Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! The first day of fall has come and gone this week and the air has shifted from warm and sultry to crisp and cool. Great sleeping weather.

In my cup this morning is a second flush Darjeeling from the Balasun Estate, located in northeast India. This lovely tea was harvested this year. You can read my post about the 2016 first flush Darjeeling from Balasun Estate here.

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The leaf is beautiful, bold with lots of silvery tips mixed in.

The Balasun estate is located near the tiny hamlet town of Sonada, one of the stations for the heritage Darjeeling Toy train. Built between 1879 and 1881, the 48-mile narrow gauge railway runs between Darjeeling and New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal. This well-loved railway is a delight to travelers and rail enthusiasts.

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I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

A deep fruity aroma revealed itself as the leaves released their essence into the water.

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The bright amber infusion is rich and flavorful with ripe fruit notes, like crisp apples and juicy peaches. A warm toastiness envelops the fruity quality in both the aroma and the flavor.

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This is the perfect selection to go with a warm apple crisp or apple pie, made from an apple picking adventure, a favorite outing this time of year.

What’s in your cup today?

“Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.”

~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! On this hot and hazy summer day, I’ve brewed up a pot of second flush Darjeeling, as promised in my last post. This particular selection is from the Sungma Estate. The reason I chose it is because I think it’s a great example of a second flush tea, starting with the variegated tones of brown in the leaf color.

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Established in the 1860s, the Sungma Estate experienced a major loss in 1934 when a terrible earthquake destroyed its factory. After that, Sungma merged with a neighboring tea garden called Turzum Estate.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 212F water.

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A rich, fruity fragrance wafted up from my glass teapot, filling my kitchen with its delicious aroma.

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Look at that gorgeous color! A deep amber-colored liquor tells you that this is a second flush Darjeeling, as opposed to the light golden color of a first flush.

The flavor bursts in my mouth, like biting into a piece of ripe fruit, very rich with notes of muscatel and nutty hints. The fruitiness lingers deliciously on my tongue. A honey-like sweetness is also present in the cup, which gets even sweeter as the tea cools, making it a wonderful choice for an iced tea as well as a hot cuppa.

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August is the month of abundance when so much is being harvested from nature’s bounty. A cup of second flush Darjeeling is the perfect companion to rich and flavorful foods.

Until next time, dear friends, enjoy your tea!

Saturday Morning Tea

Hello, my dear tea friends! Today started out with more camera problems, this time with the batteries. It’s not my month for smooth camera operations, is it? Anyway, I managed to get my camera to work after a half hour of charging a battery which appeared to be fully charged. I’ll have to investigate further later. Now it’s time for a cup of tea!

This week’s tea looks like a white tea and even tastes like one, however, it is a black tea, specifically a second flush Darjeeling from the Margaret’s Hope estate called “White Delight”.

As you can see from the photo above, the lovely, variegated-colored leaf is enormous. I steeped the leaves for my normal 3 minutes in boiling point (212F) water but I think this tea could stand a longer steep time. It’s incredibly smooth with none of the characteristic Darjeeling “bite”.

You can read more about the well-respected Margaret’s Hope estate in my post here.

I tried to capture a full leaf set so you can see what is meant by a “fine plucking”, two leaves and a bud. The bud is the brand new growth and, as you can see above, there are 2 little bud leaves there. Think of when you pinch a plant to encourage branching. I do this with my coleus plants. Pinch the tip and 2 branches will grow where there was once one.

The color of the tea liquor is amazing, a deep golden yellow with a tinge of peachy-pink, like the blush of a ripe fruit.

The fragrant aroma smells of apricots which carries into the flavor, along with hints of melon and muscatel. The muscatel is the only hint that this is a second flush Darjeeling. The rest of the flavor notes speak to me of high-quality white tea. I have been told that the estate Manager decided to name it “White Delight” because it is so reminiscent of a white tea.

Sometimes I recommend a second flush Darjeeling for those who like to put milk in their Darjeeling cuppa. This would not be a tea for that. Even though it’s bursting with flavor, it’s just too mild for anything beyond a drop of honey.

The sky looks like a soft gray blanket today and rain has been falling softly on and off all morning. It’s a great day to curl up inside with a good book and a pot of tea.

As always, thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful week!

“The only noise now was the rain, pattering softly with the magnificent indifference of nature for the tangled passions of humans.”

~Sherwood Smith

Saturday Morning Tea

I’m back from vacation and feeling rejuvenated despite a busy return to work this week. I’d like to share an interesting experience I had a few days ago. My colleague brewed a pot of a newly arrived Castleton estate second flush Darjeeling and the first word that popped into my head as I took my first sip was

PHENOMENAL!

It had a honeyed peach aroma with rich peach and muscatel flavor notes.

Ambrosia.

Naturally, we all requested it for our morning tea the following day. As I took my first sip that morning, I thought I had poured the wrong tea into my cup. While it was a very good Darjeeling, all of the wonderful flavor notes I had experienced the day before weren’t there. As my tea cooled, however, I detected them but they were very subtle.

So, what happened?

Different steeping times.

The first cup was steeped at 4 minutes and the second at 3 minutes. What a difference a minute makes, huh?

Look at this gorgeous leaf. It’s huge and chock full of tips/intact leaf sets.

Just like your water source can make all the difference in your resulting cup of tea so too can your steeping time. In light of my recent experience (and it’s happened to me before), I highly recommend that you experiment with different steeping times to find what works best for you. A tea you don’t like with your first cup could end up being your favorite tea by just making an adjustment to the steeping time!

This is the tea steeped for 3 minutes in boiling point water – a glowing medum amber hue.

The cup on the right is the tea steeped for 4 minutes. The color goes deeper and the peach/muscatel aroma and flavor are much more pronounced.

As my tea cooled, I was expecting the longer steeped tea to develop that characteristic “bite” but it never did. I might even try this tea steeped for 30 seconds longer. I like to push the steeping time to just before it develops that bitterness, that well known bitterness of being oversteeped.

So, I encourage you, dear tea friends, to experiment with the steeping times for your tea. That being said, however, I think that it’s best not to change the water temperature or the amount of tea leaves used per cup.  Those should remain consistent.

For this tea, I used 2 teaspoons of leaf per cup since the leaf is so huge and boiling point water.

Do you have a story similar to mine? If so, please share!

Enjoy your weekend!

Saturday Morning Tea

A week of settling in. I sit here in one of my straight backed kitchen chairs, looking out onto a robin’s egg sky and ponder how I fit into this new place. My own place. Sometimes I feel like it is not real and I am living in a dream. And I sip my tea…

This morning I crave a tea to wake my mouth (and the rest of me) and chose the best tea for that job, a second flush Darjeeling from The Namring Upper estate. Located in northeast India amidst the majestic, towering Himalayan peaks, this estate is one of the more well known in Darjeeling district. I reviewed last year’s Namring second flush here.

Second flush Darjeelings are harvested in the summer after the leaves have “flushed” back from the first flush (spring) harvest. Usually, the appearance and taste is darker, richer, fuller.

This tea is all that and more.

After spooning the tea into my small glass teapot, I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water. I like to use bottled spring water for steeping. I find that gives the most consistent, true taste. The tap water in my town is unreliable for brewing tea.

The aroma is rich and fruity with a taste of ripe muscatel grapes. The finish has notes of wood and nut in a pungent bite that lingers, drawing all of the moisture out of my mouth.

Oooo…this would be marvelous with rich desserts.

While many folks are making resolutions this time of year, there are others who choose a word for the year. A word to guide. A word to contemplate. A word to open awareness. If I had to choose one word for this tea, it would be

rich

Even the color is rich, a dark amber which glows like a precious jewel. Serve this tea with dessert at your next dinner gathering.

Today I am spending the whole day in my new studio, unwrapping the many boxes piled in there and finding a place for each precious art supply.

“There are times to cultivate and create, when you nurture your world and give birth to new ideas and ventures. There are times of flourishing and abundance, when life feels in full bloom, energized and expanding. And there are times of fruition, when things come to an end. They have reached their climax and must be harvested before they begin to fade. And finally of course, there are times that are cold, and cutting and empty, times when the spring of new beginnings seems like a distant dream. Those rhythms in life are natural events. They weave into one another as day follows night, bringing, not messages of hope and fear, but messages of how things are.” ~Chogyam Trungpa

Saturday Morning Tea

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My morning tea tastes especially delicious and warming today after Dave and I just shoveled 10 inches of snow out of our driveway. The snow started mid-afternoon yesterday and continued on through the dark winter night. Businesses and schools shut down early so everyone could get home safely before the storm’s arrival.

I am sipping and savoring a second flush Darjeeling from the Namring estate. The Darjeeling district is located in the Himalayan foothills of northeastern India.

namringdarjwet122008I steeped the dark leaf for 3 minutes in 212 degree F (boiling) water, resulting in a glowing amber liquid. The thing that I like best about Darjeelings from the Namring estate is that they always have that classic, rich Darjeeling aroma and flavor. Sometimes I am in the mood for an astringent tea that echos in my mouth for awhile after I’ve taken my first sip. This is perfect, with nutty almond, fruity richness. Second flush Darjeelings are harvested in the summertime and are usually fuller with the more mature taste of the summer leaf, as opposed to first flushes, harvested in the springtime.

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It’s hard to imagine the lush greenery that graced our backyard deck a short 2-3 months ago. It is now a white drifting world.

namringdarjteacup1220081As I was pouring my cup of tea, Dave offered me a piece of pumpernickel toast. It went perfectly with the rich flavor of this tea. The bare tree branches of our backyard trees look like they’d like to warm themselves in my steaming cup. This is the time of year when I never feel quite warm enough. My favorite spot is next to the fireplace with my hands perpetually wrapped around a hot mug and a good book opened in my lap.

You can never get a cup of tea large enough

or a book long enough to suit me.

~C.S. Lewis

Saturday Morning Tea

When I got up this morning, I discovered that it had rained overnight. The sky now looks like a big gray blanket, overhanging a very wet world outside. The air is very still and a few birds call to one another in the treetops. As we enter the Labor Day weekend, the official end of summer, I can feel a change in the air. Lazy, hazy is being replaced by a cooler more “get down to business” type of energy as school starts again. When I was young, I always loved the start of school because it meant a shiny new pencilcase and a bright box of Crayola crayons with the sharpener on the back. Oh, how I loved to draw and color!

In honor of this ripe, harvest time of year, this morning I am sipping a cup of second flush Darjeeling from the Makaibari estate. The Darjeeling tea growing district is located in northeastern India. When I think of second flushes, words like ripe, grape, heavy and lush pop into my mind. As I gaze out my window, I see our garden, a riot of color, a sea of golden yellow, ruby red and rich magenta.

2nd flush Darjeelings are harvested in the summertime after the tea bush has “flushed” again after the spring picking. With a rich, amber colored liquor, the taste represents the more mature taste of the leaf as opposed to the greener, brighter taste of a first flush. For tea drinkers who enjoy their tea British style with milk, most 2nd flushes offer a stronger taste that one can taste through the milk. I always recommend to try the tea plain first so you can discover what it really tastes like.

A rich fruity aroma greets me as I take my first sip. What is called a muscatel flavor note predominates the taste. Some Darjeelings are described as “muscatel”, a flavor note which speaks of the Muscat grape, said to be the oldest domesticated grape variety.

With this tea, I also detect a slight nutty note with a crisp finish that lingers in the back of my throat. The pungent character of this tea would go very well with rich food, especially a rich dessert like a dark chocolate torte or something incredibly decadent like that. Mmmmm…