Saturday Morning Tea

On this gorgeous late summer’s day, I end my series on Oolong teas with another Tieguanyin style Oolong, this one from the island of Taiwan (Formosa). It is called Tie-Guan-Yin Vintage style.

Not quite as dark as last week’s Buddha’s Palm, this tea is the closest in color and flavor to the first Oolong I reviewed 3 weeks ago called Golden Guan Yin. The dry leaf has been curled during processing, opening up during steeping to reveal the large leaves.

As you recall from my discussion last week on TGY Oolong processing, one of the last steps – the drying/roasting – is critical to the final taste of the tea. This particular tea has been roasted for a longer period of time with a lower temperature. This results in a pronounced toasty flavor note which I find quite pleasing.

I steeped the leaves for 3 1/2 minutes in 190 degree F water. As Oolong teas are not as oxidized as black teas, it’s always a good idea to cool the water from boiling before steeping your tea leaves.

The beautiful light amber colored tea glows in my glass teapot, inviting me to pour my first cup.

The aroma also smells like warm toast and notes of honeyed chestnut and whispers of fruit caress my tongue.

I’ve really enjoyed learning about Oolong teas in more depth and hope you have, too. Soon, our Assam teas should be arriving and I’d love to explore them in more depth as well. Perhaps in October. If there is any category of tea that you’re interested in, please let me know. This has been fun!

Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.  Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” ~Ella Fitzgerald

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A Feast

Recently I was honored to be treated to a feast of grilled pizzas whipped up by my dear friend, Judy. You can read about the adventures of “2 Girls and 11 Pizzas” here.

Not only is Judy the mixed media queen extraordinaire, she is a marvelous cook. Ideally, the pizza should be cooked on an outside grill, however, if you don’t have access to that type of grill, you can always make your pizza in a grill pan on the stove. You don’t even have to make your own dough. You can get the frozen kind from the grocery store along with pizza sauce, cheese and your choice of toppings. I can’t wait to try it.

Yum.

Saturday Morning Tea

This morning’s tea, a special grade of the legendary Tieguanyin Oolong, was grown in southern Fujian province in China. This type of Oolong tea is named after the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin or Kuan Yin, believed to be the female incarnation of the compassionate Buddha. This tea is aptly called Buddha’s Palm, a lovely name for a beautiful tea.

Tieguanyin Oolong undergoes an amazing 18-step processing which includes withering, sun-drying several times, bruising, rattling and tumbling of the leaf, rolling the leaf in cloth for shaping and, the most important, the final drying in either baskets over charcoal or special tea-firing ovens. The temperature of these ovens is most critical as it is that temperature which will either strengthen or ruin the flavor of the tea. The tea master will carefully control the amount and intensity of the heat during this final step.

Steeped Tieguanyin Oolong leaf is recognizable for its russet-brown color and the crimson edging on the leaf. There are special Tieguanyin cultivars (subspecies of the camellia sinensis tea plant) grown in the mountains near Anxi, the best known being Red Heart Kuan Yin.

Look at that gorgeous glowing amber color. It’s very different from the last 2 Oolongs and their pale golden color. The darker color indicates that the leaves have been oxidized longer.

An aroma of woods, leaves and chestnuts drifts from my teapot as I gently lift the infuser basket.

The deep, woodsy flavor has toasty notes of chestnut and raisin. Mmmmm, it calls to mind the rich, deep flavors of fall ahead.

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” ~Buddha


Saturday Morning Tea

In continuing my series on Oolong teas, this morning’s tea, called Bao Jun, comes from the island of Taiwan, located just across the Formosa Strait from Fujian Province in China, home of the Chinese Oolongs.  235 miles long by 90 miles wide, Portugese traders called this island, covered in misty forested mountains, Ilha Formosa.

For many centuries, the island’s original inhabitants, of Polynesian descent, had cultivated and processed tea picked from wild-growing tea trees found high in the mountains. In the 1600s, the Dutch brought over Chinese citizens from Fujian to work as laborers. Some of these immigrants brought tea bush cuttings with them and established tea gardens in various mountain areas, teaching the natives their own methods of tea cultivation. Thus was born a unique history which merged native with immigrant tea knowledge.

Look how these 3 leaves are still connected to the stem. Gorgeous!

This beautiful, hand-made artisan tea, comes from a small family farm located in the Shan Ling Xi area in the mountains of Nantou County, located in central Taiwan. I wrote about another tea grown there and more about this farm here.

I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in 190 degree F water. You can see how the curled leaves are beginning to unfurl, however, they are not fully unfurled until after the 3rd or 4th infusion. This makes them ideal for multiple steepings.

The aroma carries wisps of a light floral scent.

Its pale gold liquor has a honeyed flavor with notes of flowers and fruit. A magnificent tea!

This past week, our weather has turned cooler and less humid and, yes, there is a very faint hint of the changing season to come. A friend of mine told me that August always makes her sad as she feels the cool winds of change coming our way. Still, our weekend temps are forecasted in the 80s and I will soak up this rich, sunshine-y warmth as long as I can by taking a long, meditative walk on the bike path near my home.

How are you enjoying your August?

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

My “Klimt” bracelets

I’ve gone off in a fun new direction with my jewelry lately and it’s all my dear friend Judy’s fault! I say this with great affection and admiration for an artist I consider to be THE mixed media queen extraordinaire. She has inspired me more than words can say.

A couple of months ago, Judy introduced me to painting on polymer clay and a whole new world opened up to me. That day, we made some ATCs but I got a notion to go in a different direction and make a pendant. And then I went home and started making trays of little components for earrings and bracelets and…..one thing led to another….and my “Klimt” bracelets were born. The rubber stamp I used reminds me of the shapes from the paintings of Gustav Klimt, especially his well known painting called “The Kiss”.

I am having the grandest time with my paintbrush and new hoard of Golden fluid acrylic paints! So many gorgeous colors. Yum.

I used ecru colored polymer clay as my base and cut out some square components from my stamped sheet. Then many joyful painting sessions ensued!

Knowing that bracelets have the tendency to twirl around as you’re wearing them, I wanted a clasp component that would incorporate seamlessly into the design.

I was a little nervous because I’ve never made a toggle clasp before and wasn’t quite sure how what was in my head would manifest into a physical clasp.

I’m happy to report that it works!

Stay tuned for my earring creations…

“The world is but a canvas to our imaginations.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Saturday Morning Tea

Happy August to you, my tea friends, and welcome to Oolong month here at Art and Tea!  For the 4 Saturdays in August, I will be exploring various Oolong teas from both China and Taiwan.

As do black, green and white teas, Oolong tea leaf comes from various native subspecies of the Camellia Sinensis plant. The word Oolong, or Wulong, translates to dark or black dragon. Some say this is because the twist given to an Oolong leaf during processing resembles the silhouette of a dragon.

This morning’s tea is a Chinese Oolong called Wuyi Golden Guan Yin. Grown in the Wuyi mountains of northern Fujian province, the leaf is dark and very bold.

Traditionally made from larger tea leaves plucked as a bud with a set of up to 3 leaves, Oolongs are the most complicated tea to manufacture. This is because of the greater number of processing steps over a longer period of time from plant to cup. There is a great advantage to this longer processing time, however, as it gives opportunity for more personal interpretation, or artistry, when creating the tea.

Unlike fully oxidized black teas or unoxidized green teas, Oolong teas are semi-oxidized. Some say that Oolongs are a cross between a black tea and a green tea but this is not the case at all. They are their own unique category of tea.

It’s amazing how such a dark leaf can yield such a light golden liquor. As I lifted the infuser basket from my glass teapot, a honeyed fruit fragrance filled my senses. The flavor is quite sweet with a distinctive woodsy character. Notes of apricot and a hint of chestnuts round out the flavor.

As I sip from my cup of Oolong tea, a cool breeze dances through my windows, beckoning my outside for a long meditative walk.

Join me next week as I continue my explorations with a cup of Oolong tea from Taiwan (Formosa)…

“The first cup caresses my dry lips and throat,

The second shatters the walls of my lonely sadness,

The third searches the dry rivulets of my soul to find the stories of five thousand scrolls.

With the fourth the pain of past injustice vanishes through my pores.

The fifth purifies my flesh and bones.

With the sixth I am in touch with the immortals.

The seventh gives such pleasure I can hardly bear.

The fresh wind blows through my wings

As I make my way to Penglai.”

~Lu Tang, poet (Tang Dynasty)