Saturday Morning Tea

Mackeypore Golden Tips Dry 12-20-14

Good morning, dear tea friends! On this Winter Solstice Eve day, I’m celebrating the return of the light with a very special tea, called Mackeypore Golden Pekoe Tips. From the Assam tea growing region in northeastern India, this tea has been created from tender buds that were plucked at dawn. I envision a group of tea pickers starting their day, entering the field as the sun’s rays break over the horizon. They move through the tea bushes, carefully plucking only the choicest buds. After picking, the buds are laid out to wither and dry, turning a golden color in the warmth of the sun. Even though this tea is processed similarly to a white tea, its flavor is different, and I don’t think it’s classified as one. Each bud has a coating of fine white, downy hairs giving them a soft, fuzzy appearance.

Mackeypore Golden Tips Steep 12-20-14

I steeped the buds for 3 1/2 minutes in water just under boiling point.

In the Northern hemisphere where I live, the December Solstice, also known as the Winter Solstice, heralds the onset of winter. It also marks the shortest day of the year, a time when the North Pole is tilted away from the sun, causing it to appear further south and far away from us. In thinking about this, I picture the sky as an inverted bowl and the path of the sun at this time of year is closest to the rim, or the horizon.

Mackeypore Golden Tips Wet 12-20-14

As you can see, the buds don’t change much in appearance after steeping. Even the little hairs are still present.

I’ve read that the term solstice means “sun stands still”, referring to the appearance of the sun halting in its incremental journey across the sky and changing little in position during this time. Since ancient times, humans have observed this seasonal milestone and created spiritual and cultural traditions to celebrate the rebirth of sunlight after the darkest period of the year.

So, this is a good news/bad news type of day. The bad news is that the daylight hours are incredibly short – a scant 9 hours and 5 minutes of daylight. The good news, however, is that from now on the days will grow longer, a little bit at a time but steadily increasing in light. Personally, I’d like to focus on the good news part!

Mackeypore Golden Tips Teapot 12-20-14

What I find most interesting about this tea is the tea liquor color. One would think it would be pale and delicate but it has the rich amber color of a black tea. The aroma is sweet with a toasty note. The flavor is more robust than I expected, with notes of dried apricot and, yes, there is some malt there. It’s light but it’s there. I wouldn’t recommend milk with this tea, however, I put a dab of local honey in my cup and it was marvelous.

Mackeypore Golden Tips Mug 12-20-14

I pulled out my glass mug so I could enjoy the color of the tea as I sipped.

A beautiful golden amber light.

As we enter Christmas week, I’d like to wish all of you Happy Holidays. Whatever and wherever your celebrations may be, I hope that they’re filled with love and light and joy! And, of course, many cups of delicious tea! I’ll be traveling to Michigan for the holidays so Saturday Morning Tea will return in the New Year on January 10th. See you next year!

Saturday Morning Tea

Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Dry Leaf 12-06-14 Good morning, dear tea friends! It’s a damp, drizzly day, and I can hear the cars splash by outside as I prepare my tea this morning. I’m warming myself up with a dark cup of Pu-Erh tea, called Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Tuo Cha. The leaves have been interestingly mixed with a Chinese herb and then compressed into a square shape. Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Steep 12-06-14 Traditionally, Pu-erh teas are created from leaves harvested in the ancient tea forests of Yunnan province in China. There are two different kinds of Pu-erh tea, raw (Sheng) and cooked (Shou). This Pu-erh selection is of the cooked (Shou) variety. It has been mixed with an herb called Nuo Mi Xiang, which grows in China’s Yunnan province. In consulting with my colleague who speaks Chinese, Nuo Mi Xiang translates to “sticky rice fragrance”, referring to its aroma closely resembling that of sticky rice. I used two squares in my glass teapot and rinsed them for 10 seconds in boiling water first to awaken the leaf. Then I steeped for 5 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Wet Leaf 12-06-14 Cooked 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 unique tea. Compressed forms of tea have been produced in China for hundreds of years. It was the most common form transported on the ancient caravan routes because it was less susceptible to physical damage and easier to transport. Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Teapot 12-06-14 The aroma is fragrant with rich earth and autumn leaves. The tea liquor, as is normal for cooked Pu-Erh teas, is the color of black coffee. The flavor is smooth and sweet, with notes of pumpernickel toast and earthy spice. I think the herb lends a unique flavor to this Pu-Erh, which I find very appealing. Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Tea Bowl 12-06-14 This tea can be steeped multiple times. Do any of you steep your Pu-Erh tea that way? The days are shortening as we approach the Winter Solstice and the holiday time. Glowing twinkle lights adorn houses in my neighborhood, chasing away that deep darkness with the promise of the light returning in longer days once again. Have a lovely two weeks and enjoy your tea!