Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning! Enjoy this “oldie but goodie” tea post on a wonderful and unique white tea from Assam. See you next week, dear tea friends, when I share a brand new Assam tea review.

For my morning tea on this bright spring morning, I’ve chosen an Assam tea. Wait a minute, you might be saying as you look at my photo, that doesn’t look like an Assam tea at all! That’s because it is a white Assam. Located in northeast India, Assam is most noted for its full-bodied, rich black teas. This unique white tea is from the Mothola estate.

I have read that this tea estate was flooded back in the 60s when the banks of the Brahmaputra river eroded and water swept through the estate. Through the combined efforts of the workers and management, they were able to restore 1000 acres to grow tea once again.

This tea is meticulously crafted using only the tips of the Assamica variety of the Camellia Sinensis tea plant. Native to this lowland region, this variety has large leaves and grows to be a small tree.

When these indigenous tea plants were first identified by Major Robert Bruce around 1823, many believed that they were not capable of producing quality tea as the China variety was. You can read more about that here.

I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in 180 degree F water. The glowing gold liquor has a distinct malty aroma, immediately identifying it as an Assam tea. However, that’s where the similarity ends.

The flavor is delicate and sweet with complex malty notes. A hint of fruitiness makes a brief appearance across my tongue.

This tea is exquisite and can be compared to a specialty white tea from China. While I do love their white teas, this tea has an extra special something that calls me back for more.

As my hands wrap lightly around my hand-crafted teabowl, I watch the trees dance in the wind outside my window. It’s a perfect day to work in the garden.

Enjoy your weekend!

I wandered lonely as a cloud

that floats on high o’er vales and hills,

when all at once I saw a crowd,

a host of golden daffodils:

beside the lake, beneath the trees,

fluttering and dancing in the breeze….

for oft, when on my couch I lie

in vacant or in pensive mood

they flash upon that inward eye

which is the bliss of solitude;

and then my heart with pleasure fills,

and dances with the daffodils.

~William Wordsworth

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Saturday Morning Tea

This morning I’m heading down to Rhode Island for my art guild meeting. Please enjoy my review from last year of a wonderful tea from the Jun Chiyabari estate. I’ll be back next week to review a brand new tea. Happy tea drinking, dear friends!

Jun, “moon”. Chiya, “tea”. Bari, “garden”.

Jun Chiyabari. Moon tea garden.

It conjures up images of an exotic place, filled with lush tea bushes bathed in the dreamy light of a full moon.

Back in 2000, 2 brothers, Bachan and Lochan Gyawali, along with a former schoolmate, manifested their “moon tea garden” dream when they established the Jun Chiyabari tea garden in the hills surrounding the small town of Hile in the eastern Himalayan region of Nepal.

Working with small, local farmers to encourage and support them in keeping ownership of their land for tea cultivation, the team’s primary focus is on quality of leaf not quantity. They pay the farmers top prices for that high quality leaf, with a markup of 50-100%, a direct benefit to this small rural community.

This morning’s tea was grown in this community.

“There is an old saying that ‘tea is made in the garden’ (as opposed to at the factory).  In other words, what is produced in the garden in terms of quality, plucking, etc., will determine the nature of the end product.  We take this very seriously, and from the outset we have put the small farmer at the heart of our project.” ~Bachan Gyawali

In keeping with this philosophy, the Jun Chiyabari team expanded their vision last year with the construction of the Singalila Tea factory nearby in the town of Fikkal, at an altitude of 5,662 feet above sea level. They are constantly educating themselves and their farmers in tea cultivation skills, bio-organic farming including diversity of crops and preservation of forest areas to benefit the environment.

The beautiful amber liquor glows like a jewel in my glass teapot inviting me to pour my first cup.

The cup is quite smooth with sweet, lightly floral notes. I also detect some chestnut notes reminiscent of an Oolong tea. Mmmm…

I look forward to more delicious tea from this visionary team!

Today I’m heading down to E. Bridgewater, MA where my dear friend, Judy, is teaching her Buttons & Bellishments class. I’m looking forward to a fun ART Day!

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

~Helen Keller

Saturday Morning Tea

Remember my post several weeks ago where I revealed that I once didn’t like green tea? Well, there’s another tea that took me awhile to, shall we say, appreciate for its unique quality. A China tea which is processed in a way very different from all other teas. Can you guess what it is?

If you guessed China Pu-erh tea then you are absolutely correct. So, in keeping with my goal of being open to all of the different kinds of teas, this morning I introduce to you China Organic 1st Grade Pu-erh tea.

Because of fermentation during its processing, this is the darkest tea I know. To look at it in my tea bowl, one would almost think that I’m having a cup of coffee instead of tea, it’s that dark. You can read more about this type of tea and its processing here and here.

I steeped the dark brown leaves for 8 minutes in boiling point  (212F) water. The tea liquor got so darkly translucent that I could hardly see the leaves as they steeped.

I’m wondering if any coffee drinkers enjoy Pu-erh tea even though the only thing they really have in common is their dark color. The aroma and flavor are worlds apart. Are you a coffee drinker who enjoys Pu-erh?

The aroma is sweet and reminds me of an autumn walk in the forest and the smell of newly fallen leaves. Very earthy.

The tea liquor is incredibly sweet, like the intense sugars of dried fruit, and silky smooth. There is a Keemun-like burgundy/smoky note but it takes a supporting role to the predominant earthy flavor. This is a tea that you need to approach with absolutely no expectations, set those aside, or comparisons to your other experiences with tea. You may find, as I have, that this is a tea that draws you in with its sweet, dark nature and you want to experience and discover more.

“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

Peace and Joy

On this Christmas morning, I wish you all peace, joy and many cups of delicious tea!

Saturday Morning Tea will return on Saturday, January 8th.

Take care, my dear tea friends!

 

Saturday Morning Tea

A week of settling in. I sit here in one of my straight backed kitchen chairs, looking out onto a robin’s egg sky and ponder how I fit into this new place. My own place. Sometimes I feel like it is not real and I am living in a dream. And I sip my tea…

This morning I crave a tea to wake my mouth (and the rest of me) and chose the best tea for that job, a second flush Darjeeling from The Namring Upper estate. Located in northeast India amidst the majestic, towering Himalayan peaks, this estate is one of the more well known in Darjeeling district. I reviewed last year’s Namring second flush here.

Second flush Darjeelings are harvested in the summer after the leaves have “flushed” back from the first flush (spring) harvest. Usually, the appearance and taste is darker, richer, fuller.

This tea is all that and more.

After spooning the tea into my small glass teapot, I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water. I like to use bottled spring water for steeping. I find that gives the most consistent, true taste. The tap water in my town is unreliable for brewing tea.

The aroma is rich and fruity with a taste of ripe muscatel grapes. The finish has notes of wood and nut in a pungent bite that lingers, drawing all of the moisture out of my mouth.

Oooo…this would be marvelous with rich desserts.

While many folks are making resolutions this time of year, there are others who choose a word for the year. A word to guide. A word to contemplate. A word to open awareness. If I had to choose one word for this tea, it would be

rich

Even the color is rich, a dark amber which glows like a precious jewel. Serve this tea with dessert at your next dinner gathering.

Today I am spending the whole day in my new studio, unwrapping the many boxes piled in there and finding a place for each precious art supply.

“There are times to cultivate and create, when you nurture your world and give birth to new ideas and ventures. There are times of flourishing and abundance, when life feels in full bloom, energized and expanding. And there are times of fruition, when things come to an end. They have reached their climax and must be harvested before they begin to fade. And finally of course, there are times that are cold, and cutting and empty, times when the spring of new beginnings seems like a distant dream. Those rhythms in life are natural events. They weave into one another as day follows night, bringing, not messages of hope and fear, but messages of how things are.” ~Chogyam Trungpa

Saturday Morning Tea on Sunday

Well, I scurried around all day yesterday and gathered as many acorns as I could amidst traffic jams filled with many other squirrels doing the exact same thing. And now I sit quietly, cup of tea in hand, watching the snowflakes fall. What a difference a day makes…

On this cold, snowy morning, I’m sipping an Oolong tea from the other side of the world, Thailand.  Called “Gue-Fei” which I have read, interestingly enough, translates to “concubine tea”. It has an interesting story from Taiwan.

In 2000, there was a devastating earthquake on the island of Taiwan and the tea farmers in Luku township concentrated all of their efforts on rebuilding their homes. The tea bushes were neglected and an insect known as a “tea leafhopper” set in and munched on the leaves. When they finally were able to harvest the leaves and process them, they discovered that the leafhopper had activated the plant’s natural defense system which changed the flavor of the leaf, unexpectedly and delightfully yielding a liquor with a distinctive floral, honey-like quality.

Wow, what a silver lining there.

You can read about the history of how tea came to be grown in Thailand here. Not only is Thailand’s terrain and weather very similar to Taiwan, their tea bushes originate from there.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 190 degree F water. The aroma is lightly floral with sweet notes of honey.

The honeyed color of the tea liquor holds promise of what is to come – rich, sweet, nectar flavor with notes of flower blooms and a light caramel finish.

The white world outside lights up my teabowl as I watch the snowflakes fall and dream…

There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest
clothed to its very hollows in snow.
It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray,
every blade of grass, every spire of reed,
every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance.

~William Sharp

Happy solstice, dear tea friends!