Christmas Morning Tea

The sun is rising on this beautiful Christmas morning. A ring of newborn pink kisses the horizon as the sky starts to glow. A few rays of sun light up the hills as a curl of smoke rises from the neighbor’s chimney. As the world wakes up outside, there is such a peaceful quiet as I sit here before the fire and enjoy the first cup of the day, a spicy black tea called, appropriate to the moment, Hearthside Chai.

A black tea blended with cinnamon, ginger and cardamom seed, as a traditional chai has but then there are some interesting additions – licorice and cacao.

A warm spicy aroma greets me as I gently lift the lid of my glass teapot after a 4 minute steep in boiling point (212 degrees F) water. Where the steeping guidelines call for 1 teaspoon per cup, I find that too strongly spicy for my taste so I use 1/2 that amount of leaves.

The sweet licorice flavors the cup as the other spices blend together to create a rich delight to the senses. Depending upon what spice predominates as you spoon your leaves into pot or cup, the flavor can vary from warm cinnamon to spicy ginger to exotic cardamon.

This tea is very warming, both to body and spirit. A perfect tea to start this festive day.

Today, my daughter and I will be flying to Michigan to spend holiday time with my family so there won’t be any Saturday morning tea this week. I look forward to joining you next Saturday so we may share a cup to toast the New Year.

Until then, dear friends…

Peace and joy to all on this merry Christmas day!

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold,

everything is softer and more beautiful.

~Norman Vincent Peale

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Saturday Morning Tea on Sunday

Well, I scurried around all day yesterday and gathered as many acorns as I could amidst traffic jams filled with many other squirrels doing the exact same thing. And now I sit quietly, cup of tea in hand, watching the snowflakes fall. What a difference a day makes…

On this cold, snowy morning, I’m sipping an Oolong tea from the other side of the world, Thailand.  Called “Gue-Fei” which I have read, interestingly enough, translates to “concubine tea”. It has an interesting story from Taiwan.

In 2000, there was a devastating earthquake on the island of Taiwan and the tea farmers in Luku township concentrated all of their efforts on rebuilding their homes. The tea bushes were neglected and an insect known as a “tea leafhopper” set in and munched on the leaves. When they finally were able to harvest the leaves and process them, they discovered that the leafhopper had activated the plant’s natural defense system which changed the flavor of the leaf, unexpectedly and delightfully yielding a liquor with a distinctive floral, honey-like quality.

Wow, what a silver lining there.

You can read about the history of how tea came to be grown in Thailand here. Not only is Thailand’s terrain and weather very similar to Taiwan, their tea bushes originate from there.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 190 degree F water. The aroma is lightly floral with sweet notes of honey.

The honeyed color of the tea liquor holds promise of what is to come – rich, sweet, nectar flavor with notes of flower blooms and a light caramel finish.

The white world outside lights up my teabowl as I watch the snowflakes fall and dream…

There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest
clothed to its very hollows in snow.
It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray,
every blade of grass, every spire of reed,
every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance.

~William Sharp

Happy solstice, dear tea friends!

A Nor’easter on the Way

I’ve been watching the squirrels lately as they scurry around the woods surrounding our house. They have a simple goal in their leaps from branch to branch and hops across piles of stone  – to gather enough food to sustain them during the frigid time when they need to cozy in.

A Nor’easter is barreling towards New England with a forecast of up to a foot and a half of snow. So, like the squirrels, I will be scurrying around from place to place today trying to accomplish a weekend’s worth of tasks all in one day. Tomorrow will be for watching the snowflakes fall and pile up outside as I am warm inside, cozily dreaming next to the fire, a cup of tea in my hand.

So, dear friends, I will be joining you tomorrow morning for a cup of tea. Right now I have to scurry off, long list in hand!

Saturday Morning Tea

Hello dear tea friends. I hope you had a marvelous week. I had a glorious sleep in this morning. That is definitely at the top of my list of ways to get your balance back during a busy, frenetic holiday season. A lovely way to start the day, if a bit of a late start…

This morning’s tea is a wonderful aromatherapy experience. Conjuring up images of gardens and armfuls of just picked fragrant blooms, it is a green (pouchong) jasmine tea called Jasmine Mao Feng. The long tea leaves are twisted into wiry threads as they are processed as a green tea. Mao Feng means “Fur Peak” or “Hairy Mountain”, a reference to where the tea is grown and harvested. You can read more about another Mao Feng tea here.

The leaves look like a black tea when dry and then lighten up to a gorgeous olive green after steeping. I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water.

The tea liquor is the color of a golden sunset.

Once the jasmine flowers bloom, the flowers are plucked, in the case of this tea, all organic blooms. They are laid out with the dry tea leaves so the leaves will absorb the scent of the flowers. Mmmmm…

When I first opened the packet of tea, it smelled candy sweet with a strong aroma of jasmine. However, after steeping, the aroma changed in favor of the green tea’s fresh, vegetal fragrance with just a whisper of floral scent.

The flavor is sweet and lightly jasmine with an interesting pungency that causes the floral taste to linger in my mouth.  A very pleasant sensation.

As I have been packing up more of my things this past week, I came across my gratitude journal. Picking up my pen every night before bed, I have returned to this practice of writing down 5 things that I am grateful for. I can’t begin to describe how this one simple act can so change your perspective and thus your day to day life. I’ve written about my gratitude journal before in this post.

See what happens when you change your focus. The above 2 photos are identical save for one thing. I changed the focus on my camera.

It changes everything.

Have a wonderful week and happy tea drinking!

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.”

~Henry Ward Beecher

Saturday Morning Tea

The month of December blew in this week with a tropical rainstorm. Wait a minute, this is New England, right? The following morning, the wind hurried the clouds along to reveal a brilliant blue sky and temps soaring up towards 70. Hmmm, New England? Today snow is in the forecast. Ah yes, New England.

This morning I am sipping from a cup of green tea grown in the Northern Highlands of Vietnam. The tea is called Shan Tuyet Snow Green.

As Vietnam borders Yunnan province at the north, tea trees have been growing wild there, as in Yunnan province, for thousands of years. More formal tea cultivation started in Vietnam at the beginning of the 20th century. You can read more about the history of Vietnamese tea growing here and here.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water. As I lifted my teapot lid, a rich floral aroma wafted up from the leaves. The liquor is a warm, buttery hue with a hint of fruit and malt in the flavor. I didn’t detect any vegetal quality at all, unusual for a green tea. The cup is quite smooth with an interesting pungency which appears and then lingers in the finish.

The dry leaf is highly twisted, only opening slightly when steeped. The wet leaf above is clinging to one of my Picasso marble stones. I love their striations.

The liquor is crystal clear and quite pleasant as it cools.

I am really enjoying my first experience with a Vietnamese green tea. Time for another cup!

Something opens our wings

Something makes boredom and hurt disappear

Someone fills the cup in front of us

We taste only sacredness

~Rumi

Tea and Cheese Pairing

As a prelude to everyone’s Thanksgiving feast, we had a tea and cheese pairing at work last Wednesday. The cheeses were carefully chosen to represent a variety of offerings, from mild to strong flavor, representing different countries.

A variety of teas to compliment the cheeses were then chosen and prepared to offer each participant the opportunity to see which pairings appealed to them the most.

All of our cheeses were purchased at Wasik’s in Wellesley, MA.

Teas:
Wang Pu-Erh, Formosa Oolong Spring Dragon, Hao-Ya ‘A’ Superfine Keemun, Organic Australian Lemon Myrtle, Organic Lapsang Souchong Gao Ji, Japanese Premium Fukamushi Cha, Sree Sibbari Estate SGFTGFOP Cl., Namring Upper Estate FTGFOP1 First Flush (EX-1).

Cheeses:
Camembart Le Rustique (Normandy, France), Gorgonzola Dolce (Lombardy, Italy), Wasik’s Mountain Harvest Goat Cheese (Vermont, USA), Brie de Lyon (Lyon, France), Swiss Gruyere (Swiss Alps), Goudden Kaas (Holland), Vermont Cheddar (Vermont, USA), Wasik’s Equinox Goat Cheese (Vermont, USA).

Armed with my notebook, I fully intended on trying each cheese with each tea, all the while taking copious notes to share with you. Unfortunately, as it was during a workday, time didn’t allow for me to do this and the reality was that I tried all of the cheeses, 4 of the teas, in random order, and took no notes at all! That being said, here are my thoughts on my favorites.

The strong musky flavor of both the Wasik’s Equinox Goat Cheese and the Gorgonzola went very well with both the malty Assam and the smoky Lapsang Souchong. I especially enjoyed the mild, buttery flavor of the soft cheeses: the Brie, the Camembart and the Mountain Harvest Goat Cheese, with the crisp flavor of the Namring first flush Darjeeling. I also liked the combination of the salty, earthy Gruyere with the very earthy Pu-ehr.

For my very first time partaking in this wonderful experience, I found the prospect of 8 teas and 8 cheeses very daunting indeed. If you would like to try this, I would recommend starting out with only 3 or 4 choices. Perhaps a mild, a medium and a strong flavor, both in cheese and in tea. Try pairing the same flavors together at first and then mix and match to your own taste.

Here’s a great post from a tea lover who was much more organized in his approach than I.

I don’t think that there are any rules here, only room for a lot of fun and enjoyment!