Saturday Morning Tea

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! This morning I am on my way out the door to my polymer clay guild meeting, travel mug in hand. I leave you with a post I did to welcome in spring, with the lovely Magnolia Blossom Oolong. Enjoy!

The crocus I planted last fall are pushing their way up through the earth and their leaf blanket. As the days lengthen and warm, they are drawn to grow and burst into bloom. A big welcome to Spring this weekend!

To celebrate the first day of Spring, my morning tea is a scented tea from China called Magnolia Blossom Oolong. Grown and processed in the Guangdong province in South China, this tea is often described as “Orchid Oolong” as the flowers come from a tree that native Chinese call “yulan”, meaning jade orchid. Despite its translation, yulan is actually a type of magnolia tree (Magnolia denudata) which originated in southern China.

The leaves look very much like a Jade Oolong to me, rolled into compressed shapes. I steeped them for 3 minutes in 190 degree F water.

The shapes released as they steeped, giving off a wonderful fragrance. As I lifted the lid from my glass teapot, it was like putting my face into a bouquet of freshly cut flowers!

I find the floral flavor to be similar to a jasmine tea. The flower notes are very strong and sweet but not cloying. The flavor of the Oolong tea comes through the scenting, adding a fuller, silky smooth mouth feel. It doesn’t have the delicacy of a jasmine tea though.

I was able to find out more information about my Hawaiian teabowl. Created by Clayton Amemiya on the Big Island, it was fired in a traditional Japanese kiln called an anagama. Clayton’s work combines Japanese tradition with the unique style of the Big Island. What I thought was glaze on the bowl is actually ash and wood. From his brochure:

“No glaze has been used. A glazed appearance is made by the firing process. Flying ash and wood particles fuse to the clay as they draft through the kiln. Because this is done by the fire, no two pieces can ever be the same. Individual woods have many of their own firing properties. This understanding gives Clayton the opportunity to collaborate with a force of nature.”

Knowing this makes my teabowl that much more special to me. As tea drinkers, we also collaborate with nature when we steep our leaves and transform them into a cup of tea.

Happy Spring!

“All you need is deep within you waiting to unfold and reveal itself.  All you have to do is be still and take time to seek for what is within, and you will surely find it.” ~Eileen Caddy

Unless otherwise noted, all text and photos are the property of Art and Tea at http://www.artandtea.wordpress.com, copyright 2007-2011.

Saturday Morning Tea

I’m still anxiously awaiting the arrival of this year’s first flush Darjeeling teas, as I know I’ve mentioned many times before, one of my favorite times of year. Still not here yet though. There’s been some political upheaval in Darjeeling that resulted in a strike of the workers. So, the first flush season has experienced some ups and downs. I’ve heard that tea is being plucked and processed once again but the first flush season is just about over now. I’m hoping to be able to enjoy a cup by the end of April.

All that said, we were very pleasantly surprised by the arrival of some Pre-Chingming teas from China yesterday. So, in my cup this morning, a Pre-Chingming Pi Lo Chun.

Just look at that fresh, gorgeous leaf!

Chingming, or Qingming, is a festival in China, usually celebrated on the 15th day from the Spring Equinox, or April 5th. It is a day for going outside to enjoy the return of greenery and tend to the graves of departed loved ones. So, Pre-Chingming refers to the tea being plucked before this festival time.

I steeped the leaf for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water. The delicately spiraled leaf shapes unfurled to reveal their spring green glory. Pi Lo Chun tea is one of the most famous types of green tea produced in China. I’ve written about it before here. This tea is from Fujian province.

Because of its very early plucking, the tea is quite delicate, the straw-colored liquor resembling the color of a white tea. The aroma and flavor are light, fresh and vegetal but not overly so. With my first sip, I detected a hint of smokiness that vanished as the tea cooled.

I am giving this early 2011 tea a place of honor in my Hawaiian teabowl. So smooth, so refreshing, so sweetly delicate.

This beautiful spring weekend will be spent walking on the bike path and hiking in the woods. I love getting out into nature at this time of year to smell the fresh air and celebrate all the little shoots peeking up out of the soil. So far, clumps of sunny yellow crocus and one lone daffodil are blooming out in my garden.

What’s blooming in your life?

“Smells are surer than sights and sounds

to make heartstrings crack.” ~Rudyard Kipling

Saturday Morning Tea

The crocus I planted last fall are pushing their way up through the earth and their leaf blanket. As the days lengthen and warm, they are drawn to grow and burst into bloom. A big welcome to Spring this weekend!

To celebrate the first day of Spring, my morning tea is a scented tea from China called Magnolia Blossom Oolong. Grown and processed in the Guangdong province in South China, this tea is often described as “Orchid Oolong” as the flowers come from a tree that native Chinese call “yulan”, meaning jade orchid. Despite its translation, yulan is actually a type of magnolia tree (Magnolia denudata) which originated in southern China.

The leaves look very much like a Jade Oolong to me, rolled into compressed shapes. I steeped them for 3 minutes in 190 degree F water.

The shapes released as they steeped, giving off a wonderful fragrance. As I lifted the lid from my glass teapot, it was like putting my face into a bouquet of freshly cut flowers!

I find the floral flavor to be similar to a jasmine tea. The flower notes are very strong and sweet but not cloying. The flavor of the Oolong tea comes through the scenting, adding a fuller, silky smooth mouth feel. It doesn’t have the delicacy of a jasmine tea though.

I was able to find out more information about my Hawaiian teabowl. Created by Clayton Amemiya on the Big Island, it was fired in a traditional Japanese kiln called an anagama. Clayton’s work combines Japanese tradition with the unique style of the Big Island. What I thought was glaze on the bowl is actually ash and wood. From his brochure:

“No glaze has been used. A glazed appearance is made by the firing process. Flying ash and wood particles fuse to the clay as they draft through the kiln. Because this is done by the fire, no two pieces can ever be the same. Individual woods have many of their own firing properties. This understanding gives Clayton the opportunity to collaborate with a force of nature.”

Knowing this makes my teabowl that much more special to me. As tea drinkers, we also collaborate with nature when we steep our leaves and transform them into a cup of tea.

Happy Spring!

“All you need is deep within you waiting to unfold and reveal itself.  All you have to do is be still and take time to seek for what is within, and you will surely find it.” ~Eileen Caddy

Unless otherwise noted, all text and photos are the property of Art and Tea at http://www.artandtea.wordpress.com, copyright 2007-2011.

Saturday Morning Tea

I’ve become fascinated with roofs lately. Yes, you heard me correctly – roofs. In particular, the big chunks of ice and icicles hanging from their edges.

This has been such a rough winter in New England with a foot of snow arriving every week it seems and so many people are dealing with collapsed roofs and leakages from ice dams. On the news, they recommend shoveling the snow off your roof. However, when you live in a 3-story house such as I do, that task seems monumental. I’ve been lucky and have had only a minimum amount of leaking from one of my windows.

Ok, on to my tea…

Introducing Moonlight white tea. For me, the name conjures up images of a huge, full moon illuminating a tropical sea, a path of glitter from shore to horizon. Hey, I think that all of this snow is inspiring daydreams of a warm place. A much warmer place…

The leaf of this white tea from China is enormous and beautifully variegated, ranging in color from dark olive to silvery green.

I steeped the leaves in 180 degree F water for 3 minutes which produced a lovely pale yellow liquor.

The aroma is soft and floral, the floral notes carrying on into the flavor. Notes of honey and apricot whisper in the delicate taste. This would be a wonderful treat for white tea lovers to try.

Speaking of a treat, I treated myself to a pair of new teamugs this week. Made by Bodum, they’re double-walled, insulated borosilicate glass mugs.

I was amazed at how light they are! I just love anything glass and now I can see my tea while I’m drinking it.

Like my glass teapot, I’ll treat my new mugs with extra TLC and handwash them. So far, I think they’re great. I see from the brochure that came with my mugs that there’s a whole line of these glasses in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Hmmm, perhaps a pair of tall glasses this summer for iced tea…

Does anyone have any experience with these glasses?

Rain is in our forecast for later today so it’s a good day for staying inside and playing in my studio. Now that I’ve finished my Towers and Turrets necklace (see last post), I’m ready to start on a brand new project!

“Ah!  There’s nothing like staying home for real comfort.”

~Jane Austen

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends!

A world of white greets me these days as I walk out my front door and carefully negotiate my way to my car along channels cut into the snow. After all was said and done, 19 inches of the white stuff fell last Wednesday. And now our temps have sunk down into single digits. 5 degrees…brrrr..

I’m glad to be inside right now, hot cup of tea warming my hands. In my cup is a second flush Darjeeling from the Thurbo estate. It is considered a “silver tip” Darjeeling because of the profusion of tips, the new silvery growth on the plant.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point temp (212 F) water. In the picture above, you can see some of the huge mounds of snow we have.

The Thurbo estate is located in the Mirik valley in Darjeeling district in northeastern India. I’ve read that it got its name because long ago the British set up camp there to invade Nepal which is close by. The local dialect word for “camp” is “tombu” which could have morphed into Thurbo.  An interesting little bit of trivia.

When the sky is clear, the snow glows blue and purple at twilight. It’s a magical sight. I think those colors have seeped into my consciousness.

The rich amber liquor has a predominant chestnut aroma which carries on into its flavor. Hints of ripe fruit round out the very smooth cup.

This tea is perfect for this frosty, frigid January morning.

Despite the hours of shoveling and clearing away, the snow has brought some positive benefits with it. A snow day from work this past Wednesday pushed me right into my studio (yay!) and I finally finished my Towers and Turrets pendant. Now I’d like to turn it into a necklace so it’s off to the bead store I go today, armed with a very generous gift certificate from my oldest son (thanks Justin!).

I know that I’ve spoken about the art side of my blog being sorely lacking these past months. I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week, even reading art posts from past years and wondering where that motivation and passion went. Buried underneath a full-time job, I guess.

Anyway, one of my personal goals for 2011 is to share more of my artwork with you once again and I’d love for you to share your creations with me.

What are you creating?

The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love. ~Margaret Atwood

Saturday Morning Tea

Happy New Year! I hope that you all enjoyed the holiday season. And now here we find ourselves in January of a brand new year.

A time of new beginnings…

As I gaze out my window at an iced world of white, it inspired me to reach for a delicate leaf to steep in my cup this morning, a China white called White Point Reserve.

Composed entirely of unopened leaf buds, this tea is soft and sweet.

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

The buds remain unopened in their pristine state even after steeping. White tea is the least processed of all teas, plucked, dried, gently heated to halt oxidation and there you go.

The tea liquor is a pale ecru color and allows my teapot to reflect the winter wonderland outside. A lightly sweet aroma drifts from my cup and the flavor is also sweet with nutty notes. It always amazes me how white tea usually doesn’t have a hint of the vegetal quality of green tea.

I chose my “iced” tea bowl to enjoy my tea in. Notice a color theme (or lack thereof) going on here?

This type of weather at this time of year always induces a quiet, reflective state of mind for me. I just want to sit and do nothing else but sip my tea and gaze out my window…

“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson