Saturday Morning Tea

Jungpana Estate 2nd Flush Darjeeling Dry 09-28-13

Good morning, dear tea friends! With almost a week past the autumnal equinox, the shadow of darkness falls earlier in the evenings. That said, when the sun is shining, the days are glorious and the trees look dipped in fire. I love this autumn time of year.

Speaking of glorious, my morning tea is a high-end second flush Darjeeling from the Jungpana Estate. The price per packet might take your breath away, however, the price per teacup is only .76 and compared with a latte price from the local Starbucks, it’s quite a bargain for such an amazing cup.

JungpanaEstate 2nd Flush Darjeeling Steep 09-28-13

Referred to as “an island in the mountains”, the Jungpana Estate is located in a rugged terrain surrounded by pine forests in northeastern India. There is a sad legend on how the area received its name. From their website:

Legend has it that many years ago a British hunter was roaming the Himalayas with his faithful gurkha Jung Bahadur by his side when they were attacked by a leopard.

In trying to save his master Jung Bahadur was severely mauled before his master dispensed with the beast. Jung Bahadur was weak and thirsty and asked his master for ‘pana’, or, water. He was carried to a nearby stream and given water to drink but died in his master’s arms soon thereafter.

Eversince that moment, the area has been known as JUNGPANA, or, where Jung Bahadur had his last drink of water. The tea estate planted later, carries the name till today.
Jungpana Estate 2nd Flush Darjeeling Wet 09-28-13
The leaves consist of new tip growth and leaf, some intact, some broken. I steeped them for 3 minutes using boiling point (212F) water. As I lifted the infuser after steeping, I noted the fragrant aroma of peach nectar rising from my glass teapot.
JungpanaEstate 2nd Flush Darjeeling Teapot 09-28-1
The amber-colored tea liquor is rich and fruity with pronounced notes of peach and muscatel. As the tea cooled, some toasty nuances came out along with a gentle astringency in the finish.
Jungpana Estate 2nd Flush Teacup 09-28-1
Tomorrow I’m going on a fabulous fall adventure – apple picking with family and friends. Mmmm, I can already smell that apple pie baking…
Have a wonderful week filled with many cups of delicious tea!
“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
~George Eliot
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Prayers for Peace

Prayers For Peace Necklace 1

Whenever I turn on the news, it seems like there’s more and more violence happening in the world. I always feel so helpless in the face of all of the sadness and suffering going on. What can I do to help? I am one person, living a quiet, middle-aged life in my little corner of this world.

I thought about this as I beaded the triangles for this necklace, one by one. As I got into the meditative rhythm of adding one bead at a time, I found myself moving to a deeper place, a silent place, and I started to send out positive thoughts and prayers for healing. On the path of those thoughts and prayers, this necklace was born. I call it Prayers for Peace.

Prayers For Peace Necklace 2

I was inspired to create these beaded triangles when I received my copy of the wonderful Contemporary Geometric Beadwork by the fabulous Kate McKinnon and her beady tribe.

I started out with an exploration of colors and patterns.

Beaded Triangles

I then moved on to the creation of a more organized beaded piece – a necklace.

Prayers For Peace Necklace 3

I chose a warm color and a cool color to represent the energies of light and dark and the healthy balance of these energies. Like yin and yang.

Prayers For Peace Necklace 4

The biggest challenge with this piece came after I had beaded all of the triangles. Now how do I connect them together to form a necklace? I thought about this for awhile and had come up with several options when one day I experienced a serendipitous moment whiling creating some headpins with silver wire. How about if I use a headpin as a sort of hinge attachment? And it worked.  Most excellent.

Prayers For Peace Necklace 5

Using the same headpins, I then created some chain links and a triangle shaped clasp link.

I’m really enjoying my foray into the geometric beady world these days. Stay tuned for further adventures as I explore beading a cuff with “horns and wings”. Think Klingon warrior and the colors of tea!

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

~Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday Morning Tea

Halmari Estate Assam Dry Leaf 09-21-13

Good morning, dear tea friends! A blanket of clouds covered the sky as I poured my first cup of morning tea but now as I sit down to write, I see peeks of blue here and there. Tomorrow marks the Autumnal Equinox here in my corner of the world, the Northern Hemisphere, however, I’ve felt the winds of seasonal change for several weeks now. Going with that change, I’m enjoying an Assam tea today, a tea I enjoy most as the cooler weather comes. This one is a broken leaf selection  from the Halmari Estate. Look at all that beautiful golden tip interspersed among the leaves!

Halmari Estate Assam Steep 09-21-13

It seems like the color orange pops out and surrounds us in the fall – pumpkins, butternut squash, autumn sunsets, chrysanthemums, even the light has a crisp golden-y orange hue. This tea fits right into the the colors of fall, with its wonderful russet glow. I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

Located on the plains of upper Assam in northeastern India, the Halmari Estate was started in the 1940s and is owned by the Daga family. You can see some cool pictures of their factory, where the tea processing takes place, here. That’s where it all happens, leaf to cup.

Halmari Estate Assam Wet Leaf 09-21-13

Most of the leaf particles are broken, however, I found some little tips, which had turned the same color as the rest of the leaf, during steeping.

The aroma has light malty hints with a whisper of red wine.

Halmari Estate Assam Teapot 09-21-13

The burnt orange colored tea liquor reflects the changing colors of the leaves on the trees. The flavor is silky smooth, one of my favorite qualities to find in an Assam tea. The notes are dark honey sweet with hints of spice that linger in the finish. If you enjoy milk in your Assam tea, I recommend steeping this one longer than 4 minutes.

Halmari Estate Assam Teamug 09-21-13

The clouds are now moving swiftly, dark grey with tufts of white higher up. The glimpses of blue sky are growing as the moving clouds part. It’s a fine day for a long walk on the bike path, methinks…

I’ve been lately enjoying the audiobook version of The Fellowship of the Ring during my work commute. I leave you with one of my favorite poems from the book.

Have a wonderful week and enjoy your tea!

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Saturday Morning Tea

Pouchong Dry Leaf 09-14-13

Good morning, dear tea friends! I had the most interesting experience yesterday, which I’d like to share with you. As I was driving home from work, I noticed the buildup of huge puffy clouds in the late afternoon sky, however, the sun was still shining brightly on my path. All of a sudden, the heavens opened up and the rain was torrential, pouring down like glittering drops of diamonds through the sun’s rays. It was a magical moment, one that was soon followed by the appearance of a rainbow up in the dark sky as the rain passed. A moment that seemed suspended in time, just like my special moments with a cup of tea in hand.

In my teabowl this morning is a Pouchong tea from Taiwan, called Formosa Pouchong Select.

Pouchong Tea Steeping 09-14-13

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 unique and distinctive tea. The word “pouchong” means “the wrapped kind”, referring to the ancient practice of wrapping the leaves as they were drying.

Pouchong Tea Wet Leaf 09-14-13

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180F water. As you can see, the leaf is enormous, likening it more to an Oolong tea than a green tea. They barely unfurled while steeping. These bold leaves are perfect for resteeping, if you wish.

A lovely floral fragrance drifted up from my glass teapot as the leaf was steeping.

Pouchong Tea in Teapot 09-14-13

The pale jade tea liquor is gently fragranced with a floral note, which carries over into its taste and notes of fruit add to its complexity. It fills my mouth with its rich buttery flavor, a wonderful experience.

For tea lovers that enjoy scented floral teas and lightly oxidized Oolongs, I highly recommend sampling this tea. And for those looking for a green tea without heavy vegetal notes, this is perfect.

PouchongTeabowl091413

Today I’m going over to the local garden center to check out their selection of spring flowering bulbs. It’s that time of year again to start planning next year’s garden. Tonight a group of us are headed over to Palette’s in Natick to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday. Palettes is a “painting bar” where you can spend an evening painting a masterpiece while sipping your favorite beverage. I always love their fruit and herbal infused water. Last time it was strawberry basil. Mmmm!

Thanks for joining me and sharing a cup of tea today. Stay tuned for next week when I will review either a new second flush Darjeeling or an Assam, newly arrived from India. Cheers!

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

~Roald Dahl

The Evolution of a Beaded Flower Pin

Moms Beaded Flower Pin 2 09 07 13

Hey wait, that isn’t a photo of tea leaves! I know, I know, it’s been many moons since I’ve shared one of my creations with you. I seem to have slipped into a quiet, inner space of creativity this year, a space I feel myself slowly peeking out of.

This pin had an interesting evolution.

Earlier this year, I received my copy of Contemporary Geometric Beadwork, Volume 1 by the fabulous Kate McKinnon and her amazing beady tribe. Using the instructions in the book, I taught myself how to zig zag, an MRAW (Modified Right Angle Weave) stitch that then morphs on into peyote stitch. The zig zags are formed by an increase and decrease at regular intervals. If you love to bead and don’t have the book yet, run to the link above and order it. You’ll be glad you did.

Moms Beaded Flower Pin Closeup 09-07-13

So, zig zags to create a cuff bracelet. All was going well until the zigs got ziggier and the zags got zaggier and the whole cuff shrunk and was way too small to fit over my hand. Oh dear, lesson learned. Pay attention, Karen. Measure, Karen.

Moving forward, now what was I going to do with this too small cuff, I wondered. In thumbing through the book some more, I discovered that you could do some strategic weaving to pull the shape into a starfish or flower shape. Brilliant!

And a flower pin was born.

Moms Beaded Flower Pin 1 09-07-13

Once I wove the zigs (or was it the zags?) together, the middle looked kinda empty so I beaded around a topaz rivoli crystal and ta-da – a sparkly flower center was born. Did I mention that you can make two layers on this type of beadwork? It gives the structure more dimension and strength.

Moms Beaded Flower Pin 3 09-07-13

After all the beadwork and weaving was done, I sewed a pinback on and covered it with a small scrap of ultrasuede. I gave it to my Mom for her birthday.

And now that my Mom has received her gift and it goes perfectly on her new fall sweater, I can share it with all of you!

As always, thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for more creations in Geometric Beadwork.

Saturday Morning Tea

Keemun Xiang Luo Dry Leaf 09-07-13

Good morning, dear tea friends! Change is in the air. The winds have shifted, welcoming in September with dry, cool air. As I sit and sip my tea, I watch the summer curtains dance and flutter around my windows.

I’ve chosen a dark, rich tea this morning, a China black tea called Keemun Xiang Luo, which translates to “fragrant snail”. The leaves are rolled and curled during processing, similar to the green tea called Pi Lo Chun, to resemble spiral snail shapes.

Keemun Xiang Luo Steep 09-07-13

I steeped the dark, glossy leaf for 5 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

Keemun tea is named after a county, Qimen, in Anhui province. There are several stories about its origins but the most common is one of a governmental official in the late 1800s who learned about black tea production in Fujian province and then decided to return to his native county, Qimen, to produce black tea there. He met with success and his new black tea was imported to England where it was enjoyed as a breakfast tea.

Keemun Xiang Luo Wet Leaf 09-07-13

As you can see, some of the leaf opened their accordion pleats during steeping and some stayed rolled. I detected a maltiness in the aroma as the leaves steeped, which dissipated after the tea cooled to reveal a hint of red wine and a toasty note.

Keemun Xiang Luo Teapot 09-07-13

The tea liquor gleams like dark honey in my glass teapot. The flavor is thick and rich with notes of dark cocoa, which linger in my mouth.

Keemun Xiang Luo Teabowl 09-07-13

This would be a great tea to take along to an outside fall activity, like a long walk through the woods or a football game. It’s very warming.

I’d like to wish my very dear Mom a happy birthday today. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Have a wonderful week and enjoy your tea!

“And the beauty of a woman, with passing years only grows!”

~Audrey Hepburn