Saturday Morning Tea

Keemun Ji Hong Dry Leaf 03-21-15

Good morning, dear tea friends! Happy Spring to everyone in the northern hemisphere as we celebrated (finally!) the arrival of the Spring Equinox yesterday. The Equinoxes come twice a year, a time when the light and the dark are equally balanced. We’re now entering a time when the days will be longer than the nights, always welcome after a long, dark, snowy winter here in New England. Unfortunately, we still have glaciers of snow everywhere but those glaciers are slowly but surely receding to reveal peeks of dirt and grass at their edges. Now all we need are some spots of colorful crocus to liven up the dingy gray and brown landscape!

On to tea… I chose a China black tea today. It’s called Keemun Ji Hong Top Grade Organic, an impressive name, for sure. The long, brown leaves have a crimped appearance, as if each leaf was carefully pleated like the pleats on a little girl’s frock.

Keemun Ji Hong Steep 03-21-15

I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. It’s amazing how the dark brown color quickly turned that distinctive red during steeping. Hence the name for China black teas – “red tea” or “hong cha.”

Keemun Ji Hong Wet Leaf 03-21-15

The leaves kept their “crepe paper” look even after steeping.

Keemun Ji Hong Teapot 03-21-15

The aroma is fragrant with a whisper of orchid and a stronger note of cocoa.

The flavor is rich, velvety smooth and medium-bodied with notes of cocoa, stone fruit, and just a hint of sweet smoke. The tea liquor fills my mouth with a thick, solid presence, what’s called a “full mouth feel.”

Keemun Ji Hong Tea Bowl 03-21-15

This tea would stand up well to additions, like milk and sweetener. That said, as it cools, a lovely sweetness, like sweet wine, comes out. I recommend trying it plain first so you can discern and enjoy the many facets of its flavor.

Oh dear, I’m gazing out my window at gently falling snowflakes. Despite what the calendar says, winter isn’t ready to let go quite yet.

Until we meet again, enjoy many delicious cuppas!

 

Saturday Morning Tea

Thurbo Estate 2F Darjeeling Dry Leaf 03-07-15

Good morning, dear tea friends! We’ve entered the month when spring arrives and begins to soften the air with her gentle touch. The snow is starting to melt, the days are expanding with light and there’s hope in the air after a long, hard winter here in New England. The first lots of first flush Darjeelings over in northeast India are beginning to be plucked and processed. There’s much to look forward to.

In celebration of the beginning of the Darjeeling season, a second flush Darjeeling from the Thurbo Estate graces my cup this morning. This tea was harvested in the summer of 2013 on the Thurbo estate, which is located in the Mirik valley in Darjeeling district. I’ve read that this tea estate got its name because the British set up camp there long ago to invade Nepal, which is close by. The local dialect word for “camp” is “tombu” which could have morphed into Thurbo.  An interesting little bit of trivia.

Thurbo Estate 2F Darjeeling Steep 03-07-15

The leaf is a gorgeous variegated mix of color – browns, greens and silvery white tips. I pushed the steeping time a little longer than normal, 3 1/2 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

Thurbo Estate 2F Darjeeling Wet Leaf 03-07-15

The  vibrant amber-colored tea liquor has a light, fruity fragrance.

Thurbo Estate 2F Darjeeling Teapot 03-07-15

The flavor is rich with light fruity nuances of pineapple and a tang reminiscent of fresh evergreen/pine. The lingering finish invites you to take another sip of this lovely tea.

Thurbo Estate 2F Darjeeling Teacup 03-07-15

I sit and quietly sip my tea, dreaming of the day not that far away when little green leaves start to emerge from the soil after their long winter’s sleep. I can’t wait to get my hands back into gardening!

Thanks for sharing another cuppa with me. Until we meet again, have a wonderful two weeks!

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.

~Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Saturday Morning Tea

Huang Ya Yellow Tea Dry Leaf 02-21-15

Good morning, dear tea friends! I feel like I’m living in the arctic tundra these days with towering walls of snow and sharp icicles dripping from house eaves like the jagged teeth of the abominable snow monster. Our world is frozen, and we bravely venture outside, wrapped in a multitude of layers, moving gingerly across icy walkways and parking lots. At the grocery store the other day, I had to drive around a jaw dropping mound of snow at least 20 feet tall. Oh dear, will spring ever come?

I chose a light, fresh tea from China for my morning cuppa today. It’s a yellow tea, called Huang Ya Imperial Yellow Tea.

Huang Ya Yellow Tea Steep 02-21-15

How does yellow tea differ from green tea, you might be wondering. From what I’ve researched and read, it is processed very similarly yet varies in the heating/firing steps, which results in a little more oxidation of the leaf. These steps are more time consuming than green tea processing in that the leaves are lightly fried in a pan and then wrapped in some sort of thick cloth. They’re then stored in a darkened room over a number of days and brought out periodically to be reheated/fried in a pan. It produces a tea that tastes more like a white tea than a green tea. Such an art form.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180F water.

Huang Ya Yellow Tea Wet Leaf 02-21-15

As you can see, the long, twisted dry leaf sets relax into gently arching shapes after steeping. What a beautiful leaf.

This tea was used as an Imperial Tribute tea in China throughout many dynasties there.

Huang Ya Yellow Tea Teapot 02-21-15

The golden apple-colored tea liquor has a fresh apricot/peach fragrance with floral undertones.

Huang Ya Yellow Tea Tea Bowl 02-21-15

The flavor has those same fresh, juicy apricot/peachy notes with a vegetal whisper and a nuance of tangerine brightness. The finish lingers with a golden raisin sweetness. A truly lovely cup of tea, mmmmm…

We’re expecting warmer temperatures tomorrow, creeping up towards a balmy 40 degrees. Maybe we can get a little melting before we’re plunged into the deep freeze again.

See you in two weeks!

Saturday Morning Tea

Doomni Estate Assam Dry Leaf 02-07-15

Good morning, dear tea friends! The last time we shared a cup of tea, I looked out my window and saw 4-5 inches of snow. Today, I’m gazing out at gently falling snowflakes that touch down on about 45 inches. Yes, you read that right. We’ve got almost 4 feet of the white stuff here. As most of us are saying, our luck ran out after a mild December and most of January. Oh well, so it goes, Mother Nature has a wicked sense of humah (as we say in New England). Ok, on to tea…

To keep winter’s frigid temps and mounds of snow at bay, I chose a hearty black tea for my cup this morning. This selection is from the Doomni Estate, located in the Assam district of northeastern India. The leaf is of the broken type with an abundance of downy golden tips threaded through the dark pieces.

Doomni Estate Assam Steep 02-07-15

I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. You could probably push the steeping time to 5 minutes if you like it strong and astringent and/or are adding milk and sweetener.

Doomni Estate Assam Wet Leaf 02-07-15

The aroma is rich with a hint of malt.

Doomni Estate Assam Teapot 02-07-15

The tea liquor is a lovely, deep shade of dark honey amber. The flavor is stout, rich, and hearty, all of the above. There’s an undertone of citrus brightness that contributes to its eye-opening appeal.

Doomni Estate Assam Teacup 02-07-15

My first sips were of the tea plain but then I added a small dollop of honey and a splash of milk. My, oh my. Perfection. This is a great tea for adding milk and sweetener and/or spices to. It would be excellent as a base for your own Chai blend. Add cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, clove, and any other spices you like in a combination you enjoy.

Oh, it has quite the caffeine kick, too.

The snowflakes are multiplying and falling at a steady pace now. The weather reports are calling for another foot over the next several days. Not sure where we’re going to put another foot of snow but whatever comes, my tea will keep me warm and energized in between shoveling sessions!

Have a wonderful two weeks until we meet again, dear friends…

Saturday Morning Tea

Select TGY Oolong Dry Leaf 01-24-15

Good morning, dear tea friends! I woke up to a white world this morning, our first significant snowstorm of the winter. Can you believe that, at the end of January?!! No one’s complaining but it is certainly strange for New England. It has been bone chilling cold though. On to tea…

For my morning tea, I chose a lightly roasted Oolong tea. Grown in Anxi, Fujian province, China, it’s called Select Tie-Guan-Yin Oolong.

Select TGY Oolong Infuser Before 01-24-15

The leaves have been rolled into loose spiral looking chunks. I wanted to show you the before and after photo of the tea in my infuser. The before picture doesn’t look like much tea, does it? After 4 minutes of steeping in 190F water, it expands considerably!

Select TGY Oolong Infuser After 01-24-15

Tie-Guan-Yin Oolong goes through a complex processing, which requires a master hand. As I mentioned, this particular selection has had a finishing light roast, called the “Muzha” style.

There is a legend regarding how this particular Oolong came into being. I’ve shared this story before but love it so much that I’m happy to share it with you again!

Many years ago in Fujian Province in China, a poor tea farmer named Mr. Wei would walk by a temple everyday on his way to the tea fields. As each day passed, he noticed that no one cared for the temple so it was becoming quite run down. Inside he found a statue of Guan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion. He did not have the means to fix up the temple but he felt that something needed to be done. One day he brought his broom and some incense. He lit the incense as an offering to the Goddess and swept the temple clean. That night Guan Yin came to him in a dream and told him of a cave where he would find a beautiful treasure for himself and to share with others. The treasure turned out to be a tea shoot which Mr. Wei planted and nurtured into a large tea bush, producing the finest tea in the region. He shared cuttings with all his neighbors and started calling the tea produced from this bush Tie-Guan-Yin. Mr. Wei and all his neighbors prospered and were able to restore the temple to its beauty and many came to gather there. Now Mr. Wei felt joy everyday as he passed the temple on the way to his tea fields.

I love that story.

Select TGY Oolong Teapot 01-24-15

The golden tea liquor glows with its own light. It’s aroma is fragrant with floral notes, lilac and orchid. A toasty, chestnut-y note whispers in the aroma and becomes more pronounced in the flavor, joining those lovely floral notes. This tea is sweet with an incredible buttery mouth feel that lingers, giving my mouth a silky feeling.

Select TGY Oolong Tea Bowl 01-24-15

Now that I’ve fortified myself with hot tea, it’s time to go out and do some shoveling. No worries though as my tea will be waiting to warm me up when I come back inside.

Until next time, dear friends, have a wonderful 2 weeks.

Saturday Morning Tea

Yunnan FOP Select Dry Leaf 01-10-15

Good morning, dear tea friends, and Happy New Year to you all!

A year just started, all shiny and new, filled with possibility and, of course, many cups of tea.

In my cup this morning is a black tea from Yunnan province in south China. I’m happy to introduce you to Yunnan FOP Select.

As I’ve shared with you before, there are ancient tea trees growing in Yunnan province, one of the places in the world where tea is indigenous. These trees produce enormous leaves with a distinct flavor when processed.

Yunnan FOP Select Steep 01-10-15

Because the leaf is larger on this whole leaf selection, I steeped for 5 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

Yunnan FOP Select Wet Leaf 01-10-15

I’m enjoying some closeups today. I think that tea leaves tell a story, not the “read your tea leaves” type of story, but a story of where they come from and how they were processed. Look at this leaf. It tells a story of how it was rolled and twisted during processing.

Yunnan FOP Select Teapot 01-10-15

The tea story continues in its aroma and flavor. The deep russet-brown tea liquor has a rich, earthy aroma with a hint of spice and smoke.

Yunnan FOP Select Tea Bowl 01-10-15

The first sip fills my mouth with a thickness reminiscent of very dark chocolate. The flavor is velvety smooth with notes of earth, spice, chocolate and a whisper of lingering smoke. Each sip warms me on this frigid day when temps will barely reach 20 degrees.

Two of my very dear friends are coming to visit me today. I’m looking forward to an afternoon filled with conversation, laughter and tea!

See you in two weeks!

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Saturday Morning Tea

Mackeypore Golden Tips Dry 12-20-14

Good morning, dear tea friends! On this Winter Solstice Eve day, I’m celebrating the return of the light with a very special tea, called Mackeypore Golden Pekoe Tips. From the Assam tea growing region in northeastern India, this tea has been created from tender buds that were plucked at dawn. I envision a group of tea pickers starting their day, entering the field as the sun’s rays break over the horizon. They move through the tea bushes, carefully plucking only the choicest buds. After picking, the buds are laid out to wither and dry, turning a golden color in the warmth of the sun. Even though this tea is processed similarly to a white tea, its flavor is different, and I don’t think it’s classified as one. Each bud has a coating of fine white, downy hairs giving them a soft, fuzzy appearance.

Mackeypore Golden Tips Steep 12-20-14

I steeped the buds for 3 1/2 minutes in water just under boiling point.

In the Northern hemisphere where I live, the December Solstice, also known as the Winter Solstice, heralds the onset of winter. It also marks the shortest day of the year, a time when the North Pole is tilted away from the sun, causing it to appear further south and far away from us. In thinking about this, I picture the sky as an inverted bowl and the path of the sun at this time of year is closest to the rim, or the horizon.

Mackeypore Golden Tips Wet 12-20-14

As you can see, the buds don’t change much in appearance after steeping. Even the little hairs are still present.

I’ve read that the term solstice means “sun stands still”, referring to the appearance of the sun halting in its incremental journey across the sky and changing little in position during this time. Since ancient times, humans have observed this seasonal milestone and created spiritual and cultural traditions to celebrate the rebirth of sunlight after the darkest period of the year.

So, this is a good news/bad news type of day. The bad news is that the daylight hours are incredibly short – a scant 9 hours and 5 minutes of daylight. The good news, however, is that from now on the days will grow longer, a little bit at a time but steadily increasing in light. Personally, I’d like to focus on the good news part!

Mackeypore Golden Tips Teapot 12-20-14

What I find most interesting about this tea is the tea liquor color. One would think it would be pale and delicate but it has the rich amber color of a black tea. The aroma is sweet with a toasty note. The flavor is more robust than I expected, with notes of dried apricot and, yes, there is some malt there. It’s light but it’s there. I wouldn’t recommend milk with this tea, however, I put a dab of local honey in my cup and it was marvelous.

Mackeypore Golden Tips Mug 12-20-14

I pulled out my glass mug so I could enjoy the color of the tea as I sipped.

A beautiful golden amber light.

As we enter Christmas week, I’d like to wish all of you Happy Holidays. Whatever and wherever your celebrations may be, I hope that they’re filled with love and light and joy! And, of course, many cups of delicious tea! I’ll be traveling to Michigan for the holidays so Saturday Morning Tea will return in the New Year on January 10th. See you next year!