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

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Saturday Morning Tea

Kaimosi Estate Kenya Tea Dry 8-17-13

Good morning, dear tea friends! I’m finishing up my explorations of African black tea with another visit to Kenya. In my cup on this warm summer morning is Kaimosi Estate GFBOP, a broken leaf tea with flecks of tip sprinkled amongst the dark leaf.

Kaimosi Estate Kenya tea Steep 8-17-13

The Kaimosi tea farm, along with 3 other farms, is owned by Williamson Tea. At an altitude of just under 6,000 feet, this 3.2 square mile farm is located in the North Nandi district of Kenya. They started planting tea there in the 1940s and most of the tea harvested today comes from the original plantings.

Kaimosi Estate Kenya Wet Leaf 8-17-13

I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

This tea was plucked in the early morning hours while the dew was still fresh on the leaf. It takes ten days to pluck the whole of the tea farm. Because they sit so close to the Equator where the sun is quite hot, the leaves need to be transported to the factory quickly, where they are dried, withered, rolled and oxidized all within a 30-hour period from picking to cup.

Kaimosi Estate Kenya in Teapot 8-17-13

The other day, I responded to an e-mail from a customer asking for a red tea. I have found that most of the black teas I photograph are varying shades of amber. Even though this tea is also a dark amber color, it comes pretty close to being red that I’ve seen.

It simply glows in my teapot like a rich jewel.

Kaimosi Estate Kenya in Teabowl 8-17-13

The aroma is warm and inviting with a whisper of citrus. The robust flavor reminds me of a smooth Assam, with light malty hints and and nuances of warming spices. At a 4-minute steep, this tea was quite smooth. I believe it could take a longer steep time, 5 or 6 minutes, especially if you’re adding milk and sweetener.

I’m looking forward to going to a painting class with a dear friend tonight. Mixing colors and painting connect with a deep passion I’ve had since I was very young and played with watercolors. It’s one of those activities that makes time stand still and the regular day-to-day world recedes for a little while. A lot of fun!

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

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun”

~Pablo Picasso

Saturday Morning Tea

Rwanda OP Dry Leaf 8-10-13

Good morning, dear tea friends! I continue my journey through the tea producing countries in Africa with a visit to Rwanda. In my cup this morning is an OP (Orange Pekoe) black tea selection.

Tea growing in Rwanda started in 1952 and has grown steadily ever since. The tea is planted at two different elevations – on hillsides at an altitude of 6,000-8,000 feet and in well drained marshes at an altitude of 5,000-6,000 feet. I have read that there are 11 tea estates in the country and each estate is located right by a tea processing factory as the tea must start its processing within a few hours of plucking.

Rwanda OP Tea Steeping 8-10-13

I steeped the large rolled leaf for 5 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. You can see the leaf starting to unfurl as it steeps.

Rwanda OP Wet Leaf 8-10-13

Back in April, the Rwanda Ministry of Agriculture unveiled plans to increase tea production in their country. You can read more about that here. It sounds like they have some challenges to make that happen, like infrastructure access and resistance of some farms to grow tea.

Rwanda OP in Teapot 8-10-13

The glowing amber tea liquor has a toasty fragrance, which I find comforting. The flavor is strong yet smooth with light nuances of cocoa thickness and toastiness. I think this tea could be steeped longer than 5 minutes as I only detected a mild tang in the flavor. I’m going to try 6 minutes next time I brew a cup.

Rwanda OP in Teamug 8-10-13

I think this tea is a fabulous value and would make a great everyday tea. At a longer steep time, it would stand up well to milk and sweetener, too.

It’s a beautiful summer day with high wispy clouds sailing across a deep azure sky.  I think I’ll pull on my walking shoes and go for a hike on the bike path along the lake. Have a wonderful weekend!

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”

~Friedrich Nietzsche

Saturday Morning Tea

Marinyn Est Kenya Dry Leaf 080313

Good morning, dear tea friends! I’m continuing my exploration of African black teas this morning with a visit to Kenya, the Marinyn Estate, to be exact. This tea has some nice tip mixed in with the leaf, as you can see in my photo above. The tip is the newest growth on the tea plant and is covered by tiny white hairs.

Tea has been grown in Kenya for 110 years, however, it wasn’t until 1924 when the crop was commercialized, leading this country to be the third largest tea producer in the world today, behind China and India. The land has the ideal climate for tea growing – long sunny days with well distributed rainfall and rich red volcanic soil.

Marinyn Est Kenya Steep 080313

I steeped the leaf for 4 minutes in boiling point water.

Marinyn Est Kenya Wet Leaf 080313

I found a tiny leaf tip as well as a larger leaf that had been rolled. As the leaf steeped these rolled leaves unfurled to reveal a set of accordion pleats. The leaf is rolled during the tea processing to release its volatile oils for flavor.

Marinyn Est Kenya in Teapot 080313

The tea liquor is a rich, medium-amber color with a mellow aroma and a hint of tang. The flavor is smooth and well-balanced with light sweet malty notes. I enjoyed the tea plain in my cup but I think that it would stand up well to a light addition of milk and sweetener.

Marinyn Est Kenya in Teamug 080313

This is one of my favorite teamugs, given to me by my daughter, Aimee. I love the way the glaze drips down the side of the mug like rain upon a window. Beautiful color!

The skies are starting to cloud up, a great day for taking photos outside in my garden. The perennial hibiscus are blooming in gorgeous colors of mulberry and pale pink. What do you have planned this weekend?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing a cuppa with me.  Have a wonderful week!

“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.”

~Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living

Saturday Morning Tea

LupondeEstDry072713

Good morning, dear tea friends! I’ve been told that this season has not been a very good one for Indian teas, Darjeelings and Assams alike. So, I decided that I would expand my horizons and start exploring the African teas, which I’ve been told are excellent this year, at reasonable prices. I’d like to introduce you to a black tea from the country of Tanzania – Luponde Estate GFOP Organic.

LupondeEstSteep072713

I quote from the Luponde website:

“The Luponde Tea Estate is one of the oldest organic tea estates in the world and the climate is perfect for growing tender leaves and flowers which are handpicked, bringing you the highest quality single estate teas. The estate is situated in the stunning Livingstonia Mountains in Southern Tanzania and at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Tea was first planted on the estate in 1954 and today covers 2,212 hectares. There are 730 hectares of planted tea, of which 401 are organic and there are currently 20 hectares of herbal plants. The estate produces on average 2 million kilograms of black tea a year and the majority of this is tea bag grade. The Luponde estate is the only steady source of income for the people who live in this area and in peak season 80 kilograms of wet leaf will be picked per day by one person.”

You may read more about this tea estate here.

LupondeEstWet072713

I steeped the leaf for 4 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. The aroma of the brewing leaves was of a lemony freshness, portending its crisp flavor.

LupondeEstTeapot072713

Look at that gorgeous deep amber color! Magnificent.

The smooth flavor is well balanced with notes of lemon and cedar.  If you like a more pronounced briskness, steep the leaves for 5 minutes. Fair warning though. We recently did that at work and one of my colleagues remarked that it tasted like he was licking a cedar block. Oh my.

This tea would make a wonderful iced tea. Its flavor reminds me of a high quality Ceylon black tea.

LupondeEstTeacup072713

On this beautiful summer day, I’ve captured a puffy white cloud in my teacup.

Have a wonderful week!

“So fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that the sea and sky looked all one fabric, as if sails were stuck high up in the sky, or the clouds had dropped down into the sea.”

~Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

Saturday Morning Tea

ThaiOolongDry072013

Good morning, dear tea friends! We’ve been experiencing a heatwave all this week in New England, with temps in the mid 90s. Even with the AC on full blast, I’m feeling very drained and foggy. The good news is that a cool front is sweeping in tonight with a line of thunderstorms that will bring relief from the oppressive heat. As I was out walking the other day, I was thinking how blessed I am to live in a place with changing weather. Ok, on to tea…

My morning cuppa is a lightly oxidized Oolong from Thailand called Ruan Zhi Thai Oolong.

ThaiOolongSteep072013

Tea cultivation and production in the high mountains of Thailand was started and established in the 1980s by Chinese immigrants. What began as small economic activity has grown to a strong community of independent tea gardens.

This tea is plucked from Taiwanese bushes that were brought over for Oolong tea production and the whole leaves are carefully rolled in the tradition of Taiwanese tea crafting.

ThaiOolongPkg072013

The tea came in a beautiful stylized packet with colorful images of flowers and birds. Does anyone know what kind of bird that is?

ThaiOolongWet072013

As you can see from the photo of the dry leaf, the leaf is tightly rolled into large spiral-shaped pellets. After a 3 minute steeping in 190F water, the pellets unfurled to reveal finely plucked, well intact enormous leaf sets.

I’m not sure about the percentage of oxidation for this tea but I would guess around the same level as a Jade or Spring Dragon Formosa (Taiwan) Oolong, in the teens, as it is created in that style.

ThaiOolongTeapot072013

The pale jade tea liquor has a light floral fragrance with a very rich, buttery flavor. Notes of orchid gently dance across my tongue and linger into the finish. This tea is light yet richly flavored all at the same time. It would taste excellent iced, especially on a hot, steamy day like today.

ThaiOolongTeabowl072013

I’ve decided to sip my tea hot so I can show off my new teabowl. A lovely shade of seagreen with washes of reddish brown on the rim, it’s covered in light speckles that glitter in the sunlight falling on the inside of the bowl.

To beat the heat today, I’m going to catch a movie this afternoon in an air-conditioned theater. How about you? Tomorrow will be a much nicer day to spend outside, a perfect day to have a picnic with my grandkids.

As always, thanks for visiting and have a wonderful week!

“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” 

~Alan Alda

Saturday Morning Tea

Puttabong2ndFlDry071313

Good morning, dear tea friends! It’s wonderful to be back here with you enjoying a cup of tea again. My first 2nd flush Darjeeling tea review from the 2013 season, this selection is from the Puttabong Estate.

Also known as the Tukvar Estate, it was first planted in 1852 and is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains near Kanchendzonga peak. With altitudes ranging from 1,500 to 6,500 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest elevation tea gardens in Darjeeling district, in northeastern India.  Its tea plants consist mainly of clonal bushes and China jat, meaning tea bushes with origins from China.

Puttabong2ndFlSteep071313

Look how dark the tea leaf and steeping liquor is when compared to a first flush Darjeeling, whose color has been compared to apple juice. This tea was harvested in later spring as compared to the first flush early spring harvest. What a difference a few months can make!

Puttabong2ndFlWet071313

The dark chocolate color of the leaf contains no green bits as a first flush does.

This tea has an interesting leaf designation called Kakra. I’ve read that this word translates to “dehydrated leaf”. Free of pesticides, the tea leaf is allowed to be attacked by a green fly, which looks similar to an aphid. The fly bites the leaf and starts sucking on its juices. This causes the leaf to start to oxidize on the plant. Only the leaves that have been exposed to the green fly, identified by their yellowish color, are plucked. So, in essence, the leaf undergoes a double oxidation – on the plant and then during its regular processing. Isn’t that cool?

Puttabong2ndFlTeapot071313

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. The glowing dark-amber tea liquor has a rich aroma of fruits and chestnuts, reminiscent of a darker Oolong tea. This brings up an interesting point as I’ve read that the tea leaf that goes on to become Oriental Beauty Oolong from Taiwan has also been exposed to the ministrations of the green fly.

Puttabong2ndFlTeabowl071313

I find the flavor, whose richness literally bursts in my mouth, also reminiscent of an Oolong tea in its nutty, almost woody quality. I also detected faint notes of fruit in the smooth cup.

We’ve been getting rain almost everyday here in New England this past week  and the gardens are bursting with rich color, just like the rich flavor of this tea. In my garden, I have coneflower, hydrangea, roses, tall phlox, astilbe and even some chrysanthemum starting to bloom. I hope that you’re enjoying the season wherever you may be with lots of cups/glasses of tea to keep you company. Have a wonderful week!

“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

~Max Ehrmann