On the Table: Sakura Season Favorites

Sakura sencha from Rishi Teas; Vintage Utamaro book; High Line by Bond No. 9; Bridge of Scarlet Leaves and Mappa Mundi by Lost Meridiem Productions

We recently got a console table from Dendro, Co. a company based in Chicago that sells furniture made from reclaimed wood. Our wabi-sabi tastebuds have been salivating over the grooves and patterns in its wood surface — a douglas fir salvaged from a blacksmith shop that predates the civil war. We were delighted to receive some wood coasters painted with our initials as an unexpected surprise.

We thought this table would be the perfect backdrop for displaying some of our favorite items of the moment — tea, books, well, what else is there really.

Cherry blossoms are starting to bloom and we plan on enjoying their short-lived appearance to the fullest. Here are some of our sakura season essentials.

1) Rishi Sakura Sencha

We’ve tried quite a few green teas flavored with cherry blossom leaves, but this one is our favorite. It doesn’t have any of the fake, bubble-gum flavor that comes with many other sakura sencha blends. Just green tea and flowers — exactly how we like it

2) Bond No 9 — High Line

When we first wandered into the Bond No 9 store on Madison Avenue, we were in awe. The bottles are sculptural works of art and the scents — well, it was the first time we were tempted by anything other than Christopher Brosius’ fragrances. The High Line scent is like a meadow of wildflowers — ironic, considering its namesake weaves rises about rows of concrete. It’s grassy without being sharp, floral without being cloyingly sweet.

3) Ticket to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

They say the beauty of cherry blossoms in full bloom is too obvious, and that yet unopened buds or fallen petals make a more lasting impression. We’re not that picky. We want to gorge on clouds of pink at the peak of their lushness. The BBG has a map that tracks the status of their cherry blossoms so you can plan your feast accordingly. They even have markers for “post-peak bloom” for all the wabi lovers.

4) Kokinshû

The Kokinshû is an anthology of Japanese poetry compiled around 900, but the vivid imagery remains as dew-fresh as ever. Sleeves scented with plum blossoms, warblers singing, melting snow, and brocades of willows and cherries mingle in the spring poems. There are contributions from monks, empresses, and courtiers, but our current favorite is by an anonymous poet:

In these mountain heights
There is no one to sing the praises of
You cherry blossoms.
Do not be aggrieved
For I will do it.

5) Lost Meridiem Productions Prints

Our last sakura season essential will get its own proper blog post, but we’re too excited not to mention it. We’ve finally opened up our own Etsy shop where we sell canvas prints of our photography. We have a big one hanging right above our console table and it looks pretty impressive. The rich texture of the leaves came out well and the curving path gives a sense of depth so tempting that we often joke about jumping right in. Can you tell it was taken in the BBG? We took the photo in the fall, and we’re thinking of going back for a spring edition of the same view.

Decisive Moment

• Portrait of Henri Cartier Bresson
T-shirt by Egotrips
Tea Set by The Evie Group
Camera Printed Pillow by Ronda
Handmade Teapot by Evangelina

“Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.” Catherine Douzel

Henri Cartier-Bresson was never interested in being a photojournalist. He captured some of the most important political events of the last century, but he remained committed to a poetic and personal method of choosing the right moment to click the shutter. He called it the decisive moment, not only because the photographer had to choose his composition without hesitation but also because it depicted a turning point. The decisive moment has a lot in common with peripeteia, an ancient Greek term that means the reversal of circumstances in tragic drama. Bresson’s photographs were imaginary voyages because viewers could imagine what could come before and after the decisive moment. His credited intuition and a preoccupation with geometric order as the driving forces behind his instantaneous selection process.

Interviews, articles and videos about Henri Cartier-Bresson

Not sure about what tea to try next? Take a look at these reviews

Imperfect

Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless? To long for the moon while looking on the rain, to lower the blinds and be unaware of the passing of spring – these are even more deeply moving. Branches about to blossom or gardens strewn with faded flowers are worthier of our admiration. – Baisao

Tea bowl, 18th to mid 19th century
Fashion by Alistair Trung

Kenkō articulates the beauty of imperfection and irregularity that is one of the foundations of the wabi aesthetic. Beginning in the 16th century, chanoyu culture valued tea bowls that were cracked and misshapen rather than flawless. Some were even broken and repaired on purpose. One of these bowls is repaired with touches of gold lacquer, suggesting the maki-e technique of sprinkling gold powder on black lacquer. While maki-e objects exhibited an aesthetic of overt luxury, tea bowls aspired to an implied, humble kind of beauty.

Tea bowl, 18th century

Australian fashion designer Alistair Trung seeks to interpret wabi through clothing. He says that “fashion is dominated by western designers and western ideals of beauty – the classical Greco-Roman ideal of perfection.” For Trung, the imperfect, aging body is more interesting than the airbrushed body of a young model. The unexpected silhouettes and muted colors of his clothing resonate with the imperfect, misshapen tea bowl. Both reject the narrow definition of beauty as symmetrical and finished.

More on Maki-e

Minogame

• Hon’ami Koetsu, Black Raku ware tea bowl, early 17th century
Fashion by Max Mara
More on minimalist fashion

Seventy years of Zen
got me nowhere at all
my black robe became a shaggy crank,
now I have no business with sacred or profane
just simmer tea for folks 
and hold starvation back. 

Baisao

Hon’ami Koetsu named his black Raku ware tea bowl Minogame, or Mossy-Tailed Tortoise. In Japanese tradition, the minogame is so old that it grows seaweed on its shell, and becomes a symbol of longevity and good fortune. Koetsu deliberately scraped off the glaze on this tea bowl to emphasize faded beauty. Like the minogame, this tea bowl becomes more valuable and unique with age.

Luncheon

Giveaway

In honor of the 100th entry, I’m offering a prize to one person who comments on this entry, chosen at random. The prize is the Starter Kit from Adagio Teas that includes a teapot and four tea samples. You can view it here
Please post by Friday, March 20th at midnight EST.

In Luncheon of the Boating Party, Renoir’s circle of friends sit on the balcony of the riverside restaurant Fournaise, where many boaters, writers, models, and art enthusiasts gathered in the summer. The group looks so homogenous that it’s hard to discern the different classes and occupations, from the proprietor, Alphonse Fournaise, to Gustave Caillebotte, who both wear the straw hats and white shirts attributed to boaters. Caillebotte was not only a well-known painter in his own right but an avid boater as well. Ironically, Renoir creates the tigh-knit and festive atmosphere by giving each member a different line of vision, and as individuals they seem to be absorbed in their own thoughts.
Identification of each member of the party: >>>

Caillebotte presents a different kind of occasion in Luncheon, where his mother and brother René dine in silence, attended by their butler. The Caillebotte family was well-off, but, at this point, had to sort out their finances after the death of Gustave’s father. René was particularly good at reckless spending. Caillebotte always creates an unusual perspective that makes the viewer’s involvement ambiguous, and, here, the plate in the foreground suggests that he himself sits at the table. Callebotte’s paintings seem to grow out of that play in perspective, making it hard to judge whether family tensions are involved in Luncheon. The colors may not be as bright and flashy as Renoir’s, but the dynamics and perspective are no less innovative.

Bazille and Camille is a study for Monet’s Luncheon on the Grass, which was less successful than its provocative counterpart and was left unfinished. The study, on the other hand, could be a painting on its own, as Monet’s brushwork and composition bears none of the stiffness that characterizes his intended product.

Top Five Luxurious Teas

These are teas to enjoy during ordinary days and spontaneous moments of insisting on something special.

1. Rose Tea from Golden Moon Teas:
This is a truly intoxicating blend of black tea and rose petals, which has a richness to it that is hard to find in flavored teas and rose teas in particular. Most brands will give a hint of rose, but this is truly rose essence.

2. Scorpio blend from Adagio Teas:
Black tea infused with mango, rooibos vanilla, and chocolate chips is flavorful but not overpowering.

3. Jasmine Yin-Hao from Dragonwater Teas:
This is a green tea with a light, almost fruity, flavor that is sophisticated and refreshing.

4. Coconut Pouchong from Golden Moon Teas:
The intensity of the coconut flavor and smell makes this green tea addictive.

5. Orchid Temple Oolong from Golden Moon Teas:
This tea has a complex, fruity flavor that is light enough for daily appreciation.

Craving Roses

The swirling petal shapes, saturated colors, and deceptive smells keep me walking around rose gardens every year, trying to satisfy my own curiosity and figure out why it’s such an obsession. From the delicate taste of rose petal tea, to the vibrant designs they inspire, I crave each new rose season. Here are a few favorite rose snapshots.

Rose scented tea from T-salon • Rose cusions from Bonjour Mon Coussin