Saturday Morning Tea

The last few days have been filled with tons of lightning, rumbling thunder and more torrential downpours. This certainly has been the summer of storms here in New England. I’m hoping that all of this tumultuous weather will herald in a crisp, clear fall season with plenty of sunshine.The plants are just loving this weather, especially the tropical hibiscus and plumeria on our back deck. They feel like they’re home in the rainforest, I think. One of the hibiscus plants is almost 6 feet tall!

On this cool, misty morning, I felt like something dark and smoky. This morning’s cup is a China black Lapsang Souchong named Gao Ji. To be perfectly frank, I’m not a lover of a very smoky tea like a Lapsang but I want to expand my tastes and give it another try. This particular tea is a lot milder than the characteristic smokiness. I searched for the meaning of Gao Ji and found it in a Pinyin dictionary. The translation to English is “high ranking” or “high grade”.

Lapsang Souchong tea, grown in the Wuyi region of the Fujian province of China, is known for its distinctly very smoky aroma and taste. During its processing, the leaves are dried over wood fires which impart that smoky quality to the leaf. In essence, the leaves are “smoked’ in their drying. The story goes that many years ago the tea processing had to be sped up as armies marched through that region so the villagers dried the tea leaves over open pinewood fires.

A new type of tea was born.

Chinese black or “congou” tea is also referred to as red tea. The liquor on this tea really supports that terminology. The aroma is lightly smoky with a hint of chocolate. The liquor is mild, sweet and lightly winey/smoky, reminding me of a very high quality Keemun. It is smooth with only a passing tang in the finish.

The tea appears much darker in my pottery cup. Whenever it rained, a friend of mine always said that it was a great day for a Keemun. In that spirit, I think that this is a great tea for cooler weather. As we enter the second half of August, we are still over a month away from the official first day of fall but I can feel its whisper in the air already.

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Saturday Morning Tea

What a marvelous day – warm, not too humid with brilliant sunshine. Here in New England this past week, we’ve had some wild weather, including a couple of tornadoes that touched down in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. We experienced vivid lightning, crashing thunder and torrential downpours like I saw when I traveled to the Hawaiian rainforest. On our walk last night, we collected quite a few branches that had been knocked down. They’ll make great kindling for our fireplace once they’re dried out and seasoned. With all of this fire energy flying about, I decided to try a new type of tea for me – a smoky tea. I know that there are a lot of Lapsang Souchong fans out there but, alas, I am not one of them. That said, this tea has always intrigued me and I keep searching for one that I will enjoy. At my company, it is one of our best selling types of tea. I’m not reviewing a Lapsang this morning. Not yet. I have one in mind for an August review. This morning I am sipping a Formosa Oolong called Heavy-Baked Tie-Guan-Yin.

The full leaf is first processed as a Jade Oolong which is a slightly oxidized leaf. Still considered an Oolong tea, it is much more green in character than other Oolongs. This is because the leaf is allowed to oxidize only a little bit, approximately 10%, give or take. Some other Oolongs are oxidized 40-50%, giving them a much darker flavor and fuller body. I looked back on my tea archives and was surprised to discover that I haven’t reviewed a Jade Oolong yet. I’ll do that in August, too. I did review a Spring Dragon Oolong, another “greener” Oolong.

Once this tea is processed as a Jade Oolong, it is then roasted to give it a much different flavor. As you can see, the leaf is so very dark. In the processing, the leaf rolls up into little bundles which then release their shape a little during the steeping. I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in 190 degree F filtered water.

The liquor is a deep reddish brown with a smoky aroma that has hints of tobacco. The taste is sweet and smoky but not overly so. For me, the smokiness is at just the right level. The full-bodied taste would probably stand up well to milk and sweetener. I am enjoying it plain.

Today is the perfect day for enjoying my tea out on our backyard deck. So, I will go sit and relax and work on a jewelry project. I have to set all of my other projects aside for the day and work on creating some jewelry to match a white and gold dress I have because tomorrow…………

My youngest son is getting married!