Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! In a few days, it will be Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, or the longest night of the year, depending upon your perspective. In my little corner of the world, it occurs on December 21st at 11:49pm. I always try and imagine what is was like for the ancients witnessing the darkness growing with each passing day, not knowing whether the light would ever return. But, of course, it did and they came to celebrate the “birth of the Sun” on this day.

I’m celebrating the holiday season today with a special Darjeeling in my cup, called Victoria’s Peak Gold Organic. It really doesn’t look like a Darjeeling at all, does it? The leaf reminds me of a very tippy Assam or China Black Mao Feng.

This tea was grown on the Steinthal Estate in Darjeeling, northeastern India.

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I steeped the leaves longer than I normally do with a Darjeeling – 4 minutes in 212F water. 5 minutes would work well, too, especially if you like to add milk to your tea.

Here’s some information about Victoria’s Peak from the grower.

“This is a division within the Steinthal Tea Estate, named after Queen Victoria. Located next to Victoria’s Falls and Victoria Park as a memoir of one of the Queens who visited Darjeeling. It is a picturesque area – on the north  side we can see the Himalayan mountains on the east of this are the Botanical Gardens..and just above is the Darjeeling town. A very small quantity of tea is produced every year from this division, which are manufactured at the adjacent Steinthal factory.”

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In looking at the intact leaf sets and whole leaf, you can see that it was processed with great care and artistry. The cup aroma is rich with notes of cocoa.

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The red amber liquor has a mouth feel with majestic presence. The flavor is complex with notes of cocoa and spice and just a hint of malt. A warm toastiness lingers on my tongue. A very enjoyable tea experience!

In honor of Winter Solstice and this holiday season of light, I’m happy to share with you my beaded journal page from years past.

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My December journal page is entitled “The Birth of the Sun”, in honor of the Winter Solstice and the long celebrated “return of the sun.” Inspired by the beautiful color palette of the sunrise, my piece symbolizes the light of the holiday season. The days are now getting longer and my sun contains the seed/embryo of the warmer months to come and its continuing journey towards light. For me personally, I meditated on the light within my own heart as I set down each bead.

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I’m traveling to Michigan for the holidays so Saturday Morning Tea will return in 3 weeks time. Have a lovely holiday season!

You darkness, that I come from,

I love you more than all the fires

that fence in the world,

for the fire makes

a circle of light for everyone,

and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything;

shapes and fires, animals and myself,

how easily it gathers them!–

powers and people–

and it is possible a great energy

is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, On Darkness

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Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! On this crisp, early December morning, there’s not a cloud in the clear blue sky, and I’m enjoying a Pu-Erh tea in my cup. This particular selection, called Pu-Erh Tuo Cha Std., has been compressed into little birds’ nests shapes, called tuo cha. As you can see, each tuo cha is neatly wrapped in paper.

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Each tuo cha will make 2 cups of tea so I had to break them up a bit to measure for my 3-cup glass teapot. I used one full tuo cha and one half tuo cha. I steeped for 6 minutes in 212F water.

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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 is of the cooked (Shou) variety.

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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.

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The tea liquor is a dark, opaque brown, with a sweet, earthy aroma. The flavor is velvety smooth, with notes of earth, autumn leaves and a dark sweetness, like molasses or dark brown sugar. As the tea cools, it gets even sweeter.

To conserve on heat, I keep my house pretty cool. I rely on my tea to warm me up and this tea did a great job of that. I’m going to the movies with my grandkids today, always a special treat to spend time with them! When I return home, I’ll put on some holiday jazz music and finish decorating the tree. I love this festive time of year. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and enjoy your tea!

Heaven or Hell, love or hate

No matter where I turn

I meet myself.

Holding life is precious is

Just living with all intensity

Holding life precious.

~Kosho Uchiyama Roshi