Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Difference between sencha and gyokuro leaves

Hello, everyone. I learned the way to distinguish dry leaves of sencha and gyokuro at the workshop. They looked almost the same, but gyokuro leaf had slightly deeper green hue. And gyokuro and sencha leaves had similar aroma, but gyokuro had a smell that sencha does not have. In Japanese it is described as a smell like seaweed. It might not sound delicious in English, but it’s kind of propounded aroma which you cannot find in sencha.

Since I started studying Japanese tea, I've tried preparing sencha in many different conditions to find my favorite way of brewing. It is pretty fun. You will have different tea by different brewing conditions. So far, I like cold water brewing which you can bring out amazing umami (the fifth taste sensation, delicious flavor) from sencha. I’ll report you when I find my ultimate brewing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tea tasting

Today I’ll talk about tea tasting that I learned at the Japanese tea adviser work shop. Teas are evaluated with two aspects, appearance of dry tea leaves and substance of brewed tea.

150g of dry tea leaves are placed on a tray and evaluated the appearance. You can touch and smell them as well. Good tea leaves for sencha should be deep green, luster on the surface, rolled hard. Brewed tea tasting uses 3g tealeaves brewed with boiling water in a white porcelain cup. You evaluate water color, aroma and taste. Well balance of bitterness and umami, and refreshing aroma and after taste are good quality for sencha.

It was difficult to tell good or bad by smell of dry leaves and brewed tea color for me. Dry leaf color and brewed tea taste were easier aspects to tell the difference.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Japanese tea workshop

How are you doing everyone? This weekend I took a workshop for Japanese tea adviser. I learned tea tasting and instruction technique. It was very interesting. We did little tests of telling names of tea out of ten kinds by just watching and smelling dry tea leaves, or telling best quality sencha out of three. Other test was telling best sencha by selling and drinking brewed sencha. I hadn’t had a chance to see or taste so many different kinds and qualities of teas at once. It was valuable experience.

This is a special tea spoon for tea tasting, which was presented to every participant.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Flower of the day, chinshibai Sep 9

How are you doing everyone? There's a clear blue sky as far as the eye can see. We have autumn skis these days. You can find autumn foodstuffs in grocery stores, such as Pacific saury, sweet chestnuts, various kinds of mushrooms, and pears. I’m going to be busy enjoying them.

I haven’t introduce the flower from Sep 9 lesson. This is called chinshibai. It was used on Jun 3 lesson which had handsome-foliage I liked better.

Have a nice day!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hojicha at Japanese restaurant

Hello, everyone. I had a chance to have Japanese cuisine including a full course meal at a fancy restaurant. The tea served there was Hojicha, roasted green tea. Hojicha has refreshing taste and goes well any kind of meal. Serving Hojicha with a nice cup and saucer was imposing to me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nice tea with two minute brewing with 55 degree C water (131F)

Good morning everyone! I opened a new package of regular sencha this morning. The leaves are smaller than I expected. It’s not good for regular sencha, but the taste was not so bad. I liked nice umami with two minute brewing with 55 degree C water (131F).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tea got bitter with 20 degree C water.

Hi, everyone! I tried the three time brewing method with different temperature water, again.

I changed some conditions from before.
Amount of tea leaves: 10g >>> 6g
First brewing: 10min >>> 5min, 5 degree C >>> 20 degree C
Second brewing: The same as before
Third brewing: 1 minute >>> 5 seconds

First brewing – five minutes with cold water (20 degree C, 68F)
For The rich umami (the fifth taste sensation, delicious flavor)

Second brewing – One minute with warm water (50 degree C, 122F)
For The great harmony of umami and bitterness

Third brewing – 5 seconds with boiling water
For The bitterness

I couldn’t get satisfied result. The first tea got bitterer with warmer water, and less richness with shorter brewing time and few tea leaves. The third tea was still too strong. I want to keep trying to find out my favorite recipe.

Have a nice day!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Flower of the day, Sep 14

How is it going everyone? The mornings and evenings are now quite chilly here. This is a flower from this week lesson. I asked our master the name of flowers, but I forgot what is. Have a nice day!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ultimate sencha brewing? II

How are you today, everyone? As I told you yesterday I tried brewing three times with different water temperature, which can bring out full quality of sencha, and you can enjoy three different teas.
Sencha: 10g (0.35oz)
Amount of water: 100ml (3.2oz)

First brewing –10 minutes with cold water (5 degree C, 41F)
For The rich umami (the fifth taste sensation, delicious flavor)
This is how much 10g tea leaves and 100ml water look like.
I used ice cubes to cool down the water.

This is the tea leaves right after adding cold water.

Waited ten minutes

Second brewing – 1minute with warm water (50 degree C, 122F)
For The great harmony of umami and bitterness
This is how tea leaves looked like after first brewing.

Waited for one minute

Third brewing – 1 minute with boiling water
For The bitterness
This is how tea leaves looked like after second brewing

From the right, first, second, third brewing teas.

**Result **
The First tea: Totally different from regular sencha, amazing umami
Color of brewed tea – Clear greenish yellow
Smell – Faint sweet aroma
Taste – Very rich umami more like gyokuro than sencha, Slight sweetness and bitterness

The second tea: Good balance in the taste
Color of brewed tea – Murky green with slight yellow
Smell – Very little aroma
Taste – Rich bitterness and umami A great harmony of various flavors and good taste-balance sencha

The third tea: Too strong with bitterness
Color of brewed tea – Murky green
Smell – full aroma of bitteness
Taste – Too bitter so I mixed it with hot water.

**Conclusion **
Overall, every tea had rich flavor. Personally, I would prefer little more milder teas. So I will use fewer tea leaves (5-7g) for the next time. The third tea was too bitter. I think one minute brewing was too long. Five seconds will be enough. The second tea was just well brewed sencha. The first tea was amazing, so you definitely should try it!!

Have a good day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ultimate sencha brewing?

Hi, everyone! I am studying about Japanese tea to get a qualification as an adviser. I found interesting brewing method of sencha in the textbook.

It is…

brewing three times with different water temperature.
This can bring out full quality of sencha, and you can enjoy three different teas.
Sencha leaves: 10g (0.35)
Amount of water: 100ml (3.2oz)

First brewing – Ten minutes with cold water (5 degree C, 41F)
For The rich umami (the fifth taste sensation, delicious flavor)

Second brewing – One minute with warm water (50 degree C, 122F)
For The great harmony of umami and bitterness

Third brewing – One minute with boiling water
For The bitterness

How interesting! I have to try it.
I will report you the result tomorrow. Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pottery festival in my town

How are you doing everyone? This weekend a pottery festival called setomono-matsuri was held in my town, Seto-shi in Aichi Japan. There were many stalls on the main street. They were ceramic makers, craftsmen, wholesalers and retailers, and food venders as well. You could find various kind of ceramic products. I found some nice teapots and cups for my shop. I’ll post them in the future. Please look forward to it.

Take care!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sweet of the day, chestnuts Aug 9

Hello, everyone! The sweets from the last lesson were chestnuts look confection. Our master got them from a different sweets shop as usual. That was classic favorer simple sweets. What bothered me little was the trace of chopsticks on the chestnuts. We should have handled them better (^_^;)

Take care!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The manner of guest; drinking matcha

Good morning everyone! It’s cool this morning. The fall came already here.

I have talked about the manners of guest; brief steps of having matcha. They were more like manners used in a tea ceremony. But when you have match at a café or friends house, you don’t have to know them. You want to know more specific manners. So, today let’s take a closer look at the step 5 in the brief steps of having matcha.

1. Take the tea bowl with your right hand.

2. Place the tea bowl on your left palm and steady it with your right hand.

3. Raise the tea bowl little with your head down to express thanks

4. Turn the tea bowl clockwise twice
with your right hand in order to avoid its front.
Turn about 90 degrees, and the front of the tea bowl should be on the left
when you drink matcha.

5. Drink matcha to the last sip

6. Wipe the place where you drank from
with your right thumb and index finger.
Wipe your finger on your kaishi (paper)

7. Turn the tea bowl back so that the front faces to you.

8. Place the tea bowl with your right hand.

Turning a tea bowl could be interesting manner to people from other countries. If you can drink matcha with right manner, I’m sure you will impress people in Japan.

Have a nice day!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Flower of the day, sunflower Aug 2

Hi, everyone. The flower at Aug 2 lesson was small sunflower. It was pretty, but it’s not Japanese style to me. I wonder if sunflower was also enjoyed as tea flower in old days. Have a good day!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Matcha dessert for the summer at Tokoname

Good morning everyone!

Look at the size of a bowl of the shaved ice with matcha (kind of green tea) syrup. It was huge. I think there are fine shaved ice and bad shaved ice, and this one was fine shaved ice I liked. And more, it had condensed milk on top of it. Condensed milk is my favorite topping for shaved ice. I pretty much satisfied with it!

We also had a cup of iced matcha late. It was a unique late. Can you see green thing in a cup on the left? It is ice made of matcha. You make a late by pouring milk into the matcha ice cup. It was pretty nice.

We enjoyed the ice and late at a fancy café when we ware strolling around the historic district of Tokoname. In the district, there are many pottery studios, galleries, restaurants, cafes, and general stores. Most of them are renovated old ceramic factories, so they have some kind of nostalgia. It was very interesting place to strolling around.

Have a nice day!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Teapot artist at Tokname

I am looking for a white hohin (small teapot for gyokuro) for my store. I visited to a teapot artist at Tokomame this weekend, who is one of certified traditional craftsmen of Tokoname ware. He produces red, black, gray, and white teapots. I believe not many artists make white teapot at Tokoname. He showed me how to make a teapot. It was amazing. The clay transformed intriguingly like a living creature. I asked him a sample hohin with my original design. I’m really looking forward to it.

Take care!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Difference between hard and gentle pouring II

How are you everyone? The other day I did a little experiment for how the way of pouring effects to the taste of tea. It ended in complete failure. So, today I tried it again in another condition.

1g of sencha
80ml 75 degree C water
1 minutes brewing

Hard pouring: Pour swiftly from height
Gentle pouring: slowly tilting the kettle and teapot, and pour quietly
I did them both time when pouring hot water into the teapot and brewed tea from the teapot to a tea cup.

Tea gets bitter with hard pouring, and milder with gentle pouring.
The tea on the left in the picture is hard pouring tea, and the color is little darker than gentle pouring tea on the right. The hard pouring tea got little stronger with bitterness. At the gentle pouring tea, I could taste sweetness in less bitterness. I don’t say which is better, and it dispends on people’s preference. It was a slight difference. I think temperature of hot water, brewing time, and kind of tealeaves much effect to the taste. It will be nice if you can make really good use of this pouring method according kinds of tea and people’s preference.

Sorry for my bad English. Did you understand what I was trying to say?
Have a grate day!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New utensil stand and nightmare

Good morning everyone! I had another lesson last night. I started practicing a new temae with kuwakojoku, a kind of utensil stand. Kuwakojoku stand is usually used in the summer. Most of steps are the same as marujoku stand steps. The difference is what you display when you leave the tea room. With kuwakojoku, you leave natsume, ladle, fresh-water container, lid rest, and waste-water receptacle on the stand. This display is called sokazari (picture on the right).

As learning the tea, I often wonder reasons for the steps, movements or manners in temae. Here comes another nightmare with kuwakojoku temae. When you pick up the tea bowl, you need to use your right hand sometimes and left hand some other times. It’s confusing which hand I should use. There should be decent reasons for them, but now I’m busy just remembering the steps. I hope the time when I realize the reasons will come.

Take care!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bottles of green tea

Hi, everyone! There are many brands of tea in bottles in Japan. I sometimes don’t know which one I want. I’ve tended to choose strong flavor sencha, but this summer I realized that I rather like regular sencha. The strong flavor sencha was around these couple of years. I may have been swayed by the trend. Or I just want strong sencha in the winter and refreshing regular sencha for the summer. What I chose this time was “Oh-i, Ocha” which is regular sencha and a standard brand tea for years. Wow, how nice the well-balance of bitterness and sweetness is! That’s the standard! I love the refreshing regular sencha for the summer! I'm seeing regular sencha in a new light.

Have a nice day!