Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spring Interlude - Crooked Tree Garden

Boba Mamma de-weeding the perennials under the crooked tree with the crooked bird house. There is a unique type of sparrow nesting there - we're still trying to identify the type. Brown with speckled wings.

The Bleeding Hearts came back with a vengeance this year. Also in view, but not yet blooming are Polish Heart Clematis (middle) and Russian Sage (lavendar) toward the front. We had pink tulips that came up, but the rabbits and squirrels ate the blooms.

This same day, we had a hummingbird visit our patio geraniums and there was an actual DEER walking on the path in the backyard that borders the small pond. Keeping in mind that this is suburbia - with the small pond oasis - it was unusual. We don't see deer this close because we're surrounded by major arterial streets, but I guess it's a sign of the times. The further out they develop housing, the less land there is for them to just "be" deer.

The finished work - added red verbena, butterfly daisies, and there was a patch of Butterfly Bush (the golden tall plants on the right) that came up this year in the bald patch of the grass. I had planted some mixed perennial seed there last year, and this was the result.

It's not the camera position - the tree and the bird house post truly lean to the left like that.

Thirty minutes after getting the new plants in the ground, we were visited by hail. Quarter-sized at times. Considering the Minneapolis tornado that hit just days earlier, we're lucky this is all we got.

Aah, spring :)


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sakura Leaf Tea Chez Lupicia Fresh Tea

If you've read a few pages of my blog or checked out my musings on Twitter, you know I'm a fan of Sakura blossom tea. But what makes Sakura tea unique also makes it a bit fragile - it's difficult to blend or steep the blooms with other teas and still have the floral goodness come through.

But did you know that Sakura leaves are also perfumed with the cherry/floral goodness? I wasn't expecting Lupicia's version of Sakura tea to be as 'authentic' as my steepings of the actual blossoms, but I found this year's decorative tin artwork to be interesting, so I thought I'd give their Vert and Black versions a try.

Sakura Vert is simply a sencha blended with Sakura leaves - and it's heavenly! Sweet, floral, but still enough umame to balance it out.

I haven't yet opened the tin of black to try it out out because I like the sencha version so much. Very relaxing and could even be a "dessert" tea.

I'm curious to see what my less-than-obsessed tea friends would think of this if they tried it without telling them what it was at first. Would they guess it was made from cherry blossom leaves? Being on the sweeter end of the spectrum, would they still want to douse it with sugar?

It's definitely a spring flavor, and I'll be able to enjoy it into fall now if I don't drink it all first!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wherefore Art Thou Gyokuro?

If you enjoy sencha green teas or have spent any amount of time reading about them, you've likely heard of Gyokuro. Reputed to be one of the best grades of sencha, it's often saved for special occasions, and is somewhat expensive to buy and store as a 'cupboard tea.'

Lucky for me, my favorite local tea shop carries Gyokuro in 4 oz. bags and makes it available as a personal steep at their tea counter, for those on a more modest budget. It's begun to be a weekend ritual, replacing my winter staple warm matcha latte. And just when I thought I might be indulging in something "exotic" and out-of-the-norm - the people waiting in line behind me were ordering it as well. Does that make me a middle-aged hipster? Time will tell....

So, what's to like about Gyokuro? While I don't know where this tea shop sources its leaves (a good question for the next visit, and only attempted after a nice tip, perhaps?) - it is bright and not as grassy as you'd expect.

My leaves were served in a T-sac filter in a 2-cup For Life Stump teapot. As you can see, the leaves are a uniform rich green and whole - just lovely. The steep was short - by the time the barista had finished making the next order, the old-school hourglass timer emptied out and my green goodness was ready before I got to my table. Perfect with the pain au chocolat on a coolish midwestern Saturday morning.

But don't let Gyokuro go to your head - friends don't let friends drink tea pinkies-up!!

(My friend Madison CrazyQuilter enjoying the tea shop's version of chocolate mint black)