Of Imperial tea and ruby grass

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Once upon a time, on the shores of a Northern lake, a wide-eyed South African girl found a tea shop. I grew up with a choice of Five Roses. In my lunch hour I would explore my way thru words and flavours. First flush Darjeeling – too fierce for me, passed it on to a colleague who had lived in Kashmir. Smoky Oolong – his favourite. Vanilla tea – with slivers of a vanilla orchid seed pod. Even our rooibos.

Tea caddy, Chinese cha
Tea caddy, Chinese cha


Teehaus Wuehre was across from the Limmatquai in Zurich. When I bought this tea caddy, I was told it says – Guter Tee macht gute Laune (good tea puts you in a good mood, clumsier in English). Annie Yim, who I met on Google Plus, lives in Taiwan. In May 2012 she translated the Chinese characters for me. The Chinese equivalent of – by appointment to the Queen. Ming Emperor’s tea.  

Hausmischung Diana's tea half Ceylon, a quarter rooibos and a quarter honeybush
Hausmischung Diana's tea
half Ceylon, a quarter rooibos and a quarter honeybush

The bottom symbol is the one for tea.
 tea leaves, traditional,
  Cha tea, simplified or traditional.
Annie tells me that  – ‘the little crosses on top mean grass,
while the  beneath symbolises wood’.

(PS If you use Windows XP there are 3 empty boxes
where the Chinese ideograms should be)
Thanks to Richard Stark on G+ for helping me with the translation.

Paradise and Roses with borrowed scenery
Paradise and Roses
with borrowed scenery

Remembering a different garden with borrowed scenery in Porterville, our original Elephant's Eye. Beneath the orange trees in our friend Gayle’s orchard the corps de ballet dances. Ruby grass Melinis nerviglumis opens with tightly held plum teardrops, stretching into feathered old rose flowers, then unfolding into ivory seed heads. The three colours dance in the breeze in perfect choreography.

Ruby grass
Ruby grass

Ruby grass, bud to seed
Ruby grass, bud to seed

Ruby grass, the cygnets dancing
Ruby grass, the cygnets dancing

Because the details of grass flowers are so complex, so beneath human vision, I have another macro in a Mason jar photo. Not yet in my garden but I will nurture those seeds and hope they will dance for me in Spring Promise with the pink flowers.

Pictures by Diana Studer 
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay

(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red.
Those are my links.
To read or leave comments, either click the word Comments below,
or click this post's title)

Comments

  1. Dear Diana,
    every time I'm visiting you and your lovely blog I'm learning a very interesting new piece of this life mosaic.
    Thank you and have a great time
    Elisabeth

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    1. Some good memories of Zurich, in between feeling desperately homesick, my heart always in Africa.

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  2. Earl Grey Darjeeling is my favourite tea I think, but I also like Blackwood Orange Pekoe, Smokey Himalaya, Golden Lapsang Souchong, Ceylon Superieur, Sencha Classic and more. The Ruby grass is beautiful, did you already sow the seeds?

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    1. Orange Californian and Flanders red poppies are first on my list. Ruby grass and milkweed next.

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  3. such beautiful words and such beautiful images,, the teas sound so exotic to me, Red Rose is the tea I drink, and have always, lol, I need to get out more!

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    1. 'nobody makes better tea, than you and Five Roses' goes our advertising jingle ;)

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  4. I really enjoyed the macros in the mason jar. Good idea! I asked my husband to translate the German, to see if he could figure it out. He knew everything except laune, so I was impressed. Interesting that you're writing in South Africa about a Chinese tea caddy that you purchased in Zurich. Truly an international post! :)

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    1. The macro in a Mason jar is Saxon Holt's idea. I use a drinking glass or a glass vase, just the right size to balance the camera on - and - instant no shake teensy tiny tripod.

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  5. A quick first glance at the ruby grass and they almost look like tiny little fish under water...! :)

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    Replies
    1. now I cannot unsee a shoal of red and gold striped fish ;~)

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  6. Smokey Oolong - one of my favorites!

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    Replies
    1. I must try one of the specialist tea shops in Cape Town

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  7. that ruby grass is divine. There is something about the aesthetics of tea that is very appealing and that you have captured in this post.

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    1. I've always been interested in where words come from. At first in Switzerland I drank my tea alone, but later my Swiss learned to join me.

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  8. Good tip about the drinking glass or vase...I hate wrestling with the tripod. There's not much competition for my favorite tea, Lapsang Souchong. It takes smokiness to a whole new level. I loved hearing about your exploration of all things tea.

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    Replies
    1. My photos are mostly point and shoot, but macro in a Mason jar is something even I can achieve.

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  9. Good tea always puts me in a good mood! I like to choose different types of tea for different times of the day. I typically have something with a citrus flavoring (e.g., bits of orange peel) for breakfast. A smoky tea like Lapsang Souchong would be an afternoon choice for me; I would drink the more desert-like vanilla in the evening after dinner. -Jean

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    1. My breakfast muesli has 2 clementines in it. I revel in the citrus season.

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  10. I'm a tea kind of girl myself... loved this post Diana. We have a chain of stores called Murchies Tea shops...you would delight in a visit there. Each tea has it's very own antique tin, or glass jar, and is sold to you by weight...the contents tipped into a beautiful paper bag, and labelled. I've so many bags of tea to work my way through still, but one must indulge when there.

    I love your grass, and am looking forward to seeing it grow and flourish in your new garden.

    Jen

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  11. I love your rooibos tea and especially fond of First flush Darjeeling...beautiful caddy and the red ruby grass is lovely....perfect for your new garden.

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    Replies
    1. today I looked at Earl Grey, but that's no longer my first choice

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  12. Hello Diana
    Thanks for coming to my blog for a visit. Very interesting about the different teas - I am a quite unadventurous tea drinker, maybe I should give some new types a try, you never know I might become hooked on one of them. Love the ruby grass - hope you are successful with the seeds.

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