Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lid rest, made of bamboo or ceramics?

Futaoki, the lid rest is one of the utensils used in The Way Of Tea. We have been using a bamboo lid rest, but we started using a ceramic one from this month. You use a bamboo lid rest for hira-temae and a ceramics lid rest for the temae with a utensil stand.

In temae, we place the lid rest next to the kettle, and it is used to place the lid of the kettle on it. Or we also rest to the ladle on it sometimes.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sweets of June

This weekend we went to our favorite confection store, Azumaken. We love them for their beautiful looking confections, which I think the best in our town. This sweetfish is confectionary. Doesn’t it look real?

What we bought were these four. (from left ,hydrangea, swallow, firefly, hydrangea)
Can you see the light yellow dots in the third confectionary from the left? They are image of fireflies fling in the dark.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Iced sencha, my recipe of trial and error

It’s still in the rainy season here. But it’s also getting hot toward the summer, and I have more chance to have iced tea rather than hot tea. My choices for drinks at work are usually iced mugicha, sencha, or coffee. The other day, I made iced sencha, and I loved the cold refreshing tea with the nice bitterness. Since then I tried the sencha a couple of times, but I couldn’t make it as good as the first sencha I prepared. There are many way to prepare iced sencha. At this time I brewed strong sencha with hot water, and poured into a glass filled with ice cubes. At the first preparing, I didn’t take a memo. So, I don’t remember the specific recipe. What I remember is I used plenty leaves (to make tea strong), hotter water than usual (for the good bitterness), shorter brewing time (not to ruin the umami by too strong bitterness). I’ll try making the tea today again. Wish me for luck!

Today’s recipe is…

Sencha 5g in 140ml teapot
Ice cubes 160g (about 3/4 of the cup) in 360ml cup

90 degrees C (194F) water 140 ml
Infuse 1 minute

Pour the tea into the cup with ice


It was almost as good as I had before, but slightly better. I liked it, but this recipe will be perfect with a little adjustment. I could have used less leaves (maybe 4 g?) or little lower water temperature (maybe 85-80C, 185-176F). I’ll try again sometime!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Flowers of the day, Apr 14 – Jun 16

I introduce the flowers used in our tea lessons.

When I came to the lesson (May 26), the light of the tea room was not on yet. I thought the tokonoma looked nice with just the dim light, and took a picture.

April 14

April 28

May 6

May 19

May 26

Jun 2

Jun 9

Jun 16

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Marujoku, round utensil stand

Marujoku is a rounded type of tana, utensil stand. You can use it in either summer or winter. We began to practice the temae with marujoku since the last week. Before the lesson, I assembled the marujoku.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Original design saucer

I love simple design saucers. I know there are some nice simple classic Japanese saucers, but I was kind of looking for something little more modern. I looked for it on the internet and many shops. But I could not find the one that satisfies my specific taste. So, I designed it myself, and asked an Aizu-lacquer ware maker to produce it!! It is a simple modern saucer that also has a hit of Japanese classic saucers in the design. The saucer goes with Japanese cups and fit in a Japanese tea setting well. I really satisfy with my original design saucer!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Manner regarding saucer

What saucer do you use? I use black urushi lacquered saucers, especially when I serve tea for my guests. Just adding saucer make the tea look much better! Here is a quiz for you about a manner regarding Japanese saucers.

How do you serve tea with a saucer for guests?
A. Put the cup on a saucer, and serve the cup and saucer together.
B. Place a saucer in front of the guest on the table first, and then put the cup on it.

Which do you think would be better?  A or B?

The answer is …

A. Put the cup on a saucer, and serve the cup and saucer together.

Let me elaborate it a little more. When you carry the tea to the table, putting a cup on a saucer might be little unstable. You don’t want to spill the tea, so don’t have to put the cups on saucers then. You put the cups and saucers separately on a tray, and carry the tray to the table.

Place the tray on tatami-mats or on a side table, and then put the cup on the saucer ...

And serve them together. In addition, if the cup has a noticeable motif or design, it will be the front of the cup. So, serve the cup with the front face to the guest. And if the saucer has wood-grain pattern, place the saucer with the wood-grain horizontally to the guest.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The best gyokuro by appearance??

Hello, everyone! How are you today? We have the rainy season before summer, which lasts about a month. It just started this week. But today it’s sunny, a break from the rainy days. It will be very hot and humid today. I hope you taker, and have a nice day!

I had a chance to see many different teas at the meeting I joined this weekend. There were three gyokuro in the selection. We had to decide the best gyokuro out of the three. It was blind testing. There was no information about the breed, producer, or production region. We just checked the leaves and brewed tea by watching, smelling and tasting.

Appearance of the leaves
Tea “O” had a profound color and luster, and I thought “O” was the best in the appearance. Tea “N” was a little yellowish and dryer on the surface, and I thought “N” was not good.

Color of the brewed tea
Tea “O” had the typical whitish gyokuro color, and I thought “O” was the best in the color.

Aroma of the brewed tea
“O” and “P” smelled nice to me. Good gyokuro should had the smell called “Oika” which is something similar to the smell of green laver.

Taste of the brewed tea
Despite the good looking leaves, Tea “O” was not so good in the taste. “O” was kind of weak. “P” had a matured favor, but not great. “P” was not bad, just okay.

<<< Click here for the large picture

I could not decide which one is the best. I was kind of leaning toward to “O” because of the good looking leaves. The experts who attended this meeting also could not find the crucial advantage in any teas, or nail down the best. There was a striking comment that one of the experts said in the end of the meeting. It was “At many tea fairs, people tend to concern much about the appearance of tea, and involuntarily give better points on good looking teas. So it’s important that you really try to see the actual aroma and taste.” I realized that I had the preconceived opinion by the appearance.

We had another chance to taste the three gyokuro later again. This time the teas were repaired with warm water, like the practical brewing. (Boiled water is usually used at official tea tasting) I was sure this time, “O” had the rich umami and well balanced flavor. It was very good, and I voted “O” for the best gyokuro. Eventually, “O” was selected for the best, and the good looking tea was the best tea this tea meeting. But can you really select a great tea by the aroma and taste? I thought I want to experience more tea tastings.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Selecting the sample teas for tea workshops

Nihoncha (or Japanese tea) instructor association has some sample teas to provide instructors and advisers, which are used for tea workshops. There was a meeting this weekend to select this year’s sample teas, and I joined it. Some tea producers brought some teas, and we did tea tasting. We decided one tea for each type, sencha, deep-steamed sencha, tamaryokucha, kabusecha, and gyokuro.

We checked the teas from different aspects, such as appearance of tea leaves, and color, aroma and taste of brewed tea. I was very excited to see and taste many different teas at the same time. It was very important experience (^-^)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Powdered genmaicha at kaiten-zushi (sushi-go-round) restaurant

There are two reasonable kaiten-zushi (sushi-go-round) restaurants in our town. One is Kappazushi. The other one is Sushiro, which is our favorite. We love Sushiro’s sushi better, and often go there. The other day, we went to Kappazushi for the first time in a long time.

I found a very unique tea at Kappazushi. It was powdered genmaicha (brown rice tea)! I believe I’d never seen one before. I have seen powdered green tea at many other places. I have introduced the powdered green tea before, which was served at the Sushiro.
But this is powdered genmaicha.

Putting the powder into a cup by shaking the container a couple of times

Kappazushi also has a hot-water faucet at each table.

It was nice brown. Surprisingly, it tasted good! It was almost as good as real genmaicha.

At Kappazushi, you can take plates of sushi from the conveyor lane, like at ordinary kaiten-zushi restaurants. But, Kappazushi has a unique system.
You can make orders from a touch panel at your table.

A miniature bullet train will bring your sushi to your table!! They have another special lane for the trains. Isn’t it cool? Kids must love it!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Teas from the expressway

Do you have to pay for throughways in your country? Japanese expressway is toll way. We drove to Kamakura and Hakone, and took the expressway. The toll from Hakone (Atsugi) to our home (Setoshinano) was about 6000yen. I think it is expensive. The distance was roughly 300km. There are some rest stops on the expressway. At the rest stops, there are food stands, restaurants, and gift shops. You will also find free tea fountains (^-^) You can have free sencha and hojicha. It’s nice. I like it.

When we take the expressway towards Tokyo, we drive through Shizuoka prefecture where the largest tea production area in Japan is. You can see some tea fields along the way. The poles standing in the field have fans on the top of them. They are to prevent from frost damage.

There is our favorite rest stop on the way. It is Fujikawa service area. The reason is Mt. Fuji. You can see Mt. Fuji from the rest stop. We could not see it on this trip because of the cloud, like the picture on the left. We took the picture on the right about two years ago on another tirp.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Gaiwan?? Tea cup with lid

Cups with lid are often used when you serve tea for guests in Japan. They are kind of formal. They have a lid not to get the tea cold easily.

A man who read my blog asked me what is the name for this type of cup. I’ve been calling this type of cup just a cup with lid. Many Japanese tableware shops also call them a cup with lid, which is futatsuki-yunomi or futatsuki-sencha in Japanese (futa=lid, tsuki=with, yunomi or sencha=a type of tea cup). It doesn’t seem there is a certain name for it.

To answer his question, I looked up the internet and my dictionary. The cups with lager lid than the cup body (like this picture) are sold at Japanese table ware shops, and called futatsuki-yunomi or futatsuki-sencha. On the other hand, the cups with smaller lid than the cup body are mostly sold at Chinese tea ware shops, and called gaiwan. Gaiwan is not only used as a cup but also as a teapot. We do use gaiwan for Japanese susuricha, but I could not find the word, gaiwan in my Japanese dictionary. So, gaiwan may not be proper Japanese, and seems Chinese name, used in Japanese as an imported word. Japanese tea culture and also kanji characters are originally from China. We have many similar aspects, so I have never gave a thought if it is Japanese or Chinese.
After all, I could not find the certain name for the tea cup with lid in Japanese. What I can say is that we, Japanese typically call it just a cup with lid, futatsuki-yunomi or futatsuki-sencha.