Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! This morning I am on my way out the door to my polymer clay guild meeting, travel mug in hand. I leave you with a post I did to welcome in spring, with the lovely Magnolia Blossom Oolong. Enjoy!

The crocus I planted last fall are pushing their way up through the earth and their leaf blanket. As the days lengthen and warm, they are drawn to grow and burst into bloom. A big welcome to Spring this weekend!

To celebrate the first day of Spring, my morning tea is a scented tea from China called Magnolia Blossom Oolong. Grown and processed in the Guangdong province in South China, this tea is often described as “Orchid Oolong” as the flowers come from a tree that native Chinese call “yulan”, meaning jade orchid. Despite its translation, yulan is actually a type of magnolia tree (Magnolia denudata) which originated in southern China.

The leaves look very much like a Jade Oolong to me, rolled into compressed shapes. I steeped them for 3 minutes in 190 degree F water.

The shapes released as they steeped, giving off a wonderful fragrance. As I lifted the lid from my glass teapot, it was like putting my face into a bouquet of freshly cut flowers!

I find the floral flavor to be similar to a jasmine tea. The flower notes are very strong and sweet but not cloying. The flavor of the Oolong tea comes through the scenting, adding a fuller, silky smooth mouth feel. It doesn’t have the delicacy of a jasmine tea though.

I was able to find out more information about my Hawaiian teabowl. Created by Clayton Amemiya on the Big Island, it was fired in a traditional Japanese kiln called an anagama. Clayton’s work combines Japanese tradition with the unique style of the Big Island. What I thought was glaze on the bowl is actually ash and wood. From his brochure:

“No glaze has been used. A glazed appearance is made by the firing process. Flying ash and wood particles fuse to the clay as they draft through the kiln. Because this is done by the fire, no two pieces can ever be the same. Individual woods have many of their own firing properties. This understanding gives Clayton the opportunity to collaborate with a force of nature.”

Knowing this makes my teabowl that much more special to me. As tea drinkers, we also collaborate with nature when we steep our leaves and transform them into a cup of tea.

Happy Spring!

“All you need is deep within you waiting to unfold and reveal itself.  All you have to do is be still and take time to seek for what is within, and you will surely find it.” ~Eileen Caddy

Unless otherwise noted, all text and photos are the property of Art and Tea at http://www.artandtea.wordpress.com, copyright 2007-2011.

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Saturday Morning Tea

With summer officially arriving on Tuesday at 5:16pm, I’m hoping that it heralds warmer, sunny days. Aside from a brief hot spell in May, it’s been mostly cool and rainy this spring in MA. I find it interesting that the start of the warmest season also brings the start of the sun’s descent southward, shortening our days until winter solstice in December when they start lengthening once again.

Last week I reviewed a white tea scented with jasmine flowers. This week I’ve decided to brew up another jasmine tea, this time a green tea called Jasmine Pi Lo Chun.

You probably recognize the second part of the tea’s name as it’s a very famous green tea from China. You may read more about Pi Lo Chun tea here.

While many of the green leaves unfurled from their distinctive curled shape, I found this little guy in my pile of wet leaves.

I didn’t find one single blossom in either one of these teas. That’s because they remove all of the spent blossoms after each scenting cycle. Wow, if you think about it, that’s amazingly tedious work to pick the flowers blossoms out only to do it all over again the next day. For a week!

Sometimes I will talk to someone who is only interested in a jasmine tea that still has the dried flowers mixed in with the tea leaves. I think that there are some available like that. Perhaps they feel it lends the tea a more attractive appearance, looking more like the tea has been actually scented with flowers because they’re visible. Perhaps they feel it lends a more “jasmine-y” flavor to the tea. I’m not sure but I think that both of these teas, the Silver Needles and the Pi Lo Chun, have quite a pronounced jasmine flavor without any dried blossoms at all.

That being said, I find the green tea to be stronger in flavor overall than the white which gives the feeling of a stronger jasmine flavor. Candy sweet and quite floral. Very, very nice…

Next week I have an art guild meeting on Saturday so I’m going to try something that I’ve never tried before. In my 4 years of reviewing teas, I’ve never repeated a post before! Well, I’m going to give it a go next Saturday. I certainly have a library of tea reviews to choose from!

Have a great week, dear tea friends. I hope that you are able to carve out a moment to sit down and relax with a wonderful cup of tea.

“Within your heart, keep one still, secret spot where dreams may go.”   ~Louise Driscoll


Saturday Morning Tea

This is a perfect tea for a gray, drizzly day like today. Or, for that matter, an icy winter day. In my cup this morning is a garden bouquet – a white tea that has been delicately scented with jasmine blossoms. It is called Jasmine Silver Needles.

I have read that it is customary to serve jasmine tea to guests to welcome them to your home. What a lovely way to welcome someone.

The tea buds are plucked in early spring and processed as white tea. The buds remind me of little pea pods. Once the jasmine plants get ready to bloom, the flower buds are plucked in the early morning and kept cool all day. As early evening approaches, the flower buds are mixed with the tea buds. As the night blooming jasmine flowers open, the tea buds absorb their scent. This process is repeated every day over the course of a week. So, a lot of work goes into creating this beautiful, unique tea.

I steeped the tea for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water. Another name for this tea could be Jasmine Silver Swords. What do you think?

A candy sweet, floral aroma greeted me the moment I lifted the lid of my glass teapot. The pale, straw-colored liquor is quite sweet and softly floral, allowing the mellow whisper of white tea to come forward as well.

As I sat quietly and sipped my tea, I thought about how many times we can get lost in our thoughts and, at those times, we aren’t really fully inhabiting our bodies. You know that spacey, kind of out of it feeling you can get? Yup, you’re not fully in your body. You’re off somewhere else, in the inner space of thought energy.

There are many ways, exercise being one of them, that can bring us back into our bodies and away from the hamster wheel of thoughts running through our minds. Sipping and appreciating a delicious cup of tea is another way. What do you do to bring yourself back into your body? I meditate and do yoga and have even been learning T’ai Chi again. And, of course, I drink tea!

Have a great week, dear tea friends!

“And the day came when the risk [it took] to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” 

~Anais Nin

A Lizard Tail Goddess

First of all, I’d like to extend a big thank you to Julie Picarello for all of her inspiration in creating this necklace. And her inspiration continues with the arrival of her eagerly anticipated book in my mailbox this week. More about that later…

A little over a year ago, I was excited and honored to attend a weekend workshop with Julie, one of my polymer clay/color heroes. The first word that comes to my mind whenever I look at her work is…..yummy. Her use of color, design and texture all flow together in such an amazingly vibrant way. As part of her workshop, we made these nifty little polyclay pieces that Julie calls “lizard tails”. As much as I love Julie’s work, I didn’t want to duplicate her jewelry pieces but put my own artistic voice into my piece. So, being true to my style, my “lizard tail” became the body of a bead embroidered Goddess.

Many moons ago before I started creating jewelry and beadwork, I loved to embroider. I remember my Hungarian grandmother teaching me how to carefully lay stitches down on a tablecloth when I was very young even before I started going to school.  I continued embroidering on into my teen years, creating colorful designs on t-shirts, denim shirts and pairs of denim jeans so ripped up that I transformed them into purses. Ah, happy memories! I loved taking an everyday object and embellish it with colorful stitches. Years later when I discovered that I could sew with my beloved beads, well, oh my, I was in heaven.

This beautifully serene, bone face cabochon was purchased years ago at a bead show in Providence and has sat patiently in my studio stash waiting to be included in its own unique piece of jewelry. I beaded the face and body separately on Lacy’s Stiff Stuff and then sewed them together before adding a final beaded edge to the whole pendant. I thought about adding some fringe or a bead drop but decided finally to just keep this piece as simple as possible with no embellishment.

The choker is beaded in my favorite beading weave, herringbone stitch, with tiny size 15 beads. In seed beads as with wire gauge, the larger the number, the smaller the bead (or wire). I then beaded small gold caps to finish the choker ends and added a gold-filled filigree box clasp. Despite its long pendant, this necklace is so lightweight and such a pleasure to wear. It is backed with soft Ultrasuede.

I thought it wonderfully synchronistic that I finished this piece the same week that I received my copy of Julie’s new book, “Patterns in Polymer: Imprint and Accent Bead Techniques“. If you’ve never had the opportunity to take a workshop with Julie, this is the next best thing and is filled with eye candy inspiration and instruction on creating your own unique mokume gane pieces.

Next up on my beading table is another component made in Julie’s workshop, my “lazy river” pendant. Stay tuned, dear friends…

Saturday Morning Tea

Remember my post several weeks ago where I revealed that I once didn’t like green tea? Well, there’s another tea that took me awhile to, shall we say, appreciate for its unique quality. A China tea which is processed in a way very different from all other teas. Can you guess what it is?

If you guessed China Pu-erh tea then you are absolutely correct. So, in keeping with my goal of being open to all of the different kinds of teas, this morning I introduce to you China Organic 1st Grade Pu-erh tea.

Because of fermentation during its processing, this is the darkest tea I know. To look at it in my tea bowl, one would almost think that I’m having a cup of coffee instead of tea, it’s that dark. You can read more about this type of tea and its processing here and here.

I steeped the dark brown leaves for 8 minutes in boiling point  (212F) water. The tea liquor got so darkly translucent that I could hardly see the leaves as they steeped.

I’m wondering if any coffee drinkers enjoy Pu-erh tea even though the only thing they really have in common is their dark color. The aroma and flavor are worlds apart. Are you a coffee drinker who enjoys Pu-erh?

The aroma is sweet and reminds me of an autumn walk in the forest and the smell of newly fallen leaves. Very earthy.

The tea liquor is incredibly sweet, like the intense sugars of dried fruit, and silky smooth. There is a Keemun-like burgundy/smoky note but it takes a supporting role to the predominant earthy flavor. This is a tea that you need to approach with absolutely no expectations, set those aside, or comparisons to your other experiences with tea. You may find, as I have, that this is a tea that draws you in with its sweet, dark nature and you want to experience and discover more.

“All you need is deep within you waiting to unfold and reveal itself.  All you have to do is be still and take time to seek for what is within, and you will surely find it.”  ~Eileen Caddy