Saturday Morning Tea

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The bronzed leaves are rattling across my backyard deck like dried bones as they welcome this last day of October, All Hallowed Eve. Pouring rain and wind this past week have swept clean most of the leaves from their trees to create an autumn carpet laid across the lawns and streets. As I drove home last night, glowing jack-o-lanterns brought memories of carving pumpkins, and I inhaled the woodsy smell of fallen leaves as I got out of my car and made my way up the path home. I love this autumn time of year, perfect for cozying up with a hot cup of tea.

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As promised last week, this morning’s tea is very special. Called Zhang Ping Shui Hsian (or Xian), its leaves are finely plucked, hand processed and compressed into small bricks. Each “brick” is then exquisitely packaged into a shiny red, black and gold vacuum sealed packet for freshness.

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This Chinese Oolong is grown in Fujian province and lightly oxidized to create a greener Oolong tea, similar to a Jade or Tung Ting. I gently broke some leaves off of the brick for steeping.

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Because the leaves are not as oxidized as a darker Oolong or a black tea, I decided to steep at a green tea temperature and time, 180 degrees F for 3 minutes.

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As the leaves steeped in my glass teapot, they swirled and floated downward, reminding me of the dance of the leaves outside.

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It might be fall outside but it was like a springtime garden in my kitchen. A sweet lilac fragrance drifted up from my teapot as I removed the infuser basket. Mmmmm…

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The tea liquor is a pale gold brown with very distinctive floral aroma and flavor notes. A sweetness fills my mouth and gently lingers after each sip.

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I am sipping my tea from a gorgeous coppery red teabowl, generously lent to me by a colleague/friend at work. Thanks Rebecca. She purchased it at Target. I’ll have to go check out the teaware at Tar-zjay.

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The bronze leaves compliment the darker glazing on the bowl. After the Color Workshop I attended last weekend, I notice color everywhere! And, after looking through my tea leaf pictures, I’m not surprised that I chose green and orange as the color palette for my collage in the workshop. My life is steeped in tea leaves…

Happy Halloween, everyone!

“Never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker.”

~Linus from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

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Saturday Morning Tea

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This morning I am up before dawn to step out into the crisp autumn air and go on an art adventure, a journey that will lead me down to Connecticut to go “Dancing with the Rainbow”, a color workshop given by one of my color heroes, Lindly Haunani. When I first found out that I would have the opportunity and pleasure to attend, I wrote about it here.

While I am unable to share a cup of tea with you this morning (mine was quickly made and poured into a travel mug), I’ve included a peek at next week’s tea. I don’t usually choose my teas a week ahead but this one is very special and I am so excited to be able to share it with you.

A small hint…..the fragrance of lilacs…

“Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.”

~Maya Angelou

Saturday Morning Tea

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One of my most favorite rites of Spring every year is trying the new first flush Darjeelings as they arrive. Their aromatic fragrance, their brisk character, their fresh flavor…mmmm. But wait, isn’t it autumn now? Well yes, it is, but one of the most interesting first flush teas from the Makaibari estate has just come to my attention and I’d love to share it with you this morning.

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Called Makaibari estate Long Leaf first flush, it is the 11th lot harvested from their first flush season. The leaves are a gorgeous variegation of color and size. I steeped them in my glass teapot for 3 minutes in 212 degree F (boiling) water.

The Makaibari tea estate is a biodynamic, Fair Trade estate located in the West Bengal state in eastern India. The goal of their agricultural practices, as stated on their website:

“The goal of biodynamic practices coupled with permaculture, to usher harmony between soil, microorganisms, plants, animals and man, is a shining model at Makaibari for all of mankind to emulate….. Makaibari follows a form of integrated forest management called permaculture where the tea bush is part of a multi-tier system of trees and plants typical of a sub-tropical rainforest, as opposed to a monoculture–a farm that grows only one crop. Makaibari retains 70% of its entire area under forest cover.”

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The aroma wafting up from the wet leaf reminds me of a woodland walk.

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The light amber color of the tea liquor reflects the golden autumn palette of our backyard trees. Everything seems to be glowing at this time of year here in New England.

With my first sip, I detect a light citrus quality followed by a nutty note which I find to be very characteristic of Makaibari teas. The tea is smooth and light.

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My teacup is one that I purchased at Rottenstone Pottery in Arroyo Seco, NM. The potter’s finger marks are still visible from when they dipped the cup into the glaze. I gently place my fingers on those marks and feel connected to the artist of this wonderful creation cradling my beloved tea.

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This weekend will be spent over at my new place, priming and painting. I just found out this past week that we will be totally gutting the bathroom – walls, ceiling, floor – and starting from scratch. Yesterday afternoon was spent looking through hundreds of ceramic tile choices until my eyes glazed (pun intended, lol) over and I could do no more. Not only are there hundreds of choices but then a multitude of ways to put those choices together in a design. What an amazing learning experience this is blossoming into, in many ways.

…It’s another

beginning, my friend, this waking in a

morning with no haze, and help coming

without your asking!  A glass submerged

is turning inside the wine.  With grief

waved away, sweet gratefulness arrives.

~Rumi (excerpt from So We Can Have What We Want)


Saturday Morning Tea

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After several days of rain, the trees are glowing with vibrant washes of gold, russet, ruby and magenta. The wind sighs through the branches, releasing a cascade of leaves that float and dance across the lawn. Autumn has truly embraced us here in New England.

2 years ago I reviewed a tea called Japanese Gyokuro Kamakura, a green tea. You can read that review here. This year’s harvest of Gyokuro is splendid and I am pleased to review it once again.

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Its deep emerald leaves match the saturation of the reflected autumn palette. The cut of the leaf reminds me of freshly mown grass.

In the purging process in preparation for my imminent move, I found this little beauty tucked away at the back of my kitchen cabinet. It is called a Yokode Kyusu, or commonly known as a Sencha teapot, with the handle being on the side of the teapot. The Japanese word for teapot is kyusu.

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The strainer, located inside of the teapot at the base of the spout, allows me to steep the leaves directly in the water. I steeped for 3 minutes with 170 degree F water.

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This is the tea that I will recommend to folks looking for a truly green colored tea. Most steeped green tea is not pure green but varying shades of brownish or yellowish green. China Pi Lo Chun even has a pinkish tinge to its liquor.

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The first word that comes to mind as I inhale its aroma and take my first sip is fresh.

So very clean and fresh. Delightful! Quite vegetal, with a whisper of asparagus, but oh! so very smooth. No astringency or tang in the finish. As it cools, the smooth quality becomes even more pronounced.

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I am enjoying my tea in a Japanese pottery mug I purchased at the Wabi Sabi gift store in downtown Taos, NM. I immediately knew it was my kind of place because as I entered, wide eyed and entranced by all of the teaware surrounding me, I was pleasantly asked by the store clerk if I would like a cup of Sencha tea.

Oh, yes, please.

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I am happy and excited to report that after 5 months of waiting, the closing on my condo has finally taken place this past week! This has definitely been a lesson in perseverance and patience and hanging in there for what you truly want. So, starting this weekend, a transformation will begin to take place as I pick up my paintbrush (and roller) and paint Morning Sunshine (Benjamin Moore) throughout my new living room and kitchen space.

The first step in this new chapter of my life…

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” ~Lao-tzu

Taos Journey – Last Day

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The last day. So final.

This is the day that you find yourself trying to fit in everything that you wanted to do but didn’t get a chance to on all of the other days. So, it turned into a “bits” day – a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

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A little bit of knitting.

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A little bit of walking around the grounds, poking in and out of all of the wonderful nooks and crannies of Mabel’s house.

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Here’s the door to that fabulous doorway.

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A little bit more shopping. There’s Dad relaxing while we buy more yarn at Weaving Southwest.

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A nice scenic drive for a little bit of picture taking.

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Relaxing in the living room.

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And the sitting room.

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I sure will miss this wild, beautiful land.

You might have noticed that I haven’t posted any photos of my shrug yet. Weeeelllll…it is almost done with just the sleeve seams to be sewn and the little yarn ends to be woven.

Stay tuned for the “ta-da” moment of my Taos Shrug!

It is not a country of light on things.

It is a country of things in light.

~Georgia O’Keeffe (on New Mexico)


Saturday Morning Tea

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Hello, my friends. The week has flown by and we are back together sharing another cup of tea.

I awoke very early this morning to the sound of a steady rain persistently tap, tap, tapping at my bedroom windows. As I prepared myself to get up, my sleep fogged brain remembered that it was the weekend and, oh joy, I could indulge in some extra sleep. Don’t you love those kind of mornings, especially when the rain can gently lull you back into your dreams?

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On this gray, drippy morning, I am warming myself with a cup of China black tea called Hubei Province Golden Tips. The profusion of beautiful, golden buds are shown off above on a paint chip called Caribbean Sunset. What do you think of the color?

All of this golden goodness is sure to ward off the dreariness of this sodden day.

Hubei Province is located right in the heart of central China. Its name means “north of the lake”, referring to Lake Dongting, famous for the origin of Dragon boat racing.

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Only the new growth, the tea buds, are plucked to produce this tea. The appearance of the dry leaf reminds me of a golden Yunnan black tea but, after steeping for 4 minutes with boiling point (212 F) water, I discover that the flavor is very different.

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I’ve been pouring over these paint chips trying to decide on a color to paint my new place. I want to be surrounded with warm, bright color.

The aroma of this tea is dark and sweet. As for its flavor, I have one word.

Smoky. Like hickory smoked bacon smoky.

That being said, it does not overwhelm in its smokiness but gently teases and entices you to want to try another cup.

And another. And another.

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Despite, or rather I should say because of, this flavor note, this unique tea has become a fast favorite amongst my colleagues and I and we have been drinking it for our morning tea everyday this past week. It seems strange that my vegetarian nature would enjoy the flavor note that lingers on in my mouth for quite some time like the memory of a haunting melody.

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This is the kind of tea that needs to be savored over a period of time so one can slowly get to know and appreciate it.

I thought that I would be painting my new place this weekend but still, no closing. Hopefully, I will be washing Caribbean Sunset onto my walls very soon. Instead, I will be putting the finishing touches on my Taos shrug. Photos soon!

A Voice Through the Door

Sometimes you hear a voice through

the door calling you, as fish out of

water hear the waves, or a hunting

falcon hears the drum’s come back.

This turning toward what you deeply

love saves you.  Children fill their

shirts with rocks and carry them

around.  We’re not children anymore.

Read the book of your life which has

been given you.  A voice comes to

your soul saying, Lift your foot;

cross over; move into the emptiness

of question and answer and question.

~Rumi

Taos Journey – Day 3

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On the 3rd day of our Taos journey, we took a trip south to visit the capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe, for the afternoon.

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For me, the highlight of our visit there was a trip to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. From the moment when I first gazed upon the closeup world of her lush, painted flowers, I have felt an answering resonance from within my heart and soul. It started my love affair with closeup photography over 20 years ago. To actually have the opportunity to stand before her paintings, in the one place in the world that housed the greatest number of them, was like heaven on earth for me. But, then again, it was New Mexico, and I felt a little bit closer to heaven there.

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There was a Fiesta going on in the main plaza that day. We threaded our way through the great throng of celebration to come upon a small French pastry shop, a welcome respite from the crowded plaza. A tart raspberry crepe with real whipped cream and a steaming cup of dark hot cocoa refreshed and revived me.

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After that wonderful treat, we made our way over to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, a 122 year old church built around an older adobe church originally constructed in 1610. You can read more of its history here. Sadly, the spires were never completed due to lack of funding. This beautiful statue of a native woman adorned with turquoise jewelry stands in front of the church.

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While the church itself is lovely and impressive, I was drawn more to the exquisitely carved front doors.

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And the labyrinth located in the forecourt.

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As my Dad and I walked the labyrinth, I could feel its calming energy radiate up from its path of well worn stone.

You can read more about labyrinths and, specifically, New Mexico labyrinths here.

We got caught in a rainstorm as we wove our way through the mountains back to Taos. Good thing we already knew the way. I find that if I get lost while traveling to a place for the first time then I will know the way back as if I have lived there always. Does the same thing happen to you?

We ended our day at a warm and cozy (after the teeming rain) local landmark called Michael’s Kitchen. It reminded me of an old fashioned diner, a place where the locals go to hang out and eat a delicious homestyle meal. While I usually find that a place like this doesn’t offer many vegetarian options, I was absolutely delighted with their homemade garden burger.

Stay tuned for the last day of my Taos journey…

“To create one’s own world, in any of the arts, takes courage.”

~Georgia O’Keeffe