Saturday Morning Tea

I awoke this morning to rumbles of thunder and teeming rain that have continued on into the morning. A sudden cool breeze lifts my curtains from the windows revealing sharp flashes of lightning that dance across a low sky filled with bruised clouds. As I wrap myself in a warm robe,  I reach for a black tea but not a typical black tea. It is a black tea that actually tastes like an Oolong tea.

From the Jun Chiyabari estate in Nepal, its leaf designation is one that I have never seen before, GHRHT. Meaning Golden Hand Rolled Himalayan Tips, the picking is of only the first two leaves and a bud from the end of the stems, the tender new growth. The tea is created from a secret process that results in a black tea with the characteristics of a fine Silvertip Oolong tea.

Since the tea is grown in the Himalayan mountains in the same part of the world as Indian Darjeeling tea, I steep the leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point water.

As I lift the steeped leaves from my teapot, a rich, fruity aroma greets me. Mmmm…

The wet leaves reveal whole intact leaf in various stages of unfurling from the hand rolling that was done during their processing.

The deep amber liquor is quite sweet with notes of apricot and peach and a whisper of rosemary in the finish. A colleague of mine, with a very fine palate for tea tasting, has also detected fennel notes in her cup.

For this special tea, I bring out my teamug purchased in Arroyo Seco, NM last fall. You can see the fingertip imprints of the potter on the side of the mug from when they dipped the mug in glaze. That is my favorite part of this beautiful russet and charcoal teamug.

While I had originally thought that I’d be able to work on removing a bush stump from my garden today and prepare the soil with some loam for planting, it looks like it’s going to be an indoor day. Oh dear, I guess I’ll just have to play in my studio then!

Happy Mother’s Day!

“Women need solitude in order to find the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships.”

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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Saturday Morning Tea

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Between work and visiting with my granddaughter, this past week has flown by. The almost daily rain pattern has finally left us and it’s felt more like summer these days. The air was even quite brisk this morning when I got up, a reminder that summer is winding down towards the fall. Even though August is a rich month full of color and harvest, it always makes me feel a little bit wistful.

This morning’s tea is quite the treat – a very high grade of Oolong Extra Fancy tea from Taiwan. Its leaf is very large and twisted, all processed by hand. After steeping, many of the leaves unfurl to reveal a whole, intact structure. This style is often referred to as “Champagne Oolong” and I can see why.

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Using 190 degree F water, I steeped the leaves for 4 1/2 minutes. Because the leaf is so large, I used 3 generous teaspoons for my small teapot.

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My oldest son gave me this beautiful leather journal. Isn’t it yummy? I love to write down my daily thoughts as I sip my tea.

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My glass teapot glows like an amber jewel in the early morning light. A light floral aroma drifts up, sweetening the cool air.

As I slowly sip from my cup, I taste juicy ripe peaches, warm in the sun, and a honeyed wine note fills my senses. Mmmmm…

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I invite you to read about other Oolong teas I’ve enjoyed and reviewed here.

This weekend I hope to get more granddaughter time in before they return home on Tuesday. I think that this picture from our zoo trip yesterday says it all – one joyful gramma!

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“If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

~Rachel Carson

Saturday Morning Tea

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Happy Birthday America! I am so blessed to call you home.

I’m hoping that this weekend will bring a break out of this cool, rainy weather pattern we’ve been stuck in here in New England. The sun has peeked out here and there but hasn’t stayed for very long. My colleagues at work and I were celebrating yesterday when we saw some blue sky!

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My tea today, a hand-made Oolong called Xiang Pao, comes from a small family farm located in the Shan Ling Xi area in the mountains of Nantou County, Taiwan, approximately 1800 meters above sea level. As part of their business philosophy, this farm practices the LOHAS concept. LOHAS is an acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability and its companies promote “responsible capitalism” by providing goods and services using economic and environmentally sustainable business practices.

After graduating from college, the family’s daughter made the decision to stay and work in the family business. In an e-mail to my company, she writes:

“I told my father we need to insist on selling top quality and handmade when I graduated. Special Oolong tea is well received in Taiwan. We have paid more attention and have tried some ways to make sure our tea quality, and we got some awards from competitions in Taiwan.

We asserts LOHAS concept, to provide top teas to customers in order to make sure all customers get the nature health and nature beauty in the life. Therefore, we emphasize the quality and manufactureer processes so that our teas are high quality and good benefits.”

Just as I am happy to support small local businesses in my area, I am glad to support and share teas from an environmentally and socially conscious tea farm such as this.

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I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in 190 degree F water. The aroma and flavor are of earth, wood and chestnuts with a mild sweetness. A hint of flowers lingers in my mouth after each sip.

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I am enjoying my cuppa with a bowl of lusciously ripe black plums. I love the velvety, dark sweetness of the fruit combined with the tang of its skin. Mmmm…

Today I am going to a dear friend’s home to sit out amongst the profusion of blooming flowers in her backyard garden. We’ll enjoy some tea and even read each other’s tea leaves using an interesting new teacup she just purchased at the bookstore recently. It’s called “The Cup of Destiny”. What fun! Stay tuned to see what the cup has to say…

“…do you think there is anywhere, in any language,

a word billowing enough

for the pleasure

that fills you,

as the sun

reaches out,

as it warms you

as you stand there…”

exerpt from the poem The Sun by Mary Oliver

Saturday Morning Tea

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We’ve been enjoying milder weather here in central MA this first week in December, with temps reaching a balmy 50 degrees on some days. But yesterday a sharp, cold wind blew in from up north and swept all of the mild away. We may even get some snow flurries tonight. I’ve been cozying up to a blazing fire in the fireplace with a steaming cuppa.

This morning I’m sipping a Milky Oolong from Taiwan. Grown in the Dong Ding (Tung Ting) mountain area in Nantou county, the tea is harvested from March through December.  Dong Ding mountain, perpetually shrouded in mist and fog, has an elevation of over 2400 feet and means “frozen summit” or “ice peak”. It’s one of the best known tea producing areas on the island.

First, the leaves are plucked from a special varietal of tea plant with large leaves. Then they are withered and allowed to oxidize in carefully controlled air conditioned rooms. Oolong teas are not as oxidized (fermented) as black teas so after a shorter time, they are steamed with high heat to stop that oxidation process. This Oolong is more on the greener side so its oxidation time is less than other darker Oolongs. The leaves have been tossed during processing so they are all curled up.

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I enjoyed watching the leaves unfurl during the 3 minute steep in 180 degree F water.

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milkyoolongteapot120608Milky Oolong has such a unique taste that many stories have evolved to explain its unusual flavor. My favorite story is that the tea’s flavor came about as the result of a sudden shift in temperature during harvest that is an extremely rare occurrence. The first time this shift occurred was centuries ago when the moon fell in love with a comet passing through the night sky. The comet, passed by, burned out and vanished. The moon, in her great sorrow, caused a great wind to blow through the hills and valleys bringing about a quick drop in temperature. The next morning, local tea pluckers went out to collect their fresh leaves. To their surprise, when the tea was processed it had developed an amazing milky character, which was attributed to the motherly character of the old moon. I love that story and it reminds me of what we’ve been experiencing here recently with the change in the weather.

milkyoolongteabowl120608The aroma of this tea is floral with a rich hint of cream. Its flavor, also quite floral, reminds me very much of a Spring Dragon or Jade Oolong. It conjures up images of a blooming spring garden, ripe with its heady fragrance. There is also a buttery creaminess to the taste as well which gives a soft, silky feeling in my mouth.

This truly is a very special tea.

This weekend is a good one for knitting and crocheting holiday gifts by the fire, a hot cup of tea by my side.

Saturday Morning Tea

It is a gorgeous late summer morning here in New England with brilliant sunshine and low humidity. A soft breeze ruffles the treetops as I sit out on my back deck and listen to them sigh. A good morning for sitting out in nature and being still.

Several weeks ago I reviewed a tea called Heavy Baked Tie-Guan-Yin Oolong and I discovered that I had never reviewed a Jade Oolong, a tea upon which that particular tea is based. Well, this morning I brewed some up in my favorite glass teapot.

Oolongs are allowed to oxidize at varying times thus creating some that are more towards green tea and some that are much darker than that. A Jade Oolong is only oxidized for a short amount of time, about 18%. As you can see, this creates a tea that is very pale yellow.

A luscious flowery aroma greets me as I pour my first cup.

During processing, the leaves are rolled into curly shapes that gently release during the steeping. Sweet and rich, the liquor is buttery soft with a pleasing lilac note. I steeped the leaves in 180 degree water for 3 minutes.

If you want to try multiple steepings, shorten your steeping times.

My youngest son leaves for Basic Training with the Air Force in 2 days. He’s been trying to go early all summer but it didn’t happen. It seems his military training began earlier with this first exercise in patience. I’m so proud of him. Today we are having a big family dinner to send him off with good wishes and love. Between that and a little soreness in my right wrist, my freeform bracelet will also have to wait patiently for my return.

Saturday Morning Tea

What a marvelous day – warm, not too humid with brilliant sunshine. Here in New England this past week, we’ve had some wild weather, including a couple of tornadoes that touched down in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. We experienced vivid lightning, crashing thunder and torrential downpours like I saw when I traveled to the Hawaiian rainforest. On our walk last night, we collected quite a few branches that had been knocked down. They’ll make great kindling for our fireplace once they’re dried out and seasoned. With all of this fire energy flying about, I decided to try a new type of tea for me – a smoky tea. I know that there are a lot of Lapsang Souchong fans out there but, alas, I am not one of them. That said, this tea has always intrigued me and I keep searching for one that I will enjoy. At my company, it is one of our best selling types of tea. I’m not reviewing a Lapsang this morning. Not yet. I have one in mind for an August review. This morning I am sipping a Formosa Oolong called Heavy-Baked Tie-Guan-Yin.

The full leaf is first processed as a Jade Oolong which is a slightly oxidized leaf. Still considered an Oolong tea, it is much more green in character than other Oolongs. This is because the leaf is allowed to oxidize only a little bit, approximately 10%, give or take. Some other Oolongs are oxidized 40-50%, giving them a much darker flavor and fuller body. I looked back on my tea archives and was surprised to discover that I haven’t reviewed a Jade Oolong yet. I’ll do that in August, too. I did review a Spring Dragon Oolong, another “greener” Oolong.

Once this tea is processed as a Jade Oolong, it is then roasted to give it a much different flavor. As you can see, the leaf is so very dark. In the processing, the leaf rolls up into little bundles which then release their shape a little during the steeping. I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in 190 degree F filtered water.

The liquor is a deep reddish brown with a smoky aroma that has hints of tobacco. The taste is sweet and smoky but not overly so. For me, the smokiness is at just the right level. The full-bodied taste would probably stand up well to milk and sweetener. I am enjoying it plain.

Today is the perfect day for enjoying my tea out on our backyard deck. So, I will go sit and relax and work on a jewelry project. I have to set all of my other projects aside for the day and work on creating some jewelry to match a white and gold dress I have because tomorrow…………

My youngest son is getting married!

Saturday Morning Tea

As I gaze out my window on this cool rainy spring day, I see a mist has settled gently along the treetops. This morning I am getting ready to go visit Greyhound Rescue in Mendon, MA. They’re having their annual Spring Yard Sale soon and I have plenty to donate from my cleaning and purging. As I get ready, I’m sipping a cup of Formosa Fancy Oolong Imperial. It is an Oolong with a higher level of oxidation which means the leaves were allowed to turn darker. The photo above is a beautiful example of a “fine plucking” (new leaves). Its shape reminds me of a Bird of Paradise flower.

I steeped the leaves for 5 minutes in water between 180-190 degrees F. The liquor is a deep amber color with a sweet aroma. The flavor is nutty and peachy and lingers in my mouth.

Time to move more stuff!