Saturday Morning Tea

Can you feel it? The air is softening with a glimmer of hope as we near the month that will bring us the very first day of spring. Ah, music to my ears!

Hello March, you are most welcome here in New England where we’ve felt winter’s brutal force most keenly this season.

To celebrate March this week, I chose a fresh, bright Ceylon called Shawlands estate OP1.

Many teas from Sri Lanka and India have letters after their estate name, in this case, “OP” which stands for Orange Pekoe (rhymes with echo). It doesn’t refer to the flavor of the tea. It is simply a leaf designation. OP refers to a whole leaf tea. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read about this subject here and here.

I steeped the OP leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water.

The Shawlands estate is located in the Uva district, found in the southeastern area of the island of Sri Lanka. The second largest province in Sri Lanka, Uva is a beautiful place of hills and valleys with abundant wildlife, including elephants and leopards and many species of birds.

The tea liquor is as bright as a new copper penny, with quite a pronounced refreshing minty aroma. This might sound strange but the aroma reminds me of the paste I used many moons ago in kindergarten. It is a minty smell I find very comforting.

The brisk, full-bodied flavor brings notes of mint and sweet raisins to my palate. I’m not usually a Ceylon lover but I find this tea deliciously appealing.

I prefer my tea without milk but this tea might stand up to a dollop or two, if you’d like. What’s in your cup this morning?

“It is the first mild day of March.

Each minute sweeter than before…

There is a blessing in the air…”

~William Wordsworth

Saturday Morning Tea

As I sit here and sip my tea, I can feel my whole house shake from the strength of the wind outside. It’s a bit unnerving. We’re experiencing an incredible drop in temps from almost 60 yesterday to the 20s later on this afternoon. The winds are sweeping in a big change. What can I say? It’s late winter here in New England…..

On to my tea…. a lovely Pouchong style tea from the Jun Chiyabari estate in Nepal, called Jun Chiyabari Jade. A Pouchong tea is a very lightly oxidized green tea. Because of the oxidation, some consider it an Oolong tea. I’d like to think of it as being in its very own category, a very unique and distinct tea. The word “pouchong” means “the wrapped kind”, referring to the ancient practice of wrapping the leaves as they were drying.

Back in 2000, brothers Lochan and Bachan Gyawali realized their dream of starting their own tea garden/company and Jun Chiyabari, meaning “moon tea garden”, was born. I wrote about their amazing story here.

A recent article in the Nepali Times wrote about their commitment to empowering women in the tea business. Nearly 80% of their over 230 work force is women.

This is a great photo from the article, showing the women gathered round sorting the tea leaves. A circle of women. Very powerful.

They do a great job. Look at the beauty of that intact tea leaf.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water. The aroma is sweetly floral, like a lightly oxidized Jade Oolong.

The golden liquor is amazingly sweet, almost as if I had added sugar to my tea. Hints of melon and apricot whisper in the flavor.

I think they’re producing some great teas out of that tea garden. This tea was delicious. And I say “was” because my cup is now empty.

Time to go make another pot!

“You must have a room or a certain hour of the day or so where you do not know what was in the morning paper…a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are, and what you might be…At first you may find nothing’s happening….But if you have a sacred place and use it, take advantage of it, something will happen.” ~Joseph Campbell

Rita made me do it

Last July, I wrote about my welcome return to the Rhode Island polymer clay guild here. At that meeting, my friend, Judy, showed us how to create ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) using polymer clay, stamps and paint. I had a lot of fun in the following weeks going off in my own direction with what I had learned that day. I created some painted polymer clay bracelets, very different from anything I had ever created before.

Something else happened at that meeting which also changed the course of my jewelry making.

My guildmate and friend, Rita, brought in a stunning, handmade wire necklace from her amazing collection of jewelry. Rita makes her home in the Washington, DC, area and summers every year on the coast of Rhode Island. She returns every summer to welcoming hugs and smiles all around, to be a part of our group once again.

It’s amazing how something can happen one day that changes everything. Even though I’ve had that experience quite a few times in my life, it constantly surprises me.

As I drooled over her necklace all day, I felt a spark being re-ignited inside of my creative soul, my passion for wireworking, born many years ago during my early days of making jewelry. At that time, I wanted to include crystals in my necklaces but couldn’t figure out how to do that because they didn’t have a hole in them for stringing. As I mused upon that predicament, I happened to come upon a book about wire wrapping at the local bookstore. Being so long ago, I’m sorry to say that I completely forget the author’s name and I donated that book to the library in one of my moves. Anyway, distractions come up in our lives that can pull us completely off a given path so after a couple of years of wire wrapping, I veered off that path to try something else. I’m ecstatic to have found that path once again. It’s like finding a secret garden hidden behind an ivy covered gate, a garden discovered once long ago and secretly yearned for without consciously knowing it.

This necklace was born of my resurrected passion. It’s constructed entirely of copper wire and chain with raku and crystal beads, pearls and a polymer clay focal bead. I dipped it in liver of sulfur to antique it and then polished the wire with fine steel wool.

It’s great to be playing with wire once again…

“If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.”

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Saturday Morning Tea

Wow, for the first time in 6 weeks, we actually got through a whole week with no significantly nasty weather to deal with. It was such a treat to not have to get up at zero dark thirty to dig myself out before work! Speaking of a treat, this morning’s tea is quite special. It’s a Darjeeling tea, not a black tea but a green tea, called Arya Emerald.

I wrote about the 2007 harvest lot of this tea here. The Arya estate, located in the Himalayan mountains of northeast India, produces special, hand processed tea lots with beautiful gemstone names like Ruby (black), Pearl (white) and Emerald (green). I reviewed Arya Ruby a couple of months ago here.

Dry, the dark green leaf is long and twisted with light green bits but a 3 minute steeping unfurled the leaves, revealing many intact leaves that are a beautiful, light olive green. With most green teas, this one included, I use 180 degree F water for steeping.

The aroma is lightly vegetal with a hint of Darjeeling astringency.

The vegetal quality carries on into the flavor but only lightly so, with notes of tart green grapes and sweet pear which I enjoyed very much.

I find it interesting that such intensely green leaves can produce a liquor that is so golden yellow.

I’ve chosen my spiral teabowl as the light color of the liquor allows me to see the wonderful spiral shape inside the bowl.

Do you have a favorite teabowl or mug? What does it look like? One of the things that influences my choice of mug or bowl is the color of the tea liquor.

I had an odd experience this week. Normally, when I include a link to a former post in my present post, WordPress sends me a “pingback”. Of course, I know about this already because I was the one to place the link in my post. But this week I received one I didn’t recognize. I discovered that another website called rakkatei was posting my latest post in its entirety as if they had written it! I found this quite disturbing, especially when I couldn’t locate any contact information on the site. I did some research and was able to find a company name and promptly sent them a letter requesting that they immediately remove my content from their website. So, if you’re seeing this post on that website right now, please know that it does not belong to them. I am the author, Karen at Art and Tea. Has this ever happened to anyone?

Have a great weekend, dear tea friends, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

“Where there is great love there are always miracles.”

~Willa Cather

Playing with Wire

I’ve been fascinated with wire for as long as I can remember.

I love its versatility and strength for jewelry making. You can bend it into shapes, use it for connections and wrap it around beads. And it’s such an accessible form of metal, requiring only a few simple hand tools to manipulate into a beautiful creation.

When I was visiting my son and his family in Albuquerque last November, we visited a LBS, Mama’s Minerals. It was a good thing that Brendan was with me or I would have become lost in the vortex of bead lust, putting myself into extreme debt and not being able to close my suitcase! If you’re ever in Albuquerque in search of beads, I recommend a stop at this amazing store.

Anyway, we had decided to create a bracelet for my SIL for Christmas and it was up to Bren to choose the beads. I love his choice, don’t you? Before he started his quest, I gently suggested beads that had a southwest feel to them and these Saturn jasper beads he chose, in bands of turquoise and brown, are just perfect.

I love the look of the antiqued, coiled wire against the striking banding in the stone.

Shortly after I came home, I picked up Kerry Bogert’s book, Totally Twisted: Innovative Wirework & Art Glass Jewelry, at the library and became enchanted with Kerry’s colorful wire designs. I chose the project on page 88, “Framed”, for the bracelet.

You can’t really tell from the photos but the wire coils are made from copper wire and the wire wraps on the beads, as well as the clasp, are made from sterling silver wire. I love the look of mixed metals and silver and copper are my favorites.

This was a great project to hone my wireworking skills, especially for wire coiling. I used a tiny double pointed knitting needle for that job.

I love this design so much that I think I’m going to make a bracelet for myself now! I have the beads picked out already – round coins of earthy Owyhee jasper. This is a great description I came across recently – “soft earthy colors of clay, teal, sage, brick, sand, umber with brush strokes of bark brown”. Wow.  It’s a beautiful picture jasper, mined in southern Idaho/eastern Oregon.

When I was a kid, I owned a well thumbed, dog-eared copy of a pocket-sized rocks and minerals book. I used to pour over that book for hours…I just love rocks.

Saturday Morning Tea

I’ve become fascinated with roofs lately. Yes, you heard me correctly – roofs. In particular, the big chunks of ice and icicles hanging from their edges.

This has been such a rough winter in New England with a foot of snow arriving every week it seems and so many people are dealing with collapsed roofs and leakages from ice dams. On the news, they recommend shoveling the snow off your roof. However, when you live in a 3-story house such as I do, that task seems monumental. I’ve been lucky and have had only a minimum amount of leaking from one of my windows.

Ok, on to my tea…

Introducing Moonlight white tea. For me, the name conjures up images of a huge, full moon illuminating a tropical sea, a path of glitter from shore to horizon. Hey, I think that all of this snow is inspiring daydreams of a warm place. A much warmer place…

The leaf of this white tea from China is enormous and beautifully variegated, ranging in color from dark olive to silvery green.

I steeped the leaves in 180 degree F water for 3 minutes which produced a lovely pale yellow liquor.

The aroma is soft and floral, the floral notes carrying on into the flavor. Notes of honey and apricot whisper in the delicate taste. This would be a wonderful treat for white tea lovers to try.

Speaking of a treat, I treated myself to a pair of new teamugs this week. Made by Bodum, they’re double-walled, insulated borosilicate glass mugs.

I was amazed at how light they are! I just love anything glass and now I can see my tea while I’m drinking it.

Like my glass teapot, I’ll treat my new mugs with extra TLC and handwash them. So far, I think they’re great. I see from the brochure that came with my mugs that there’s a whole line of these glasses in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Hmmm, perhaps a pair of tall glasses this summer for iced tea…

Does anyone have any experience with these glasses?

Rain is in our forecast for later today so it’s a good day for staying inside and playing in my studio. Now that I’ve finished my Towers and Turrets necklace (see last post), I’m ready to start on a brand new project!

“Ah!  There’s nothing like staying home for real comfort.”

~Jane Austen

My Towers and Turrets pendant necklace

Last August I signed up for an online class called “Of Towers and Turrets”, a wonderful melding of mixed media collage with metalwork and resin, taught by Sharon Tomlinson and Deryn Mentock. I wrote about the first step here, creating my collage.

Once my collage was created, I started work on my metal Towers pendant, which taught me about cutting metal shapes, soldering filigree and bezel wire as well as riveting, all new techniques that I was quite excited to add to my jewelry making repertoire.

Once the pendant was crafted, I chose a part of my collage to display. As this was the first face I’ve ever painted, the choice was easy! Once she was cut out and gently placed in my bezel, I carefully covered her with Ice resin, a product I’ve never used before and absolutely love now. It’s tricky mixing it up, adding just the right amount to the bezel and then getting rid of all of the tiny bubbles but the results are so worth it. A desk lamp placed right over my pendant got rid of all of the bubbles very nicely. The heat of the light bulb draws up the bubbles so they can pop.

Once the pendant was complete, I decided to create a necklace using deep purples, reds and blues to bring out the colors in my pendant image. My goal was to create a richly colored necklace full of facets and sparkle.

A queenly necklace.

I chose amethyst, iolite, garnet, pearl, crystal, moonstone and 2 raku beads. I wire wrapped each bead, adding them on one at a time. Creating a necklace in this fashion is very tedious and time consuming but gave me just the look I wanted.

The S-clasp was crafted from a thicker wire and then wrapped with a thinner wire coil and an iolite bead.

It took me 5 months to complete this process but it was an amazing journey that taught me so much about myself.

“The eyes of my eyes are opened.” ~e.e. cummings