Saturday Morning Tea

HubeiGoldenTeacup100309

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?

HubeiGoldenDry100309

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.

HubeiGoldenWet100309

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.

HubeiGoldenSteep100309

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.

HubeiGoldenTeapot100309

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.

HubeiGoldenTeacupBlur100309

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

Advertisements

Saturday Morning Tea

WhiteMonkeyDry081509

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.

WhiteMonkeyWet081509

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.”

TaimuMountain

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.

WhiteMonkeySteep081509

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.

WhiteMonkeyTeapot081509

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.

WhiteMonkeyTeabowl081509

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

bogaceylondry041109

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.

bogaceylonwet041109

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.

bogaceylonteapot041109

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.

bogaceylonteacup041109

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.

artjournalpg1041109

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

Saturday Morning Tea

ffnamringdry040409

Spring is the most wonderful time of year in many ways.

One of my favorite happenings in Spring is the arrival of the very first First Flush Darjeeling. The term “first flush” refers to the brand new spring leaf buds, the first growth of the year on the tea bushes, highly prized.

In the 1800s, there was stiff competition to see who could build the fastest clipper ship, the one that could reach port with their treasured cargo first. You can read more about that here.

While the tea chests that the tea is packed in are not that much different from days of old, the method by which the tea arrives is radically different, of course. This tea arrived by plane, shortening its long journey considerably from bush to cup.

ffnamringwet040409

My morning tea just arrived this week from the Namring estate. It is their very first plucking of the season, lot EX-1. As you can see, there is a lot of green-ness to the leaf even though it is processed as a black tea. I’ve spoken to many customers inexperienced with first flushes who thought that they had received a green tea in error.

ffnamringsteep0404091

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 212 degree F (boiling point) water. I noticed a lot of movement of the leaf while it was steeping.

ffnamringteapot040409

The liquor is a soft glowing amber. The incredibly fresh aroma filled my senses as I poured my first cup.

ffnamringteacup040409

The flavor is bright yet smooth with barely ripe fruit nuances and a light sweetness that lingers in my mouth.

Now, to sit back and savor this long anticipated moment…mmmm…

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

tippygunpowederdry031409

Looking out on a brilliant blue sky, I carefully measure my tea leaves into my glass teapot. This morning’s tea is one that I haven’t reviewed before, China Gunpowder green tea. I have never been fond of gunpowder tea because I find that it has a tobacco-ey smoke flavor note. As a reformed smoker, I shy away from anything that reminds me of those days, especially smells and tastes.

I find this tea, called Tippy Gunpowder Imperial, to be an exception in that there is none of that smoky quality to it. The leaves have been withered, heated and then rolled and shaped into the distinctive gunpowder “pellets”. These tea leaves have a looser shape, however, reminding me of the Yunnan Spiral Buds I reviewed 3 weeks ago.

tippygunpowderwet031409

Steeping the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water reveals the fine plucking and tips. Wow, that is the intact end of the stem. Beautiful! You can see the tip, the new growth, in the middle between the 2 larger leaves.

tippygunpowedersteep031409

I found this great tea processing flow chart on Wikipedia. I’m a visual learner so it helps for me to visually see the steps taken to create the different kinds of tea.

tippygunpowderteapot031409

The processing of green tea leaves into gunpowder style tea dates back to the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618–907). It was originally done to expose the leaf to less physical damage and to retain more flavor and aroma. The name comes from the resemblance of the rolled leaf to gunpowder pellets.

tippygunpowderteabowl031409

As I sip my tea from one of my favorite pottery bowls, I am greeted by a fresh, clean aroma which reminds me of the fresh air smell after a spring shower has passed. The flavor is also fresh and vegetal but not overly so, with a distinct astringent finish that lingers in my mouth for awhile. This tea has a robustness about it that I find very appealing.

It’s time to go make another pot of tea and go play in my studio! Enjoy the unfolding beauty of your world this weekend.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill

where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.

~Rumi

Saturday Morning Tea

honeybushvandry030709

This past week was my first week back to full-time work. I keep telling myself that this is a good thing, giving me the ability to work towards my dream of owning my own home. Still, there has been some sadness associated with things I’ve had to let go of. Time for my art, especially.

As I prepared for my morning tea today I realized that I haven’t had many reviews about herbal tea. Or infusions, I should say, because herbals are not really tea. I apologize to any caffeine sensitive readers who are interested in exploring herbal options. I will strive to be more balanced in my tea choices and if there’s anything – tea or herbal – that you want to hear more about, please do let me know.

honeybushvanwet030709

This morning I am enjoying a cup of Honeybush Vanilla, a delightful herbal with Bourbon vanilla pieces and dried marigold petals. Mountain Honeybush, Cyclopia intermedia, is a bush that grows wild on the slopes of the Kouga mountains in South Africa. The leaves of this bush are harvested and processed much like the tea plant, camellia sinensis. It gets its name from the scent of its flowers.

Can you imagine wandering through a field of blooming honeybush and experiencing that sweet scent filling the air?

honeybushvansteep030709

This herbal is very smooth so you can steep the leaves for awhile without worrying about it turning bitter like oversteeped tea. I boiled my water and let it cool a short while before steeping the honeybush for 8-10 minutes.

The aroma is of sweet vanilla without being cloying or overpowering. The beautiful pink amber infusion tastes smooth and sweet with fruit and flower underlying the vanilla taste.

honeybushvanteacup030709

I have filled this beautiful china cup, a gift from a dear friend who knows how much I love new tea “equipage”.

Every week I usually stop by the library to pick up books that I have put on my online queue. However, this week drew me back to my own bookshelf to a book I had picked up about 3 years ago at the bookstore. I remember reading it at that time and enjoying it but this time I can feel each word penetrating my psyche on a deeper level.  Perhaps it is because of all of the changes I’ve experienced this past year and also the ones I am facing in the year to come. Called “The Courage to be Yourself” by Sue Patton Thoele, it is about finding an expanded vision of yourself and getting in touch with any self limiting fears that can get in the way of that expansion. Sue’s writing style is wonderfully down to earth and I feel like we’re sitting down in a cozy place having a cup of tea together while she shares the wisdom of her own personal journey.

She has 2 affirmations that she lives by.

I choose to live my life fully.

I will never give myself away again.

A truly wonderful book. Have a marvelous week.

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was

oftentimes filled with your tears

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being,

The more joy you can contain.

~Kahil Gibran

Studio Wednesday

glazedheartnecklace1022509

This week I finished 2 projects – my glazed polymer clay heart and pearl necklace and my first knitted pair of socks.

glazedheartnecklace2022509

I sculpted a heart out of white Premo and after baking, carved some words onto the front and embellished with thin, extruded polymer clay snakes. Using acrylic medium and mica powder, I created a glaze and applied at least 4 layers to the heart, letting dry overnight in between applications. Using 20 gauge antiqued copper wire, I created the metal components of the necklace. The faceted lavender pearls are knotted on hand dyed silk cord. As I carefully put this necklace together, I thought about my dreams, especially the one about buying my own house.

socksfinished022509

My second sock knit up more smoothly as I knew what I was doing the second time around. I now understood about not knitting the whole round with the “waste” yarn and adjusted the instructions accordingly. Since I used bigger knitting needles – US 10 – and very thin yarn, the pattern came out lacy looking. They’ll be perfect to wear in the warmer months ahead.

freeformbracelet022509

Today I worked on a free-form peyote bracelet, a custom order in a fall color palette. It felt so good to get back to placing the tiny beads on my needle once again, if only for a little while. I find my shoulders hunching up with tension very quickly while I bead so I need to be very careful with that.

Today was my last official Studio Wednesday. I felt sad but am excited to begin the next phase of my life. A new adventure. A new house. All my own.

He is the happiest, be he king or peasant,

who finds peace in his home.

~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe