Darjeeling in the Afternoon

In the teabowl

this tranquil moment

dreaming of a little Spring

We had just met, yet I felt like I had known him my entire life. Being with him made me feel like a little girl again, bringing me back to daydreams and lazy afternoons in my grandmother’s garden, when there was nothing else to think about but to observe the way light shifted through the leaves of trees, or notice the many colors of things, like tree bark and stones. I thought of this as we walked together to the tearoom, across the wooden bridge. Sunlight sparkled on the surface of the pond as the orange koi swam drowsily through the water. The way the bamboo stalks and maple trees filtered the warm light of day made everything glow softly like a dream.

We sat at a table out on the tearoom terrace and he ordered a pot of Darjeeling tea, along with ginger scones, jam, lemon curd, cream and strawberries. I leaned against him and put my head on his shoulder, feeling so peaceful, being completely in the moment. My mind drifted in the tranquility, and like discovering a treasure of old letters in a forgotten box, my thoughts went leafing through memories, recalling what it's like to just be, without doing.

Just sitting quietly together, having tea.

And I could be with him. Tea calms the mind and asks us to take pleasure in the moment.

It was the kind of afternoon I will always remember like a beautiful dream. This memory stands still in time, this one moment, an episode of sensory fulfillment and realization of love.

Love.

Delicate ache in my chest, as if my heart became a flower, each pang of love growing felt like petals quivering, opening from its bud. An acute awareness of surrender overcame me. Around him I become girlish, childlike, happy. Tea leaves float in the water. I open the lid of the teapot and the fragrance brings me to my grandmother's garden. The beech tree swaying its leaves toward the wild strawberries in the damp soil, the marble patio cool underneath my bare feet, I am young, a little girl, wearing a light sundress, the slide and click of the glass door as I go into the house, and the tea waiting there for me. The cup of tea with the sugar pot and spoon, the ceramic pitcher of cream.

As I was gazing within the tea cup, a reflection of childhood memory emerged, radiating its happiness throughout that day, light showering its halo of beauty everywhere, upon his face, the glimmer in his eyes, the finest illumination highlighting every detail. The reflection through the glass of the tearoom window showed the garden and tables in superimposed layers, outlining his shape, as I was falling deeply, immediately, and intensely in love with him.

He brought me back to myself. I wonder sometimes, since we are both the same age, what he was doing then also, when I think back to my own past memories. Where was he at age seven, somewhere in the same city, when I was stirring my cup of tea, overfilling it with brown sugar, watching the cream swirl into the caramel colored liquid.

His reflection in the glass window, his hand touching mine upon the table, his caress of my thigh underneath the tablecloth. His warm hands awakened me as if I had been inside a dark place for a very long time, until it seemed that the sun was stirring my body from a long sleep, and just as it was when I was a little girl, there was tea. My grandmother always offered me a cup of black tea, half and half, she’d say in her British accent, first thing in the morning, with heaping spoonfuls of sugar swirled into the steaming tea cup.

Recalling the many fragments of childhood, I noticed the day became dappled with brushstrokes of light as if painted by an Impressionist artist, illustrating the way color shone through the trees, shimmering upon China cups and saucers, elongating shadows, melting into light like sugar.

Then the freshly baked ginger scones arrived, a puffed cloud of cream, slices of ripe red strawberries, a little ramekin of apricot jam, and a small white ceramic bowl of lemon curd. The tea was light and infused joy within us.

Darjeeling tea in the afternoon.

The peaceful atmosphere of the garden enchanted us, tucked away from the bustle of the city, just the two of us at our little table underneath a shady umbrella. Although the menu listed white teas such as Chinese Yin Zhen Silver Needle, White Peony, and white tea pearls, Indian whites, the Sri Lankan white teas---- and while all the teas appealed, we wanted Darjeeling tea.

The loose leaf teas, blooming teas, tisanes, herbals, mate, and blends were appealing. And then the green teas of many kinds, from Sri Lanka, India, China and Japan. Japanese Sencha, Houjicha, Mattcha, Bancha, Genmaicha. But none could compare.

Being quiet, sitting next to each other, taking in the afternoon breeze, holding hands. The Darjeeling tea in a flowered teapot. Contemplating the tea cup. Scones with cream, topped with strawberries, lemon curd, and apricot jam.

I hope this inspires you. I think back to this moment fondly. It is one of the most romantic experiences I've shared with my darling. In fact, it was our first date. There are days that I long to meet him again at the tearoom, ask him to take a lunch break from work, meet me there. But the days slip by so quickly, and I dream of the two of us, holding hands, leaning against each other, a kiss and a cup of Darjeeling tea.

This kind of romantic daydream involves food, and so here is a recipe for Lemon Ginger SconesAnd I cannot resist scones.

This recipe is a slightly healthier version (slightly) using whole wheat pastry flour split with all-purpose flour. If you want to make it even healthier, play around with Greek yogurt in place of butter--- perhaps half the amount of butter, then add Greek yogurt.

But you don't have to. Instead just use all-purpose flour or cake flour and butter. I recommend White Lily brand flour in any case. And real butter. Yes, I know. It's indulgent. I'm not suggesting you eat these every day. Am I tempting you?

Lemon Ginger Scones

1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/3 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup sugar (raw)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 stick and a half (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces or grated with cheese grater  (*1/2 stick extra butter, grated cold for adding while kneading dough recommended for those decadent sensualists like me)

2 generous tablespoons of freshly grated ginger

2 generous tablespoons of freshly zested lemon

2 tablespoons of *candied ginger pieces (recipe)

1 egg

1/2 cup cold buttermilk

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl blend all flours, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, lemon zest and ginger.

Add the cold butter by grating it into the flour mixture, or if you don't have a cheese grater, break small pieces of cold butter and work the butter into the flour mixture quickly. Add the ginger and lemon zest and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Grate a little extra ginger into the buttermilk and egg mixture if you'd like extra zing to your scones.

Pour the cream mixture all at once to the flour mixture and work loosely with a fork or large wooden spoon. Fold carefully. Don't overdo. Please be tender with your dough. Set in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes and let the dough rest.

Take dough out and form gently on a floured surface. Make a rough ball of the dough and pat it down with the palm of your hands. Flatten it into a circle, about an inch and a half thick. 

Add the 1/2 stick grated cold butter and candied ginger while kneading dough gently--- a few folds over but please don't overwork the dough.

The traditional method of rolling and cutting scones: form dough into a disc about an inch and a half thick, and cut into wedges.

OR: Using a biscuit cutter, cut each scone portion in large circle (about palm-sized) and bake it as a circle shape if you like.

Place about two inches apart on baking sheet and sprinkle the tops of the scones with brown sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden. Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.  

Lemon Ginger Icing

All you need to do is take a spoonful of confectioners sugar (powdered sugar) in a bowl, add milk or buttermilk slowly, stirring until the sugar melts into a thick icing. Stir well until very smooth. Add lemon extract, and voila! You can also add a little lemon juice to give it a lemony zing.

  • 1 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • 2-7 tablespoons buttermilk or whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract and a squeeze of real lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (or a little more) ginger syrup made from candied ginger

Measure and pour the sugar into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk, lemon juice, lemon ginger syrup and the lemon extract. Stir until it turns into a paste. 

Adjust the amounts to make either thin or thick. Try to blend as well as possible, avoiding thick clumps of sugar. ****Only use confectioners powdered sugar, as regular sugars will not work for this icing. 

Make a pot of Darjeeling tea after you have baked your Lemon Ginger Scones. Have some jam that you like available, perhaps put it in a ramekin for serving, and lemon curd if you fancy it, along with some fresh berries and cream. Just plain butter and smidge of honey is delicious too.

Lemon Ginger Scones are best served warm from the oven, but you could make them ahead of time and serve with the jam, berries and cream, or eat them plain. Of course, Darjeeling tea in the afternoon creates a romantic moment to be savored whether or not you have scones and jam. Just being together with a shared pot of tea is heaven enough.

Darling and I shared some of these scones last night after dinner, and they really hit the spot. I put them in the oven after dinner. We had made our own fresh lemon curd (ambitious couple that we are) and used this marvelous strawberry rhubarb jam that he found at the farmers market.

Perhaps you will share a beautiful moment of tea with your Darling?

Enjoy these freshly baked lemon ginger scones with a delicate pot of Darjeeling tea.