Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Temomicha retains the original form of leaf

The leaves on the left are average sencha, and the leaves on the right are temomicha (manual kneaded tea) I made. The dry leaves look different, but leaves after brewing are also different.

The average sencha leaves are broken and small. On the other hand, the temomicha leaves retain the original form of leaf. Isn’t it interesting? This temomicha is made by beginners, so some leaves are broken. The temomicha made by masters will retain more beautiful original form. I believe that brings out the pure profound flavor of green tea.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mushroom soup in a teapot?

It’s cloudy and cool today. The season for autumn leaves just started in our area. It also the season for Matsutake mushrooms! It is a popular and expensive mushroom in Japan. I had a chance to have Matsutake last night. They were Matsutake rice, Matsutake soup, and grilled Matsutake. They were good, or I think they were good because they are expensive (^.^;) But they weren’t bad at all actually. I really love the soup.

Anyway, you might notice that the soup is in a teapot. This type of pot is called dobin. Of cause, dobin is used as teapots, but sometimes used for soup. The soup made in dobin called dobinmushi. I like dobinmushi. It’s nice to have the soup as pouring it into a little cup yourself (^-^)

Monday, October 25, 2010

What is The Way of Tea, or the Japanese tea ceremony?

Japanese Chanoyu or Sado (Chado) is translated as The Way of Tea. It’s not just about drinking tea. The Way of Tea is a traditional composite art regarding the tea ceremony including the philosophy, mode of behavior, and materialistic elements. The Way of Tea has had huge influences on Japanese cultures.

The tea used for The Way of Tea is called matcha. It is powdered green tea. A teapot is not used to prepare the tea, instead, use a tea bowl and tea whisk; put the matcha into a tea bowl; add hot water; and mix them with a tea whisk. Then people drink it from the bowl.

A tea ceremony is held in a tea room with a host, guests and right utensils. And all the procedures and movements are standardized. It starts from entering to the tea room. Let’s take a look at the basic steps of the tea ceremony.

1. The Guests get into the room
2. The host brings in the utensils into the room
3. The host purifies the utensils
4. The guests have sweets.
5. The host prepares and serves the tea
6. The Guests drink the tea
7. The host clean and put away the utensils
8. The host leaves the room with utensils
9. The guests get out of the room

At our tea lesson, the ceremony for two guests will take about twenty minutes. Some formal tea ceremonies will take a half day, including a meal and a couple of tea.

I think the most important thing in The Way of Tea is the spiritual aspects. The essential is hospitality, or I should say kindness. Thinking of others is important.
The Way of Tea also involves many other spiritual thoughts or lessons.
Such as …
*Coexisting with nature, and blessing of the nature and seasons
*Giving importance to mutual accord and relationship
*Finding beauty in simple, rustic, or imperfect things
And more…
I believe the spiritual aspects have matured tea into The Way of Tea, and you need lifetime training to realize these philosophies.

I think we, Japanese enjoy the tea ceremonies because you can take a break from your daily life, experience the special space and time, and find the peace though the tea (^-^)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Temomicha that I made

We call hand-kneaded tea teamomicha. (Or should I say “hand-rubbed”? Would someone tell me correct English?) The tea on the right is the temomicha that we made at the temomicha workshop. On the left is average sencha. The temomicha is very good in shapes and profound in color.

The leaves we used this temomicha were excellent ones, which were higher-ranking tea in this year tea contest. It should have become great temomicha. It had mellow flavor with rich umami. But, I didn’t like the teamomicha we made. Unfortunately it has a bad flavor of heat damage (+o+) It was made by some beginners including me. Maybe, we were too slow kneading, I don’t know. I’m so disappointed with the taste.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tea kneading workshop 3

You steam the leaves before kneading, and dry after. But we didn’t do the steaming and drying processes in this workshop. Today I will show you the steps of the manual tea making though video. There were about seven steps of kneading. It took about six hours to go through all the steps.  Six hours!! I thought it was a quite long time.

To dry off the steamed wet leaves evenly

To take out the moisture on the surface of leaves by kneading with some pressure
The most active movement

Neading with more pressure, the most powerful movement needed
Breaking the tissue of the leaves and it makes well-infusible tea.

To unravel the lumped leaves

To take off more moisture from the leaves, and role the leaves and make them thinner

To stretch them to the needle-shape

To fix up the shape of each leaf and make them even, and luster the surface by rubbing

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tea kneading workshop 2

Teachers showed how to knead the leaves. I tried to imitate the movement, but it was quite difficult to knead how I wanted. The teachers maneuvered the leaves like dancing in their hands. But the movement of my hands as a beginner, were so gawky like using chopsticks with my left hand. But I was absorbed in kneading and lost track of time by forcusing on the tea leaves. (I finally got how to post a video! yes!!ヽ(^。^)ノ)

The leaves before kneading were wet and soft (on the left), and they got dried and hard by kneading (on the right).

The thing I was surprised was that there is “kata” (the proper way of procedure and movement) in the process of manual tea making. All the tea making process and movement has been formalized, like the tea ceremony. I was impressed how matured the traditional tea-making technique is.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tea kneading workshop 1

Japanese tea used to be manually made by steaming, kneading, and drying. But the most teas are produced by machines today. I attended a tea kneading workshop, which I experienced the traditional tea making. I was very excited about it.

I had read about tea making by hand, and seen some pictures. But I was not quite sure about the exact processes.

It was a wonderful experience. I kneaded the leaves on a tea-drier-table for six hours as I felt the soft touch of leaves, the warmth of the drier table, and the smell of green tea. I was so excited in watching the change of the soft leaves becoming thinner like a needle-shaped tea.

I can naturally understand how tea is made, without a doubt, for I have experienced it myself. If you were to ask me to do it again, I could not do it (^_^;)

Tea drier table ; you place a gas stove in the table and the top panel of the table gets warm.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Confectionery shop with café place, Isuzu-chaya at Okage-yokocho

At Okage-yokocho, we found another sweets shop, Isuzu-chaya. It was a nice old building.

They also have café place. I wanted to have some matcha and sweets, but we had just had akafuku-mochi, and were kind of full. So we didn’t have anything here. I just took some pictures and left. Maybe, the next time when we visit Okage-yokocho, we would like to stop by and have tea time here.

Isuzu-chaya web page >>>

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Akafuku at Okage-yokocho

There are many shops at Okage-yokocho in Ise as I told you on the last post. Ise is a coastal city, so they are abundant in seafood. There are some shops grilling or deep fring some seafood with nice smell at the front of the store. We had some grilled oysters and sea urchin. I don’t like oysters much but Hiro loves them.

At Okage-yokocho, there are some Akafuku stores. Akafuku is a popular confectionery store originally from Ise. I have introduced about Matsuzakaya-Nagoya branch before on my blog. >>> We stopped by the main store of Akafuku for tea. We had Akafuku-mochi at the cafe and the tea served with it was hojicha. Hojicha is roasted tea.

They are actually roasting the tea with their own tea roaster at the store. Hojicha is usually roasted at tea stores. This is very unique for a café to have its own tea roaster. You can smell the nice roasted aroma at the store and I think the aroma stimulates your appetite.

You will find a small room at the store which Akafuku-mochi is made. Two ladies were actually making it in the room when we visited.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Homemade tea by tea farmers from Ise

Another destination on the Mie trip was Ise. In Ise, there is a very famous shrine called Ise-jingu, which has a 20,000 year history. Actually Ise-jingu is a general name of the cluster of 125 shrines. The main shrine has been rebuilt every twenty years since 690 BC. I think it helps to inherit the architectural technologies and maintenance techniques. The next reconstruction ceremony is going to be in 2013.

Ise-jingu is in the nature.

These are not the main shrine, sorry.

Ise-jingu website >>>

There are the streets called Okage-yococho next to Ise-jingu. You will find many shops like cafes, restaurants, or gift shops there. There are also some tea shops. The tea which is produced in this area is called Ise-cha. Ise-cha is not as well-known as Shizuoka-cha, Uji-cha, or Yame-cha. But Actually Mie prefecture is the third largest tea production region in Japan, and makes good teas.

I found interesting tea at Isecha-dokoro, one of the tea shops. Tea farmers usually take their picked tea leaves to a tea factory. So, generally tea is usually produced in factories. But the tea I found was the tea farmers’ homemade tea. I thought it’s very unique, and each farmer would have his or her own commitment and love to their tea. I guess the tea will taste simple and homely. I bought a set of tea from three different farmers. Each package is 30g, and the set was 1,000yen. I’m looking forward to trying them (^-^)

Isecha-dokoro webpage (Japanese) >>>

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Iga Ninja Museum

Today's post is not related to tea, sorry. It's a journal of my Mie trip.
Iga city is well known for ninja. We went to Iga Ninja Museum. It is a small museum of ninja. There was a ninja house, and it looked like a simple farm dwelling. They showed some hidden traps and escape routes in the house on a little tour.

Hidden revolving door

Hidden sword under floor

Iga Ninja Museum webpage >>>

We also visited to Iga-Ueno castle next to the museum.
Iga-Ueno castle webpage (Japanese) >>>

View from the castle

Tea porridge at MokuMoku-Tezukuri-farm in Mie prefecture

This weekend we went to Mie prefecture. Mie is the next prefecture of ours, and it was about 2-3 hours drive. We visited MokuMoku-tezukuri-farm in Iga city. They have a buffet restaurant in their park. I don’t remember how much it was for sure, but I think it was about 1800-1900yen for lunch. In their dishes, there was hojicha tea porridge. I don’t know how it was made, but I guess the rice was boiled with tea, instead of water. It had subtle tea flavor, and I liked it. I usually want to try many different dishes at a buffet restaurant, so I get very small portion for each (^-^) Do you get a lot only for what you like?

MokuMoku-Tezukuri-farm webpage (Japanese)

Monday, October 4, 2010

How to brew gyokuro

How do you usually prepare gyokuro? Gyokuro tastes different by how to brew it. It should be prepared differently from sencha brewing. The differences are the amount and temperature of water, and brewing time. Here I’ll introduce a basic way of gyokuro brewing.

*** Tea wares ***
Very small teapot (100ml/3.53oz) and cups (20ml/0.7oz)
Water cooler (a small bowl)
Example of gyokuro tea set (my past blog) >>>

*** Steps for preparing gyokuro for four servings ***

Pour boiling water into the teapot.

This is to warm the pot and lower the temperature of the hot water.

Pour the water from the tea pot to four tea cups.
This is to warm up the cups, and to cool the water more. One cup of water is about 20ml (0.7oz). If you have water left in the teapot, dump it away.

Pour the water from the cups to water cooler.
This makes the water cooler a little more. When you hold the water cooler with your hands, it should be lukewarm. The correct water temperature is 40-60 degrees Celsius (104-140 deg. F) for Gyokuro. It should be higher temperature for low-grade tea and lower temperature for fine tea.

Put the tea leaves into the tea pot.
One scoop (about 3g / 0.106oz) makes one serving. This time, I put 12g (3g*4servings) of tea leaves into the teapot. The leaves on the tea spoon are 3g, and the leaves in the teapot are 12g.

Pour the water from the water cooler into the teapot.

The amount of water would be just enough to cover the tea leaves.

Put a lid on the teapot and leave it for two minutes.
You should adjust the brewing time for your environment.

After two minutes, the leaves would absorb the water, and be half open.

Pour the brewed tea into cups.
Serve the tea by pouring small amounts into each cup in turns. Repeat until each cup is full. This would make each cup have an even consistency. Serve all the tea in the pot.

Some water were absorbed by leaves, so the each portion would not be too much (about 13ml / 0.45oz). The tea has very rich umami, and you will be surprised how different is it from sencha.

The points of gyokuro brewing are …
1. Very small portion (20ml/serving)
2. Low temperature water (40-60 deg. C / 104-140F)
3. Long brewing time (2 minutes)

You can use same set of leaves couple times. Just refill the teapot with warm water.