Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! Even though the calendar still says spring, we’re experiencing hot and hazy summer-like weather here in the northeast. Perfect weather for the holiday weekend.

In my cup this morning is another Pre-Chingming tea, called Fairy Oolong. This tea was grown in Hunan province, China.

Hunan province is located in south central China. Its name means “south of the lake,” referring to Lake Dongting, a flood basin for the famous Yangtze River and one of the largest freshwater lakes in China. This beautifully scenic province has been a major center of agriculture for thousands of years, growing rice, tea and oranges. The earliest rice paddies were discovered on the western edge of the lake.

It sounds like a place with a lot of natural beauty and interesting history.

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I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 190F water. They’re quite large and very green.

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The leaves steeped an infusion the color of pale gold.  A fragrant lilac aroma drifted up from my glass teapot.

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As I took my first sip, I found the tea liquor to be light yet it filled my mouth with flavor. Softer notes of lilac are in the cup with a fresh vegetal character and a pronounced sweetness. What a lovely tea this is.

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I have a marvelous 3-day weekend ahead of me, filled with family, garden time, knitting and lots of tea and ice cream. I hope you all have a great weekend!

Morning in a New Land

In trees still dripping night some nameless birds

Woke, shook out their arrowy wings, and sang,

Slowly, like finches sifting through a dream.

The pink sun fell, like glass, into the fields.

Two chestnuts, and a dapple gray,

Their shoulders wet with light, their dark hair streaming.

Climbed the hill. The last mist fell away,

And under the trees, beyond time’s brittle drift,

I stood like Adam in his lonely garden.

On that first morning, shaken out of sleep,

Rubbing his eyes, listening, parting the leaves,

Like tissue on some vast, incredible gift.

~Mary Oliver

 

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Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! It’s a bright, cold November day today as we near Thanksgiving, a time to gather with family and friends to give thanks for all of the abundance in our lives. I think it’s especially important to focus on all that’s good in our lives what with the frightening events happening in the world. I’m thankful for a hot cup of tea on a cold morning and for all of you to share it with.

In my cup this morning is a China black tea from Yunnan province, called Yunnan Rare Grade. Composed of downy, golden tips, this tea is rich and inviting.

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I stepped out of the box a little bit and steeped the leaves for 6 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. I love how you can see the fine golden hairs even under water.

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The twisted tips release slightly after steeping, giving off a warm aroma with just a hint of cocoa. The tea itself has a toasty aroma.

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The beautiful dark-amber liquor is sooooo smooth with notes of biscuit/toast and hints of cocoa, which reveal themselves more as the tea cools. I feel this tea is inviting me to experiment with how long I can push its steep time.

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I’m comfortably settling in to my new home, one unpacked box at a time, and am looking forward to creating a special area in my dining room to display my tea bowl collection.

Until our next cup of tea, I leave you with one of my favorite poems. Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Morning Poem

Every morning the world is created. Under the orange

sticks of the sun the heaped ashes of the night turn into leaves again.

and fasten themselves to the high branches—and the ponds appear like black cloth on which are painted islands

of summer lilies. If it is your nature to be happy you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination alighting everywhere. And if your spirit carries within it

the thorn that is heavier than lead—if it’s all you can do to keep on trudging—

there is still somewhere deep within you a beast shouting that the earth is exactly what it wanted—

each pond with its blazing lilies is a prayer heard and answered lavishly, every morning,

whether or not you have ever dared to be happy, whether or not you have ever dared to pray.

~Mary Oliver

Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! A blanket of clouds covered the sky as I poured my first cup of morning tea but now as I sit down to write, I see peeks of blue here and there. Tomorrow marks the Autumnal Equinox here in my corner of the world, the Northern Hemisphere, however, I’ve felt the winds of seasonal change for several weeks now. Going with that change, I’m enjoying an Assam tea today, a tea I enjoy most as the cooler weather comes. This one is a broken leaf selection  from the Halmari Estate. Look at all that beautiful golden tip interspersed among the leaves!

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It seems like the color orange pops out and surrounds us in the fall – pumpkins, butternut squash, autumn sunsets, chrysanthemums, even the light has a crisp golden-y orange hue. This tea fits right into the the colors of fall, with its wonderful russet glow. I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

Located on the plains of upper Assam in northeastern India, the Halmari Estate was started in the 1940s and is owned by the Daga family. You can see some cool pictures of their factory, where the tea processing takes place, here. That’s where it all happens, leaf to cup.

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Most of the leaf particles are broken, however, I found some little tips, which had turned the same color as the rest of the leaf, during steeping.

The aroma has light malty hints with a whisper of red wine.

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The burnt orange colored tea liquor reflects the changing colors of the leaves on the trees. The flavor is silky smooth, one of my favorite qualities to find in an Assam tea. The notes are dark honey sweet with hints of spice that linger in the finish. If you enjoy milk in your Assam tea, I recommend steeping this one longer than 4 minutes.

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The clouds are now moving swiftly, dark grey with tufts of white higher up. The glimpses of blue sky are growing as the moving clouds part. It’s a fine day for a long walk on the bike path, methinks…

I’ve been lately enjoying the audiobook version of The Fellowship of the Ring during my work commute. I leave you with one of my favorite poems from the book.

Have a wonderful week and enjoy your tea!

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

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

Saturday Morning Tea on Sunday

The weather couldn’t have been better at this time of the year – sunny and near 50 degrees! – for the move yesterday. They’re all moved in and now the unpacking and settling into a new home begins. There’s a lot of moving energy around me these days, including a company move coming up this summer.

I am sipping a cup of green Ceylon tea this morning, from the Idalgashinna estate, located in the Uva province in southeastern Sri Lanka.

Tea growing on the island of Sri Lanka was started in the late 1800s by a Scottish gentleman named James Taylor. Up until that time, coffee was the number one crop on the island until a rust fungus killed the majority of coffee plants. Starting with a basic tea cultivation knowledge learned in Northern India and 19 acres of land, he soon turned a small business into a very successful one, selling his tea for the first time at the London auction by 1873.

As you can see, this particular green tea has quite a large leaf. After steeping for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water, some of the twisted full leaf releases that shape and some stay tight. As I poured my first cup, a distinct vegetal aroma rose from my glass teapot.

A teapot full of sunshine.

The liquor is light and more delicate than other green teas, with a floral note reminiscent of a “green” Oolong. Its brightness, characteristic of Ceylon high grown teas, is revealed as the tea cools.

With deep blue skies and fast moving fluffy clouds, today is the perfect day for a hike into the late winter woods. I like to go every Sunday afternoon for my weekly dose of nature.

As I started down the woodsy path last week, I sensed a gradual awakening that tells me that we are almost at spring’s glorious door.

The fields are snowbound no longer;
There are little blue lakes and flags of tenderest green.
The snow has been caught up into the sky–
So many white clouds–and the blue of the sky is cold.
Now the sun walks in the forest,
He touches the bows and stems with his golden fingers;
They shiver, and wake from slumber.
Over the barren branches he shakes his yellow curls.
Yet is the forest full of the sound of tears….
A wind dances over the fields.
Shrill and clear the sound of her waking laughter,
Yet the little blue lakes tremble
And the flags of tenderest green bend and quiver.

~Very Early Spring by Katherine Mansfield

Saturday Morning Tea

The month of December blew in this week with a tropical rainstorm. Wait a minute, this is New England, right? The following morning, the wind hurried the clouds along to reveal a brilliant blue sky and temps soaring up towards 70. Hmmm, New England? Today snow is in the forecast. Ah yes, New England.

This morning I am sipping from a cup of green tea grown in the Northern Highlands of Vietnam. The tea is called Shan Tuyet Snow Green.

As Vietnam borders Yunnan province at the north, tea trees have been growing wild there, as in Yunnan province, for thousands of years. More formal tea cultivation started in Vietnam at the beginning of the 20th century. You can read more about the history of Vietnamese tea growing here and here.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water. As I lifted my teapot lid, a rich floral aroma wafted up from the leaves. The liquor is a warm, buttery hue with a hint of fruit and malt in the flavor. I didn’t detect any vegetal quality at all, unusual for a green tea. The cup is quite smooth with an interesting pungency which appears and then lingers in the finish.

The dry leaf is highly twisted, only opening slightly when steeped. The wet leaf above is clinging to one of my Picasso marble stones. I love their striations.

The liquor is crystal clear and quite pleasant as it cools.

I am really enjoying my first experience with a Vietnamese green tea. Time for another cup!

Something opens our wings

Something makes boredom and hurt disappear

Someone fills the cup in front of us

We taste only sacredness

~Rumi

Saturday Morning Tea

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One of my most favorite rites of Spring every year is trying the new first flush Darjeelings as they arrive. Their aromatic fragrance, their brisk character, their fresh flavor…mmmm. But wait, isn’t it autumn now? Well yes, it is, but one of the most interesting first flush teas from the Makaibari estate has just come to my attention and I’d love to share it with you this morning.

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Called Makaibari estate Long Leaf first flush, it is the 11th lot harvested from their first flush season. The leaves are a gorgeous variegation of color and size. I steeped them in my glass teapot for 3 minutes in 212 degree F (boiling) water.

The Makaibari tea estate is a biodynamic, Fair Trade estate located in the West Bengal state in eastern India. The goal of their agricultural practices, as stated on their website:

“The goal of biodynamic practices coupled with permaculture, to usher harmony between soil, microorganisms, plants, animals and man, is a shining model at Makaibari for all of mankind to emulate….. Makaibari follows a form of integrated forest management called permaculture where the tea bush is part of a multi-tier system of trees and plants typical of a sub-tropical rainforest, as opposed to a monoculture–a farm that grows only one crop. Makaibari retains 70% of its entire area under forest cover.”

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The aroma wafting up from the wet leaf reminds me of a woodland walk.

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The light amber color of the tea liquor reflects the golden autumn palette of our backyard trees. Everything seems to be glowing at this time of year here in New England.

With my first sip, I detect a light citrus quality followed by a nutty note which I find to be very characteristic of Makaibari teas. The tea is smooth and light.

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My teacup is one that I purchased at Rottenstone Pottery in Arroyo Seco, NM. The potter’s finger marks are still visible from when they dipped the cup into the glaze. I gently place my fingers on those marks and feel connected to the artist of this wonderful creation cradling my beloved tea.

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This weekend will be spent over at my new place, priming and painting. I just found out this past week that we will be totally gutting the bathroom – walls, ceiling, floor – and starting from scratch. Yesterday afternoon was spent looking through hundreds of ceramic tile choices until my eyes glazed (pun intended, lol) over and I could do no more. Not only are there hundreds of choices but then a multitude of ways to put those choices together in a design. What an amazing learning experience this is blossoming into, in many ways.

…It’s another

beginning, my friend, this waking in a

morning with no haze, and help coming

without your asking!  A glass submerged

is turning inside the wine.  With grief

waved away, sweet gratefulness arrives.

~Rumi (excerpt from So We Can Have What We Want)