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

Good morning, dear tea friends! For this last Saturday in October, I’ve chosen an Assam which has been described as “a stout cup”. I wanted to review an Assam that knocks your socks off in strength and body.

Meet Langharjan estate TGFBOP Tippy.

Langharjan estate is located near the town of Naharkatiya in extreme northeastern India.

As you can see from the dry leaf above and its leaf designation, TGFBOP or “Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe”, this is a tea with a lot of leaf tip. I find that the tippier Assams are a lot smoother. And this one is so incredibly smooth.

I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

The aroma is lightly malty and rich with a hint of toastiness.

Despite the greyness of the day outside, my teapot glows as if a fire is burning inside of it.

This tea delivers in every way. Rich, malty, smooth as silk, my type of Assam. You could probably coax some astringency out of it by pushing the steep time to 5+ minutes. At that point though you might want to add some milk or cream.

Unbelievably, especially after the winter we had last year, a snowstorm is predicted for our area tonight and into tomorrow. I am not ready for this type of weather again so soon! I will need many cups of tea for comfort as the white stuff descends upon us so unseasonably early.

Stay warm, dear friends, with your hands curled around your favorite cup of tea!

“I like living.  I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” ~Agatha Christie

Saturday Morning Tea

Welcome to Assam month here at Art and Tea!

I’m starting off the month with an Assam from one of my most favorite estates, the Mangalam estate. As I look back on my tea posts, I’m surprised to see that I’ve only reviewed a Mangalam once, way back in 2008. You can read that review here.

Assam, located in northeast India, has one of the richest biodiverse climates in the world with tropical rainforest, bamboo and deciduous forests, grasslands and wetlands. The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, was found growing wild there in the 1830s, one of the few areas in the world where tea is a native plant.

I’ve read that this estate was named after one of the estate owner’s sons (who later became one of its managers) and that the word Mangalam means “auspicious” in the Sanskrit language. The estate was founded in 1973.

When I opened the tea packet, a hint of cocoa wafted up from the dry leaf. There is a profusion of beautiful golden tips (new growth) peppered amongst the deep brown whole leaf.

I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point (212F) water. I discovered that for enjoying this tea plain, this is the perfect steeping time.

The tea liquor’s aroma is rich with a hint of malt and red wine. The flavor is silky smooth with a thick mouthfeel and a sweetness that lingers on my palate. It has a richness that would stand up well to any additions but if you are going to do that, I recommend steeping the leaves for longer than 4 minutes. As always, experiment and see what works best for you.

Even on this grey, drizzly day, the tea glows like rich antiqued copper in my glass teapot.

This tea is a great choice for anyone who doesn’t like the characteristic astringency of Assam. Speaking of astringency, one thing to watch out for is no matter how you steep the loose tea leaves, make sure that all of the leaf, including the smallest bits which might escape from your infuser, are removed from the tea. Those small bits not removed will continue to steep in your tea and lend more astringency to the flavor.

My parents are visiting me next weekend so there won’t be a new tea review next Saturday. However, I will search my archives and post another “oldie but goody.” Until next time, dear tea friends, I wish you many delicious cuppas…

October by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;

Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all.

The crows above the forest call;

Tomorrow they may form and go.

O hushed October morning mild,

Begin the hours of this day slow.

Make the day seem to us less brief.

Hearts not averse to being beguiled,

Beguile us in the way you know.

Release one leaf at break of day;

At noon release another leaf;

One from our trees, one far away.

Retard the sun with gentle mist;

Enchant the land with amethyst.

Slow, slow!

For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,

Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,

Whose clustered fruit must else be lost–

For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Saturday Morning Tea

Fall has arrived under a grey blanket sky. We’re in a rainy weather pattern here in New England and I don’t think we’re supposed to see the sun for a week. It’s a good day for a rich, warm Assam black tea in my morning cup, this one from the Banaspaty estate, a small organic tea garden tucked into the hills of Kabi Anglong district in northeast India.

This particular Assam is a broken leaf tea so I steeped it for only 3 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water. Assams have such a gorgeous russet color, don’t they? It reminds me of the warm colors of the setting sun.

The wet leaf has a pronounced malty aroma, foretelling of its rich malty flavor notes. As I took my first sip, I detected a crisp astringency that could be enjoyed plain or toned down with a splash of milk.

There’s nothing like a pot of tea to brighten up a gloomy day.

As my tea cooled, some fruity hints were revealed, darkly sweet like the sweetness of raisins. We’ve just received a big shipment from India so I look forward to reviewing more Assams in the weeks to come. Shall I make October Assam month? Or do you like to read about a different type of tea every week? I welcome your feedback!

Have a wonderful week, dear tea friends…

“The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.”  ~Thomas Moore

Saturday Morning Tea

This morning I was all set up to do a new tea review and as I went to snap my first photo, my camera’s battery died. No problem, I have another so I changed batteries only to discover that battery was dead, too! So, it appears that the universe is giving me a message today so I’ll share a post from my archives. Enjoy and have a great week!

Even though we are on the cusp of autumn and the temps are dropping rapidly here in New England, especially at night, I’m still in the mood for a light tea.

I introduce you to Huangshan Mao Feng Supreme, a beautiful, spring harvest Chinese green tea. Perhaps springtime in a cup can banish away the gloominess I feel on this dark, cloudy day.

The leaf is from a very fine plucking and careful processing resulting in an amazingly intact leaf set. I loved watching the leaves dance in my glass teapot as they infused.

Just the tips, the very new growth, are plucked to create this special tea.

I have read that Huangshan is another name for Mount Huang, located in the Anhui province of China. It’s a place of  granite peaks, hot springs and beautiful sunsets and sunrises. An optical phenomenon known as Buddha’s Light occurs a couple times a month there with the sunrise. Sounds like an amazing place.

This tea is quite pale in color with a vegetal whisper in the aroma.

I chose this particular teabowl because the pale liquor allows me to see the beautiful texture inside the bowl. The flavor is light yet fills my mouth with its soft, fruity sweetness. Mmmm….

As I sip my tea, I watch the gray blanket of sky and contemplate the seasonal changes to come. My cup of springtime seems to hold back the thickening clouds as it releases the scent of new growth with every sip.

“Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday Morning Tea

A happy Labor Day weekend to one and all! Are you saying to yourself: now where did the summer go? Those long, hazy days seem to always fly by, quickly fading into the coolness of the fall.

This morning I’m enjoying a cup of Ceylon black tea from the Manikkanda estate. It has a leaf style designated as “FF” or “Fancy Flowery”, a special production from this particular estate. I believe the FF means that there is an abundance of golden tip, or new growth.

Historically named Ceylon as a British crown colony, the name is an English translation of the word Ceilão, a name given to the island by the Portugese in 1505. The island officially became known as the “Free, Sovereign and Independent Republic of Sri Lanka” in 1972 and then in 1978 to the “Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka”. A Sanskrit word, Sri Lanka translates to “venerable island” in English.

The Manikkanda tea estate is located in the southwestern Galle district, a district of the Southern province at the southernmost point on the island.

I steeped the leaves for 4 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water, producing a rich russet liquor with a brisk aroma.

Look at that gorgeous color, a deep glowing fall color.

The tea liquor wakes up my palate with its brisk astringency and sweet flavor. I’m enjoying my tea plain but I bet it would taste great if you wanted to added milk and/or sweetener. This tea would also make a wonderful iced tea for those remaining warm days of late summer.

Enjoy this long weekend, dear tea friends!

“September’s song is a two-part harmony, as summer’s lighthearted serenade ends and a deeper melody begins.” 

~Sarah Ban Breathnach

Saturday Morning Tea

I sit here quietly and sip my tea, the sounds of summer all around me – the faint buzzing of a lawn mower, the electric sound of the cicadas in the trees, the caw-caw of one crow to another as they fly over my house. As we enter the warm, hazy days of late summer, the fuschia impatiens dress my garden in their rich color.

In my cup this morning is a very dark tea, a China tea called Organic Pu-Erh 2nd Grade. Back in June, I wrote about the 1st grade here.

I steeped the leaves for 8 minutes in boiling point (212 F) water and, as you can see, the water quickly gets very murky on its way to becoming as black as night. Pu-Erh goes through a “composting” step during its processing. The leaves are piled into heaps, much like a compost pile, creating a heat in its core and transforming the leaves into this very unique tea.

Everything about this tea is so dark – the dry leaf, the wet leaf and the tea liquor after steeping. A rich, sweet, earthy aroma rises from my glass teapot as I remove the infuser basket.

I find that if I gaze at the tea liquor long enough, I can see a mulberry tinge around its edges. Can you see it?

The flavor is mellow and quite smooth, not as strong as its aroma. Characteristic notes of autumn leaf and forest floor mingle with a sweet molasses syrup flavor. I find myself enjoying it more and more with each sip.

While I was visiting my family in Michigan last month, we visited a quaint little village called Saugatuck, located on a river very near Lake Michigan. As we were strolling the shops, I came upon a pottery shop and purchased a few teabowls there. The artist’s name is Jeff Blandford and his business is called Volmod Ceramics. Voluptuous. Modern. Ceramic. He had some really cool pieces. As he was ringing my purchase, he told me that the teabowls I chose were created during a very creative time at the end of his student days at Michigan State University, over 3 years ago. So, I’d like to think that these lovely teabowls were sitting on the shelf patiently waiting for me to come along and bring them home to Massachusetts with me so I could enjoy many tea moments with them.

Until next week, dear tea friends…

“The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.”   ~Ivy Baker Priest