Gathering Our Nuts

Are we to look at cherry blossoms only when in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless? To long for the moon while looking on the rain, to lower the blind and be unaware of the passing of spring – these are even more deeply moving. Branches about to bloom or gardens strewn with faded flowers are worthier of our admiration….In all things, it is the beginnings and endings that are interesting.” Yoshida Kenko (born c. 1283, Kyōto?—died c. 1350/52, near Kyōto?)

Like Yoshida Kenko’s keen observations about observing the transient beauty of nature, I like the days between the going and coming of the seasons. Lately, here in my corner of New England, these days are neither summer nor fall, but combinations of warm sunshine during the day and crisp, cool nights. This transition provides us with visual reminders that another turn of the wheel in the cycle of the seasons is upon us. At my local farmstand, I find the last watermelons displayed next to a basket of the first just-picked apples.The trees on my street are beginning to drop their leaves, littering neighborhood lawns and the street with colorful, parchment-like leaves. Grasses and tall weeds in the fields surrounding our house, once vibrant and green, are thinning and turning yellow. Corn fields are being cleared and flocks of migrating geese have replaced the squabbling hummingbirds. Pumpkin patches are being emptied and these colorful symbols of autumn are re-appearing on doorsteps and porches. Seed heads are forming where flowers once were, and, suddenly, the annual fall foliage spectacular in New England is underway.

This time of year I enjoy watching neighborhood squirrels scamper across our lawn, each of them carrying an impossibly large horse chestnut gleaned from a cache of nuts festooning the roadside just past our house. Sensing the impending change of season, these hard-working little animals scamper about with a heightened sense of urgency, each of them seemingly intent on finding the perfect burying place for storing their bounty of nuts. While they work diligently, I chuckle knowing that I will find horse chestnuts popping out of my flower beds and lawn next spring.

Similarly, on a morning stroll through nearby Amherst College campus, resident squirrels run hastily past me with acorns that have fallen plop, plop, plop from towering old oak trees. I often wonder if any of these nuts will be dug later by the squirrel who planted them. Or if nut-planting is a communal effort with the end result being that the nut goes to whichever squirrel later finds it. These industrious creatures seem hard-wired to plant as many nuts as possible, plain and simple, and I admire their individual efforts on behalf of the greater resident community.

Similarly, for we humans there is much to do now to prepare for fall and winter. We begin gathering winter-keeping foods such as locally-grown varieties of squash and potatoes and other necessities now in anticipation of the cold, dark winter months that lie ahead.

In our tea store we notice that our customers are purchasing more black, oolong and Pu-erh teas. As with food choices and other drinks we crave in hot weather/cold weather, our taste buds respond to the needs of our bodies according to the season. Dark tea for the dark season makes perfect sense.

Like the busy squirrels, we have been packing tea into our shop in advance of the cold months and the busy holiday season. (While we do not bury our tea, we are putting some tea aside to age……more on that in a month or so). Our supplies of black, oolong and Pu-erh teas are ample and we are happy with both the quality and the quantity of what we have. Our latest additions are:

Nepal:

Everest Hand-Rolled Himalaya black tea2012 Everest black
Nepal High Himalaya Hand-Rolled Tips blak tea 2012 Nepal High Himalaya Hand rolled tips black


China:

Gold-Flecked Emerald Tips Green Wind in the Pines green Yangtze River Gorges green
Spring Hao Ya jasmine Fenghuang Dan Cong oolong – Baiye Fenghuang Dan Cong oolong – Zhi Lan Xiang
Mao Cha – Jinggu County Mao Cha – Yongde County  
Mao Cha –Zhenyuan County
Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Tippy – black


Japan:

Hojicha with Toasted Genmai  Genmaicha with Matcha

Also, we will be re-roasting some of our oolongs soon and will post those selections online as soon as they are ready.

Our China Yixing and Japan Tokoname teapots are in good supply, too. We are now photographing a stunning collection of one-of-a-kind Tokoname teapots that will be available on our website early in November. All of the artisan Tokoname teapots that we received in our July shipment sold quickly, so we anticipate a swift response to these new teapots. Remember that it is not too soon to begin thinking about the right tea gift for the tea enthusiast on your holiday gift-giving list.

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More New 2009 Tea

Nepal Hand-Rolled Tips

Nepal Hand-Rolled Tips

New shipments of tea are arriving here daily and in rapid fire. These new additions are late spring /early summer green and teas that have been shipped by sea from China and Taiwan, and second flush Darjeeling and Nepal teas that have been shipped via air-cargo.

We are in the process of  unpacking all of them, and it is a lot of work to make sure all is well with the tea and to get all of the peripheral information recorded. For example, we must literally unpack all of the tea to make sure it is all there. Then, we must taste it all to insure that each tea is indeed the tea that we ordered. Then tea information must be written and added to our website and blog in a timely fashion. The jars we sell the tea from must be labeled and the individual labels that we use for customer purchases must be made, too. The tea must be inventoried in the appropriate place in our warehouse and last but n0t least, of course, the tea must be put into jars so that customers may purchase it.

Despite all of this work, we love the excitement of having new tea arrive. We always spend a few minutes as we unpack each one  to admire it’s unique texture, color and shape before we taste it.

Several of these new teas are of particular note. First up are two hand-rolled black teas that we ordered directly from the producers in Nepal as soon as we tasted their samples. These teas are from the Everest Tea Estate and the Shangri-La tea factory. Both are gorgeous and worthy of a place in the finest tea collections.

We chose these hand-rolled teas first, because they are delicious, and secondly, because they are spectacular examples of the tea makers craft. Nepal is one of the last places on earth that is still makes hand-rolled black teas, and we would like to support that effort and see it continue. Click here for more details: http://tiny.cc/aZd6P

2009 Competition Grade Tai Ping Hui Kui

2009 Competition Grade Tai Ping Hou Kui

Tai Ping Hou Kui has never looked so lovely or tasted so fresh. In fact, this tea is so fresh you will swear that the leaf is still attached to the bush. If you look carefully at this picture you can see the little cross-hair marks embedded in the leaf from the weave of the paper that is used to line the top of the tea-firing baskets during manufacture. This paper absorbs moisture so that the leaf does not have to spend as much time over the charcoal fire as it otherwise would.

Tai Ping has some of the largest leaves of any green tea and this batch is certainly the most magnificent that we have ever had. This particular batch of competition-grade Tai Ping is a splendid example of the results that specific leaf plucking yields . The vivid green color and vegetal in flavor reveal that the tea was plucked in the early spring.  Click here for more details: http://tiny.cc/kLvfB

Bai Hao Oriental Beauty

Bai Hao Oriental Beauty

Bai Hao Oriental Beauty is Taiwan’s most beloved tea. Oddly, Bai Hao is not as well known in the USA as the semi-ball rolled teas such as Tung Ting and the High Mountain gao shan oolongs. Or even Baozhong. This is a pity because Bai Hao is very labor intensive to produce and can only be made for a short period of time in June. Taiwanese tea lovers favor this tea for its mellow and seductive apricot and melon flavors and its light, elegant style. The leaf for quality Bai Hao is an odd-looking mix of dark, medium and light colored leaves.

But that is as it should be and the best Bai Hao is not a blend. Bai Hao is given a long outdoor and indoor wither, which contributes to the customary appearance of this tea. Japanese tea drinkers adore Bai Hao and when they visit the island searching for tea to bring home, they willingly pay very high prices for the best tea. Accordingly, we made sure that our Bai Hao tea maker saved some of his great tea for our customers, too. Click here for details:  http://tiny.cc/7CQnv