Saturday Morning Tea

The skies may be gray outside my window but I am inside enjoying sunshine in my teacup – a first flush Darjeeling from the Tumsong estate.

I have read that the Tumsong tea garden was first planted in 1867 around a temple devoted to the Hindu goddess Tamsa Devi. Devi is the Sanskrit word for goddess.

When I opened the tea packet, an aroma of fresh flowers and sugar cookies greeted my senses.

I steeped the bright olive tea leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

From the Tumsong tea estate:

“Tumsong’s teas are known to be among the best in the Darjeeling area and command high prices at auctions. Perhaps the first credit for this should go to the goddess, on whose land the garden grows. The goddess Tamsa presides over this serene and surreal landscape and fills the atmosphere with harmony. In the area, Tumsong is often referred to as the garden of happy hearts.”

The leaves may be intensely green but the liquor they produce is a golden yellow, creating pearl bubbles of light in my glass teapot.

I have also read that the entire tea garden faces some of the highest ranges in the Himalayan mountains and receives a constant, cool breeze sweeping across the tea bushes. This breeze causes the plants to grow gradually, allowing them to slowly develop their flavor.

And this tea is positively bursting with flavor! Notes of nut (almond), tropical fruit and citrus pungency sweep across my palate as I slowly savor each sip from my teacup.

All I can say is – yum, and let me go make another pot right now!

I’m headed out to my garden this afternoon to do some more planting – 2 peonies with flowers of raspberry sorbet, tipped in yellow, a lavender for my herb garden, some olive/eggplant-colored coleus for a shady spot under a tree, and some cheerful daisies for the morning sun side of the house.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends!

“How to be happy when you are miserable. Plant Japanese poppies with cornflowers and mignonette, and bed out the petunias among the sweet-peas so they shall scent each other.  See the sweet-peas coming up.

Drink very good tea out of a thin Worcester cup of a colour between apricot and pink…”   ~ Rumer Godden

Unless otherwise noted, all text and photos are the property of Karen Park Art and Tea, copyright 2007-2011. Please do not “lift” any of my photographs or blog posts for use on your blog or website. Thank you so much for your respect and kind attention.

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Saturday Morning Tea

My morning tea is waking me up with its bold taste and refreshing pungency! From the area of Qianjiang located in Hubei Province, China, it has been processed as a gunpowder green tea.

Gunpowder tea leaves are withered, and then steamed before being rolled into small pellet shapes said to resemble black gunpowder grains. Black gunpowder was invented in China during the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) for weapons based technology to defend the northern border of China against the invading Mongols. Most gunpowder teas nowadays are rolled by machine but some high grade leaf is still rolled by hand.

The beautifully intact leaf unfurls into circular shapes during its 3 minute steeping in 180 degree F water.

As I pour my first cup, a nutty aroma fills my senses. It carries on into the flavor of the pale gold liquor, also revealing a sweet fruit note and whisper of smoke. This is the perfect tea for those looking for more body and less vegetal flavor in their green tea.

I had a wonderful visit with my parents, as always, way too short and then they are gone. We made our annual trek to Nantucket Island for a lovely 3-day getaway. You can read about last year’s trip here. The weather was sunny and cool, perfect for strolling along the cobblestone streets and embarking on another deep sea fishing journey. This time I stayed on land and cheered the returning fishermen on their bluefish catch. I drank in the sights and sounds of the island and the profusion of gorgeous flowers everywhere.

I leave you with one of my favorite island sights.

“Being with real people who warm us, who endorse and exhault our creativity, is essential to the flow of the creative life.”

~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Saturday Morning Tea

In choosing this morning’s tea, I realized that in my nearly 3 years of reviewing teas here on my blog that I’ve never chosen one from the Nilgiri district in India. This tea growing district is located in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. While its leaf is very dark, in fact, I’ve seen some first flush Darjeelings with more green leaf than this tea, it is a green tea from the Korakundah estate.

Nilgiri, meaning Blue Mountain, has many tea plantations, most of them owned by small growers. This particular plantation, or estate, is Fair Trade certified, meaning that a portion of the tea sales go directly to the workers, helping them invest in community development, improved healthcare and education, to name a few. You can read more about Fair Trade certification and practices here.

As with most green teas, I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water.

The golden amber liquor has a pronounced fruity aroma. Quite full-bodied for a green tea, I found the pungent flavor very tasty with hints of asparagus and smoky notes that linger in my mouth.

Now that my teapot is empty, it’s time to don my overalls and head out into the garden for some Saturday gardening time. Last night I stopped at the garden center right up the street from work and got a gorgeous hydrangea bush adorned with big balls of periwinkle flowers. It reminds me so much of my beloved getaway spot, Nantucket Island, where hydrangeas bloom abundantly throughout the summer. Now in my garden, I’ll have my own little reminder of wonderful time spent there every year with my parents.

Enjoy your holiday weekend!

“So the rising sun is reason enough for thankfulness, in that another day has come.  Let us see the beauty in ourselves and one another.”

~Dhyani Ywahoo

Saturday Morning Tea

I feel like a kid in a candy store at this time of year with the first flush Darjeelings arriving freshly plucked from different tea gardens. Oh joy!

This morning’s tea is from the Arya estate, an organic tea garden located high in the Himalayan mountains of northeastern India.

I’ve read that it was started by a team of Buddhist monks who carefully developed their tea plants from Chinese seeds. They practiced Aruyvedic medicine and their original house may still be found on the grounds of the estate.

I imagine a beautiful place nestled in the shadow of great towering peaks where, if you listen very closely, a rich history whispers its secrets.

Many first flush Darjeeling leaves are very green even though they are processed as black teas (allowed to oxidize and turn dark).

This first flush of spring growth doesn’t want to give up its greenness, the essence of spring and rebirth.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in slightly less than boiling point (212 F) water. The green leaf is transformed into a glowing liquid amber.

A fresh, sweet aroma wafts up from my glass teapot as I quietly lift the lid to remove the infuser basket. The only sound at this early hour is the sweet song of the birds outside my window.

The flavor is bright and astringent, waking up my mouth with sweet, fruity notes that linger, linger, linger…

Last weekend’s adventure in my little patch of garden involved an all day affair with a stubborn yew stump that finally had to be ripped out with a heavy chain and large pickup truck. Thank goodness for the generosity of new neighbors! Now that the stump is removed, I have a gathering of shade plants – astilbe, coral bells, bleeding heart, impatiens – that are patiently waiting to be planted in their new home.

“Solitude – walking alone, doing things alone – is the most blessed thing in the world, the mind relaxes and thoughts begin to flow and I think I am beginning to find myself a bit.” ~Helen Hayes

Tea Leaf Reading

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Yesterday I spent the day with a dear friend. Despite a profusion of fluffy clouds floating overhead, we were able to soak up some sun out in her garden where the wildflowers bloomed and the dragonflies danced all around us. Sitting there with a cup of mango flavored tea and a piece of apple pie to enjoy, it was sheer heaven.

Later on in the afternoon, my friend brewed a pot of Earl Grey Blue Flower (her favorite), steeping the leaves directly in the boiling water without any infuser. Once the tea was steeped nice and strong, she pulled out her “Cup of Destiny” for me. As I poured myself a full cup of tea, I thought of a question.

“What does the future hold for me?

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I also thought of my question as I sipped my tea. Once there was only a tiny amount of tea left in the cup, I was instructed to turn the cup clockwise 3 times and then turn it over onto the saucer. Once the leaves fell onto the saucer, they were studied for shapes and patterns. We also noticed what fell onto the astrological symbols around the perimeter of the cup.

Here is what my friend said.

The floating leaf bits on the top of my tea (as I drank it) indicated that I will have visitors within the next few days. As I sipped my tea, I kept joking that I was drinking my visitors because it was challenging to sip the tea around the floating bits. lol

The floating bubbles in my tea indicated money and positive energy coming to me in the week ahead. Fabulous!

Remaining in the cup itself were some flowers which fell on the circle on top of a cross symbol and the plus symbol.

The circle on top of the cross is the symbol of Venus indicating love, art and harmony. I will have creative interludes very soon. More fabulous!

The plus sign indicates a warning against overdoing it. I need to slow down and let go a little. Perfect advice for this week off fom work.

A combination of leaf and flower on the saucer had a butterfly shape which symbolizes transformation, pleasure, joys and is considered lucky.

There was also a rectangle shape symbolizing challenges or difficulties, something to overcome in the future. Possibly a letter coming my way.

Two stems formed the shape of a roof which could symbolize the condo I’m purchasing.

Wow. All that from my tea leaves. Oh, one other prediction. I think a “Cup of Destiny” purchase is in my future very soon!

What a fun and magical way to spend an afternoon.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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I love lilacs.

Their heavenly fragrance reminds me of many wonderful days spent in my garden, one of my most favorite places to be. The beauty of a flower reminds us of all that is good in our world, inside of us and outside.

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I’ve finished my Spring free-form bracelet. This bracelet is thinner than the others I’ve made. Keeping in mind the hours that go into creating a free-form piece, I am trying to make a more affordable bracelet, one that takes less time to finish.

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I loved weaving the colors of spring that can be worn upon the wrist.

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I like the idea of letting the colors in the natural world around me inspire my creations.

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Here is the clasp, a simple bead and loop. I’ve built up the loop so that there aren’t any gaps in the flow of the bracelet.

Enjoy the beauty of this day which honors the creativity of all women!

But if you have nothing at all to create, perhaps you create yourself.

~Carl Jung

From the Studio

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Most of the day a fine mist has been hovering in the air giving a moist dewy look to our spring world. The colors look so saturated under a blanket of gray sky.

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Last weekend was very warm with temps soaring into the 90s.  Very unseasonable for springtime in New England where we’re lucky if it makes it to 65 degrees on a late April day. So, I dug out a tank top and a pair of shorts for mulch adventures in the garden.

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So much is budding and blooming in our woodland garden!

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On Saturday I went out and looked at a couple more properties. I often sit and wonder: where will I be moving to next? Moving energy seems to still be very strong in my life. This will be my third move in the last 5 1/2 years. With this new move, I’m hoping to settle down for longer than a year, the amount of time I’ve been where I’m living currently.

I want to grow roots and have a chance to bloom myself.

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I finished Ella’s baby socks this week. For some strange reason, the eyelet pattern seems to be whirling in a different direction on each sock. Is that supposed to happen, I wonder. I might just make a third sock and see what happens. See which sock it ends up matching. They’re also a bit bigger than I thought they would be. They’re toddler socks and she’ll grow right into them.

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Since last weekend was so filled to the brim with house hunting and gardening, I didn’t get time to work on any new journal pages. Instead, I started a new free-form bracelet inspired by the blossoming world around me. Fresh spring greens, silvery bark browns, delicate petal pinks, ethereal blossom whites, fresh buttery yellows.

The explosion of spring colors has also inspired me to start dreaming about painting the walls in my new home. I’ve  been virtually painting walls on 2 websites, Benjamin Moore and Valspar. It so appeals to the Color Kitten in me! I’ve also learned that you can purchase 8 oz. samples of a color you’re interested in so you can try it out on the wall or a small object first.

Oh, the possibilities! A whole new decorating world full of color is opening up!

For my kitchen, I’m being inspired by the yellow orange color of a T-shirt I purchased while on a trip to Hawaii.

I’m looking at colors with names  like “Honeybell” and “Sunrise Beach”. mmmmm…

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Tomorrow a friend and I will attend a public talk given by H.H. the Dalai Lama at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. This has always been a dream of mine, to see him, to hear him speak, to be in the presence of such an amazing spiritual man. I feel my heart swell and open like a spring flower as I sit here and write about it.   Awe. Wonder. Embracing the peace that he is.

A few weeks ago the Boston Globe ran a great story about the building of the chair His Holiness will be seated upon during his talks. It sounds like an incredible work of craftmanship and I can’t wait to see its beauty and the love that was put into its creation.

My call for a spiritual revolution is thus not a call for a religious revolution. Nor is it a reference to a way of life that is somehow other-worldly, still less to something magical or mysterious. Rather, it is a call for a radical re-orientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self towards concern for the wider community of beings with whom we are connected, and for conduct which recognizes others’ interests alongside our own.

~H.H. the Dalai Lama