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

Saturday Morning Tea

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Looking out on a brilliant blue sky, I carefully measure my tea leaves into my glass teapot. This morning’s tea is one that I haven’t reviewed before, China Gunpowder green tea. I have never been fond of gunpowder tea because I find that it has a tobacco-ey smoke flavor note. As a reformed smoker, I shy away from anything that reminds me of those days, especially smells and tastes.

I find this tea, called Tippy Gunpowder Imperial, to be an exception in that there is none of that smoky quality to it. The leaves have been withered, heated and then rolled and shaped into the distinctive gunpowder “pellets”. These tea leaves have a looser shape, however, reminding me of the Yunnan Spiral Buds I reviewed 3 weeks ago.

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Steeping the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water reveals the fine plucking and tips. Wow, that is the intact end of the stem. Beautiful! You can see the tip, the new growth, in the middle between the 2 larger leaves.

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I found this great tea processing flow chart on Wikipedia. I’m a visual learner so it helps for me to visually see the steps taken to create the different kinds of tea.

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The processing of green tea leaves into gunpowder style tea dates back to the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618–907). It was originally done to expose the leaf to less physical damage and to retain more flavor and aroma. The name comes from the resemblance of the rolled leaf to gunpowder pellets.

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As I sip my tea from one of my favorite pottery bowls, I am greeted by a fresh, clean aroma which reminds me of the fresh air smell after a spring shower has passed. The flavor is also fresh and vegetal but not overly so, with a distinct astringent finish that lingers in my mouth for awhile. This tea has a robustness about it that I find very appealing.

It’s time to go make another pot of tea and go play in my studio! Enjoy the unfolding beauty of your world this weekend.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill

where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.

~Rumi