Saturday Morning Tea

Yesterday my company moved from our facility in Hopkinton, MA, where we’ve been for the last 9 years, to a new facility in the nearby town of Holliston. So, needless to say, it was a day of fixing up, hooking up, learning a new phone system and settling in to our new space. Not to mention moving all of that tea. Literally, tons of it. The good news is that we’ve been moving things over to the new space, bit by bit, over the past several months but it was still a big undertaking yesterday nonetheless. Whew!

When I first joined my company in 1995, it was a very  small operation and our packing and shipping areas were in close proximity to each other. The phones were nearby so we could stop to answer a call as we packed and boxed the tea orders. Now, each department has its own huge space and we need to take a bit of a walk to visit each other. We have evolved to have a separate Customer Service department as well as a Purchasing department in a large office area. All that said, the spirit of our company has remained the same no matter how much we grow, with the primary goal of providing our customers with the best tea and service we can. And you will always get a live person whenever you call us during our hours!

This morning’s tea is a first flush Darjeeling from the Makaibari estate. A biodynamic estate located in the Darjeeling district of northeast India, it produces some of the finest Darjeelings I’ve tasted. In all of my years of drinking and enjoying Darjeeling teas, I haven’t met a Makaibari that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed.

The leaf is resplendent with a profusion of tips which I find smooths out the crisp pungent flavor of a first flush tea. I steeped the leaves at my usual 3 minutes in boiling point water.

Look at that gorgeous color. Yum.

The fragrant aroma has a faint note of juicy citrus and the crisp flavor fills my mouth with notes of a muscatel grape.

I just had to enjoy this tea in a white teabowl so I could keep gazing upon that amazing color.

The muggy humidity has left us here in New England and we are blessed with a clearer, cooler day today. I’m going to find some time to spend in my studio, getting back to my experimentations with acrylic paint and polymer clay.

What’s in your teacup this weekend?

“Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast.”

~Rainer Maria Rilke

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Saturday Morning Tea on Sunday

On this hazy summer morning in my pleasantly cooled kitchen, I’m lazily sipping a Chinese green tea called Chun Mee. Traditionally, the Chinese have always been quite fond of rolling the tea leaf into various shapes and then naming the tea accordingly. Chun Mee translates to “Precious Eyebrows”. Can you see it?

After the leaf is withered and steamed, it is rolled into a thin needle-like shape with a curve like a porcelain doll’s eyebrow.

It is a very popular everyday tea in China, especially to accompany strong flavored foods because of its astringent aftertaste which clears the palate.

Upon steeping for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water, the tightly rolled leaves open slightly to reveal their curled edges.

The golden liquor has a hint of chestnuts in the aroma and a rich, full-bodied flavor. Its astringency clears my mouth and makes it feel fresh and clean. A whisper of sweet plum rounds out the taste.

Shopping at the local mall a couple of nights ago, I stopped into a tea store there and found these interesting pottery teamugs on the clearance shelf. The coppery/sage green mottled exterior is rough and textured with a smooth, pale blue interior. I love the juxtaposition of textures and the way the mug feels slightly rough against my palm. I also love finding treasures, especially those at 75% off!

I had a lovely art day yesterday with my guild. We all do our own creative thing companionably, inspiring and encouraging each other, chatting, laughing and eating goodies. A perfect day. I made a couple pairs of earrings using stone, pearls and copper wire. After I antique one pair with liver of sulphur, I’ll share photos very soon.

Enjoy your Sunday!

The purpose of craft is not so much to make beautiful things as it is to become beautiful inside while you are making those things.

A Bead Hug

There’s something about encircling an object with beads that makes my heart smile.

Here, let me hug you with beads, beautiful piece of turquoise.

And you, fun piece of extruded scrap clay cabochon.

In my early days of making jewelry, I used to get so involved in a piece to the point of making it much more complex than I actually wanted it to be. I didn’t know when to stop. These days, almost 20 years later, I’m much more into simplicity and creating a piece I can wear everyday.

A bead hug placed on a cable choker or a simple strand of beads that will enhance and not compete with the pendant.

Tomorrow I’m attending my monthly guild meeting so my Saturday Morning Tea will be on Sunday this week.

Enjoy your Saturday!

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

~ Walt Disney

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning to you, tea friends, on this searing hot summer’s day here in New England. I feel like something light this morning so I brewed up a pot of a very unique white tea from the Tinderet estate in Kenya. I’ve never had a white African tea before. Isn’t the leaf gorgeous with all of those fine downy white hairs?

This tea leaf was grown in the Lelsa subdistrict of Tinderet which is located in the Rift Valley province of Kenya. Wikipedia describes a Rift Valley as follows:

“A rift valley is a linear-shaped lowland between highlands or mountain ranges created by the action of a geologic rift or fault.”

As with all white teas, the new growth is plucked and then allowed to wither to reduce its moisture content. A heating process follows to halt the natural oxidation of the leaf which would turn it dark.

A gentle 3 minute steep in 180 degree F water reveals small pointed leaves that have curled into tiny swords.

The light aroma reminds me of biscuits.

The straw yellow liquor has a delicate flavor with fruity hints and, yes, a hint of eucalyptus there.

Oh so silky smooth with a sweetness that lingers.

As the temperature outside rises and my tea cools, I wonder what it would taste like iced…

Enjoy this beautiful weekend. I leave you with one of my favorite Rilke quotes.

“If only it were possible for us to see farther than our knowledge reaches, and even a little beyond the outworks of our presentiment, perhaps we would bear our sadnesses with greater trust than we have our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy embarrassment, everything in us withdraws, a silence arises, and the new experience, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it all and says nothing.”

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday Morning Tea

This morning I felt like having something fresh and clear and green so I turned to a spring harvest Japanese Sencha called Uji Shincha.  The word “shincha” literally translates to “new tea”, referring to the harvest of only tender young spring shoots to produce this wonderful tea.

The dry leaf reminds me of dark, glossy grass clippings. It gives off a fresh, sweet aroma as I open the sample packet in preparation to make the tea.

For steeping this very special leaf, I used my Yokode Kyusu, commonly known as a Sencha teapot, with the handle being on the side of the teapot. The Japanese word for teapot is kyusu.

As the leaf is very tender, I steeped it for only 40 seconds in 175 degree F water.

There is a fine mesh screen on the inside of the spout so I could steep the leaves directly in the water.

The aroma is fresh and vegetal like new asparagus shoots. The spring green liquor tastes quite vegetal with an interesting bittersweet quality that is best described as umami. The best word to describe umami is savory.

This tea really wakes up my tongue with its intensely fresh, savory flavor.

I’ve so enjoyed my time off this past week, spending a lot of it trying out some new jewelry ideas in my studio. I’ve also been working on finishing the painting in my guest bedroom by finally tackling the molding in there. I’m pleased to say that it’s almost done! I have a household to-do list tacked to my fridge and have slowly but surely been crossing things off as my time and budget allows. Do you have one of those lists?

Enjoy this beautiful weekend, dear tea friends!

“Take control of your destiny. Believe in yourself. Ignore those who try to discourage you. Avoid negative sources, people, places, things and habits. Don’t give up and don’t give in.”

~Wanda Carter, writer

Return to the Guild and ATCs

A couple of Saturdays ago I was delighted to attend a meeting of the Rhode Island Polymer Clay Guild, or RIPCG, for short. I had become a member back in the fall of 2002 and happily went to the monthly meetings until around 2008-2009 when I had to turn all of my focus onto my unsettled personal life. Now that I’m all settled in my new place (6 months now!) and am feeling more grounded and balanced in my life again, I can bring art group fun back into my life. Yay!

My dear friend, Judy, mixed media queen extraordinaire, showed us how to create and embellish ATCs (Artist Trading Cards), using polymer clay, rubber stamps, paints, markers and a fabulous little invention called Stickles, better known as glitter glue. Oh, be still my heart! You can see Judy’s tutorial here. She’s an amazing teacher, so patient and inspiring. If you’re in the E. Bridgewater, MA area, she gives classes at the Scrapbook Cupboard. Her next class is in Sept. on how to make polymer clay buttons. Check it out!

Lookie, lookie, what we made.

Aren’t they fabulous?!!

The ladies put together a delicious pot luck lunch and we ate and chatted and then ate some more.

Words can’t describe my joy at being back with this gifted, creative group of artists who all inspire me so much. Their talents are many, including Chinese brush painting, Zentangles, acrylic painting, beading, pottery, quilting and knitting. And, of course, polymer clay!

As I painted my little pieces, I felt my heart sing. There’s something about painting that really gets my creative juices flowing.

I started envisioning how I could bring this fun into some jewelry pieces. Starting with my clown pendant pictured at the beginning of this post, I am expanding that vision into components for bracelets, necklaces and earrings. What do you think?

Stay tuned for how this idea shapes and evolves…

“As we give fully, unafraid to let others know the truth about ourselves, we receive unexpected rewards from unexpected sources.”

~Helene Lerner-Robbins, writer

Saturday Morning Tea

Today is the first day of my 9-day vacation and I am savoring the first moments of this day with a cup of dark, rich Ceylon tea from the Ceciliyan estate.

I have read that the Ceciliyan estate is located right on the edge of a tropical rain forest in the southwest Ruhuna district of Sri Lanka. This unique micro climate produces tea leaf yielding a thick caramel-y cup of tea. Its “spider leg” leaf style, designated as FBOPF Ex. Spl., results in a tea that has notes reminding me of a China black tea. I’ve written about another “spider leg” tea here.

Steeping the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point water produces a deep amber colored liquor. Its syrupy sweet aroma greets me as I lift out the infuser basket.

Interesting. The wet leaf has an aroma of artichoke and fig.

With my first sip, I taste bitter chocolate with hints of a dark, tart berry. Its lively astringency fills my mouth and lingers there.

Either a shorter steeping time, say 3 minutes, or a dash of milk would smooth out the astringency, if you prefer.

As I drink my second cup, I listen to the music from the Pride and Prejudice movie soundtrack and I am whisked away to another time. A time when ladies wore long dresses and sipped tea from tiny, fragile teacups. I love Jane Austen’s stories.

Happy 234th Birthday to this great nation of ours. Enjoy your holiday weekend!

“We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” ~last paragraph, Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson