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)


Saturday Morning Tea

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Hello, my friends. The week has flown by and we are back together sharing another cup of tea.

I awoke very early this morning to the sound of a steady rain persistently tap, tap, tapping at my bedroom windows. As I prepared myself to get up, my sleep fogged brain remembered that it was the weekend and, oh joy, I could indulge in some extra sleep. Don’t you love those kind of mornings, especially when the rain can gently lull you back into your dreams?

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On this gray, drippy morning, I am warming myself with a cup of China black tea called Hubei Province Golden Tips. The profusion of beautiful, golden buds are shown off above on a paint chip called Caribbean Sunset. What do you think of the color?

All of this golden goodness is sure to ward off the dreariness of this sodden day.

Hubei Province is located right in the heart of central China. Its name means “north of the lake”, referring to Lake Dongting, famous for the origin of Dragon boat racing.

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Only the new growth, the tea buds, are plucked to produce this tea. The appearance of the dry leaf reminds me of a golden Yunnan black tea but, after steeping for 4 minutes with boiling point (212 F) water, I discover that the flavor is very different.

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I’ve been pouring over these paint chips trying to decide on a color to paint my new place. I want to be surrounded with warm, bright color.

The aroma of this tea is dark and sweet. As for its flavor, I have one word.

Smoky. Like hickory smoked bacon smoky.

That being said, it does not overwhelm in its smokiness but gently teases and entices you to want to try another cup.

And another. And another.

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Despite, or rather I should say because of, this flavor note, this unique tea has become a fast favorite amongst my colleagues and I and we have been drinking it for our morning tea everyday this past week. It seems strange that my vegetarian nature would enjoy the flavor note that lingers on in my mouth for quite some time like the memory of a haunting melody.

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This is the kind of tea that needs to be savored over a period of time so one can slowly get to know and appreciate it.

I thought that I would be painting my new place this weekend but still, no closing. Hopefully, I will be washing Caribbean Sunset onto my walls very soon. Instead, I will be putting the finishing touches on my Taos shrug. Photos soon!

A Voice Through the Door

Sometimes you hear a voice through

the door calling you, as fish out of

water hear the waves, or a hunting

falcon hears the drum’s come back.

This turning toward what you deeply

love saves you.  Children fill their

shirts with rocks and carry them

around.  We’re not children anymore.

Read the book of your life which has

been given you.  A voice comes to

your soul saying, Lift your foot;

cross over; move into the emptiness

of question and answer and question.

~Rumi

Saturday Morning Tea

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Does anyone else feel that August is cruising at warp speed towards September? It’s always felt like a “getting ready” month to me. There is a buzz, an undercurrent in the lazy haziness. That being said, this weekend stretches wide before me with its warmth and sunshine and relaxation possibilities.

Today I’m starting the day sipping a tea with a delightfully whimsical name.  White Monkey. It conjures up images of an exotic creature peeking out with keen, intelligent eyes from myth and story.

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Despite its name, this is a green tea. It is cultivated and processed in the Taimu mountains of Fujian province in China. I found this information about the mountains on Wikipedia:

“The Taimu mountains are known as the “Paradise at Sea” for its steep mountains, spectacular rock formations, secluded caves and foggy climate.”

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I also read that there are over 300 rock formations on Taimu mountain, some in the shape of fish, rabbits, monks reading.

And monkeys.

It sounds like a fabulous place to go hiking.

Ok, back to my tea.

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I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water.

Yesterday a dear friend asked me what I meant by listing the temperature of the water. A very good question. Green and white tea (and some Oolongs) leaves are minimally processed, not like black tea where the leaves are allowed to oxidize and turn dark. So, the leaves are closer to their original green state and thus too fragile to steep in the temperature of boiling water. Their flavor must be gently coaxed in water of a cooler temperature.

I have an electric kettle which automatically turns off when it has reached boiling point. There is a steam tube inside the kettle that causes the mechanism to act when it detects steam. So, I allow the water to come to a boil in my kettle and then I gently prop open the lid and carefully place my thermometer in the kettle. I then monitor it until it reaches the proper temperature for the tea I’m going to brew. I use a small meat thermometer that I purchased at William Sonoma.

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I almost didn’t use this photo because it’s somewhat out of focus but there’s something dreamy about it. Plus it shows off the color of this tea very nicely.

A pale, champagne color. Lovely.

The aroma is distinctly vegetal with a flavor that is quite refreshing and smooth. Its delicate sweetness becomes more pronounced as it cools. This tea would taste wonderful iced. I also detected a whisper of pear in the finish.

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Another dreamy out of focus picture in pale colors showing a slice of the summer blue sky. Time for another cup!

“To see the Summer Sky is Poetry….” ~Emily Dickinson

Saturday Morning Tea

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It’s a grey day here in New England, perfect for staying inside and curling up with a good book, cup of tea by my side. It’s supposed to rain all day, wonderful nourishment for all the newly growing plants and flowers.

I’m stepping out of the box today from my normal tea choices. I’m sipping a black tea from the Bogawantalawa estate in Sri Lanka. Boy, those Ceylon names sure can be a challenge to spell let alone to say. My colleagues and I have a lot of fun at work  practicing pronunciation before we have to talk about them with a customer.

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This is a broken leaf tea. While the tea is being processed, some of the leaf breaks up into smaller bits. The leaf is then run through various size sieves to separate it into piles of the same size leaf bits. This is because a broken leaf tea has a shorter steeping time than a whole leaf tea. If the broken and whole leaf parts were mixed together, you would end up with either under-steeped or over-steeped leaf in your tea.

The Bogawantalawa tea estate is in the Dimbula region of Sri Lanka, located to the west of the central mountains at an elevation of about 4,000 feet. The island of Sri Lanka (old name Ceylon), located off the tip of India, has a highland ridge running right down the center of the island. This ridge blocks the monsoon winds that come in from the northeast in December to March and the southwest from June to August, creating a perfect climate for growing tea. Warm days, cool mornings and infrequent rain are perfect for producing the most flavorful leaf.

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As there is more surface area on the broken leaf that is exposed to the water, it brews up quickly in 2 1/2-3 minutes. The tea liquor is a dark amber with a fragrance that I can best describe as a “tea fragrance”, full bodied, lemony and brisk. It is the aroma that most people would identify with a cup of tea.

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The flavor is smooth yet brisk with citrus notes. While I am very much enjoying this tea hot, it would make an excellent iced tea with its lemony nuances. To enhance my citrus experience, I have spread some orange marmalade on honey crackers. This tea would also stand up well to milk but I recommend trying it without milk at first so you can taste its wonderful flavor notes.

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Continuing my work in my art journal, I filled 3 pages with journaling using the prompt “Today I feel…”. I then gessoed over the pages with a dry brush. The next assignment was to write my name all over the first page. I brought out my watercolor pencils and had so much fun doodling and coloring.

I created a little spring tulip garden.

“How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold?

Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root,

and in that freedom bold”

~William Wordsworth