Saturday Morning Tea

Happy August to you, my tea friends, and welcome to Oolong month here at Art and Tea!  For the 4 Saturdays in August, I will be exploring various Oolong teas from both China and Taiwan.

As do black, green and white teas, Oolong tea leaf comes from various native subspecies of the Camellia Sinensis plant. The word Oolong, or Wulong, translates to dark or black dragon. Some say this is because the twist given to an Oolong leaf during processing resembles the silhouette of a dragon.

This morning’s tea is a Chinese Oolong called Wuyi Golden Guan Yin. Grown in the Wuyi mountains of northern Fujian province, the leaf is dark and very bold.

Traditionally made from larger tea leaves plucked as a bud with a set of up to 3 leaves, Oolongs are the most complicated tea to manufacture. This is because of the greater number of processing steps over a longer period of time from plant to cup. There is a great advantage to this longer processing time, however, as it gives opportunity for more personal interpretation, or artistry, when creating the tea.

Unlike fully oxidized black teas or unoxidized green teas, Oolong teas are semi-oxidized. Some say that Oolongs are a cross between a black tea and a green tea but this is not the case at all. They are their own unique category of tea.

It’s amazing how such a dark leaf can yield such a light golden liquor. As I lifted the infuser basket from my glass teapot, a honeyed fruit fragrance filled my senses. The flavor is quite sweet with a distinctive woodsy character. Notes of apricot and a hint of chestnuts round out the flavor.

As I sip from my cup of Oolong tea, a cool breeze dances through my windows, beckoning my outside for a long meditative walk.

Join me next week as I continue my explorations with a cup of Oolong tea from Taiwan (Formosa)…

“The first cup caresses my dry lips and throat,

The second shatters the walls of my lonely sadness,

The third searches the dry rivulets of my soul to find the stories of five thousand scrolls.

With the fourth the pain of past injustice vanishes through my pores.

The fifth purifies my flesh and bones.

With the sixth I am in touch with the immortals.

The seventh gives such pleasure I can hardly bear.

The fresh wind blows through my wings

As I make my way to Penglai.”

~Lu Tang, poet (Tang Dynasty)

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Saturday Morning Tea

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The bronzed leaves are rattling across my backyard deck like dried bones as they welcome this last day of October, All Hallowed Eve. Pouring rain and wind this past week have swept clean most of the leaves from their trees to create an autumn carpet laid across the lawns and streets. As I drove home last night, glowing jack-o-lanterns brought memories of carving pumpkins, and I inhaled the woodsy smell of fallen leaves as I got out of my car and made my way up the path home. I love this autumn time of year, perfect for cozying up with a hot cup of tea.

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As promised last week, this morning’s tea is very special. Called Zhang Ping Shui Hsian (or Xian), its leaves are finely plucked, hand processed and compressed into small bricks. Each “brick” is then exquisitely packaged into a shiny red, black and gold vacuum sealed packet for freshness.

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This Chinese Oolong is grown in Fujian province and lightly oxidized to create a greener Oolong tea, similar to a Jade or Tung Ting. I gently broke some leaves off of the brick for steeping.

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Because the leaves are not as oxidized as a darker Oolong or a black tea, I decided to steep at a green tea temperature and time, 180 degrees F for 3 minutes.

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As the leaves steeped in my glass teapot, they swirled and floated downward, reminding me of the dance of the leaves outside.

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It might be fall outside but it was like a springtime garden in my kitchen. A sweet lilac fragrance drifted up from my teapot as I removed the infuser basket. Mmmmm…

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The tea liquor is a pale gold brown with very distinctive floral aroma and flavor notes. A sweetness fills my mouth and gently lingers after each sip.

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I am sipping my tea from a gorgeous coppery red teabowl, generously lent to me by a colleague/friend at work. Thanks Rebecca. She purchased it at Target. I’ll have to go check out the teaware at Tar-zjay.

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The bronze leaves compliment the darker glazing on the bowl. After the Color Workshop I attended last weekend, I notice color everywhere! And, after looking through my tea leaf pictures, I’m not surprised that I chose green and orange as the color palette for my collage in the workshop. My life is steeped in tea leaves…

Happy Halloween, everyone!

“Never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker.”

~Linus from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown