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)


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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

Saturday Morning Tea

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Spring is the most wonderful time of year in many ways.

One of my favorite happenings in Spring is the arrival of the very first First Flush Darjeeling. The term “first flush” refers to the brand new spring leaf buds, the first growth of the year on the tea bushes, highly prized.

In the 1800s, there was stiff competition to see who could build the fastest clipper ship, the one that could reach port with their treasured cargo first. You can read more about that here.

While the tea chests that the tea is packed in are not that much different from days of old, the method by which the tea arrives is radically different, of course. This tea arrived by plane, shortening its long journey considerably from bush to cup.

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My morning tea just arrived this week from the Namring estate. It is their very first plucking of the season, lot EX-1. As you can see, there is a lot of green-ness to the leaf even though it is processed as a black tea. I’ve spoken to many customers inexperienced with first flushes who thought that they had received a green tea in error.

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I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 212 degree F (boiling point) water. I noticed a lot of movement of the leaf while it was steeping.

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The liquor is a soft glowing amber. The incredibly fresh aroma filled my senses as I poured my first cup.

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The flavor is bright yet smooth with barely ripe fruit nuances and a light sweetness that lingers in my mouth.

Now, to sit back and savor this long anticipated moment…mmmm…

Something opens our wings

Something makes boredom and hurt disappear

Someone fills the cup in front of us

We taste only sacredness”

~Rumi