Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Demono tea, one of categories of Japanese tea

Have you ever tried demono tea? Demono may not be a common name for tea category. I had not heard of the name before studying Japanese tea. How about kukicha (twig tea), mecha (bud tea) or konacha (flake tea)? Have you heard of them? Some of you guys may have tried them. Those teas are regarded as demono, which is by-product tea. When sencha, kabusecha or gyokuro is produced, some unnecessary parts are sifted out. The collection of those parts are the demono. For example the tea made by a collection of twigs is called kukicha. Generally demono teas are more reasonably priced than original tea. Price of demono depends on which tea it is originated. Kukicha from gyokuro is usually expensive than kukicha from sencha.


From left: kukicha (twig tea), mecha (bud tea) and konacha (flake tea)

When you feel like trying some different teas, why don’t you try demono. The tastes are quite different from original teas but at the same time you will also find some hints of original tea in their taste. Aren’t they interesting? If you want light and sweet tea try kukicha. If you prefer rich tea, try mecha or konacha. Konacha is the tea served at many sushi restaurants. Have fun!

3 comments:

  1. Hey there Kohei,

    Thank you so much for your wonderful blog!

    I had been familiar with kukicha, konacha and whatnot, but I wasn't aware of the category name of demono. Interesting bit of vocabulary I picked up here!

    I'm so happy to see that someone is bringing the way of Japanese tea to outsiders. I'm not sure about other people, but we in America usually brew our tea, even Japanese tea, in a very different way than it is brewed in Japan. Of course, just like in Japan, every person, tea shop, etc. has their own method(s) of brewing. There is definitely variation from person to person. Either way, it seems that the tea you get here is often no good, and the prices are way too high, especially considering the low quality of the tea.

    I think that there is more variation between Americans than between Japanese. I've lived in Japan for sometime, and it seems that there is some kind of consensus in terms of how to brew tea, albeit with room for some variation. But generally, I feel like people who know about tea (as opposed to the average person who just drinks tea casually) decent sencha is meant to be made around 70 degrees, with less water than we use here in the States.

    Here, I think we generally use about 2g per 8 ounces (~237 mL), and I think most people tend to do it at around 80-85 degrees. And this is not Chinese green tea or black tea, but what is considered to be the higher quality Japanese sencha. I get this impression because I've lived around the States, in Chicago and the states of Wisconsin and Indiana, and I've been around some of the various tea houses. The "experts" here tend to make tea that is too thin and watery, and slightly bitter from high temperatures.

    Please don't get the wrong impression. I am in *no way* a purist. I think that we should all experiment with foods and drinks and not worry about whether we have prepared them in some "authentic" way (whatever that even means). I learned this lesson in Tokyo, where it seems that authenticity isn't much of an issue, and foods in restaurants are prepared in all sorts of styles, often a mix of the cuisine of various cultures along with the chef's personal preferences. I learned that no matter what, the point is that it should taste good, not that it stick to some tradition.

    So I wouldn't say that someone's way of brewing tea is somehow incorrect just because it doesn't stick to the originating culture's habits. But, I think it is probably true that people (Americans) who are exposed to the Japanese way(s) of brewing tea might be able to enter another realm of tea appreciation, to get into tea and tasting it in a way that has been established throughout time by a long tradition steeped in tea. Damn, sorry for the pun, hehe.

    It sort of reminds me of when I went from drinking Miller Light (equivalent to スーパードライ) to getting into some of the richer, more flavored beers. Suddenly beer became a hobby, almost a way of life for me. I couldn't have imagined that beer could be so interesting, so complex. The same happened when I stopped taking cream and sugar in my coffee. Drinken black, brewed at higher temperatures with less water and also with a higher quantity of beans, coffee became an entirely different, more rewarding endeavor.

    So I wonder, in the same way as I strengthened my cup of coffee and allowing its true characteristics to come out, if it is possible that Americans, with exposure, can learn to appreciate a stronger and more balanced, refined and interesting cup of tea.

    Also I wanted to point out that your English is excellent. Have you lived abroad? How long have you been studying?

    Thanks for spreading the word.


    Alexandar

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Alex-san,

      I enjoy reading your comment and I’m glad to learn your opinion. I quite agree with you. I used to prefer weak matcha at the beginning. As I got used to it, my tea was getting stronger. The same thing happens with other drinks. Once you are able to appreciate the rich flavor of beer or coffee whatever the drink is, you will realize the true quality of it. I sometimes love enjoying my coffee without sugar and cream, but it has to be a good quality coffee.

      I think important both to follow the original way and to go your own way. It is quite beneficial to know the original (traditional) way, which usually includes rational wisdoms discovered through a long history. At the same time, I think that tea has to be tasty as you mentioned. It is important for tea to be fit your taste. One culture develops by taking in other culture and blending it with the local culture. We, Japanese also brought the tea from China several centuries ago and developed it our own way. Americans may not be so familiar with Japanese way of brewing tea now, but it’s not going to be a big problem. I hope someone like you who knows the other dimension of green tea (Japanese way) to introduce more possibility of tea enjoyment in the States.

      I lived in Portland, Oregon about for two years and studied English there. I love the America. People are friendly and I enjoyed many things that I can’t find in Japan, such as TV programs, snacks, the nature and so on. At that time in the 90s, I didn’t find many tea houses there as opposed to a lot of good coffee shops. Green tea that I found was cheep tea bags at supermarket and bottled sweetened tea at convenience stores. I didn’t notice that it was sweetened until I took a sip. It was a big surprise. I didn’t carefully look at the label when I bought it. Before that, I have never thought of existence of sweetened green tea. I got a cultural shock, hahaha. In the 90s in Japan, espresso drinks were not popular yet. People in Japan could not know even the difference between cappuccino and cafe latte. The first thing that I learned in the States was the difference, haha. After a decade, the espresso drinks have got popular here. Now, Starbuck is everywhere. I have heard that tea is getting popular in the States now and there are many tea houses. I believe that, in another decade, people in the states will get enjoying the rich and complexes flavors of green tea.

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