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!

Saturday Morning Tea

Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Dry Leaf 12-06-14 Good morning, dear tea friends! It’s a damp, drizzly day, and I can hear the cars splash by outside as I prepare my tea this morning. I’m warming myself up with a dark cup of Pu-Erh tea, called Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Tuo Cha. The leaves have been interestingly mixed with a Chinese herb and then compressed into a square shape. Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Steep 12-06-14 Traditionally, Pu-erh teas are created from leaves harvested in the ancient tea forests of Yunnan province in China. There are two different kinds of Pu-erh tea, raw (Sheng) and cooked (Shou). This Pu-erh selection is of the cooked (Shou) variety. It has been mixed with an herb called Nuo Mi Xiang, which grows in China’s Yunnan province. In consulting with my colleague who speaks Chinese, Nuo Mi Xiang translates to “sticky rice fragrance”, referring to its aroma closely resembling that of sticky rice. I used two squares in my glass teapot and rinsed them for 10 seconds in boiling water first to awaken the leaf. Then I steeped for 5 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Wet Leaf 12-06-14 Cooked Pu-Erh goes through a “composting” step during its processing. The leaves are piled into heaps, much like a compost pile, creating a heat in its core and transforming the leaves into this unique tea. Compressed forms of tea have been produced in China for hundreds of years. It was the most common form transported on the ancient caravan routes because it was less susceptible to physical damage and easier to transport. Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Teapot 12-06-14 The aroma is fragrant with rich earth and autumn leaves. The tea liquor, as is normal for cooked Pu-Erh teas, is the color of black coffee. The flavor is smooth and sweet, with notes of pumpernickel toast and earthy spice. I think the herb lends a unique flavor to this Pu-Erh, which I find very appealing. Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Tea Bowl 12-06-14 This tea can be steeped multiple times. Do any of you steep your Pu-Erh tea that way? The days are shortening as we approach the Winter Solstice and the holiday time. Glowing twinkle lights adorn houses in my neighborhood, chasing away that deep darkness with the promise of the light returning in longer days once again. Have a lovely two weeks and enjoy your tea!

Saturday Morning Tea

Yunnan Silver Tip Dry Leaf 11-22-14

Good morning, dear tea friends! We’ve experienced our first below freezing weather this past week, cold enough for me to pull out my down coat. Of course, nothing like what the poor folks in Buffalo are experiencing right now. My thoughts and prayers go out to them as they dig out of all of that snow.

In my cup this morning is a green tea from China, called Yunnan Silver Tip Mao Feng.

Yunnan Silver Tip Steep 11-22-14

As you can see, the Mao Feng leaf is threaded with a plethora of silver tips (new growth). It brings a taste of spring with its fresh, light dry leaf aroma.

Yunnan Silver Tip Wet 11-22-14

Located in the southwest corner of China, Yunnan province has a long and venerable history of tea growing. There are quite a few native tea trees growing wild in the forests there. A 1,700-year-old wild tea tree, called the king of the tea trees, was found growing in the rainforest. Discovered in 1961, it is 105 feet tall! That kind of age is hard to wrap my head around, wow.

Yunnan Silver Tip Teapot 11-22-14

A green vegetal aroma, like fresh peas, wafted up from my glass teapot as the leaves steeped for 3 minutes in the 180F water.

As the pale golden tea liquor cooled, a fragrance of ripe apricots revealed itself in the aroma. The flavor is clean and light, with a slight citrus tang, and gentle, fruity notes of peach and apricot, which linger long into the finish.

Yunnan Silver Tip Tea Bowl 11-22-14

My tea bowl from Hawaii is perfect for showing off the delicate color of this tea. Whenever I bring this tea bowl out, I remember my dearest best friend who generously gifted it to me. Hawaii was one of his most favorite places on earth.

As we enter Thanksgiving week, I would like to express my deep gratitude for all of my dear tea friends who come and visit here. Thank you all for being there and sharing a cup of tea with me. Happy Thanksgiving!

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

~Marcel Proust