Saturday Morning Tea

Oh joyous day! In celebration of the arrival of spring, I have a very special treat for you today. Here’s a hint for those of you who have been reading my tea posts for awhile? What do I look forward to with great joy and anticipation every spring???

If you guessed a first flush Darjeeling, you are absolutely right! This particular selection is an early first flush offering from the Tindharia estate. It was just picked this month. Look at that gorgeous variegated leaf with white tips, green bits and brown leaf.

The Tindharia tea garden is a bio-organic estate, located in the South Kurseong area of Darjeeling district. I’ve read that the town of Kurseong, whose name means “Land of the White Orchids”, is a quiet hill station. A hill station is “a town in the low mountains of the Indian subcontinent, popular as a holiday resort during the hot season.” At elevations of 400-1000 meters, it sounds like a great destination for cooling off during the hot summer months.

Despite its leaf appearance, this tea has been processed as a black tea. I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in water just under the boiling point (212F). The first thing I noticed as I removed the infuser basket from my glass teapot was the incredibly fresh aroma with just a delicate hint of flowers.

The tea liquor is a pale glowing amber. As I take my first sip, the fresh flavor fills my mouth with its freshness and hints of green grapes and flowers. It is surprisingly smooth for a first flush tea but there is a bright tang that lingers in my mouth. I could drink this tea all day long.

This special treat has succeeded in lifting my spirits today. I was heartbroken to learn just this past week that my polymer clay guild has been dissolved. While the friendships will still remain, I am feeling so sad that my days of creating side by side with these ladies is at an end. I’ve lost my tribe, creatively speaking. So, I will look for another local artistic group to connect and create with. Any ideas on where to start?

Happy Spring, my dear tea friends!

“Is the spring coming”? he said. “What is it like?”…

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

~Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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City Lights

A couple of years ago, I was experimenting with translucent polymer clay and silver leaf to create a button for my Winter Woods Vest. Besides the button, I also created a cabochon and a long, thin focal bead from that design sheet.

Using a dab of E-6000 glue, I affixed the cab to some Lacy’s Stiff Stuff backing and it sat there on my work table for a year as various designs percolated in my mind. That’s the way I like to work. I create a component that I’d like to bead and/or use in a jewelry design and then I just let it sit there in my studio where I can gaze on it periodically. The component image imprints on my brain and in my imagination and, as I go through my day-to-day experiences, it changes shape and grows.

My first inclination was to orient the cab as a vertical pendant. I knew that I wanted to use silver beads and grey pearls and played around with several designs but nothing felt quite right to me. At this point, I had added the silver beading around the cab. I liked the way the sparkly silver seed beads set off the silver leaf peeking out from under the translucent clay. Around that time period, I was driving into Boston a lot and images of reflections on the city streets, wet from newly fallen snow, joined the beaded cab image in my mind.

One day my intuition told me to turn the cab to a horizontal orientation and, at that moment, something clicked inside of me and the design started to fall into place as I peyote stitched the silver tubes. I think that the clean lines of the long thin tubes contribute a quiet, reflective, zen feeling to the piece. Underneath that hushed quiet glows the heart of the city.

Now that this piece is finished, my thoughts turn to the long, thin focal bead for another piece. I think I just might go with the same horizontal orientation. What do you think?

Saturday Morning Tea

Even though I reviewed a Yunnan black tea very recently, I just couldn’t resist this morning’s tea. Just enjoy gazing upon that gorgeous leaf filled with warm golden tips, named quite fittingly Golden Tip Yunnan.

As evidenced by the intact tip, this tea is plucked and processed meticulously by hand. It shows that very special care.

In steeping the leaf, I used boiling point water (212F) for 5 minutes.

Ah, there are those little swords again except this time in a black tea. I know I’ve said it many times before but it constantly amazes me how many different kinds of tea can come from one kind of plant.

In Yunnan province, ancient tea plants have grown into large trees producing enormous sized leaves. These leaves are traditionally used to produce Pu-erh tea. I imagine a grove of venerable old trees having seen many changes around them over the centuries.

The tea liquor glows like a sunset in my glass teapot. An aroma of sweet peach nectar arises as I pour my first cup. My first sip is like ambrosia on my tongue with notes of peach and spice. Full-bodied and complex, the rich flavor lingers on my tongue like a fine wine.

It has now been one year since the earthquake in Japan and I honor them by enjoying my tea in one of my Japanese mugs. The cherry blossoms symbolize new growth and hope for continued healing in their country. I have heard positive reports for the 2012 tea harvest over there and hope that I will have the opportunity to review some new Japanese teas here soon.

Time to go pour another cup! Enjoy your week, dear friends.

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest.  I do not judge the universe.”  ~Dalai Lama

Excavations

I’ve always been drawn to digging. When I was a kid, I made several attempts to dig to China, much to my mother’s chagrin. I didn’t get too far though, probably about a foot down into the earth. Obviously, I didn’t make it to China but I did find all sorts of neat things buried in our backyard – earthworms, old rusted bottlecaps, sticks and stones and roots. I think that’s when my love of gardening was born. I loved the feel of plunging my hands into the dirt and smelling its rich, earthy scent. Finding what was below the surface of things resonated with me then as it does with me now.

Many years later, my love of digging led me to pick up my carving tool and start experimenting with digging into multi-colored layers of polymer clay. I gouged through the layers both before and after baking the clay to reveal what’s hidden below the surface. The gouge marks leave jagged edges which I don’t smooth by sanding. I leave the clay rough which speaks to me of the organic process of a spiritual journey and digging into/peeling away the layers of the psyche to discover your inner core. The process can be sharp-edged and painful at times but what is ultimately revealed has a beauty all its own, rich and colorful and unique.

To create my bracelet, I chose a color palette that made me happy and then mixed my colors in polymer clay. I always like to mix my own colors as I feel it lends a uniqueness to my piece. Plus I just loooove mixing colors! I made a sheet out of each one of my mixed colors and then cut some circles out of each sheet. I randomly stacked the circles and then loaded the “log of circles” into my clay extruder. I extruded the clay using a round die and then cut the resulting snake into equal pieces which I lined up horizontally on a sheet of polymer clay. I apologize that I don’t know who originally invented this extrusion technique. It has become quite popular in creating canes. When you cut the snake into equal size pieces and then bunch the snakes up, the cut ends reveal bulls eyes in color variations of your chosen color palette. What I was interested in here, however, was not the cut ends but gouging into the length of the snake.

An unexpected and delightful surprise occurred when I cut the tall thin rectangles for my bracelet components. I discovered that there were small gaps where the snakes abutted on the clay backing, perfect for stringing a cord through. To finish the bracelet, I did a little beadwork over the silver crimps and attached a multi-strand tube clasp. The silver clasp was so bright that I immersed it in liver of sulfur to darken it. It’s still not dark enough for my taste so I’ll repeat that again very soon.

I created other components from my excavation work that day. I’m working on a necklace right now and will happily share my results once it’s finished. I’m so happy to be sharing my artwork with you once again! As always, thanks for stopping by.

I purchased my own domain name!

I feel like I’ve come full circle today with the purchase of my very own domain name for Art and Tea. With the approach of the 5-year anniversary of my blog’s first post, I feel that it’s the perfect way to celebrate that.

If you use a reader service to read my blog, you will probably need to update the URL address. A big thanks for all of your interest and support of my blog over the years.

I believe this auspicious occasion calls for the return of my Art posts!  What do you think?

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! To start the holiday weekend festivities, this morning’s tea is a decadent treat – an India black tea (my guess is Assam) with cardamom pods and cocoa and cinnamon pieces – called Melange de Chamonix. Named after the luxurious resort in the French Alps, this is indeed a luxuriant morning treat. Yum.

I think my reindeer friends approve.

The dry leaves have an aroma of spicy chocolate liquor. With the addition of cardamom and cinnamon, I thought this tea would be more like a Chai Spice tea but the cocoa pieces predominant in the aroma and flavor so it is its own wonderfully unique blend.

Look at all of those lovely cardamom pods. I love the taste of cardamom.

I steeped the tea for 5-6 minutes for a rich, cocoa flavor with warm, spicy nuances. After sipping the tea plain for awhile, I poured half a cup and then added sweetener (mine is agave syrup) and a good dollop of whole milk. The flavor is strong enough to come through the additions and I found that the milk gave the tea a creaminess which I really enjoyed. I’ll say it again. Yum.

Comet seems to enjoy the aroma of the deep amber-colored tea liquor.

As much as I love tea with nothing added to it, this lovely tea sure has “spiced up” my morning!

I am going to Michigan for the holidays so there will be no Saturday Morning Tea post next Saturday. I will return in 2 weeks with some new tea to share with you in the brand new year.

Happy Holidays to all of you, dear friends. May your days be filled with light and love and many delicious cups of tea!

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”

~Ebeneezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Saturday Morning Tea

Taxation without representation.

238 years and one day ago, a group of colonists in Boston made a choice that changed the face of history. They refused to pay tax on tea without fair representation in the government and when the governor refused to allow the tea to be returned to England, they took matters into their own hands by dumping all the tea into Boston Harbor.

Boston Tea Party by Nathaniel Currier

All of the tea thrown into the harbor was from China. The bulk of the shipment was called “Bohea tea”, a common China black tea. John Adams recorded in his diary on December 17, 1773:

“Last Night 3 Cargoes of Bohea Tea were emptied into the Sea. This is the most magnificent Movement of all. There is a Dignity, a Majesty, a Sublimity, in this last Effort of the Patriots, that I greatly admire.

However, true Bohea tea is in a class by itself, being grown and handcrafted in Wuyi Shan (the Bohea Hills) in Fujian Province. So, without any further ado, I introduce you to Bohea Imperial Organic, the tea I’m enjoying in my cup this morning.

The beautifully handcrafted leaf is rather large and twisted. I steeped it for 4 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water.

As I poured the tea into my mug, a Keemun-like burgundy aroma greeted me. I also detected an underlying smokiness which reminded me of Lapsang Souchong.

I love the way the bare winter branches are reflected in the deep amber liquor in my glass teapot.

The flavor is rich and smooth with pronounced flavor notes of burgundy and smoke. This would be a most excellent choice for those wanting a tea a tad less smoky than regular Lapsang Souchong. I think it would also stand up very well to any additions like a splash of milk and pinch of sweetener. It does have its own dark sweetness so I would first try it without.

The holidays are fast approaching and I’m looking forward to celebrating with my family in Michigan. I hope that in this bustling time that you are able to find some quiet peaceful moments with a cherished cup of tea.

“You can have anything you want if you want it desperately enough.  You must want it with an exuberance that erupts through the skin and joins the energy that created the world.”  ~Sheila Graham