Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Way of Whisking


Graceful Whisking

In a movie “Ask this of Rikyu”, there is the scene where Ms. Miki Nakatani as Souon prepares tea. When I watched it, I thought that her performance was not so significant. However, the other day, I had a chance to watch the scene again. I realized how gracious her whisking sound and tempo were. It is sometimes said “Whisk lightly” in Omotesenke tradition. It was kind of hard for me to get a sense of it, but how Ms. Nakatani whisks struck me. This is it! It was comfortable and natural like the way a bird or an insect sings. She starts whisking it slowly, and gradually quickens her pace to the peak. Then, she keeps the constant beat. Again gradually it slows down and the whisk leaves the bowl gently. People are sometimes too busy about making froth. I wonder how many people can actually care about the grace and pace when they whisk. Whisking is my recent interest.

Good Matcha and Bad Matcha

In my tea class, I noticed that the tea taste differ, depending on student preparing it even though we use the same utensils, water and matcha. It is no wonder that the amount of water and tea are the most influential factor. However, I also noticed the way of moving the whisk differs among the students. I wonder if the way of whisking gives certain impact to the taste. I often find the tea brewed by a particular classmate bitter.


Experimenting on the Way of Wishking

I made three servings of matcha with different strength of whisking.
A: Harsh 20sec
B: Medium 20sec
C: Light 10sec
I try to peg my ideal whisking by Ms. Nakatani at “B”. I tried the other two, “A” and “C”, to imitate the way of two students from my tea class. Do you think I will find a certain difference among the three, or my ideal whisking makes better tasting tea? Let’s take a look at the result.

My Presumption Failed

One of my classmates whisks matcha hardly and I sometimes find his tea bitter. So, I expected a harsh whisking makes matcha bitter. Unfortunately, I could not find a significant difference in taste between the harsh whisking “A” and the normal whisking “B”. My presumption was wrong. I could find some texture in “C”, and the water and the tea were not blended well. What I can say from today’s test is “whisk well”. Despite of the result, I still believe that the way of whisking affects the taste in some degree, so I’ll keep seeking this issue, and I’m still attracted to Ms. Nakatani’s whisking.

Rhythmical Pace

In the movie, the camera doesn’t capture her hands entirely so I don’t know her specific moves. However, from the sound, I can tell that she whisks constantly with a comfortable rhythm. I don’t hear any irregular stroke. I actually timed her whisking. It was 20 sec with about 70 strokes. She changed the pace gradually and gracefully from the beginning to the peak, and the peak to finish. In my case, to try not to make lumps, I used to whisk with strokes like the letter “M”. It sounded kind of unsteady. Moreover, sometimes when a lump gets on the wall of the bowl, I try to get it down with an irregular stroke while whisking. It is quite difficult to whisk constantly and without getting any lumps. That is my challenge for now.

The way of whisking differs depending on school traditions. What I talked here is not an absolute way.
I took a video of the test I did. If you don’t see the subtitles, please check the setting of your YouTube.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Does Material of Teapot Affect the Taste?


Yakishime pot can brew better tasting tea

Yakishime is a type of ceramic. It is baked in a high temperature without any glaze. Tokoname and Banko wares are best example of this product. I have written “Tokoname teapot can brew more delicious tea than teapots made of other materials” in a past entry. Lately, I found an interesting site that explains about the theory. It’s the site of FOOD ANALYSIS TECHNOLOGY CENTER (http://www.mac.or.jp/mail/100401/02.shtml) and they mention three causes. I’ll introduce the summary in the next paragraph.

Temprature, Iron and Texture

When comparing the four materials; yakishime, porcelain, glass and aluminum, yakishime has the most modest thermal conductivity. When brewing, it keeps the water warm to encourage extracting substances more.  
The clay often used on Tokoname or Banko ware is rich in iron. The iron adsorbs the bitter substance, catechin. It is considered that polyphenols like catechin has a functional group and they are easy to compound with the teapot’s surface with iron.
In the physical aspect, unglazed clay has some texture comparing with the smooth surface of glass and aluminum. The clay has a greater physical absorption of the bitter taste.

Still Wondering

So, the article says that yakishime pots encourages extracting more substances and adsorb bitter taste. That is the reason that it can brew good tasting tea. However, I find some contradictions between this theory and the data from my previous post. I still don’t understand all functions completely. I just wanted to introduce one of opinions regarding teapots’ material that I found. Anyway, both the theory and the data saying that yakishime teapots has advantage. Actually many people experienced it in the survey. This time, I’ll test it myself how effective it is.

The conditions:
Fine Sencha: 2g
Water: 27ml 70C
Time: 1min
Vessel: Left; Yakishime, Right; Porcelain


Potential of Yakishime and Porcelain

I was absolutely appalled by the result. The difference was obvious. The tea brewed in yakishime had a rounded fullfilling flavor with rich umami. The tea with porcelain was washy. I could not find the rich umami that I found in yakishime. The bitter taste exceeded the umami. The result might differ depending on the conditions, but I found that the difference in this test is almost like I was trying the teas from two different grades. I knew it as a knowledge that yakishime can brew better tasting tea. Also, I’ve been actually using both yakishime and porcelain pots at home so I’ve been vaguely conscious of it. However, I’ve never compered them in the same condition at the same time. I was not aware it has such difference. I can definitely recommend yakishime pots for people who enjoy premium green tea. A yakishime pot can make your tea one rank better.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Konmari decluttering

Cleaning in Japan

Some tourists from abroad find the cities in Japan relatively clean. Some people get surprised that in schools, kids usually clean their class rooms on their own. Japanese might have a keen sense in cleaning. However, it is not always the case. I’m not good at keeping my room neat actually. My grandparents’ and parents’ generations don’t seem to be good at throwing things away. It is because they experienced the time where they were short on things during and right after the world war. My grandma kept even used gift-wrapping paper. Some households are filled to capacity with material possessions.

Konmari

Some of you might already heard of the name, Kondo Marie, or KonMari. She is an organizing consultant and her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has got No.1 at amazon best seller ranking.
http://www.amazon.com/The-Life-Changing-Magic-Tidying-Decluttering/dp/1607747308/ref=zg_bs_books_1
Her method is that you keep only the things that spark joy and you get rid of the other stuff. You do it by categories; clothing, books and so on. You collect all of your items in the same category into one space. You pick up one by one from the pile and determine if it really sparks joy. You will realize that expensive things or new items are not always valuable to you. How do I know about it? I actually practiced her method and decluttered my home last year.


Zen saying

When I read her books, I recalled two Zen saying in my mind‏.
知足 or chisoku; Realizing that you already have enough.
People tend to want things that they don’t really need. If you know what and how much you need, you can always live in great satisfaction.
放下着 or hogechaku; Throw things away.
By discarding unnecessary things, precious things to you emerge. You can feel the lightness and briskness, you will realize that your own naked self is more than enough.

Enhancing what you really care for

The best benefit from Konmaring is that I feel really good about not possessing too many things or being free from things. I think Konmari is borrowing the ideas from Zen and Shinto. By Konmari’s organizing, you can have the exhilarating experience like Zen. I feel intoxicated at my closet that has one third of clothes that I used to have. It is only filled with the brightest clothes now. Certainly, they have been always in the closet but they had a low profile buried in other clothes. Purging the things that you don’t need enhances what you really care about. This kind of spirit can be an important hidden theme of chanoyu. For instance, we don’t display many flowers in the tea room. We borrow only a few flowers from the fields that one thinks really appealing. That is why even though the arrangement is simple, it looks so brilliant. You can be spiritually full filled without a lot of materials. Actually, it might be even better not to have many. I guess this idea leads to Wabi-Sabi.

Try organizing your home and experience Wabi-Sabi yourself. You can get a highly-sensitive space for chanoyu.

Konmari website: http://konmari.com/en/

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The exquisite sweet for matcha, kurirakugan


Sweet confection for the elderly?!

It is a sweet that I’ve had at my grandma’s place. It has a dry coarse texture in your mouth and it’s extremely sweet. It’s like eating a sweetened chalk or something. I recognize it as a confection for the elderly that is not appealing for kids at all. It is kurirakugan. I don’t dislike it but it won’t be my first choice either‏. The other day, kurirakugan was served in the tea class. I put it into my mouth not expecting much. Yap, this is it. It’s powdery and takes away all moisture in my mouth …, but the sweetness is comfortable, hum…. It has a chestnut-like cozy flavor which is not just sweet. It is actually quite good since I’m expecting to have matcha right after. Well, I’ve disrespected it but I’m quite captivated by it now. Is it because I have matured or it goes really well with matcha?


What is kurirakugan

Rakugan is a confectionery that is made with cereal grain, sugar and mizuame (starch syrup). It is molded and dried. Kuri means chestnuts. Kuri-rakugan is made with chestnuts grain so it has a nutty flavor. The rakugan that I had in my tea class also has the chestnut flavor but actually chestnuts are not used as its ingredient. Instead, red peas are used. Technically, you can’t call it kurirakugan, so its maker call the product just rakugan. The chestnut-flavored rakugan seem to be generally called kurirakugan even though it’s not made of chestnuts. There are similar products from different makers. For convenience, I’ll call them all kurirakugan here in this post.



Kurirakugan from Nagano

Nagano is famous for kurirakugan. The other day, I had a chance to go to Nagano so I bought three different brands. On this occasion, I got my usual one from the nearby supermarket which is reasonably priced than the other three. The one from the supermarket is also made by a maker in Nagano, though. I don’t usually find the first three in supermarkets. 
Hosun from Chikufudo, 594yen/16pcs
 The one from my Nagano trip and also this is the one I had in the tea class
 https://chikufudo.com/shopping/html/products/list.php?category_id=117 (Japanese)
Zenkojirakugan from Sakuraikanseido, 540yen/18pcs
 The one from my Nagano trip
 http://www.kanseido-shop.com/SHOP/88195/list.html (Japanese)
Rakugan from Obusedo, 648yen/15pcs
 The one from my Nagano trip
 http://www.obusedo.com/english/shopping/detail/rakugan.html (English)
Kurirakugan from Obusekurikaseizo, 360yen/16pcs
 The one from the supermarket

Compering four brands

I did a blind tasting to compare the four kinds. I found roughness both in taste and texture on Kurirakugan from Obusekuirkaseizo when comparing with the other three. However, it’s not bad at all considering its price. I actually have it often for my tea time. The other three are all excellent. There are certain differences among the three. I personally like the Hosun best because of its sophisticated grains. The preference totally depends on your taste.


Hosun
 It’s fine and smooth with its cozy potato-like flavor. It melts in your mouth.
Zenkojirakugan
 It has a natural sweet taste. It’s voluminous with its thickness.
Rakugan from Obsedo
 It’s not too sweet and has a well-balanced taste with the pea flavor.
Kurirakugan from Obusekurikaseizo
 It has a hard and coarse texture. It has a distinguish flavor which is reminiscent of root vegetables.

Try kurirakugan with matcha

If you try kurirakugan itself for the first time, you might have the same impression that I had when I was a kid. It would be just dry and sweet grains and not tasty at all. I used to think so, but now I have a totally different view of kurirakugan. It exquisitely goes well with matcha. Before the matcha is served, savoring the sweets with the natural nutty flavor is quite lovely. The comfortable sweet flavor remains faintly in your mouth and then you partake a refreshing bitter brew. It’s heaven. If you are the person who can enjoy matcha or chanoyu, I’m sure that you will simply appreciate the rakugan. 



Friday, April 24, 2015

Zen Sayings or Zengo

 

What a shame!

You usually see a hanging scroll displayed in a tea room. From the scroll, you are supposed to read the host’s mind or the theme of the ceremony that you are attending. In a tea ceremony, bokuseki or calligraphy, especially of a Zen monk is often preferred rather than drawings. The calligraphies are zengo, Zen Sayings. I often have hard time to understand what it means. Moreover, I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t even read it sometimes. I need to learn about zengo or at least just the basics.

This might not be zengo, but bokuseki looks something like this.

Incomprehensible Zen

It is said that Zen cannot be explained by words. Someone also says that while you are seeking what Zen is, it is not Zen. Um…. When I read books about Zen, I often have difficulty to understand them. Zen might not be a thing to comprehend intellectually and it may be a thing to realize from your experience. However, books are still the easiest way for me to know about it. This time, I got five casual books that have easy descriptions on various zengo (Zen sayings). By reading the five books, I realized two things. First, the descriptions among the five books are sometimes different even for the same saying. How it is construed might vary with the individual. The other thing is that there are some lessons that show up repeatedly in these books. These lessons can be a clue to understand Zen.



"Now", "Let it go" and "Don’t distinguish"

The three most memorable keywords and phrases I found in the books are “Now”, “Let it go” and “Don’t distinguish”. They are something like the following;
“Now”
Do the best for now. You don’t need to be bothered with the past nor worry about the feature. Live for now. 
“Let it go”
Just follow as things go. “Be as you are.” “You already have everything.” “Discard things.” These are also the lessons that I found frequently in the books which are similar to this lesson in nature.
“Don’t distinguish”
It is not good to view things in two aspects; beautiful or ugly, in or out, or bright or dark. People tend to be obsessed too much about distinguishing things. Embrace things as they are. This lesson might lead to the lesson of unity or oneness.
There might be one truth in Zen. Words can only describe a certain aspect of it. These keywords are saying different things, but actually they might be describing the same truth from different angles. That’s what I feel.

行雲流水or kounryusui

Here, let me introduce one of my favorite zengo related to the lesson of “Let it go”.
行雲流水or kounryusui
It literally means “Clouds move and water flows”. This lesson means “Live without fixating and go with the times.” Clouds and water don’t stay at on place. They travel even if there are obstacles. They change into any shape and flow with the grain of nature.

Influence of Zen

Even though I can’t still understand what Zen is, I can sense that Zen has a lot of influence on chanoyu and today’s Japanese culture. It kind of make sense. For example, a host tries to have a bud that just started blooming for the tea flower. Usually, the blooming is quite short and with the host preparing the young bloom just for the very moment makes it even more special‏. This preference might come from the lesson of “Now”.
For an example of the lesson of “don’t distinguish things”, Japanese are not good at giving definite yes or no for an answer. We might feel comfortable by making things a bit ambiguous.
A lot of people don’t know much about Zen even in Japan. However, there are many traditions and attitude of ours that comes from Zen idea, and we benefit from it spontaneously. Knowing zengo might help us to realize the underlying principle behind chanoyu and Japanese culture.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Does a flat teapot can brew better tasting tea?


Why Flat Shape Is Good

You might have heard different opinions regarding the ideal shape of a teapot. Here is one of the opinions. Some people says that flat pots can brew good tasting tea. I’ve heard two reasons about it. First, people tend to put a lot of tea leaves in a flat pot because it has a large bottom and it makes the leaves inside look few. It’s a visual deception, so people put more leaves than usual and it helps to make delicious tea. The other reason is that the leaves can be laid widespread, not piled up like in an ordinary pot. So, when it is brewed, the leaves can smoothly absorb water with less stress. If you measure the leaves, the first reason won’t matter. I wonder how much impact to the taste the second reason has.

Experiment

I did a test in brewing gyokuro with a flat and tall vessels (Tea: 3g, Water: 15ml, Time: 2 min). I tried several rounds of tests. As a result, I found a slight advantage in taste on the flat vessel even though the difference is not significant. The tea brewed in the flat one has mellow and rich flavor. The one in the tall vessel was dull with washy body. I also found a slightly rough and bitter flavor. But again, it has very little difference. 



Unexpected Outcome

In the series of tests, I found an interesting result. The tea within the flat vessel has slightly more amount of extract. This is also a very slight difference. But why? If a flat pot helps with smooth absorption of water, it should have had less extract. This happening doesn’t support the aforementioned idea. Only the assumption that I have is that when you pour tea with the flat pot, less water might remain in between the leaves. If so, it has a good impact on the taste of the second or later brewing. I could not come up with a convincing explanation on this issue. I’m sorry.



Try Flat

To conclude this topic, I have to say that the advantage is not that significant. It could be within accidental error. In gyokuro brewing, slight difference of conditions can affect tastes. Quality and amount of ingredients, water temperature and brewing time has much more impact. If you want to enjoy tea casually, you don’t have to be picky about the shape of the pot. 
However, it is also fact that I kind of find the tea brewed in the flat vessel tastes slightly better than the other one. I can’t explain the reason scientifically. A flat pot might encourage smooth draining. Water calmly flows off through the leaves and it doesn’t tumble the leaves around. It is good to brew tea slowly and carefully without damaging fine leaves. I could not clear everything up regarding this topic, please try it yourself to see how you like it. For people who are fond of gyokuro and premium sencha, the flat pot is definitely worth a try.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Trying a tea ceremony in Japan


Public tea ceremony

The best places to try Japanese tea ceremony are the casual ones which are held as a city event or monthly gatherings at a local tea house. They are often reasonably priced. Maybe it is around 500yen and you get to have one sweet confectionery and a bowl of matcha. Those places usually welcome anybody even those who are not familiar to the tea ceremony. You can tell its causality by the admission. The formality is often proportional to it. The downside is that they are held only on certain days. Check the city information where you are going to visit. The monthly gathering of tea houses can be a bit formal. In that case, it is better to go with a person who is familiar to The Way of Tea. 


Otemae and tatedashi

A tea-ceremony workshop can be another place where you can try it. However, it costs more, probably a couple thousand yen.  Some temples in tourist sites or some cafés also serve matcha (500-1000yen), but they are not usually in a ceremonial style. The tea is just served from the back and you don’t see the host preparing in the room. However, some tourist sites might serve it in the traditional fashion. Useful Japanese terms for you to remember are “temae” and “tatedashi”. In Japanese, we call the procedure or performance of preparing the tea otemae or temae. On the other hand, the way of serving the tea prepared from the back is tatedashi. You can ask if the tea is served in otemae or tatedashi style.

The main guest

I sweated at the tea ceremony that I attended this weekend. In the session that I was in, there were some elderly ladies wearing kimono and looking obviously experienced. However, unexpectedly I got to be the main guest. I get stage fright easily. In the ceremony, I could have talked about the weather as a greeting. Also I could have asked about the hanging calligraphy scroll or the amorous water container with a brown luster glaze. Fortunately, the host was friendly and led the conversation. I didn’t make a big mistake but I could have done better. I don’t remember much about the taste of sweets and tea. After the ceremony, one of my co-guests came to me and told me that she had a good time. I realized again that it is important to simply enjoy it, which I could not do myself. 

What to enjoy

Feel the light from paper screen or listen to the sound of boiling water. You might find the contrast interesting between the primitiveness of bamboo scoop and the smooth glossy finish of urushi tea container. Greeting the guest next to you is simply heartwarming. You will see the host purifying and checking the whisk somberly but with heartfelt actions. While drinking the tea, you might feel and enjoy the texture and weight of the pottery bowl. What I needed to do was to savor the atmosphere. If you have a chance to join a Japanese tea ceremony for the first time, don’t worry too much about the manners and try to sense and appreciate these simple things in the tea room. It will make your experience profound and delightful. This is a lesson which I learned this time.

Related links

Tea ceremony manners for guests 1
 http://everyonestea.blogspot.jp/2012/12/tea-ceremony-manners-for-guests-1.html
Tea ceremony manners for guests 2
http://everyonestea.blogspot.jp/2012/12/tea-ceremony-manners-for-guests-2.html

The tea ceremonies around my city

- Links are Japanese.
- There are off months, check the schedule before you visit.

Seto
500yen, Few times a year
At the tea room in Seto Culture Center

Nagakute
250yen, The second Sunday of the month
At Koshoan in Iroganeyama Park
http://www.city.nagakute.lg.jp/gakushu/syougai_gakusyuu/kouminkankouza/iroganetyasitu.html

Toki
500yen, The second weekend of the month
At Bosetsuan in Oribenosato Park
http://www.toki-bunka.or.jp/?page_id=35#bosetsuan

Kasugai
400yen, The second Sunday of the month
At Shunshuan in Culture Forum Kasugai or at another place
http://sakadou.net/rink/d-detail/kasugaisadou.html


Friday, January 16, 2015

Common Beginner’s Mistakes in Making Matcha


Confident on your procedures?

This entry is for the people who havejust got started with matcha. They might have learned it from books or YouTube, and they might not have experienced people around who can give advice. How sure are you if you are doing the right way? There are some mistakes that beginners might make. I’ll show them on the following video. Please watch it and find the mistakes.



How many mistake did you notice?

Let’s take a look at the mistakes one by one.

1. Laying the bamboo whisk


At the beginning on the video, the whisk was laid. The tines are delicate. Do not rest it on the tines and keep it standing. Damaging the tines might shorten the life of the whisk.


2. Putting the lid of natsume container upside-down


Natsume is usually coated with beautiful urushi lacquer. By placing the lid upside-down, it might damage it. You don’t want to see scrapes on the top of your lid. When placing it on the table, place it just as its orientation.

3. Not fully wiping off the water


I’m sorry that it is difficult to notice it on the video and this image. After warming up the bowl with hot water, if the bowl was not wiped carefully enough, some water droplets will remain in the bowl. If you put matcha in the wet bowl, matcha might absorb the moisture and create some lumps. It doesn’t have a good effect to the taste of the tea.

4. Pressing matcha


When breaking the heap of matcha in the bowl, I used the flat part of the scoop tip. It was kind of packing the matcha. It can be an obstacle in mixing matcha and water well. Above all, the tea won’t taste good with compacted matcha. In this video, I also noticed that the packed matcha doesn’t get frothy much. Use the edge of the scoop, and try not to press matcha when breaking the heap.

5. Keeping the lid open


I didn’t put the lid of natsume back after putting the matcha into the bowl. I kept making tea with the lid open. You should not give your matcha unnecessary exposure to the air. Getting moisture and oxidation are not good for matcha. It might help the matcha go bad quickly. Put the lid back right after you put the matcha in the bowl. 

6. Placing the natsume with an impact


When I placed the natsume back on the table, I put it carelessly with an knocking sound. The impact may compact the matcha inside. Compacting matcha is not good for the taste and even more it doesn’t look nice. 

Consideration to the tea

Please pardon my skills if you can see other mistakes in this video. The examples that I introduced here are not rules. They just come from consideration to the tea and utensils. Treating the tea and utensil with care are not only for art form, but also it directly affects the condition of your utensils and the flavor of the tea that you are serving.  These consideration make a big change.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ume-Kobucha


The tea that I crave for once in a while

The tea is sometimes served after cuisines at a restaurant or you might find it in a tea set in a hotel room. I used to have it at my grandma’s place as well. It is ume-kobucha. Ume means plum and kobu is a kind of seaweed, kelp. It is originally powdered dried seaweed and plum. Nowadays, artificial flavors seem to be used on many products. It is prepared by mixing with hot water. This is not a kind of tea that I have every day, but it is the tea that I crave for once in a while. The other day, I bought ume-kobucha on impulse when I saw a lot of them on the shelf at the supermarket, hehe.

Umekobucha


Review

Its aroma is reminiscent of ocean. A hint of shiso plant or Japanese basil adds an elegance on its aroma. The flavor mainly consists of the rich umami of the seaweed and gentle salty taste. It doesn’t have a bitter taste like green tea has. It is like having a good soup. Delicate sourness of plum and shiso enhance the fulfilling umami flavor and gives a refreshing accent onto it.

Umekobucha


Tea of the good old days

Western people might not like the seaweed or umami at first. Too much umami can be disgusting. However, once you get used to it, it will be quite seductive. I prefer thinly prepared ume-kobucha. It’s relaxing and peaceful concoction. It is the tea of warmth which is associated with a moment with family in a tatami room on a chilly day.

Umekobucha



Friday, December 19, 2014

Really Need a Chasen Bamboo Whisk?


Hesitation to start matcha

I sometimes see people making matcha with an electrical milk frother. Someone even uses an ordinary beater. Matcha beginners might wonder if you really need a chasen (bamboo whisk) to make matcha. For the people who want to try matcha for a bit to see if they will like it, purchasing chasen can be a reason to hesitate to try it. People might have an electric frother, but not a chasen. If you can use the electric frother to substitute chasen, it will be wonderful, don’t you think?


Chasen vs Electrical frother

I have never used an electric frother or an ordinary beater for brewing matcha. Today, I tried making matcha with a chasen, an electrical frother and an ordinary beater. I took a video of it. Please check out what result I got.
If you don’t see the subtitles, please check your setting on YouTube.


Use electric frother

Here is the bottom line. The tea made with the beater was not delicious, so I don’t recommend it. The electric frother can make as tasty tea as a chasen does. So, if you want to try matcha just to see if you like it, use an electric milk frother. It won’t be a problem and helps you save money. However, there is still a certain difference between the ones made with chasen and electrical one. If you like matcha and want to continue consuming it, I recommend you to get a chasen. You will appreciate the gentle foam created with a fine art of bamboo.

Need Chasen? It’s available here >>> www.everyonestea.com

Friday, December 12, 2014

Is premium bottled tea really premium?


Bekkaku, premium bottled beverage

The price of bottled green tea (500ml) is usually around 150yen. You can get them at supermarkets even for less than 100yen. Kirin introduced a new brand of bottled beverage called Bekkaku. They are highly priced at 216yen for a bottle (375ml). They have green tea, coffee, ginger ale and Chinese tea. For the green tea, they use carefully collected leaves including kabusecha. They use about 2.5 times of amount of leaves than regular products. I would like to know if it is really premium and worth the price.



Tasting

I could find gentle sweet aroma in green-tea smell. It has a good body with decent umami. It changes into sweet kabuse flavor, leaving a rounded glassy aroma in the after taste. It has a certain bitter taste all the way. I thought that I might be able to notice something special more about this tea if I compare it with other brands.

Comparing with other brands

I tasted the Bekkaku with three major brands, Oi,Ocha, Ayataka and Iyemon. Surprisingly, the bitter flavor of Bekkaku was the strongest among the four. However, it was also rich in other flavors. It was not astringent only, but also I could always relish matured umami and some other flavors behind. Bekkaku is the tea with the most profound flavor. It is the aspect that Bekkaku should be highly evaluated for. My impressions of other teas are as follows.
Oi,Ocha: Rich and distinct, Mouth filing roasted flavor
Ayataka: Well-balanced flavor, Aroma is week but I like it the best among the four.
Iyemon: Smooth with light grassy bitterness.



Conclusion

If the aforementioned teas are served in a small tea cup as you enjoy premium tea, I would be able to find Bekkaku the most flavorful. I found that the other three don’t have the flavor and profoundness that premium teas supposed to have. Bekkaku definitely has a richness in its taste. It’s not bad at all. However, I didn’t find an appealing sensation from it as a premium tea. I wonder if a customer can find Bekkaku significantly delicious when getting a bottle at a convenience store. He might not be able to appreciate its value.    I think it might be tough to develop a new market of premium bottled tea. At least, I am happy to have a new choice and hope some other makers will follow this trend. 



Kirin Bekkaku (Japanese)  >>> http://www.kirin.co.jp/products/softdrink/bekkaku/product.html

Thursday, November 27, 2014

To Advance Your Tea Ceremony

Next phase

The three important elements for tea ceremony are space, utensils and manners. I have introduced them before (https://www.facebook.com/notes/everyones-tea/home-tea-ceremony/456225557746430). I would like to introduce one more thing to add in the utensils and the manners. It is going to enrich and advance your tea ceremony and take your tea ceremony to the next phase.

What is special about a tea ceremony?

What is the difference between just making tea and serving tea in a ceremony? You might have noticed it when you watch my previous videos. The five things that the host does during the ceremony are; 1. Bring the implements into the room, 2. Purify the implements, 3. Make the tea, 4. Clean and put the utensils together, 5. Leave the room with implements. Probably, you have no trouble bringing the implements into the room or making tea, but it might be difficult for you to imagine how and why you purify the implements. I think that it is one of the special things about tea ceremony and it makes a difference from just making tea.

Purifying implements

Before the ceremony begins, the implements are all cleaned. However, we dare clean them in front of the guests during the ceremony. We wipe the tea container and tea scoop with a piece of cloth. It is a 27cm (11in) silk, called fukusa. We rinse the tea whisk with hot water in the tea bowl. These steps make the tea which is going to be served special. Some people say that the host even purify his mind as well as he does it.



Just try it

If you want to serve tea with utmost hospitality for your guests, try to purify the utensils before making tea. If you don’t have fukusa, it’ll be okay to use any kind of cloth as far as it’s clean. As I mentioned before, you don’t have to worry about the detailed gestures. Just imitate how others do. What counts is your hospitality. Fold fukusa nicely and gently wipe the items. You guests will definitely notice and appreciate your solicitous consideration in preparing tea. It makes your tea so special and blessed. Purifying items will advance your tea ceremony. 

Fukusa is available on our shop >>> http://www.everyonestea.com/product-list/6


This is the video I’ve mentioned. You can see purifying the tea container and scoop at 0:57.



If you want to do it properly, refer the following videos.
- Procedure of Tea Ceremony
- How to fold FUKUSA silk cloth
- How to purify NATSUME tea caddy
- How to purify CHASHAKU tea scoop