Saturday Morning Tea

This morning I’m heading down to Rhode Island for my art guild meeting. Please enjoy my review from last year of a wonderful tea from the Jun Chiyabari estate. I’ll be back next week to review a brand new tea. Happy tea drinking, dear friends!

Jun, “moon”. Chiya, “tea”. Bari, “garden”.

Jun Chiyabari. Moon tea garden.

It conjures up images of an exotic place, filled with lush tea bushes bathed in the dreamy light of a full moon.

Back in 2000, 2 brothers, Bachan and Lochan Gyawali, along with a former schoolmate, manifested their “moon tea garden” dream when they established the Jun Chiyabari tea garden in the hills surrounding the small town of Hile in the eastern Himalayan region of Nepal.

Working with small, local farmers to encourage and support them in keeping ownership of their land for tea cultivation, the team’s primary focus is on quality of leaf not quantity. They pay the farmers top prices for that high quality leaf, with a markup of 50-100%, a direct benefit to this small rural community.

This morning’s tea was grown in this community.

“There is an old saying that ‘tea is made in the garden’ (as opposed to at the factory).  In other words, what is produced in the garden in terms of quality, plucking, etc., will determine the nature of the end product.  We take this very seriously, and from the outset we have put the small farmer at the heart of our project.” ~Bachan Gyawali

In keeping with this philosophy, the Jun Chiyabari team expanded their vision last year with the construction of the Singalila Tea factory nearby in the town of Fikkal, at an altitude of 5,662 feet above sea level. They are constantly educating themselves and their farmers in tea cultivation skills, bio-organic farming including diversity of crops and preservation of forest areas to benefit the environment.

The beautiful amber liquor glows like a jewel in my glass teapot inviting me to pour my first cup.

The cup is quite smooth with sweet, lightly floral notes. I also detect some chestnut notes reminiscent of an Oolong tea. Mmmm…

I look forward to more delicious tea from this visionary team!

Today I’m heading down to E. Bridgewater, MA where my dear friend, Judy, is teaching her Buttons & Bellishments class. I’m looking forward to a fun ART Day!

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

~Helen Keller

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Saturday Morning Tea

I’ve felt a shift in the air this week as we enter the second part of August. The sun sets earlier, the nights are cooler and I’ve even caught the faint whiff of woodsmoke as folks start to get a little cozier in the evenings by the fireplace. Lowe’s has row upon row of chrysanthemum pots in beautiful fall colors and rich burgundy blooms now adorn my front porch.

With a cooler breeze wafting in my windows, it’s the perfect morning for an Assam tea. Just as I love first flush Darjeelings in the springtime, I always enjoy Assam teas best in the fall. Their rich warmth is a wonderful balance to the cooler temps here in New England.

The Assam tea growing region is located in northeast India and the teas produced in that area were my first tea love. Their dark, full body reminds me so much of the tea my Mom used to drink when I was young. As the granddaughter of Irish immigrants, she always enjoyed her “cuppa”. And, of course, that’s what I was served whenever I wasn’t feeling well. So, as I grew up, I always associated black tea with comfort and feeling better.

My morning tea is an Assam from the Marangi estate, a 700 acre tea garden located in the hills of Assam. Every season there are a few outstanding teas that embody the best qualities of an Assam tea. This tea is definitely one of those teas!

The leaf is generously laced with golden tip, indicating a premium tea. I find that the golden tip also smooths out the astringency level in the tea liquor. This tea is a fine example of that as it is just smooth as silk.

I steeped the leaves for 5 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water. While the tea is very hearty and would stand up well to milk or cream, I’m drinking mine straight up.

The aroma is rich and malty which carries on into the complex flavor. Layers of malt are enhanced with a hint of dried fruit sweetness. This tea is a real treat!

Note to self: this would be the perfect birthday gift for my Assam loving friends. For myself, it would make the perfect companion to a cinnamon crunch bagel from Panera Bread!

What is your favorite tea in the fall?

“Autumn to winter, winter to spring,

Spring into summer, summer into fall—

So rolls the changing year, and so we change;

Motion so swift, we know not that we move.

~Dinah Mulock Craik

Saturday Morning Tea

I sit here quietly and sip my tea, the sounds of summer all around me – the faint buzzing of a lawn mower, the electric sound of the cicadas in the trees, the caw-caw of one crow to another as they fly over my house. As we enter the warm, hazy days of late summer, the fuschia impatiens dress my garden in their rich color.

In my cup this morning is a very dark tea, a China tea called Organic Pu-Erh 2nd Grade. Back in June, I wrote about the 1st grade here.

I steeped the leaves for 8 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water and, as you can see, the water quickly gets very murky on its way to becoming as black as night. Pu-Erh goes through a “composting” step during its processing. The leaves are piled into heaps, much like a compost pile, creating a heat in its core and transforming the leaves into this very unique tea.

Everything about this tea is so dark – the dry leaf, the wet leaf and the tea liquor after steeping. A rich, sweet, earthy aroma rises from my glass teapot as I remove the infuser basket.

I find that if I gaze at the tea liquor long enough, I can see a mulberry tinge around its edges. Can you see it?

The flavor is mellow and quite smooth, not as strong as its aroma. Characteristic notes of autumn leaf and forest floor mingle with a sweet molasses syrup flavor. I find myself enjoying it more and more with each sip.

While I was visiting my family in Michigan last month, we visited a quaint little village called Saugatuck, located on a river very near Lake Michigan. As we were strolling the shops, I came upon a pottery shop and purchased a few teabowls there. The artist’s name is Jeff Blandford and his business is called Volmod Ceramics. Voluptuous. Modern. Ceramic. He had some really cool pieces. As he was ringing my purchase, he told me that the teabowls I chose were created during a very creative time at the end of his student days at Michigan State University, over 3 years ago. So, I’d like to think that these lovely teabowls were sitting on the shelf patiently waiting for me to come along and bring them home to Massachusetts with me so I could enjoy many tea moments with them.

Until next week, dear tea friends…

“The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.”   ~Ivy Baker Priest

Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! Enjoy this oldie but goodie…

This morning the air had such a presence when I walked out onto the back deck. I strongly felt its steamy thickness pressing in on my body. Everything is air conditioned these days – my car, my house, my work, the stores – so it is almost a shock when I walk outside. All that said, I much prefer this thick heat to what lies ahead in about 3-4 months from now.

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With tender buds and full leaf sets, this morning’s tea is called Huo Shan Yellow Buds, a yellow tea from China. In touching the beautiful intact leaf, I imagined women moving through a tea field, their picking baskets strapped to them as their delicate hands reach out and pluck the tender new growth from each tea bush. Women are chosen for this task for their small hands and graceful movement.

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I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water.

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How does yellow tea differ from green tea, I wonder? From what I’ve researched and read, it is processed very similarly yet varies in the heating/firing steps. These steps are much more time consuming in producing the yellow tea in that the tea leaves are gently steamed with moist heat and then wrapped in some sort of material. This process is repeated several times. It produces a tea that tastes more like a white tea than a green tea. Such an art form. You can read about it here.

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Just like the air outside, this tea has such a presence in my mouth. That is called a “full mouth feel”. It is very apparent with the first sip of tea. It is not thick like an Assam tea but more buttery and silky.

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The tea liquor is quite pale with just a hint of color in my teapot. The aroma is soft and the flavor is slightly sweet and peppery/spicy. Very delicate and subtle.

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The tea is so light that it shows off the speckled inside of my teabowl to perfection. ahhhh..

Infinite riches are all around you if you will open your mental eyes and behold the treasure house of infinity within you. There is a gold mine within you from which you can extract everything you need to live life gloriously, joyously, and abundantly.

~Joseph Murphy