Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! On this misty, late spring morning, I’ve chosen a dark, rich China black tea for my teapot. Meet Pre-Chingming Yunnan Black Snail. As I’ve shared with you before, Pre-Chingming teas are harvested in China on very early spring days when the tea bushes start to flush with new growth after their winter dormancy.

From Yunnan province, this tea is produced from a large leaf varietal. The leaves are rolled into spiral shapes, reminiscent of snails. After a 5 minute steeping in boiling point (212F) water, take a look at these unfurled and partially unfurled leaf sets. This tea would do well with multiple steepings.

The fragrance reminds me of powdered unsweetened cocoa with a hint of malt.

The red-amber liquor is rich and oh so smooth. Pronounced notes of cocoa are embraced by a dark honey sweetness that lingers into the lightly spicy finish.

This tea would make a terrific iced latte with a little milk and sweetener, a great refresher for the hot summer days to come.

I remember when I received my Nikon’s micro lens. It was about 4 years ago, a gift from the love of my life who passed away 3 years ago. Anyway, I remember the joy and delight I felt when I opened this lovely unexpected gift and I entered a whole new world of closeup photography. I could now shoot closeups of my beloved tea leaves! It’s hard to believe that I’ve been sharing tea with you on my blog for over 10 years now. As I look back over all of the tremendous changes I’ve experienced since I started my blog, I see the one constant thread that has stitched my days together with strength and purpose – my tea journey and my deep passion for sharing it with others, through my cupping notes and my photography. I’ve been honored to do so and hope to continue for many more years to come. Whether you’ve been with me for years or have just joined, thank you for sharing the journey with me!

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

~Roald Dahl

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! I steeped a special tea in my glass teapot this morning. Hint: it was harvested in China before April 5th and its name references a small creature that lives in a shell.

The photo above is what the leaves look like after steeping.

Here’s a before steeping shot.

If you guessed Pre-Chingming Pi Lo Chun, you are correct!

I’ve read that creating the distinctive curly shape of Pi Lo Chun leaf requires five hand motions, a combination of a gentle twist and roll that’s repeated three times. This is done while the leaves are fired in short, round metal cylinders, heated from below. The goal of the “tea firer” is to fix the leaf in its unique curly shape during firing in such a way that this shape will relax during steeping and the leaf will return to its original shape after steeping. In looking at the two photos above, you can see that goal was definitely accomplished. You can see the leaves relaxing during steeping here.

The pale gold infusion has a delicate yet complex aroma, vegetal and buttery with a faint toasty hint.

The cup is silky smooth, sweet and refined. The sweetness is reminiscent of fruit and there’s a nutty suggestion that comes out and lingers in the finish. Mmmm…

This is a great choice for a fresh, elegant green tea that’s not very vegetal.

I took a walk downtown this morning. The air was fresh and cool and the sun was shining. Then I returned home and made myself a pot of tea. Focusing on these small acts helped me to relax in the moment and let go of a very busy, very challenging week.

Until next time, enjoy your tea!

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! Hot and steamy weather arrived this past week with soaring temps and the rumble of thunder in the early morning hours. As soon as she arrived, she was gone again in a few days and replaced with cooler spring weather. Welcome to our unpredictable New England weather!

More first flush Darjeelings have arrived these past few weeks. I’m enjoying a selection from Liza Hill this morning. Liza Hill is a division of the esteemed Risheehat Estate in Darjeeling. If you look at a map of India, you’ll see Darjeeling, wedged in between Nepal and Bhutan, up in northeast India. Many years ago, Tibetan Buddhist monks named this area Dorje-ling. The Dorje is a sacred ritual object of holy lamas. It symbolized strength and constancy.

The dry leaf smells fresh and invitingI steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 212F (boiling point) water.

A lovely floral aroma drifted up from my glass teapot as the leaves steeped.

After they’ve steeped, I like to comb through the wet leaves to get a sense of the tea and its plucking order. You can see this fine intact plucking with the leaf gently twisted. Beautiful.

The liquor is a glowing golden amber, fragrant with the aroma of spring flowers, a heady scent to awaken my senses as I pour my first cup.

After a long week of very busy work, a lawnmower that won’t start, a hornet in my kitchen, a clogged dryer vent, this tea transports me to another place far from my daily worries – an exotic place of bright sunshine and cool breezes, filled with tea bushes growing in the shadow of majestic Himalayan peaks.

The flavor is rich with floral notes and tropical fruit sweetness. A refreshing pungent quality plays at the edges of the flavor, and lingers in the back of my throat. Delicious.

My weekend will be filled with family – a birthday party for my oldest son, making tea with my 6-year-old grandson and nurturing his new interest, and, of course, spending time with my newest granddaughter.

Until our next cup of tea together, have a wonderful couple of weeks!

“Were it possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, and yet a little way beyond the outworks of our divinings, perhaps we would endure our sadnesses with greater confidence than our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent.” 

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! Silver threads of rain fall from a leaden sky on this first Saturday in May. It’s been chilly so far this month and, while the flowers are getting plenty of water, they long for the warm sunshine, as we all do. I’ve chosen a green tea to grace my tea bowl this morning, an Organic Lung Ching from Zhejiang province, located in eastern China.

Lung Jing (Lung Ching, Long Jing) tea has a distinctive flat shape due to its unique processing. This flat shape is intentionally caused by the motion of the charcoal pan when the leaf is pan-roasted to stop oxidation. Its name means “Dragon’s Well,” referring to the place where it has been traditionally grown. Legend has it that a Taoist priest in the 3rd century advised the local villagers to pray to the dragon of a local well to bring rain and end their drought. It worked and the well was named after that dragon. The Dragon’s Well monastery still stands in that spot to this day.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180F water. I prefer spring water because of its mineral content. I find that it imparts a liveliness to my steeped tea, which I enjoy. Different water sources can produce different qualities and flavors in the same tea. I encourage you to experiment by steeping the same tea with different water and see which you prefer.

Even on this dark and dreary day, the liquor glows in my glass teapot.

The aroma is sweetly vegetal, with hints of buttered corn.

I love the flavor of Lung Ching tea. This selection is classic, sweet and nutty, smooth and silky on the tongue, with toasty hints and a whisper of fresh corn.

I’m looking forward to a family weekend, spending time with all of my grandchildren and celebrating my youngest son’s birthday.

Until next time, I hope you enjoy many delicious cups of tea!

“I sustain myself with the love of family.” ~Maya Angelou

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! I’m back from my Michigan trip and am happy to sit down and share another delicious cup of tea with you again. It’s been a very busy week and I need to slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy some meditative time with a cuppa. Why don’t you join me?

My favorite tea for contemplation is white tea. In my teapot this morning is a China white called Organic Pai Mu Tan Supreme. The silvery buds reflect the uniform gray sky hanging over this misty, spring morning.

This tea’s plucking order is the new leaf shoot, or bud, plus the top leaves. Pai Mu Tan, or Bai Mudan, translates to “white peony,” some say because of the shape of the leaves, others because of its fragrance.

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

A common question is: “what’s the difference between green tea and white tea?” The difference is in the processing of the leaves. Whereas green tea leaves are heated up pretty much right away, whether steamed or pan fried, for example, to halt the oxidation of the leaf, white tea leaves are allowed to wither naturally in the sun, sometimes for several days. So, the leaves aren’t heated to halt oxidation. In fact, after withering, the leaves are piled and allowed to oxidize a little bit before they are baked to dry the leaves out for packing and transport. This processing contributes to a more herbaceous and much less vegetal flavor.

As I pour the golden wheat-colored liquor into my cup, I detect a honeyed fruit fragrance in the aroma. I look forward to my first sip.

My first sip reveals a very smooth, sweet flavor, with notes of fresh melon and a soft toasty hint. I breath in the fragrance and sip oh so slowly. Slowing down and slipping into the moment allows me to unwind my knotted thoughts and let them float away like the steam from my cup.

Enjoy your next cup.

“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.” 

~Jon Kabat-Zinn

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! April showers are gathering in big puddles outside, and it’s blooming spring in my kitchen. Do you recognize the leaf? That’s right, a brand new first flush Darjeeling, one of my favorite spring treats. This lovely selection is from the Tindharia Estate.

The Tindharia tea garden is a bio-organic estate, located in the South Kurseong area of Darjeeling district. I’ve read that the town of Kurseong, whose name means “Land of the White Orchids”, is a quiet hill station. A hill station is “a town in the low mountains of the Indian subcontinent, popular as a holiday resort during the hot season.” At elevations of 400-1000 meters, it sounds like a great destination for cooling off during the hot summer months.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. For those of you new to tea’s delights, it’s always best to pour the water over the leaves rather than adding the leaves to the water. As you pour, it wakes up the leaves and starts the steeping process.

The aroma coming from the wet leaves is fresh and floral with a hint of vegetal. When I was just starting my tea journey many years ago, I saw a man plunge his nose right into the wet leaves and inhale deeply. At the time, I didn’t quite know what to think but now I understand completely.

The golden-amber tea liquor has a sweet fragrance with notes of flowers and a light toasty hint.

The cup is extremely well balanced with a smoothness that falls on the middle of my tongue and a refreshing pungency that wakes up the sides. Notes of flowers join a suggestion of tart fruitiness in the flavor. This tea is the second lot (EX-2) that was picked at Tindharia this spring. I’ve also tried the first lot (EX-1) and find that to have a gentler character when compared to this lot.

I’m happy and excited to share that my granddaughter, Adelyn Claire, was born on Thursday! A dear friend of mine said it perfectly: her beautiful face is one straight from heaven. I couldn’t agree more.

Saturday Morning Tea will return in 3 weeks as I’ll be in Michigan visiting my family in mid-April. Until then, happy sipping!

“Children are the rainbow of life. Grandchildren are the pot of gold.”

Irish Blessing

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! I’m still wondering when spring will bloom here in my little corner of the world. Last Tuesday, we got a foot of snow dumped on us in a, hopefully, last blast of winter. With frigid temps all week, we’re living in a world of large white piles of snow and ice. Thank goodness for tea! For my morning tea today, I’ve chosen a China Oolong with a venerable pedigree, Da Hong Pao Oolong. Da Hong Pao translates to “Big Red Robe.”

Are you wondering what big red robes have to do with this tea? Well, there’s a legend that the mother of an emperor fell ill and was cured by a certain tea. The emperor sent big red robes to clothe and honor the bushes from which the tea originated, in the Wuyi mountains of Fujian province. The legend goes on to say that three of the four bushes still survive today and are highly venerated.

I steeped the large leaves for 4 minutes in 190F water. It’s always a good idea to use water under the boil when steeping an Oolong tea.

The aroma is rich and complex, with notes of fruit, honey and sweet tobacco.

The leaves yield a gorgeous amber liquor that reflects the sunlight streaming in my kitchen.

My first sip fills my mouth with a silky buttery feel, followed by layers of flavor: honey, chestnut, aromatic wood, stone fruit and a lingering whisper of smoke in the finish. Amazing.

This tea will lend itself to multiple steepings so you could drink it all day long. mmmmm…

The day is drawing near when my granddaughter will enter this world, hopefully, within the next few days. I so can’t wait to meet her. I’m looking forward to sharing the special news with you the next time we meet. Until then, happy sipping!

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

~Mark Twain