Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! I steeped a special tea in my glass teapot this morning. Hint: it was harvested in China before April 5th and its name references a small creature that lives in a shell.

The photo above is what the leaves look like after steeping.

Here’s a before steeping shot.

If you guessed Pre-Chingming Pi Lo Chun, you are correct!

I’ve read that creating the distinctive curly shape of Pi Lo Chun leaf requires five hand motions, a combination of a gentle twist and roll that’s repeated three times. This is done while the leaves are fired in short, round metal cylinders, heated from below. The goal of the “tea firer” is to fix the leaf in its unique curly shape during firing in such a way that this shape will relax during steeping and the leaf will return to its original shape after steeping. In looking at the two photos above, you can see that goal was definitely accomplished. You can see the leaves relaxing during steeping here.

The pale gold infusion has a delicate yet complex aroma, vegetal and buttery with a faint toasty hint.

The cup is silky smooth, sweet and refined. The sweetness is reminiscent of fruit and there’s a nutty suggestion that comes out and lingers in the finish. Mmmm…

This is a great choice for a fresh, elegant green tea that’s not very vegetal.

I took a walk downtown this morning. The air was fresh and cool and the sun was shining. Then I returned home and made myself a pot of tea. Focusing on these small acts helped me to relax in the moment and let go of a very busy, very challenging week.

Until next time, enjoy your tea!

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Saturday Morning Tea

As promised, I’ve brewed up a pot of this year’s Pi Lo Chun Bao Wei. In comparing the dry leaf, while I could find some slightly curled bits, it doesn’t seem to be as spiral shaped as last year’s lot. That said, there’s quite a bit of downy tips, the new growth of the tea plant.

The steeping leaf reveals many shades of olive green and brown, very similar to last year. I steeped it for 3 minutes in 180 F water.

Now that the leaf has unfurled during steeping, it looks very similar to last year with the same amount of broken leaf bits.

The tea liquor is a beautiful golden straw color, also very similar to last year. So far, it is quite similar with the exception of less curled bits.

Now comes the test. Is the flavor similar?

Personally, I don’t think so. The pronounced anise/licorice flavor note I found so appealing (and others didn’t) last year is not there at all. I found the aroma sweet with a note of fresh corn which carried over into the flavor.  The vegetal quality is more pronounced. As the tea cooled, a hint of smokiness came out which lingered in my mouth for quite some time. It reminded me of the smokiness of a gunpowder tea.

In conclusion, I think that I preferred last year’s lot even though I find this tea to be very pleasant. Such is the nature of tea – variations always happen from year to year.

Today is a wonderful day – we are celebrating my grandchildren’s birthdays. Ella is 3 and Landon is 1. I am looking forward to giving them each a big hug (and some fun gifts) from Gran! 🙂

“An open home, an open heart, here grows a bountiful harvest.”

~Judy Hand

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! This is the time of year when new lots of China teas arrive, one of them being a favorite of mine called Pi Lo Chun Bao Wei, a green tea. Please enjoy my review of this tea from last November and then next week I’ll review the new lot to see how the two compare. Enjoy your week!

I’ve returned from my trip to New Mexico and am glad to be here, sharing a cup of tea with you once again. As promised, today I am brewing up a pot of Chinese green tea called Pi Lo Chun Bao Wei.

Pi Lo Chun, or Green Snail Spring, is a well-known China green tea from Jiangsu province. Its distinct spiral leaf shape is created during the firing step of its processing. After the fresh leaf is plucked, usually in the morning, it is brought to the factory in either baskets or cloth pouches to protect the leaf and allow for air circulation. Once at the factory, the leaf is spread out on floor mats to air-dry and reduce the moisture content of the leaf.

As Pi Lo Chun leaf must be manipulated during the next step, the firing step, it is placed in short, round metal drums which are placed over a heat source. A gentle twist and roll motion of the hand as heat is applied coaxes the leaf into its characteristic shape, resembling a tiny fiddlehead fern shape. In fixing the leaf into a specific shape, its chi, or energy, remains fixed in the leaf until the moment of steeping when it is released into the cup of tea.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water. The pale golden liquor gives off a distinctly sweet aroma.

As I take my first sip, a pronounced licorice/anise flavor note surprises me in its intensity. It mellows out as my tea cools revealing a light floral note of honeysuckle. As I usually find a Pi Lo Chun to have fruity notes, this is quite unique. And yummy. Interestingly enough, there are no vegetal notes in this green tea.

As the days shorten and the nights wrap us in a longer, darker cloak, I find myself turning inward in solitude and reflecting upon the year that is flowing towards its end. I find my center and a measure of comfort in the following enduring prayer.

All shall be well,

And all shall be well,

And all manner of things shall be well.

~Dame Julian of Norwich, a 13th century English mystic

Saturday Morning Tea

I’m still anxiously awaiting the arrival of this year’s first flush Darjeeling teas, as I know I’ve mentioned many times before, one of my favorite times of year. Still not here yet though. There’s been some political upheaval in Darjeeling that resulted in a strike of the workers. So, the first flush season has experienced some ups and downs. I’ve heard that tea is being plucked and processed once again but the first flush season is just about over now. I’m hoping to be able to enjoy a cup by the end of April.

All that said, we were very pleasantly surprised by the arrival of some Pre-Chingming teas from China yesterday. So, in my cup this morning, a Pre-Chingming Pi Lo Chun.

Just look at that fresh, gorgeous leaf!

Chingming, or Qingming, is a festival in China, usually celebrated on the 15th day from the Spring Equinox, or April 5th. It is a day for going outside to enjoy the return of greenery and tend to the graves of departed loved ones. So, Pre-Chingming refers to the tea being plucked before this festival time.

I steeped the leaf for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water. The delicately spiraled leaf shapes unfurled to reveal their spring green glory. Pi Lo Chun tea is one of the most famous types of green tea produced in China. I’ve written about it before here. This tea is from Fujian province.

Because of its very early plucking, the tea is quite delicate, the straw-colored liquor resembling the color of a white tea. The aroma and flavor are light, fresh and vegetal but not overly so. With my first sip, I detected a hint of smokiness that vanished as the tea cooled.

I am giving this early 2011 tea a place of honor in my Hawaiian teabowl. So smooth, so refreshing, so sweetly delicate.

This beautiful spring weekend will be spent walking on the bike path and hiking in the woods. I love getting out into nature at this time of year to smell the fresh air and celebrate all the little shoots peeking up out of the soil. So far, clumps of sunny yellow crocus and one lone daffodil are blooming out in my garden.

What’s blooming in your life?

“Smells are surer than sights and sounds

to make heartstrings crack.” ~Rudyard Kipling