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

Saturday Morning Tea

After a damp, cool week, today dawned bright and clear and dry. A perfect weekend to be outside, soaking in the brilliant colors of autumn.

In the second week of my series on Japanese tea culture, today’s tea is a Japanese green tea called Fukamushi Cha, meaning “deep steamed tea”.

Almost all Japanese green tea is steamed for 30-45 seconds in the first step of processing. This halts oxidation of the leaf and sets the distinctive, brilliant green color of the Japanese green tea leaf as well as giving it its pronounced vegetal flavor.

Fukamushi Cha undergoes a deeper, or longer steaming time.

Just look at that gorgeous green leaf.

Tea drinking in Japan can be traced back to the 8th century when the Emperor Kammu dispatched several diplomatic missions to China to learn about and better understand their culture.

As in China, tea drinking was only practiced in Japan among monks, the nobility and the imperial court for many years.

It wasn’t until the 12th century when Myoan Esai, a Japanese Buddhist priest, encouraged all Japanese citizens to drink tea for their health, writing the first Japanese book on tea entitled Kissa Yojoki which translates to “Tea Drinking Good for the Health”.

I steeped my Fukamushi Cha for 3 minutes in a lower temperature water, 160 degrees F. The aroma is feather light and vegetal.

The pale spring-green tea liquor is very sweet with a light pungency which refreshes my palate. A pronounced vegetal flavor embraces the sweetness.

Over time, tea became elevated to a fine art in Japan, culminating with the development of the Japanese tea ceremony known as Chanoyu. I had the privilege of attending a tea ceremony 3 years ago and wrote about it here.

This weekend will be a fall cleaning, staying at home kind of weekend for me. Perhaps I’ll even find some time to spend in my studio!

Please join me next week when I will be sharing my review of a Japanese gyokuro tea.

“Make a delicious bowl of tea; lay the charcoal so that it heats the water; arrange the flowers as they are in the field; in summer suggest coolness, in winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration.”

~Sen Rikyu, Zen tea master (1522-1591)

Saturday Morning Tea

Even though we are on the cusp of autumn and the temps are dropping rapidly here in New England, especially at night, I’m still in the mood for a light tea.

I introduce you to Huangshan Mao Feng Supreme, a beautiful, spring harvest Chinese green tea. Perhaps springtime in a cup can banish away the gloominess I feel on this dark, cloudy day.

The leaf is from a very fine plucking and careful processing resulting in an amazingly intact leaf set. I loved watching the leaves dance in my glass teapot as they infused.

Just the tips, the very new growth, are plucked to create this special tea.

I have read that Huangshan is another name for Mount Huang, located in the Anhui province of China. It’s a place of  granite peaks, hot springs and beautiful sunsets and sunrises. An optical phenomenon known as Buddha’s Light occurs a couple times a month there with the sunrise. Sounds like an amazing place.

This tea is quite pale in color with a vegetal whisper in the aroma.

I chose this particular teabowl because the pale liquor allows me to see the beautiful texture inside the bowl. The flavor is light yet fills my mouth with its soft, fruity sweetness. Mmmm….

As I sip my tea, I watch the gray blanket of sky and contemplate the seasonal changes to come. My cup of springtime seems to hold back the thickening clouds as it releases the scent of new growth with every sip.

“Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday Morning Tea

Yesterday my company moved from our facility in Hopkinton, MA, where we’ve been for the last 9 years, to a new facility in the nearby town of Holliston. So, needless to say, it was a day of fixing up, hooking up, learning a new phone system and settling in to our new space. Not to mention moving all of that tea. Literally, tons of it. The good news is that we’ve been moving things over to the new space, bit by bit, over the past several months but it was still a big undertaking yesterday nonetheless. Whew!

When I first joined my company in 1995, it was a very  small operation and our packing and shipping areas were in close proximity to each other. The phones were nearby so we could stop to answer a call as we packed and boxed the tea orders. Now, each department has its own huge space and we need to take a bit of a walk to visit each other. We have evolved to have a separate Customer Service department as well as a Purchasing department in a large office area. All that said, the spirit of our company has remained the same no matter how much we grow, with the primary goal of providing our customers with the best tea and service we can. And you will always get a live person whenever you call us during our hours!

This morning’s tea is a first flush Darjeeling from the Makaibari estate. A biodynamic estate located in the Darjeeling district of northeast India, it produces some of the finest Darjeelings I’ve tasted. In all of my years of drinking and enjoying Darjeeling teas, I haven’t met a Makaibari that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed.

The leaf is resplendent with a profusion of tips which I find smooths out the crisp pungent flavor of a first flush tea. I steeped the leaves at my usual 3 minutes in boiling point water.

Look at that gorgeous color. Yum.

The fragrant aroma has a faint note of juicy citrus and the crisp flavor fills my mouth with notes of a muscatel grape.

I just had to enjoy this tea in a white teabowl so I could keep gazing upon that amazing color.

The muggy humidity has left us here in New England and we are blessed with a clearer, cooler day today. I’m going to find some time to spend in my studio, getting back to my experimentations with acrylic paint and polymer clay.

What’s in your teacup this weekend?

“Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast.”

~Rainer Maria Rilke