Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! After a week of rain and fog, this morning dawned clear and bright but quite cold for this time of year. The forecast last night called for a freeze, which means a temp of below freezing for several hours or more. Brrr! The temperature decline is always inevitable at this time of year but is still a shock after being warm for so long. On to tea…

I chose a strong, bracing Indian black tea this morning to chase away the chill, a broken-leaf Assam tea from the Doomni estate.

The Doomni tea estate is one of 3 tea gardens located in the Nalbari district of western Assam in northeast India. The leaf has been plucked and processed with a bounty of golden tips which I find lends a complexity and depth to the flavor of the tea.

I steeped the leaves for only 3 minutes in boiling point water (212F). Even at this lower steeping time, this tea has an astringent kick that I can feel in my teeth.

The aroma is strong and malty with a whisper of walnut and blackberries.

The beautiful, deep-amber tea liquor is hearty and thick with strong notes of malt and a light sweetness. I experienced a burst of flavor in my mouth, which lingered for quite some time.

This is one of those Assams that is perfect for adding milk to smooth out the astringency and bring the flavor forward even more. For those of you who don’t put milk in your Assam, perhaps try a shorter steep if you want to smooth out that astringent bite.

What’s up for your weekend? Well, my spring bulbs have arrived, a whole box of them, and they’re calling to me to plant them in the ground today. So, on go the overalls and garden gloves and it’s out into the sunshine-y fall day to plant for the afternoon. I am looking forward to the burst of color in my garden come next spring!

As always, thanks for visiting and sharing a cup of tea with me.

“Boldness has genius, power, and magic. Engage, and the mind grows heated. Begin, and the work will be completed.”

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Saturday Morning Tea

Hello again, dear tea friends. I apologize for not being here last week. Someone very dear to me had surgery so I was out of town. I’m happy to say that all is well and my dear one is on the road to recovery.

Let’s have a cup of tea together, shall we?

This morning’s tea is called Special Purchase Hao-Ya “A” Keemun, a black tea from China. The term “Hao-Ya A” refers to the grade of tea, this tea being a top grade. I’ve written about Hao-Ya “B” Keemun tea before here. To me, all Keemuns have such a dark glossy leaf, this one also having a sprinkling of golden tip.

Keemun tea is named after a county, Qimen, in Anhui province. There are several stories about its origins but the most common is one of a governmental official in the late 1800s who learned black tea production in Fujian province and then decided to return to his native county, Qimen, to produce black tea there. He met with success and his new black tea was imported to England where it was enjoyed as a breakfast tea.

If you enjoy the darkest of chocolates, you will love this tea. The aroma of rich chocolate of the deepest kind wafted up as I lifted the infuser out of my glass teapot. There was an underlying hint of red wine which validated its description as the “burgundy” of China black teas.

I steeped the tea for 5 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. The dark chocolate aroma carries on into the flavor with notes of 90% chocolate bar, hints of red wine and a whisper of perfumed flowers. Silky smooth, thick and rich, this tea would stand up well to any additions, like milk and sweetener. I suggest trying it plain first to experience its wonderful flavor on your tongue.

Yes, this is an expensive tea but what a special treat this would be for a Sunday morning or to share when a fellow tea lover comes for a visit.

It’s a brilliant, sunshine-y day here in MA. Time to go throw on my overalls and head out to the garden. My sweet daughter gave me a beautiful hydrangea for Mother’s Day with blooms of the palest lavender-pink. I’m off to find a special place for it in my garden.

As always, thanks for stopping by and sharing a cuppa with me. Have a wonderful week and enjoy your tea!

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.” 

~Carrie Fisher, Actress

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.

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

Saturday Morning Tea

For my morning tea on this bright spring morning, I’ve chosen an Assam tea. Wait a minute, you might be saying as you look at my photo, that doesn’t look like an Assam tea at all! That’s because it is a white Assam. Located in northeast India, Assam is most noted for its full-bodied, rich black teas. This unique white tea is from the Mothola estate.

I have read that this tea estate was flooded back in the 60s when the banks of the Brahmaputra river eroded and water swept through the estate. Through the combined efforts of the workers and management, they were able to restore 1000 acres to grow tea once again.

This tea is meticulously crafted using only the tips of the Assamica variety of the Camellia Sinensis tea plant. Native to this lowland region, this variety has large leaves and grows to be a small tree.

When these indigenous tea plants were first identified by Major Robert Bruce around 1823, many believed that they were not capable of producing quality tea as the China variety was. You can read more about that here.

I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in 180 degree F water. The glowing gold liquor has a distinct malty aroma, immediately identifying it as an Assam tea. However, that’s where the similarity ends.

The flavor is delicate and sweet with complex malty notes. A hint of fruitiness makes a brief appearance across my tongue.

This tea is exquisite and can be compared to a specialty white tea from China. While I do love their white teas, this tea has an extra special something that calls me back for more.

As my hands wrap lightly around my hand-crafted teabowl, I watch the trees dance in the wind outside my window. It’s a perfect day to work in the garden.

Enjoy your weekend!

I wandered lonely as a cloud

that floats on high o’er vales and hills,

when all at once I saw a crowd,

a host of golden daffodils:

beside the lake, beneath the trees,

fluttering and dancing in the breeze….

for oft, when on my couch I lie

in vacant or in pensive mood

they flash upon that inward eye

which is the bliss of solitude;

and then my heart with pleasure fills,

and dances with the daffodils.

~William Wordsworth

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