Saturday Morning Tea

In one week, we’ve made what feels like a light speed jump from cool and rainy to hot and hazy. From one season to the next just in time for the outdoor holiday activities planned for this weekend.

Today we travel to the Wah tea garden which is located in the Kangra Valley near Dharamshala in northern India. I am enjoying their first flush tea in my cup this morning.

Similar to a first flush Darjeeling tea, this tea’s leaf is quite green, the first plucking of the spring.

The Wah tea estate was established in the late 1850s, where some of the first China tea bushes were planted in India. To this day, this tea growing region grows only China cultivars. You can read more about the history of Wah and that region here.

I steeped the leaf for 3 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. The wet leaf has a distinct aroma of fresh greens.

The luminescent amber liquor gives off a hint of lemon along with an inviting toasty note. The toastiness follows into the flavor along with a refreshing pungency which cleanses my palate with every sip. For those of you enjoying a sweeter tea, the addition of a sweetener would soften the astringency.

While I did not find the depth of flavor notes that most first flush Darjeelings have, this tea has a very pleasant flavor that makes me want to go brew up a second pot and explore it further.

As I lazily sit and sip my tea, I start a wonderfully relaxing 3-day weekend filled with family, friends and, of course, my garden.

Happy Memorial Day, dear friends!

“Oh, the fun of arriving at a house and feeling the spark that tells you that you are going to have a good time.”  ~Mark Hampton

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Saturday Morning Tea

It’s been raining here all week in New England, in fact, the whole northeastern part of the country has been wet. We seem to be stuck in one of those circular weather patterns that just keeps spinning round and round. Much like life when we can get stuck in a certain belief or thought pattern and it keeps going round and round in our mind.

Ah, you wonder….now what the heck does that have to do with a cup of tea? Well, as with anything else in life, we can also develop certain opinions about different types of tea even if we haven’t fully tried them. I’m guilty of this myself.

When I started working for my company back in the mid 90s, I didn’t like green tea at all. Yup, that’s right. I didn’t like green tea. I thought it had a “funny” taste, one I wasn’t used to, one that didn’t match with what I thought of as the beverage “tea”. As with a lot of Americans, I had grown up with just black tea and then pretty much only had a cup when I wasn’t feeling good. And yes, there was a string and a tag sticking out of my cup.

All that changed when I started working at a tea company that has the philosophy of providing the finest loose leaf teas to its customers. I slowly learned to appreciate all of the different types of tea for what they were and yes, I finally opened my mind and my heart to green tea. I learned to stop comparing its flavor to black tea and love it all on its own. I invite you to do the same.

This morning I introduce you to a green tea from China called Green Mao Feng Imperial. “Mao Feng” translates to “Fur Peak” or “Hairy Mountain”, referring to the downy white hairs on the leaf when it is plucked and also to the location where it is grown and harvested. During its processing, the full leaf is rolled into long, thin strands, characteristic of this style of tea.

And just look at the gorgeous intact plucking of this tea. Wow! I find it amazing how the leaves can stay together like that despite all of the rolling around during their processing. I would guess that this leaf has been entirely hand processed.

The tea liquor is a pale straw color with a slight tinge of green. The aroma is sweet and floral which carries on into its flavor.

More sweetness bloomed as the tea cooled, making this an excellent choice to explore as an iced tea. This tea is only slightly vegetal.

As you can see from the reflection in my teabowl, the clouds are finally parting to reveal patches of blue sky. That makes this gardener very happy.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear tea friends!

“Today a new sun rises for me; everything lives, everything is animated, everything seems to speak to me of  my passion, everything invites me to cherish it.”  ~Anne De Lenclos

Unless otherwise noted, all text and photos are the property of Karen Park Art and Tea, copyright 2007-2011. Please do not “lift” any of my photographs or blog posts for use on your blog or website. Thank you so much for your respect and kind attention.

Saturday Morning Tea

The skies may be gray outside my window but I am inside enjoying sunshine in my teacup – a first flush Darjeeling from the Tumsong estate.

I have read that the Tumsong tea garden was first planted in 1867 around a temple devoted to the Hindu goddess Tamsa Devi. Devi is the Sanskrit word for goddess.

When I opened the tea packet, an aroma of fresh flowers and sugar cookies greeted my senses.

I steeped the bright olive tea leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

From the Tumsong tea estate:

“Tumsong’s teas are known to be among the best in the Darjeeling area and command high prices at auctions. Perhaps the first credit for this should go to the goddess, on whose land the garden grows. The goddess Tamsa presides over this serene and surreal landscape and fills the atmosphere with harmony. In the area, Tumsong is often referred to as the garden of happy hearts.”

The leaves may be intensely green but the liquor they produce is a golden yellow, creating pearl bubbles of light in my glass teapot.

I have also read that the entire tea garden faces some of the highest ranges in the Himalayan mountains and receives a constant, cool breeze sweeping across the tea bushes. This breeze causes the plants to grow gradually, allowing them to slowly develop their flavor.

And this tea is positively bursting with flavor! Notes of nut (almond), tropical fruit and citrus pungency sweep across my palate as I slowly savor each sip from my teacup.

All I can say is – yum, and let me go make another pot right now!

I’m headed out to my garden this afternoon to do some more planting – 2 peonies with flowers of raspberry sorbet, tipped in yellow, a lavender for my herb garden, some olive/eggplant-colored coleus for a shady spot under a tree, and some cheerful daisies for the morning sun side of the house.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends!

“How to be happy when you are miserable. Plant Japanese poppies with cornflowers and mignonette, and bed out the petunias among the sweet-peas so they shall scent each other.  See the sweet-peas coming up.

Drink very good tea out of a thin Worcester cup of a colour between apricot and pink…”   ~ Rumer Godden

Unless otherwise noted, all text and photos are the property of Karen Park Art and Tea, copyright 2007-2011. Please do not “lift” any of my photographs or blog posts for use on your blog or website. Thank you so much for your respect and kind attention.

“Meditation on Spring” Beaded Cuff

Spring colors are blooming on my very first bracelet cuff creation!

Forsythia yellow, willow green, azalea pink, rhododendron rose, cream and baby pink magnolia. Colors so fresh and light, rebirthing the world in their embrace. Ah, I just love this time of year!

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I wrote this post about stitching a 2-drop peyote band from a bead soup mix that was left over from this freeform bracelet. That band has sat, well, for 2 years now, on a bead mat in my studio, patiently waiting for me to transform it into a piece of jewelry.

I created the face cabochon from polymer clay using the same glazing technique I used for these faces, rubbing on mica powder and mixing alcohol ink with liquid polymer clay.

After I beaded around the face cabochon, I attached her to my peyote band. As I held it in my hand, I felt that the weight of the cabochon was just too heavy for the lightness of the band so I pondered and pondered on what I could do next. Hmmmm…

Aha! What if I sewed the peyote stitched band to a piece of ultrasuede and then glued that to a brass cuff? That would give it the weight and counterbalance it needed! So, I did just that and then glued another piece of ultrasuede to the back of the cuff. I stitched a beaded edge, thus joining the 2 pieces of ultrasuede together at their edges, giving the cuff a finished look.

I found a great resource on the web for ultrasuede. Field’s Fabrics is located in Michigan, has over 160 colors of ultrasuede in stock and charges only a flat rate $6.00 for shipping. You can buy scrap variety packs or as little as 1/8 yard per color. I used a pale spring green called limade for this project.

Even though it took me several years to figure out how to bring all of the components together in harmony, I’m so happy with my new creation. Now that’s it’s complete, I’m thinking of another bead embroidered bracelet, this one softer without the brass cuff, possibly beaded on a piece of batik fabric in yummy colors.

Ah, the possibilities…

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” 

~Albert Einstein

Unless otherwise noted, all text and photos are the property of Karen Park Art and Tea, copyright 2007-2011. Please do not “lift” any of my photographs or blog posts for use on your blog or website. Thank you so much for your respect and kind attention.

Saturday Morning Tea

In my part of the world, nature is just bursting with new growth and bird song and I am eagerly drinking it in with all of my senses.

Welcome May! I’ve dreamed about you all winter long…

With my morning cup, I am once again visiting the Nepal Jun Chiyabari tea estate, today with their Imperial Black. I tell their story here.

As I gaze upon the large, full leaves, I think that imperial is a perfect name for this majestic leaf.


I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water.

A honeyed aroma rising from my glass teapot reminds me of a dark Oolong tea.

Wow, that is one big leaf!

This tea is processed as a black tea but its enormous leaf, its aroma and its flavor notes remind me of an Oolong tea. Not the tea liquor though, a gorgeous glowing whisky color, reminiscent of a rich second flush Darjeeling.

The cup is quite smooth with notes of chestnut and dark honey up front. Subtle hints of spice and a whisper of cocoa linger into the finish.

I’m really enjoying this tea’s unique flavor which reminds me of a dark Oolong with some hints of a China black tea. Quite yummy!

Enjoy your weekend and a warm and happy Mother’s Day to all you Moms out there! Thanks Mom for all of the wonderful things you do.

“Let all thy joys be as the month of May.”  ~Francis Quarles

Unless otherwise noted, all text and photos are the property of Karen Park Art and Tea, copyright 2007-2011. Please do not “lift” any of my photographs or blog posts for use on your blog or website. Thank you so much for your respect and kind attention.

Bead Treasure

Whenever I travel to Michigan, I always love to stop by Munro’s in Berkeley and see what they have in stock. Sometimes my visit coincides with one of their sales. This time I hit the jackpot with a sale on all their freshwater pearls (25% off) and Chinese crystal (50% off!).

I also love their extensive and reasonably priced selection of stone beads. However, I find that one of the drawbacks about buying stone there as opposed to my experience at bead shows is that their sales staff is not always that knowledgeable about the names of the stones and not all of the bead strands are labeled. I like to know exactly what it is that I’m spending my money on, don’t you?

This time I was drawn to fire agate, carnelian, labradorite and iolite – a gorgeous sunset color combination.

The photo above just doesn’t do justice to the amazing cinnamon color of the big crystal beads on top.  They’re such a yummy, spicy fall color.

I’ve recently purchased Sherry Serafini’s new book called Sensational Bead Embroidery and am feeling inspired to create a bead embroidery piece using small pearls in the vivid blues and greens above.

My absolute favorite bead store is Bead Haven in Frankenmuth, a quaint little Bavarian style village my parents love to visit for their homestyle chicken dinners. I was delighted that the restaurant, called Zehnder’s, had a vegetarian section on their menu. That said, their specialty always has been and will continue to be their “Thanksgiving-like” spreads.

But I digress…

I have one main reason for visiting Bead Haven and that is for their amazing selection of seed beads. Wall upon wall of every size and color imaginable along with a whole wall dedicated to hanks of charlottes and “faceted” seed beads, my new love as you can see from my pictures.

While their selection of seed beads is unparalleled, I find their stone bead pricing to be very high. Munro’s and/or a bead show is much more reasonable.

Other than checking out, I didn’t have much contact with their sales staff since I was on my seed bead mission and didn’t require any assistance with that. My daughter, however, had an interesting experience when she purchased a “Pandora” style bead for her bracelet, which she was wearing, and then discovered that it didn’t fit. They were very agreeable about exchanging it for another bead though. In contrast to Munro’s, the sales staff at Bead Haven was all quite young.

There are 2 bead shows in town this weekend, the InterGem show and the Innovative Beads Expo, both in Marlboro, MA. At this time, however, my pocketbook is telling me that I have enough to play with!

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” ~George Bernard Shaw