Saturday Morning Tea

GABA Oolong Dry Leaf 05-24-14

Good morning, my dear tea friends. It’s been awhile since we’ve shared a cup of tea together. I have been helping a cherished friend make his last journey out of this world. It has been a very hard time. This past week the sky has been weeping cleansing rain from gray clouds with peeks of blue here and there. I have found that grief can be very much like that – torrential rain one minute and then peeks of blue sky the next. I am hopeful that the combination of cleansing raindrops and peeks of sun can bring a rainbow for healing. It takes time though. Tea has been such a solace and comfort. My morning cup today is called GABA Oolong.

GABA Oolong Steep 05-24-14

GABA, or Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, is a compound that naturally occurs in the human body. It is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter and prevents over-excitement in our nervous system. Neurotransmitters are what neurons send to each other to either excite of inhibit a signal. You must be thinking – what does this have to do with tea? Well, in the 1980s, Japanese scientists were experimenting with different ways to preserve food and discovered that when tea leaves were exposed to nitrogen, it increased the levels of GABA in the tea. GABA tea then became a staple in many Japanese diets because they believe it has a wide range of health benefit because of its calming properties.

GABA Oolong Wet Leaf 05-24-14

To create the tea, tea plants are shaded for about 10 days prior to harvest, which increases the levels of glutamic acid, a precursor to GABA, in the leaf. After harvest, the tea leaves are placed in stainless steel drums and the oxygen is then replaced with nitrogen for about 8 hours. What does GABA do exactly? I have read that it increases the alpha brain waves, which can improve mental focus and promote a greater sense of well being. That said, my question then is how does the GABA get past the blood brain barrier? A good question for the scientists out there.

GABA Oolong Teapot 05-24-14

I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in 180 degree (F) water. The gentle aroma is quite sweet with fruity nuances.

GABA Oolong Tea Bowl 05-24-14

The light golden tea liquor is also quite sweet and buttery smooth with notes of cantaloupe and tropical fruit. This lovely fruity tea would make an excellent iced tea!

Thanks for understanding about my long absence and I’ll see you in two weeks when I’ll be reviewing a new Pre-Chingming tea. Until then, dear tea friends, enjoy your tea!

Advertisements

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

Saturday Morning Tea

Oolong Extra Fancy Dry Leaf 08-31-13

Good morning, dear tea friends, and Happy Labor Day to all of my US tea friends. As promised, this morning’s tea is a Formosa Oolong Extra Fancy. Let’s see how it compares with the Extra Fancy lot I enjoyed 2 years ago.

The large, hand-processed leaf is identical – fully intact leaf sets of the first two leaves and a bud (tip). You can see the buds with the fine downy white hair covering the baby leaf.

Oolong Extra Fancy Steep 08-31-13

I steeped the leaves for 5 minutes in 190F water as I did 2 years ago. I’m not sure why those tiny bubbles formed along the inside of my glass teapot while the leaves were steeping.

Oolong Extra Fancy Wet Leaf Set 08-31-

What a beautifully intact leaf set – a testament to the careful hand-processing of the leaf and the Tea Master’s art!

Oolong Extra Fancy in Teapot 08-31-1

This tea steeped up lighter than the last lot – a glowing peachy color in my glass teapot.

The fragrant aroma smells of chestnuts with a hint of fruit, like peach or apricot.

The flavor is light and smooth with a pronounced honey note that steps back as the tea cools to reveal fruity notes of peach and apricot. Comparing the flavor to the last lot, the fruity flavor notes are very similar but the mouth feel isn’t as heavy syrup-y ambrosia-like but lighter and delicate.

Oolong Extra Fancy in Teabowl 08-31-

It’s a cloudy, muggy day here in New England with the threat of late afternoon thunderstorms for the next 3 days. I spent a wonderful day yesterday with a dear friend, working on some art projects. The months have flown by and I haven’t shared what I’ve been working on, I know. I guess I’ve just been in an introspective creating period this year. Patience, my dear friends. Hopefully, the cooler breezes of fall usher in some art posts to share with you.

As always, thanks for stopping by and sharing a cup of tea with me. Have a wonderful week!

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

C.G. Jung

Saturday Morning Tea

This morning’s tea is a decadent treat.

At approximately $2.25 per cup, it is also an expensive treat! It’s name is quite fitting. Meet Extra Fancy Oolong from Taiwan (Formosa). Extra Fancy indeed.

It is described as a “style of Oolong often referred to as ‘Champagne Oolong’, and exemplifies the art of fine tea manufacture”. We can see how carefully this tea was processed by the full leaf sets still intact.

This tea has been entirely hand processed. From the careful picking of the first two leaves and bud on the tea plant to the drying and shaking of the leaf every hour to bruise and encourage oxidation to the pan roasting that halts the oxidation, the Tea Master who created this tea has synchronized all of these steps perfectly as an art form.

Because Oolong tea is not fully oxidized as is black tea, I steeped the leaves in cooler than boiling point water – about 190 degrees F for 5 minutes.

The deep sherry-colored tea liquor smells like ambrosia, giving off an aroma of fresh peaches. I can’t wait to take my first sip which fills my mouth with notes of ripe fruit, rich and syrupy. Oh, what a treat!

I know it’s a tradition to have a glass of champagne at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Why not enjoy a cup of “champagne” tea instead?

What a wonderful way to welcome in a brand new year!

Until next time, dear tea friends…

To listen to the songs of birds, I skipped the evening meditation,
enjoyed a patch of grass by the edge of an ancient mountain stream.
Pleasure recollected depends on a beautiful phrase;
the appreciative mind meets with a close friend.
Spring water cries out in a rocky valley;
pine trees echo when wind is coming.
I drank a cup of tea and watched the flowing and stillness.
Quietly and naturally I seemed to forget the return of time.

Cho-ui
1786-1866

Saturday Morning Tea

springdragonoolongliquor.jpg

Good morning, my dear tea friends. This morning I am headed out to my monthly polymer clay guild meeting in Rhode Island. I have resurrected a tea post from back when I lived in Upton. It’s a review of one of my most favorite Oolong teas. Enjoy this blast from the past and I’ll see you back here next week when I review a brand new tea!

This morning there is a very cool breeze coming in my windows. As I gaze out over the treetops, I see a variety of reds, oranges, maroons and golds blooming amongst the greenery. October is one of my favorite months because I love so much about this autumn time of year – the aroma of dry leaf as it dances across my path, the explosion of color across the landscape, the crisp, tart taste of a just picked apple, the bright orange pumpkins displayed in wooden carts along the side of the road. This morning, however, I am feeling wistful as the memory of summer slips away. So, in light of my mood, I have brewed up a green Formosa Oolong called Spring Dragon.

springdragonoolongdryleaf.jpg

After plucking the new growth (2 leaves and a bud), the leaves are spread out to dry and oxidize. They are shaken periodically during this drying period to bruise the leaf and release its volatile oils for flavor. This also helps in the oxidation process, the turning brown process of the leaf. This Oolong is only lightly oxidized so it is carefully monitored during this time. Once the tea master judges the oxidation to be sufficient, the leaves are pan roasted to halt oxidation. Then they are rolled and dryed some more.

springdragonoolongwetleaf.jpg

It is amazing that you can see the serration on the edges of the intact leaf that I have spread out after I steeped the tea. I left a portion of one leaf still rolled up a little so you can see how it has opened up. The aroma is sweet and delicately flowery. The light honey colored liquor is also sweet with lilac flavor notes. Mmmmmmm….

Saturday Morning Tea

On this gorgeous late summer’s day, I end my series on Oolong teas with another Tieguanyin style Oolong, this one from the island of Taiwan (Formosa). It is called Tie-Guan-Yin Vintage style.

Not quite as dark as last week’s Buddha’s Palm, this tea is the closest in color and flavor to the first Oolong I reviewed 3 weeks ago called Golden Guan Yin. The dry leaf has been curled during processing, opening up during steeping to reveal the large leaves.

As you recall from my discussion last week on TGY Oolong processing, one of the last steps – the drying/roasting – is critical to the final taste of the tea. This particular tea has been roasted for a longer period of time with a lower temperature. This results in a pronounced toasty flavor note which I find quite pleasing.

I steeped the leaves for 3 1/2 minutes in 190 degree F water. As Oolong teas are not as oxidized as black teas, it’s always a good idea to cool the water from boiling before steeping your tea leaves.

The beautiful light amber colored tea glows in my glass teapot, inviting me to pour my first cup.

The aroma also smells like warm toast and notes of honeyed chestnut and whispers of fruit caress my tongue.

I’ve really enjoyed learning about Oolong teas in more depth and hope you have, too. Soon, our Assam teas should be arriving and I’d love to explore them in more depth as well. Perhaps in October. If there is any category of tea that you’re interested in, please let me know. This has been fun!

Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.  Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” ~Ella Fitzgerald

Saturday Morning Tea

In continuing my series on Oolong teas, this morning’s tea, called Bao Jun, comes from the island of Taiwan, located just across the Formosa Strait from Fujian Province in China, home of the Chinese Oolongs.  235 miles long by 90 miles wide, Portugese traders called this island, covered in misty forested mountains, Ilha Formosa.

For many centuries, the island’s original inhabitants, of Polynesian descent, had cultivated and processed tea picked from wild-growing tea trees found high in the mountains. In the 1600s, the Dutch brought over Chinese citizens from Fujian to work as laborers. Some of these immigrants brought tea bush cuttings with them and established tea gardens in various mountain areas, teaching the natives their own methods of tea cultivation. Thus was born a unique history which merged native with immigrant tea knowledge.

Look how these 3 leaves are still connected to the stem. Gorgeous!

This beautiful, hand-made artisan tea, comes from a small family farm located in the Shan Ling Xi area in the mountains of Nantou County, located in central Taiwan. I wrote about another tea grown there and more about this farm here.

I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in 190 degree F water. You can see how the curled leaves are beginning to unfurl, however, they are not fully unfurled until after the 3rd or 4th infusion. This makes them ideal for multiple steepings.

The aroma carries wisps of a light floral scent.

Its pale gold liquor has a honeyed flavor with notes of flowers and fruit. A magnificent tea!

This past week, our weather has turned cooler and less humid and, yes, there is a very faint hint of the changing season to come. A friend of mine told me that August always makes her sad as she feels the cool winds of change coming our way. Still, our weekend temps are forecasted in the 80s and I will soak up this rich, sunshine-y warmth as long as I can by taking a long, meditative walk on the bike path near my home.

How are you enjoying your August?

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh