Saturday Morning Tea

A happy Labor Day weekend to one and all! Are you saying to yourself: now where did the summer go? Those long, hazy days seem to always fly by, quickly fading into the coolness of the fall.

This morning I’m enjoying a cup of Ceylon black tea from the Manikkanda estate. It has a leaf style designated as “FF” or “Fancy Flowery”, a special production from this particular estate. I believe the FF means that there is an abundance of golden tip, or new growth.

Historically named Ceylon as a British crown colony, the name is an English translation of the word Ceilão, a name given to the island by the Portugese in 1505. The island officially became known as the “Free, Sovereign and Independent Republic of Sri Lanka” in 1972 and then in 1978 to the “Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka”. A Sanskrit word, Sri Lanka translates to “venerable island” in English.

The Manikkanda tea estate is located in the southwestern Galle district, a district of the Southern province at the southernmost point on the island.

I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water, producing a rich russet liquor with a brisk aroma.

Look at that gorgeous color, a deep glowing fall color.

The tea liquor wakes up my palate with its brisk astringency and sweet flavor. I’m enjoying my tea plain but I bet it would taste great if you wanted to added milk and/or sweetener. This tea would also make a wonderful iced tea for those remaining warm days of late summer.

Enjoy this long weekend, dear tea friends!

“September’s song is a two-part harmony, as summer’s lighthearted serenade ends and a deeper melody begins.” 

~Sarah Ban Breathnach

Saturday Morning Tea

My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Japan and all those affected by the earthquake and tsunamis. May they find shelter and comfort during this tragic, frightening time.

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed a Shawlands estate Ceylon OP1 here. One of my readers requested that I review another lot from that very same estate, this time the Shawlands BOP1, BOP meaning Broken Orange Pekoe, more simply a broken leaf tea.

The long threads of leaf really don’t look broken to me, their appearance being very similar to the OP1 leaf.

I steeped the leaves for 4 1/2 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water, the same as the OP1.

After steeping, the broken pieces are revealed along with pieces of stem, the long threads I saw in the dry leaf.

You might be thinking to yourself, now why aren’t these teas the same since they come from the same tea estate? The subject of single estate tea lots is an interesting one, a subject I usually address at least several times a week at my job. Customers will wonder why we “discontinued” a tea. In other words, we sold a particular tea and now they want to purchase it again but we’re unfortunately sold out of it.  Can’t we just get more? Well, we might be able to purchase another lot from that estate depending upon what is produced the following year but it won’t be the exact one that sold out because that lot was from a previous harvest.

Ah, what gorgeous color – a glowing copper that invites me to take my first sip.

Tea is plucked and then processed as individual lots. Each lot will be different from the others even though it might have come from the same tea estate, the same land, in the same country. This is because there are so many factors that contribute to the ultimate flavor of the tea, including the exact moment of the leaf’s plucking, or harvest, and its processing.

All that being said, the flavor of this tea IS very similar to the tea from 2 weeks ago, however, the mintiness is much less pronounced. The tea liquor itself also feels thicker in my mouth with a smoother character. I enjoyed its medium body very much without milk or sweetener.

A beautiful, deep blue sky, just on the cusp of spring, is reflected in my cup. Joy…

I encourage you to try cupping 2 teas from the same estate, side by side. Notice the difference in the dry and wet leaf, the color of the tea liquor, the aroma and the flavor notes. It’s fun to do and also helps to refine your tea drinking palate. Enjoy!

“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.” ~Emily Dickinson

Saturday Morning Tea

Can you feel it? The air is softening with a glimmer of hope as we near the month that will bring us the very first day of spring. Ah, music to my ears!

Hello March, you are most welcome here in New England where we’ve felt winter’s brutal force most keenly this season.

To celebrate March this week, I chose a fresh, bright Ceylon called Shawlands estate OP1.

Many teas from Sri Lanka and India have letters after their estate name, in this case, “OP” which stands for Orange Pekoe (rhymes with echo). It doesn’t refer to the flavor of the tea. It is simply a leaf designation. OP refers to a whole leaf tea. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read about this subject here and here.

I steeped the OP leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water.

The Shawlands estate is located in the Uva district, found in the southeastern area of the island of Sri Lanka. The second largest province in Sri Lanka, Uva is a beautiful place of hills and valleys with abundant wildlife, including elephants and leopards and many species of birds.

The tea liquor is as bright as a new copper penny, with quite a pronounced refreshing minty aroma. This might sound strange but the aroma reminds me of the paste I used many moons ago in kindergarten. It is a minty smell I find very comforting.

The brisk, full-bodied flavor brings notes of mint and sweet raisins to my palate. I’m not usually a Ceylon lover but I find this tea deliciously appealing.

I prefer my tea without milk but this tea might stand up to a dollop or two, if you’d like. What’s in your cup this morning?

“It is the first mild day of March.

Each minute sweeter than before…

There is a blessing in the air…”

~William Wordsworth

Saturday Morning Tea

This morning we travel from Japan, where we’ve been tea-wise for the last month, to Sri Lanka. In contrast to the vegetal greens I’ve been enjoying, this morning I chose a dark, rich black tea with beautiful silver tips from New Vithanakande.

Its FBOPF leaf style, designated for this long, wiry, twisted leaf, is unique for a Ceylon tea. You know the tea that comes in teabags from the grocery store, the kind that we might have drunk when we were sick as kids? Well, that leaf style is called “fannings”, a very finely-particled leaf that fits into those bags easily and steeps very quickly. Astoundingly, this leaf has that same designation which is what the last “F” stands for. It’s because this skinny leaf can fit through the smallest sieves during the leaf sorting process. Amazing, huh?

The good news is that, unlike last week, this leaf fits nicely into my glass infuser and doesn’t fall through the narrow slits at all. The leaf swells during steeping but doesn’t unfurl from its tightly rolled shape.

Glorious color!

The wet leaf looks like a bunch of twigs but it’s actually twisted tea leaves. The aroma is bright with a sweet molasses note.

This tea is grown in the Ratnapura district, located in southern Sri Lanka. I’ve read that this district is the home of gem mining as well as a crossroads where hill country and plains come together. This tea is processed at a factory supporting 6,000 small landholders and their families. You can read more about it here. In this respect, the tea is similar to a Japanese tea in that it is named after the place that processes the tea not the tea garden.

The rich, dark amber liquor has the brightness of a Ceylon tea along with notes of caramel and molasses, a rich, sweet taste. I put a drop of milk in my second cup to smooth out the brightness.

One of my favorite color combinations – a blend of orange and dusky purple, like dark clouds against an autumn sunset.

A light gray blanket of clouds hangs from the sky, lighting the last of the dark copper leaves clinging to the tree branches. Despite the gloominess of the day, my thoughts are on next spring as I hope to plant some daffodil and tulip bulbs into the earth today.

My hours at work have lengthened as the light of the days grows shorter. This has resulted in much less time in my studio which I’m sure you’ve noticed as I haven’t posted any artwork in awhile. Sometimes when I stop and think about it, a wave of sadness washes over me and I yearn for a stretch of time where I had nothing to do except to play in my studio. But it is what it is and I take comfort in creating some holiday gifts from my pointy sticks in the evenings, hot cup of tea by my side.

Today is my granddaughter Ella’s second birthday and I am looking forward to traveling out to New Mexico very soon to see her and also my new grandson, Landon, who is due to arrive in this world this week. I take so much joy in these blessed family events!

Have a wonderful weekend, dear tea friends.

“But if you have nothing at all to create, then perhaps you create yourself.” ~Carl Jung