Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! It’s that time of year again when not only are the first flush Darjeelings being harvested in India but the Pre-Chingming teas are being harvested in China. In my cup this morning is a Pre-Chingming Lung Ching which I am happy to introduce to you.

Chingming, or Qingming, is a festival in China, usually celebrated on the 15th day from the Spring Equinox, or April 5th. It is a day for going outside to enjoy the return of greenery and tend to the graves of departed loved ones. So, Pre-Chingming refers to the tea being plucked before this festival time. This particular tea was harvested in China within the last few weeks.

Lung Ching tea, a very popular and well known tea from China, has a distinctive flat shape to the leaf after processing. This flat shape is intentionally caused by the motion of the pan when the leaf is heated to stop oxidation. Its name means “Dragon’s Well”, referring to the place where it has been traditionally grown. Legend has it that a Taoist priest in the 3rd century advised the local villagers to pray to the dragon of a local well to bring rain and end their drought. It worked and the well was named after that dragon. The Dragon’s Well monastery still stands in that spot to this day.

The color of the leaf while steeping is such an amazing spring green, don’t you think? I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water.

Seeing such an intact leaf is a gift. I imagine a field of women deftly plucking the delicate leaf and tossing it into the baskets strapped to their backs. They methodically make their way through the rows in the crisp spring air.

The tea liquor is so pale, like straw, with a whisper of green tinge. It’s as delicate as a white tea with a complexity of flavor showing its high quality and care in processing. The aroma is slightly nutty with a note of fresh early corn.

So very pale and delicate yet so very flavorful with notes of sweet nectar, melon, a hint of grapefruit and that delicious note of sweet corn. A very special tea indeed.

I’m so excited that my son is on leave for the next week and has come home to be embraced by his family once again.

Enjoy your week and your tea!

Dragon Bangle

In anticipation of the second season of my beloved Game of Thrones series starting this Sunday, I thought I’d share with you a bangle of “dragon scales” I wove last year.

Years ago, when I was just learning all of the different beadweaving techniques, I was a faithful reader of bead magazines. I think that they’re a wonderful resource for learning and inspiration.  After awhile though I found myself drawn to create my own designs so I stopped buying the magazines and started following my own voice. A good thing, too, because at that point, the magazines were taking over my studio floor!

That said, about a year ago, I was browsing around our local bookstore, cup of Chai tea in hand, when I spied the latest issue of Super Beadwork magazine. The cover featured this bangle created by Nancy Jones of Tiny Dog Seed Beads in Houston, TX. She was using a kind of bead that I had never seen before – a 4x7mm long magatama bead. To me, each individual bead looks like a tiny shoe but when woven side by side like this, they look just like dragon scales. Or what I imagine dragon scales would look like. I was quite entranced with the design so I purchased the magazine and went to work creating my own bangle.

I used a matte metallic color, antique bronze AB, for the “scales” and the inside beads are a size 8 seed bead called “Green Tea”, one of my favorite colors and the name oh so appropriate for me. I purchased the beads at my LBS but I saw several online sources for them when I googled.

The bangle is created using brick stitch for the length and peyote stitch to zip up the strip into a tube shape. If you’re familiar with these bead stitches, it works up quite easily. The problem I ran into was in the sizing. I made it way too big for my wrist. The challenge with a bangle like this is to make it big enough to fit over your hand yet not be too big for your wrist. I achieved the first challenge yet failed on the second. Oh well, now that the bangle is done, I wonder how I can make it smaller without it being a big production. Any ideas?

The link I found for this issue indicated that they were all sold out of it but I bet if you contacted Nancy Jones directly, you might be able to purchase the pattern from her.

As always, thanks for visiting and happy beadweaving!

Saturday Morning Tea

Oh joyous day! In celebration of the arrival of spring, I have a very special treat for you today. Here’s a hint for those of you who have been reading my tea posts for awhile? What do I look forward to with great joy and anticipation every spring???

If you guessed a first flush Darjeeling, you are absolutely right! This particular selection is an early first flush offering from the Tindharia estate. It was just picked this month. Look at that gorgeous variegated leaf with white tips, green bits and brown leaf.

The Tindharia tea garden is a bio-organic estate, located in the South Kurseong area of Darjeeling district. I’ve read that the town of Kurseong, whose name means “Land of the White Orchids”, is a quiet hill station. A hill station is “a town in the low mountains of the Indian subcontinent, popular as a holiday resort during the hot season.” At elevations of 400-1000 meters, it sounds like a great destination for cooling off during the hot summer months.

Despite its leaf appearance, this tea has been processed as a black tea. I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in water just under the boiling point (212F). The first thing I noticed as I removed the infuser basket from my glass teapot was the incredibly fresh aroma with just a delicate hint of flowers.

The tea liquor is a pale glowing amber. As I take my first sip, the fresh flavor fills my mouth with its freshness and hints of green grapes and flowers. It is surprisingly smooth for a first flush tea but there is a bright tang that lingers in my mouth. I could drink this tea all day long.

This special treat has succeeded in lifting my spirits today. I was heartbroken to learn just this past week that my polymer clay guild has been dissolved. While the friendships will still remain, I am feeling so sad that my days of creating side by side with these ladies is at an end. I’ve lost my tribe, creatively speaking. So, I will look for another local artistic group to connect and create with. Any ideas on where to start?

Happy Spring, my dear tea friends!

“Is the spring coming”? he said. “What is it like?”…

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

~Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Saturday Morning Tea

Happy St. Paddy’s Day! Top of the mahrnin to one and all. I’m celebrating this day with a rich Irish Breakfast blend in my cup. A blend of hearty Indian Assam tea and brisk Ceylon tea, it’s called River Shannon Breakfast Blend, a perfect blend for today.

It’s a broken leaf selection so it’s best to steep the leaves for 3 minutes when drinking it plain. I wanted a little tang in my cup so I pushed the brew time to 4 minutes. It’s dark and stout with a hint of malt and a bright whisper of lemon.

When I visited Ireland back in 1999, this was the kind of tea served at all of the B&Bs we stayed at. It was a wonderful respite from our busy touring schedule to sit down and enjoy a “cuppa”, always served with a tray of delicious scones.

The deep amber tea liquor would go wonderfully with a spot of milk and a little sweetener.

Aside from a teapot of Irish style tea, I’ll be celebrating today with a long walk along the bike path and then some precious time in my studio. How are you celebrating?

Let’s all raise our teacups to the Emerald Isle and enjoy the day!

City Lights

A couple of years ago, I was experimenting with translucent polymer clay and silver leaf to create a button for my Winter Woods Vest. Besides the button, I also created a cabochon and a long, thin focal bead from that design sheet.

Using a dab of E-6000 glue, I affixed the cab to some Lacy’s Stiff Stuff backing and it sat there on my work table for a year as various designs percolated in my mind. That’s the way I like to work. I create a component that I’d like to bead and/or use in a jewelry design and then I just let it sit there in my studio where I can gaze on it periodically. The component image imprints on my brain and in my imagination and, as I go through my day-to-day experiences, it changes shape and grows.

My first inclination was to orient the cab as a vertical pendant. I knew that I wanted to use silver beads and grey pearls and played around with several designs but nothing felt quite right to me. At this point, I had added the silver beading around the cab. I liked the way the sparkly silver seed beads set off the silver leaf peeking out from under the translucent clay. Around that time period, I was driving into Boston a lot and images of reflections on the city streets, wet from newly fallen snow, joined the beaded cab image in my mind.

One day my intuition told me to turn the cab to a horizontal orientation and, at that moment, something clicked inside of me and the design started to fall into place as I peyote stitched the silver tubes. I think that the clean lines of the long thin tubes contribute a quiet, reflective, zen feeling to the piece. Underneath that hushed quiet glows the heart of the city.

Now that this piece is finished, my thoughts turn to the long, thin focal bead for another piece. I think I just might go with the same horizontal orientation. What do you think?