Saturday Morning Tea

I feel like a kid in a candy store at this time of year with the first flush Darjeelings arriving freshly plucked from different tea gardens. Oh joy!

This morning’s tea is from the Arya estate, an organic tea garden located high in the Himalayan mountains of northeastern India.

I’ve read that it was started by a team of Buddhist monks who carefully developed their tea plants from Chinese seeds. They practiced Aruyvedic medicine and their original house may still be found on the grounds of the estate.

I imagine a beautiful place nestled in the shadow of great towering peaks where, if you listen very closely, a rich history whispers its secrets.

Many first flush Darjeeling leaves are very green even though they are processed as black teas (allowed to oxidize and turn dark).

This first flush of spring growth doesn’t want to give up its greenness, the essence of spring and rebirth.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in slightly less than boiling point (212 F) water. The green leaf is transformed into a glowing liquid amber.

A fresh, sweet aroma wafts up from my glass teapot as I quietly lift the lid to remove the infuser basket. The only sound at this early hour is the sweet song of the birds outside my window.

The flavor is bright and astringent, waking up my mouth with sweet, fruity notes that linger, linger, linger…

Last weekend’s adventure in my little patch of garden involved an all day affair with a stubborn yew stump that finally had to be ripped out with a heavy chain and large pickup truck. Thank goodness for the generosity of new neighbors! Now that the stump is removed, I have a gathering of shade plants – astilbe, coral bells, bleeding heart, impatiens – that are patiently waiting to be planted in their new home.

“Solitude – walking alone, doing things alone – is the most blessed thing in the world, the mind relaxes and thoughts begin to flow and I think I am beginning to find myself a bit.” ~Helen Hayes

Saturday Morning Tea

Hello tea friends! It’s good to be back home and share a cup of tea with you again. I do love to travel and see new places or revisit favorite places but it is always good to come home, especially after a full day of air travel. I felt my shoulders relax the moment I walked through my front door. Ahhh, home again.

This morning I’m enjoying a very special treat, one of my most favorite experiences of springtime – the first sip of a brand new first flush Darjeeling. This tea is from the Puttabong estate. Located in the mountainous Darjeeling district of northeast India and also know as the Tukvar estate, I’ve written about this estate before right here.

Unfortunately, the weather conditions in Darjeeling this spring were less than ideal but you would never know that when looking at the gorgeous leaf and inhaling the fragrant aroma of this tea. That said, the lower quantity produced this season has made these first flush teas very expensive.

This tea is processed as a black tea but because the plucking is from the first leaves of springtime, it has a very “green” feel to it, in both the dry and wet leaf and also the aroma and taste.

The tea liquor steeps to a deep golden color after 3 minutes in slightly less than boiling point water.

The aroma and flavor is of ripening fruit. It calls to mind a green banana that has just turned ripe enough to eat but still retains its not yet quite ripeness. So new, so fresh, so smooth.

I have one word for the flavor. YUM. How do you like that for a technical tea description? I just want to keep drinking this tea it’s so wonderful! Unfortunately, I only have enough for 4 cups of tea in the sample I have so I will savor each delicious sip. I have looked forward to this moment all winter long. Mmmmm….

My workplace is located 3 blocks from the starting line of the Boston Marathon so I have Monday off and a delicious 3-day weekend stretching out in front of me. I’ve been on the go for the last month so I am taking this opportunity to just hang out at home and do nothing.

What tea are you enjoying today?

Saturday Morning Tea

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One of my most favorite rites of Spring every year is trying the new first flush Darjeelings as they arrive. Their aromatic fragrance, their brisk character, their fresh flavor…mmmm. But wait, isn’t it autumn now? Well yes, it is, but one of the most interesting first flush teas from the Makaibari estate has just come to my attention and I’d love to share it with you this morning.

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Called Makaibari estate Long Leaf first flush, it is the 11th lot harvested from their first flush season. The leaves are a gorgeous variegation of color and size. I steeped them in my glass teapot for 3 minutes in 212 degree F (boiling) water.

The Makaibari tea estate is a biodynamic, Fair Trade estate located in the West Bengal state in eastern India. The goal of their agricultural practices, as stated on their website:

“The goal of biodynamic practices coupled with permaculture, to usher harmony between soil, microorganisms, plants, animals and man, is a shining model at Makaibari for all of mankind to emulate….. Makaibari follows a form of integrated forest management called permaculture where the tea bush is part of a multi-tier system of trees and plants typical of a sub-tropical rainforest, as opposed to a monoculture–a farm that grows only one crop. Makaibari retains 70% of its entire area under forest cover.”

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The aroma wafting up from the wet leaf reminds me of a woodland walk.

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The light amber color of the tea liquor reflects the golden autumn palette of our backyard trees. Everything seems to be glowing at this time of year here in New England.

With my first sip, I detect a light citrus quality followed by a nutty note which I find to be very characteristic of Makaibari teas. The tea is smooth and light.

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My teacup is one that I purchased at Rottenstone Pottery in Arroyo Seco, NM. The potter’s finger marks are still visible from when they dipped the cup into the glaze. I gently place my fingers on those marks and feel connected to the artist of this wonderful creation cradling my beloved tea.

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This weekend will be spent over at my new place, priming and painting. I just found out this past week that we will be totally gutting the bathroom – walls, ceiling, floor – and starting from scratch. Yesterday afternoon was spent looking through hundreds of ceramic tile choices until my eyes glazed (pun intended, lol) over and I could do no more. Not only are there hundreds of choices but then a multitude of ways to put those choices together in a design. What an amazing learning experience this is blossoming into, in many ways.

…It’s another

beginning, my friend, this waking in a

morning with no haze, and help coming

without your asking!  A glass submerged

is turning inside the wine.  With grief

waved away, sweet gratefulness arrives.

~Rumi (excerpt from So We Can Have What We Want)


Saturday Morning Tea

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It’s time for another first flush Darjeeling. If someone asked me right now what my most favorite tea is, my answer would be a first flush Darjeeling in May.

This particular first flush tea was harvested on the Puttabong (also known as Tukvar) tea estate. First planted in 1852, this tea garden is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains near Kanchendzonga peak. With altitudes ranging from 1500 to 6500 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest elevation tea gardens in Darjeeling district.  Its tea plants consist mainly of clonal bushes and China jat, meaning tea bushes with origins from China.

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Unlike other first flush teas, its leaves are darker with less green bits. I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 212 degree F (boiling) water.

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As I lifted the infuser basket from the teapot, the tea’s fruity aroma greeted me immediately. I looked forward to my first sip and was delighted with the lively taste of the cup. While it was bright, it wasn’t as characteristically astringent and seemed more like a second flush with its muscatel flavor.

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Ok, I’m already sipping my third cup and the tea is still very smooth. Sometimes Darjeelings will reveal their bite as the tea cools. Not this one.

It is a delight!

I’m also enjoying it at a cooler temperature and would recommend it as a wonderful iced tea. With the leaves I have left in my sample packet, I think I’ll steep them in the fridge overnight for a glass of iced tea tomorrow morning. We are anticipating warming temps this weekend after a cool, rainy week.

Have you noticed the background in my tea photos? It is a background paper that I picked up the other day at A.C. Moore to use in my art journal. It’s called “In the Forest”. I’m expecting little fairies to shyly reveal themselves in its beautiful depth of pattern.

I’m discovering a whole new world of art supplies. Joy!

Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live.

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Saturday Morning Tea

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This morning I am indulging in a cup of another brand new first flush Darjeeling. This one is from the Arya estate. I wrote a little bit about the origins of this tea garden here.

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I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 212 degree F (boiling) water. The leaves revealed their spring nature and the liquor bloomed into a delicate amber color.

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The aroma is so fresh that it reminds me of mint.

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The taste is clear and bright with that almost ripe fruity quality. Sometimes I catch hints of banana.

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I am enjoying my cuppa with some Irish Soda Bread cookies. I made them for our International Food Day at work yesterday. I found the recipe here. I substituted raisins for currants and made my buttermilk by mixing 1/2 T. of fresh lemon juice into 1/2 cup of milk. The caraway seeds give them such an interesting flavor.

Today is Art Day with 2 dear friends, a whole day devoted to creating art and chatting, chatting, chatting. Oh yes, a wonderful pasta and salad lunch is planned and I’m bringing strawberries and cream for dessert.

Time to pack up my art supplies!

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  Thet must be felt with the heart.

~Helen Keller