Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! I was greeted by brilliant sunshine streaming through my windows as I padded down to my kitchen to prepare my morning tea. The days are getting longer as we march towards spring, and it’s exciting to have my path home from work now illuminated by the last light of the day. What’s in my cup today? You wouldn’t know it from my photos but I’m enjoying a pot of China Pu-Erh tea. This is very light for a Pu-Erh tea, you say? That’s because it’s a Sheng Cha, or “raw” Pu-Erh. There are 2 types of Pu-ehr, raw (Sheng or Qing) and cooked (Shou).

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Pu-Erh teas technically start out green but have a tea category all of their own because of their unique processing methods. Some people use the word “fermentation” when describing the oxidation process that turns tea leaves dark. In this instance, the correct term is “oxidation.” Pu-Erh leaves are truly fermented, in the sense of the word, because various components are introduced during processing that allow the leaves to ferment. This process is a long held secret. Leaves and tips (buds) are harvested and sun dried, much like white tea, and then the magic happens that creates Pu-Erh tea.

I used 180F water and steeped the leaves for 4 minutes.

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The aroma is sweet and earthy with a pronounced dried apricot note in both the wet leaves and the liquor.

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Even the tea liquor is a golden apricot color, giving this selection a stone fruit theme, for sure. The flavor is sweet, tempered by an earthiness and suggestion of tobacco. The stone fruit note is still there, however, not as strong as in the aroma.

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This is a great choice to start your exploration of Pu-Erh teas, if you haven’t tried them yet. Better yet, try this alongside some cooked Pu-Erh so you can enjoy the pronounced difference between them. And they all amazingly come from the same plant!

Tomorrow is a big day for us football fans here in New England. Our beloved Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl once again. Go Pats!!!

“If you ask me how I want to be remembered, it is as a winner. You know what a winner is? A winner is somebody who has given his best effort, who has tried the hardest they possibly can, who has utilized every ounce of energy and strength within them to accomplish something. It doesn’t mean that they accomplished it or failed, it means that they’ve given it their best. That’s a winner.”

~Walter Payton

 

Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! On this crisp, early December morning, there’s not a cloud in the clear blue sky, and I’m enjoying a Pu-Erh tea in my cup. This particular selection, called Pu-Erh Tuo Cha Std., has been compressed into little birds’ nests shapes, called tuo cha. As you can see, each tuo cha is neatly wrapped in paper.

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Each tuo cha will make 2 cups of tea so I had to break them up a bit to measure for my 3-cup glass teapot. I used one full tuo cha and one half tuo cha. I steeped for 6 minutes in 212F water.

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Traditionally, Pu-erh teas are created from leaves harvested in the ancient tea forests of Yunnan province in China. There are two different kinds of Pu-erh tea, raw (Sheng) and cooked (Shou). This Pu-Erh is of the cooked (Shou) variety.

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Cooked Pu-Erh goes through a “composting” step during its processing. The leaves are piled into heaps, much like a compost pile, creating a heat in its core and transforming the leaves into this unique tea. Compressed forms of tea have been produced in China for hundreds of years. It was the most common form transported on the ancient caravan routes because it was less susceptible to physical damage and easier to transport.

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The tea liquor is a dark, opaque brown, with a sweet, earthy aroma. The flavor is velvety smooth, with notes of earth, autumn leaves and a dark sweetness, like molasses or dark brown sugar. As the tea cools, it gets even sweeter.

To conserve on heat, I keep my house pretty cool. I rely on my tea to warm me up and this tea did a great job of that. I’m going to the movies with my grandkids today, always a special treat to spend time with them! When I return home, I’ll put on some holiday jazz music and finish decorating the tree. I love this festive time of year. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and enjoy your tea!

Heaven or Hell, love or hate

No matter where I turn

I meet myself.

Holding life is precious is

Just living with all intensity

Holding life precious.

~Kosho Uchiyama Roshi

 

 

Saturday Morning Tea

Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Dry Leaf 12-06-14 Good morning, dear tea friends! It’s a damp, drizzly day, and I can hear the cars splash by outside as I prepare my tea this morning. I’m warming myself up with a dark cup of Pu-Erh tea, called Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Tuo Cha. The leaves have been interestingly mixed with a Chinese herb and then compressed into a square shape. Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Steep 12-06-14 Traditionally, Pu-erh teas are created from leaves harvested in the ancient tea forests of Yunnan province in China. There are two different kinds of Pu-erh tea, raw (Sheng) and cooked (Shou). This Pu-erh selection is of the cooked (Shou) variety. It has been mixed with an herb called Nuo Mi Xiang, which grows in China’s Yunnan province. In consulting with my colleague who speaks Chinese, Nuo Mi Xiang translates to “sticky rice fragrance”, referring to its aroma closely resembling that of sticky rice. I used two squares in my glass teapot and rinsed them for 10 seconds in boiling water first to awaken the leaf. Then I steeped for 5 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Wet Leaf 12-06-14 Cooked Pu-Erh goes through a “composting” step during its processing. The leaves are piled into heaps, much like a compost pile, creating a heat in its core and transforming the leaves into this unique tea. Compressed forms of tea have been produced in China for hundreds of years. It was the most common form transported on the ancient caravan routes because it was less susceptible to physical damage and easier to transport. Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Teapot 12-06-14 The aroma is fragrant with rich earth and autumn leaves. The tea liquor, as is normal for cooked Pu-Erh teas, is the color of black coffee. The flavor is smooth and sweet, with notes of pumpernickel toast and earthy spice. I think the herb lends a unique flavor to this Pu-Erh, which I find very appealing. Sticky Rice Pu-Erh Tea Bowl 12-06-14 This tea can be steeped multiple times. Do any of you steep your Pu-Erh tea that way? The days are shortening as we approach the Winter Solstice and the holiday time. Glowing twinkle lights adorn houses in my neighborhood, chasing away that deep darkness with the promise of the light returning in longer days once again. Have a lovely two weeks and enjoy your tea!

Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! It has been bitterly cold this past week in New England and we were visited once again by the white stuff. Thank goodness for our hot tea to keep us warm and cozy! This morning’s tea is an interesting shape, don’t you think? Compressed into the shape of a small bowl, its name is Ancient Green Pu-Erh Tuo Cha Organic.

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Traditionally, Pu-erh teas are created from leaves harvested in the ancient tea forests of Yunnan province in China. There are two different kinds of Pu-erh tea, raw (Sheng) and cooked (Shou). This Pu-erh is of the raw green variety. The leaves are sun dried and then compressed into small tuo cha shapes. I broke the tuo cha in half and then crumbled the half a bit for steeping purposes. That’s the way I like to do it.

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As the compressed leaf pieces steep for 3 minutes in 180F water, they loosen up and release to reveal the individual leaves. This is an excellent tea for resteeping.

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The tea liquor is a pale yellow straw color with a delicate herbaceous aroma that has underlying fruity tones. The flavor is light and delicate yet flavorful with notes of melon and sugar cookie, very much like a white tea.

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The wind is howling around the eaves outside. I’m so glad to be tucked into my little nook, snug and warm, sipping my tea gently to enjoy its delicate character. Time seems to stop for awhile in my world…

Have a wonderful and warm tea-filled week!

“A cold wind was blowing from the north, and it made the trees rustle like living things.”  

~George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! I’m still working on getting my camera fixed so I share a post with you from last summer. Enjoy!

I sit here quietly and sip my tea, the sounds of summer all around me – the faint buzzing of a lawn mower, the electric sound of the cicadas in the trees, the caw-caw of one crow to another as they fly over my house. As we enter the warm, hazy days of late summer, the fuschia impatiens dress my garden in their rich color.

In my cup this morning is a very dark tea, a China tea called Organic Pu-Erh 2nd Grade. Back in June, I wrote about the 1st grade here.

I steeped the leaves for 8 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water and, as you can see, the water quickly gets very murky on its way to becoming as black as night. Pu-Erh goes through a “composting” step during its processing. The leaves are piled into heaps, much like a compost pile, creating a heat in its core and transforming the leaves into this very unique tea.

Everything about this tea is so dark – the dry leaf, the wet leaf and the tea liquor after steeping. A rich, sweet, earthy aroma rises from my glass teapot as I remove the infuser basket.

I find that if I gaze at the tea liquor long enough, I can see a mulberry tinge around its edges. Can you see it?

The flavor is mellow and quite smooth, not as strong as its aroma. Characteristic notes of autumn leaf and forest floor mingle with a sweet molasses syrup flavor. I find myself enjoying it more and more with each sip.

While I was visiting my family in Michigan last month, we visited a quaint little village called Saugatuck, located on a river very near Lake Michigan. As we were strolling the shops, I came upon a pottery shop and purchased a few teabowls there. The artist’s name is Jeff Blandford and his business is called Volmod Ceramics. Voluptuous. Modern. Ceramic. He had some really cool pieces. As he was ringing my purchase, he told me that the teabowls I chose were created during a very creative time at the end of his student days at Michigan State University, over 3 years ago. So, I’d like to think that these lovely teabowls were sitting on the shelf patiently waiting for me to come along and bring them home to Massachusetts with me so I could enjoy many tea moments with them.

Until next week, dear tea friends…

“The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.”   ~Ivy Baker Priest

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! About a month ago, I reviewed a Pu-erh tea which had been compressed into a small square. You can see the photos of it here. I also talked about the two different kinds of Pu-erh tea, raw (Sheng) and cooked (Shou). The mini-square Pu-erh is the cooked kind and the tea in my cup this morning, called Ancient Forest Pu-erh Cake, is the raw kind. During its processing, this tea was compressed into “cakes” and each cake was wrapped to look like this:

Pretty cool, huh? Anyway, I find this particular raw type of Pu-erh tea fascinating in that it started out as a green tea, processed back in 1999. 13 years ago! One would think that a tea hanging out for that long would get stale and flavorless. Not so. The tea leaves aren’t heated up in the normal green tea processing way; they are allowed to dry in the sun, like white tea.

So, please correct me if I’m wrong, my understanding of raw Pu-erh is that it is stored in a special way allowing it to darken (oxidize) through its exposure to the natural elements. That’s why Pu-erh afficionados talk about storage and the aging process. The longer it’s “aged”, the darker it gets?

Because it is raw yet aged for 13 years, I steeped the leaves for 5 minutes in water under the boiling point, probably around 200 degrees F. So, hotter than what I normally use for green tea steeping.

This would be an excellent tea for experimenting with different steep times and water temperature. We did that at work and didn’t find a lot of difference between a 3 and 5 minute steep except for a bit smoother tea at 3 minutes.

Traditionally, Pu-erh teas are created from leaves harvested in the ancient tea forests of Yunnan province in China. You can see from the photo above that when the leaves unfurl from their compressed state, they’re pretty large.

The aroma is earthy and sweet with a faint hint of artichokes.

Compared to other Pu-erh teas I’ve tried, the flavor of the amber-colored liquor is quite mild and sweet, very smooth with a lingering earthy note in the finish. As I sip, that distinctive earthy flavor conjures up images of walking through a deep, dark ancient forest.

Much like wine lovers collect wines, some Pu-erh lovers collect these raw type, compressed Pu-erh teas and age them, waiting for just the right moment to break off a piece and steep a cup. If you have any experience with this, I’d love to hear your story.

Next weekend I’ll be out in Michigan visiting with my family so there won’t be any Saturday Morning Tea post. I’ll look forward to returning in 2 weeks to share another cuppa with you.

To all who celebrate, have a wonderful Easter and Passover!

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! You must be wondering about the picture above – now where are the tea leaves? They are there. They’ve just been compressed. If you look closely, you can see the outline of a few leaves. The tea in my cup this morning is called Pu-Erh Mini Squares.

I know, I know, it sounds kinda like a breakfast cereal. But, of course, it’s not, it is a rich, full-bodied China tea from the mountainous Simao region of Yunnan province.

As I’ve written about before, Pu-ehr tea is divided up into 2 classifications, raw and cooked, depending upon the processing method. This particular tea falls into the cooked category. It undergoes a double fermentation not unlike what happens in a compost pile. The leaves actually begin to decompose, giving them a strong earthy taste when steeped. For this particular tea, the leaves have been steamed after processing and then pressed into a large, flat “cake”. After it dried, the “cake” was then cut up into small squares, each square perfect for preparing a 6-8 ounce cup of tea.

To aid in full flavor extraction during steeping, I broke the square up into little pieces. This is fairly easy to do with your hand. If you experience any difficulty, I find that a hammer helps to start that process. Please watch out for your fingers! I steeped the broken pieces for 5 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water.

This traditional compressed form of tea has been produced in China for hundreds of years. It was the most common form transported on the ancient caravan routes because it was less susceptible to physical damage and easier to transport.

The tea is so incredibly dark, like the darkest chocolate. A sweet earthy aroma rises from my glass teapot as I pour my first cup.

Although this tea has that quite distinct Pu-Erh flavor of earth and forest floors, it is lighter than other Pu-Erh teas I’ve tried. And it is so incredibly sweet and smooth. There is also a whisper of dark cocoa that lingers in my mouth with each sip. I’m quite enjoying this tea!

I’m spending the day today with my daughter and granddaughter. A girls day! I’m so looking forward to it. More good news – I might have an art post to share with you this week. Stay tuned…

Have a wonderful week and enjoy your tea!