos (red), black, white, mate, and oolong. Each category has slightly different requirements for water temperature and steeping time. Some are more caffeinated than others—black being the most, green the least.
  • Most tea leaves—especially the larger ones, like those in green tea—can be re-steeped at least once … though my personal recommendation is to add a bit more of some fresh tea (one-third to half of the original amount) to ensure enough flavor.
  • Avoid Teavana. They add oils to their tea, which needlessly changes the texture and detracts from the taste. They are known for making a large variety of flavors, but most are four- or five-layer deep concoctions that are too complex for their own good. Finally, they are one of the most expensive purveyors around. Don’t heed the hype here; find a smaller shop, like Back Porch Garden ( or Kaleisia (
  • It is easy—and exceedingly common—to “burn” tea. Most tea goes south when subjected to actually-boiling water. Check the guide ( before you spoil another pot.

If you like tea, let’s talk; there are plenty of Telecom department members who enjoy it. Ashleigh, Undergraduate Program Administrator, is a fan of the grassier green teas; Graduate Director Harmeet enjoys genmiacha and oolongs; and international grad student and Associate Instructor Yanyan Zhou is admittedly skeptical about most of the tea she has had here so far.

Beer: Explored, by Ken Rosenberg

A portion of Mike’s beer collection

Mike knows beer; before I got to know him, I knew at least that much. His zeal for beer rivals my love for tea—and maybe even surpasses it (but don’t tell him). I have had limited exposure to the various types of beer in general, let alone a discriminating taste for the various Bloomington offerings. On the other hand, when we arrived at Upland Brewery, a popular local stop and Mike’s personal favorite, he was right at home. An Indiana native, he has made it his mission to explore the world of beer and develop a discerning palette. Though his commitment was forged well before he was of drinking age, Mike never succumbed to the social paradigm of most undergrads; he waited until he was twenty-one before translating theory into practice. Still, in short order, he has handily incorporated beer into his lifestyle. Vacations include a requisite stop to the local brewery. Empty bottles—apparently still full of nostalgia—share bookshelf space next to music and literature. He knows his stuff and, as a friend and fellow beverage enthusiast, he is happy to share his knowledge.

Most beer simply doesn’t appeal to me and, though I have often been encouraged to try new varieties, I tend to stick to Guinness: the least “beery” one I could find. Of course, Upland does not carry Guinness (or any other stout, at the moment), and so I was forced to try something different. Knowing my preferences, Mike wisely helped me past the pale ales and over to a nice, dark porter. Then, the tour began—an actual, officially-scheduled affair with an Upland employee.

An assisted exposition? Normally, I’d consider this an unfair advantage but, to be fair, all brewing is not equal; the beer-making process is (just a bit) more complex.

There’s a magic these shelves barely allude to…

I will never look at beer the same way; plants and microorganisms at every step—what a life-infused drink! It was only after seeing what it takes to make beer that I could come to appreciate it in the same light that my heart sheds on tea. Perhaps naively, I considered beer to be a sterile beverage, bottled and shipped as generically and impersonally as soft drinks. The truth is that there is a strong communal texture in making and enjoying beer. This must be what Mike, who has always admired his father’s propensity for hosting beer-related get-togethers, saw in devoting a hobby-sized space in his life to this particular alcohol. Literally and figuratively, it’s a potentially intoxicating brew.

Beer: Explained, by Mike Lang

On my 21st birthday I ordered my first beer sampler: Killians, Blue Moon, Guinness, and Sam Adams Oktoberfest. After years of anticipation it was finally my time to revel in the delight of barley and hops. Growing up as an Air Force kid, beer culture had an important presence in my life. My dad and his friends would bring home brews from around the world and talk about them at length at the frequent get-togethers at our house. Our basement was decorated with beer memorabilia, and more often than not, a keg was always waiting in the kegerator in the garage. As I got older, even though I never drank, I knew more about breweries and beer styles than my friends who were slamming basement grade American macros like Mountain Dew at a LAN party. Even though I had never had more than a sip, my immersion in beer culture from a young age, and my strong Irish and German roots pointed the way. I was destined to be a beer guy.

Cycling through the sampler, I tried them all, waiting for the euphoria of beer to overwhelm. Only it didn’t.  I hated it. I hated them all. Sinking into the barstool, shoulders drooping, I finished off my cheeseburger in despair. After years and years of buildup I felt somehow emasculated. Little wimpy me couldn’t handle the awesome, manly power of the brew. I went home totally dejected: Worst birthday ever.

For a solid year I was the “I don’t like beer guy” and it broke my heart. I tried again sporadically until I finally had my breakthrough. Determined to prove myself wrong, I went to Kroger and picked 6 random beers from their build-a-six section, one of which was a Bell’s Amber Ale. Amber ales are usually a craft brewer’s bread and butter. With a mild flavor profile they lack the intensity of more notable varieties like stouts and IPA, and appeal to the palette of casual beer drinkers. Likewise, with a moderate alcohol by volume (ABV) around 6%, you can knock back a few without any trouble. As such ambers are often advertised as a brewer’s flagship beer, as the amber often pays the bills. In my case, the amber turned me into a beer connoisseur, unleashing me on the path that would lead me to dozens of breweries and to hundreds of different beers.

Beer has been around for ages. In fact some historians speculate that prehistoric nomads may have made beer before they learned to make bread.  By 4300 BC, Babylonian clay tablets detailed recipes for beer. The Egyptians subscribed beer for medical ailments. Even Noah’s provisions on the Ark included beer. Currently, beer ranks as the world’s third most popular beverage, right behind water and tea. The vast majority of beer is made from four ingredients: water, barley, yeast, and hops. Through a rather complex process (seriously, our ancestors deserve a pat on the back for figuring this out so early), sugar is extracted from the barley, and munched up by yeast which produces alcohol and CO2 as a byproduct, which ultimately makes beer (For a great, easy to read description of the process, click here).

As I learned, the phrase “I don’t like beer” is equivalent to a phrase like “I don’t like vegetables,” as beer comes in a wide variety of styles and flavors. While you might not like most of it, there is bound to be an exception or two., a one stop shop for beer junkies lists over 100 different styles. While beer is commonly broken down into two categories, ale and lager, those categories don’t really mean much to the everyday beer drinker because the distinction between them lies in type of yeast used during the brewing process.  What makes the real difference is the method employed for brewing. A stout and an IPA may both be ales, but they couldn’t be more different in terms of flavor profile.

Behond the amazing varieties of beer!

Despite the proliferation of macro brewers like Annheiser-Busch and MillerCoors and the number of undergrads who ingest way too much cheap beer, Bloomington (the greater Indianapolis area for that matter) is a beer heaven of sorts. While Bloomington has Upland, the Bloomington Brewing Company, and Cutters for quality local options, Indianapolis is home to Sun King, Triton, Flat 12, Barley Island, Bier, Fountain Square, Granite City, and a host of others. In addition, Indiana hosts both New Albanian in the south, and Three Floyds in the north, largely considered by beer nuts as one of the greatest breweries in the world. With its central location  Indiana also falls within the distribution range of some of the great American breweries including Founders, Bells, and New Holland in Michigan, New Belgium and Great Divide in Colorado, Stone, Sierra Nevada, and Rogue on the West Coast, and  Brooklyn Brewing, Harpoon, and Victory on the East Coast.  With a number of local breweries, beer festivals, and liquor stores with great selections, Bloomington’s beer culture is vibrant. In many ways beer culture resembles a music scene or an art scene. Beer brings people together. Whether that involves chatting up the bartenders at Upland about the latest brews, hanging out at beer festivals with friends, or perusing the shelves of Big Red’s beer cave for the perfect six pack to bring to the weekend tailgate, beer culture is at its best when it brings people together.

Mike’s Tips for Enjoying Beer:

Who doesn’t want to drink this beauty?

1) Beer is beautiful, and it should be enjoyed as a full on sensory experience. Before downing a pint of your favorite brew, take a minute to look at it. Check out the color and transparency, watch the carbonation bubbles shoot up the side of the glass, try and analyze the thickness and consistency. Pay attention to the  head. Is it thin and wispy, or thick and hearty? A good-looking beer will make you want to drink it even more. If you are pouring it from a bottle, pour it right to produce a nice fluffy foam head and release the beer’s aromatics (tip the glass at a 45 degree angle and pour the beer along the side of the glass until it is roughly half full. At the halfway point, tilt the glass straight up and finish pouring in the middle of the glass). Smell is almost as important to beer as taste, so take a moment to savor it. Take a big whiff before you start drinking and see what flavors you can pick out. When drinking, make sure to smell at the same time to enhance the flavor.   Finally taste the beer. Don’t sallow immediately but let it wander around your palette. Note the mouthfeel. Is it thin and watery, or thick and chewy? Is it spicy on the tongue? Does it seem to leave a residue after swallowed? What is the beer’s texture? All of these things greatly contribute to the taste. Similarly, take note of the taste as it often changes from sip to swallow. For instance, in a good IPA you may experience the hop wallop at the very beginning, but notice that it mellows out on the back of the tongue as the caramel malts take over. Try to discern what you taste.  Beer is an art form, so experience beer the way the brewer intended, with all of the senses.

2) Temperature matters. Despite the Coors light advertising campaign that says that all beer should be served a degree above freezing that couldn’t be further from the truth. Each beer style has an optimal temperature. In fact, as beer gets colder, it releases fewer volatile chemicals which contribute to taste and smell. Likewise, each degree colder decreases your tongue’s ability to discern different tastes. As such, if you don’t want to taste your beer, serve it between 32-39 degrees. Most beer is comfortably served between 45 -55 degrees, with some reaching premiere temperature around 60 degrees. If you want to enjoy your brews, don’t just throw them in the fridge; serve them at their optimum temperature.

3) Glassware matters. As such, skip drinking straight from the bottle and pour your beer in a glass. While a standard pint glass will do the trick for almost any beer, the glassware you choose can have a dramatic impact on your drinking experience. Designed to showcase aesthetic qualities, enhance olfactory characteristics, or release volatiles at a certain rate, certain styles benefit from certain glassware (Check out a list of styles and glassware here).  Also, if you’re serious about your beer, get rid of those red solo cups. They may be great for beer pong with Keystone Light, but you won’t be doing your friends any favors.

4) Know your ABVs and drink responsibly. Different beers have widely varying Alcohol by Volume. While a light beer may only have 4-5%, a Belgian style Quad or an Imperial Stout can have as high as 13%. Know the occasion. A high ABV beer is great with dinner (few meals rival a hearty stout and a steak), but you won’t need more than one. Bringing a six-pack to a tailgate just gets ugly.  Also, don’t forget to eat, and make sure to drink plenty of water. Unfortunately, beer has taken on a reputation as a device for getting drunk, which greatly detracts from the sense of art and community it fosters. The first step in dispelling this mindset is enjoying beer responsibility, and for reasons that have little to do with alcohol.

5) Don’t be a snob. Beer is meant to be a fun, social beverage. Having a well developed palette and an extensive knowledge of beer is great, but don’t suck the fun out of beer by getting an attitude when your friend orders a Bud Light. The breweries who produce your favorite beers don’t take themselves too seriously, and neither should you.

6) Drink locally. Immersing yourself in beer culture starts at home. In addition to getting the freshest of fresh beer, you’ll find most beer enthusiasts regularly hang out in local brewpubs. Likewise, for most craft brewers, beer is a labor of love. Unable to compete with the macro brewers on the national scale, most brewers only distribute to limited areas, ensuring you get a unique and local experience.

I love beer. I love drinking it, talking about it, and travelling across the country to taste it, and fortunately Bloomington is a great town for it. If you have even the slightest interest I’d love to chat. If you’re like the 21 year old me and hate beer entirely, keep trying.  Once you find your gateway there is a whole wide world of opportunities waiting for you.

Brown Bag

Better to be Naked?

Soyoung Bae

My dissertation investigates how men process emotional news content (calm negative, calm positive, arousing positive) in the presence of an increasingly sexual female newscaster (arousing positive). More broadly, the dissertation?s aim is to better understand how people process two types of emotional stimuli in parallel. This talk presents data about how men process news differently in terms of resource availability and encoding according to the level of undress (25%, 50%, 75% and 100% undressed), action (active undressing vs. no clothing-related action), and news emotion (calm negative, calm positive, arousing positive).


Better to be “Boring”:  Experimental Findings on the Effectiveness of Branded Mobile Phone Apps

Rob Potter

Mobile phone applications (‘apps’) are both social and marketing phenomena.  Marketers have long believed that creating advertising campaigns with high levels of audience engagement is the key to success…and what can be more engaging than an app which consumers download to their personal mobile device for seemingly unlimited future interactions with a brand?  The creative execution for most popular branded apps can be roughly categorized as either game-based/experiential or informational in nature.  This talk presents data from a pre test/post-test experiment recently published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing.  The experiment tests the impact of these creative execution decisions and their interaction with product relevance on dependent variables such as physiological measures of user attention, attitudes toward the brand, attitudes toward the product category, and purchase intention.


Soyoung Bae is a Ph. D. candidate in Telecommunications. She is interested in dynamic embodied and extended cognition.

Robert F. Potter is an Associate Professor in the Department of Telecommunications and a faculty member of the Cognitive Science Program.  He is the Director of IU’s Institute for Communication Research and has recently become bothered by how messy his office remains year after year.

The audio recording from this brown bag can be found here: Brown Bag 8 (March 9, 2012 – Soyoung and Rob)

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