We made it!
Today at 5:44am EST, we welcome the Winter Solstice: the shortest day of the year and the day that marks the “turning of the Sun.” From tomorrow onward, the days will now get longer as we head into Spring. The first day of Winter is a not a gloomy day, but a celebration of the end of darkness, the dawn of light and the unending cycle of nature. There are so many traditions and rituals surrounding the Winter Solstice, from Pagan rituals to Norse, but the one I wanted to focus on this year was that of Dōngzhì (冬至). This Chinese Winter Festival that celebrates the shortest day of the year began during the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) and really peaked during the Tang and Song dynasties (618 – 1279). Families came together (and still do) on this most auspicious day to celebrate with a meal made of filling, hearty foods that inspire hope for the warmer days of Spring.
The traditional meal is a rice dish called Tang Yuan – glutinous rice balls filled with sweet sesame or red bean paste cooked in a ginger broth – an auspicious symbolize of family togetherness and reunion.
What could be better then celebrating the end of darkness by spending time with family and friends eating dumplings and sipping endless cups of tea. And not just any tea, but another one of China’s Ten Famous teas: Mao Jian–revered for its pleasant aroma and refreshing, easy taste. Legend has it that that nine fairies from heaven brought this tea down to earth for humans. It is said that, when you drink this tea, you will see the images of those nine fairies dancing in the steam. The name Mao Jian is broken into two parts to reflect Yin/Yang or “Xinyang” – the words “Mao” and “Jian” refers to the shape of the tea. Mao (hairy) and Jian (straight and pointy/sharp).
Whatever ritual or celebration you participate in today, or even if you do nothing at all, try to remember the bigger message: There is an end to darkness, and what follows is always light. Tomorrow morning when you wake to seconds more of that light, give thanks to nature for providing us with everything we need and one of the most delightful plants on earth: the tea bush! Here are some notes on our Mao Jian:
• Overview: One of China’s 10 Famous Teas
• Dry Leaf: Emerald green, sharp and pointy with tiny hairs
• Liquor (liquid): Gorgeous green, clear and sparkling
• Aroma: Cucumber, fresh, sweet
• Flavor notes: Easy on the palate. A green tea for every day. Slight sweetness on the finish after notes of clean crisp cucumber find its way out front.
• Brewing recommendation: 170˚F for 2-3 minutes.
• Caffeine: Yes
-The Chief Leaf