Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! August is winding down and it’s back to school this week in our area. The summer skips by much too fast, especially when it hits August. I’m looking forward to the vibrant colors of fall.

An interesting black tea from Sichuan province graces my cup this morning. The leaves have been shaped into small pearl shapes, giving it the name China Black Pearls. Its artful form makes this a truly special tea.

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As the pearls steeped for 5 minutes in boiling point (212F) water, they gently unfurled to reveal long, twisted leaves.

The aroma is fragrant with toasty notes and hints of cocoa.

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The leaves infuse a deep dark amber cup. The cocoa hints in the aroma become more pronounced in the flavor, a sweet cocoa rather than bittersweet.

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A warm toastiness enhances the cocoa flavor. A suggestion of spice presents itself in the finish and lingers in my mouth. This tea is medium-bodied and very smooth. I wonder what a 5+ steeping time would reveal…

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I bet this tea would make a wonderful iced latte, in a tall glass with a splash of milk and a smidgen of sweetener.

My family is coming to visit from Michigan for the long Labor Day weekend. We’ve planned some fun activities, including a trip to Boston for a day of touring and, of course, a seafood dinner. I’m so looking forwarding to it!

Have a lovely two weeks and enjoy your tea!

“This miraculous living gift from the sea–the only gemstone to be produced from a living entity–is the creation of beauty from adversity, of art from irritation. It illustrates that even the worst and most painful invasion can become something of healing artistry. The pearl is a glowing example of a mortal threat transformed into magnificence.”

~Mary Olsen Kelly, Path of the Pearl

Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! It’s a hot and steamy August so far, the kind of weather where the air is so thick you can taste it and towering dark clouds build up in the afternoon sky. I love this time of year.

I’ve traveled to the Ruhuna district of southern Sri Lanka with my cuppa this morning. This selection is from the Lumbini Estate.

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The Lumbini Tea Estate was founded in 1984 by Mr. Dayapala Jayawardane. It’s located in the hilly village of Pallegama, close to the Sinharaja forest reserve, a small national park that’s home to many endemic species, including the purple-faced langur monkey.

The leaves are small with a profusion of beautiful golden tips. I steeped them for 4 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

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The aroma is fragrant and sweet. The liquor has a rich, syrupy quality with notes of dried fruit and hints of cocoa and spice. There’s a crispness that identifies it as a Ceylon black tea, however, I’ve always found this “spider leg” leaf style to be more reminiscent of a black tea from China. I love the mouth feel, thick and sweet.

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I have a lovely afternoon planned with my grandkids. With more thunderstorms on the way, it’ll probably be best enjoyed indoors, maybe a movie and popcorn, which is always fun.

Enjoy your tea!

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

~Vivian Greene

Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! Our heat wave has finally broken, we’re back to more seasonable weather, and I’m back to drinking hot tea. The perfect choice for this summertime morning is a classic second flush Darjeeling, this selection from the Singbulli Estate.

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Located in the picturesque Mirik area of Darjeeling in northeastern India, the organically certified Singbulli Estate was established in 1924 by British planters. Its 9 rolling hills are spread out over 14 miles, at an altitude that ranges from 1,200 feet to 4,100 feet. Mirik comes from the word Mir-Yok, which translates to “place burnt by fire.”

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

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The dry leaves are a rich brown color and, after steeping, give off a rich, fruity fragrance.

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I always love to discover a tea with a flavor unique to what’s expected. Equally, I love to come across a tea that’s the quintessence of its tradition. This tea is the quintessence of a second flush Darjeeling.

Rich and fruity, like ripe grapes and juicy peaches.

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Toasty, a warm comforting smell and flavor.

Smooth, the liquor caresses your tongue with a silky feeling.

Lively, your taste buds are awakened.

Lingering, the flavor stays in your mouth for awhile.

This tea is all that and more. Yum.

Where a first flush Darjeeling showcases the first plucking and the freshness of spring and all its flavors, a second flush Darjeeling showcases the summer time potential, the rich, round, ripe flavors produced by the finest leaves. One is not better than the other. Each is wonderful for what it is, in its own right.

Until we meet again, enjoy your next cup!

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

~Henry James

Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! It’s good to be back sharing my love of tea with you!

It’s a steamy morning here in New England with temps forecasted to tower into the 90s today. It’s the perfect weather for a frosty glass of iced tea. A couple of years ago, I shared my iced Chai latte recipe with you and here it is again, for your enjoyment. If you’re experiencing the same heat wave, stay cool!

One of our favorite activities for a lazy afternoon when I’m visiting my family in Michigan is to go to the bookstore and browse the stacks, my parents with their decaf Cafe Mocha and me with my Chai Latte (5 pumps!), iced in the summer and hot in the winter. As you probably know from reading my tea posts over the years, my tea preferences tend to be straight tea leaves rather than the flavored kind but there’s just something about the combination of the spices in Chai that I find yummy and comforting. So, why limit my Chai enjoyment to the occasional trek to the bookstore or cafe when I can make my own right at home?

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As I like to drink my iced Chai latte in the evenings as well, I’m using Rooibos Chai as my “tea” choice. In this selection, cardamom, citrus peels, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, star-anise, and cloves have been mixed in with the Rooibos. I started my iced Chai journey last night by adding one tablespoon of Chai to 8 ounces of cold spring water. To make my measuring easier, I mixed my ingredients in a small Pyrex measuring cup. I placed the measuring cup in the fridge and then removed it this morning when I was ready to create my latte. You want to steep your tea leaves in cold water for at least 6 hours and then strain into your favorite glass.

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In talking to an Indian gentleman I used to work with, Masala (“mixture of spices”) Chai (Hindi word for tea) is traditionally made in a big pot on the family stove, simmering an assortment of aromatic spices on hand with black tea leaves and buffalo milk. With cardamom usually being the primary spice, Masala Chai can also contain cinnamon, cloves, ginger, peppercorn, star anise and nutmeg. As chai, or tea, has been historically considered a medicinal beverage in India, the addition of warming Ayurvedic spices adds to its healing properties.

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I like to add milk, agave nectar and ice to my Chai. How about you?

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Mmmm, so refreshing!

I hope that you’re cooling off during these hot, hazy summer days with an iced cuppa.

“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.”   ~John Keats

Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! On this warm summertime morning, I have a green tea in my cup, one that I haven’t had for a long time – a green tea from Vietnam.

Green tea is the most popular tea in Vietnam, accounting for a large percentage of retail sales in the country. I’ve read that it has been traditionally associated with natural or artistic activities, such as writing poetry, tending flowers and being out in nature. What a wonderful way to enjoy a cup of tea!

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This particular tea is a Mao Feng leaf style. The Mao Feng (translates to “Hairy Mountain” or “Fur Peak”) leaf style is long and wiry, created by twisting the leaves during processing. There’s a nice amount of silvery tips threading through the darker green leaf.

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I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180F water. The leaf color lightened up as the leaves steeped.

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The infusion is a clear golden color. The aroma is fruity with a whisper of sweet tobacco.

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The liquor fills my mouth with fruitiness. What is it? One minute I thought melon, the next stone fruit. Either way, it’s yummy. That whisper of sweet tobacco is there as well. This tea has a lot of body for a green tea and is a great choice for those looking for less vegetal.

My vacation is starting very soon and I’ll be spending some nice relaxing time in MI with my family. Saturday Morning Tea will be back in 3 weeks. Until then, dear friends, happy tea drinking!

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

~F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! The weather has turned more seasonable and I gaze out my window on a cool, overcast morning. I slip on my warm fleece and sit down to sip my tea. I’m back to my beloved first flush Darjeelings, this selection from the Avongrove Estate.

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Avongrove, meaning “nest of birds,” overlooks the Balasun River in the Rangbhang Valley in Darjeeling district, India. With elevations of 2,200-5,700 in the foothills of the Himalayas, this organically certified estate has the perfect location and climate to produce wonderful Darjeeling teas. From their website:

Five hundred workers live on the estate with their families, in small houses decorated with orange trees and flowers. As our manager walks by, the old hands smile and their children zip past him on improvised skateboards. Life is simple, nobody disturbs the hills and we always welcome our frequent bird visitors drawn to Avongrove as an organic estate, free from chemicals. For our other visitors, also always welcome; sipping a cup of tea, relaxed on the hilltop, enjoying a misty, magical dusk is indeed satisfying.

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I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in water a smidgen under boiling point (212F).

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The finely plucked leaves produce a golden liquor that has a fresh vegetal fragrance with a whisper of flowers. Mmmm, so fresh.

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There’s a crispness to the mouth feel that wakes up my palate for the flavor notes to come. Floral. Tropical fruit. A lingering sweetness. Another enjoyable first flush!

What’s in your cup today?

“I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.”

~Vincent Van Gogh

Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! Even though the calendar still says spring, we’re experiencing hot and hazy summer-like weather here in the northeast. Perfect weather for the holiday weekend.

In my cup this morning is another Pre-Chingming tea, called Fairy Oolong. This tea was grown in Hunan province, China.

Hunan province is located in south central China. Its name means “south of the lake,” referring to Lake Dongting, a flood basin for the famous Yangtze River and one of the largest freshwater lakes in China. This beautifully scenic province has been a major center of agriculture for thousands of years, growing rice, tea and oranges. The earliest rice paddies were discovered on the western edge of the lake.

It sounds like a place with a lot of natural beauty and interesting history.

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I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 190F water. They’re quite large and very green.

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The leaves steeped an infusion the color of pale gold.  A fragrant lilac aroma drifted up from my glass teapot.

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As I took my first sip, I found the tea liquor to be light yet it filled my mouth with flavor. Softer notes of lilac are in the cup with a fresh vegetal character and a pronounced sweetness. What a lovely tea this is.

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I have a marvelous 3-day weekend ahead of me, filled with family, garden time, knitting and lots of tea and ice cream. I hope you all have a great weekend!

Morning in a New Land

In trees still dripping night some nameless birds

Woke, shook out their arrowy wings, and sang,

Slowly, like finches sifting through a dream.

The pink sun fell, like glass, into the fields.

Two chestnuts, and a dapple gray,

Their shoulders wet with light, their dark hair streaming.

Climbed the hill. The last mist fell away,

And under the trees, beyond time’s brittle drift,

I stood like Adam in his lonely garden.

On that first morning, shaken out of sleep,

Rubbing his eyes, listening, parting the leaves,

Like tissue on some vast, incredible gift.

~Mary Oliver