Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Iced gyokuro at Nakamura-Tokichi Tea

The gate with a linen curtain is classic but very nice and appealing.  I could see the stone pathway approaching to the façade across the curtain.  I felt that something gracious will be back there.  We found this gate on the street to Byodoin-temple.  There are some other tea shops or cafes around the area but we decided to drop by this shop because of its welcoming frontage.

Konnichiwa, it’ Kohei(^^)  This is going to be the last post about my Kyoto trip.  We passed the gate and got in the café.  It is an old building and was partially remodeled. I could tell that the room we had a tea was used to be a tatami room, from the old fanlight and ceiling.  But, now it has been changed and you can get in with your shoes on.  The cafe has a very nostalgic atmosphere. 

I ordered a gyokuro tea set for cold brewing.  The set came on a tray with an instruction sheet.  You can prepare your own tea.  The instruction says “First, pour cold water into the teapot and wait for ten minutes.  Then, pour the tea into the glass with ice”   So I did.

It is totally different from ordinary gyokuro brewing.  Instead of brewing with a small amount of water, they told me to brew with plenty of water like sencha brewing.   I was curious how the taste will be.  And after I took a sip, I got the idea.  This gyokuro was very refreshing and at the same time it still had the rounded mellow flavor of gyokuoro.  This is iced gyokuro so it’s meant for a hot summer day.  I think this will be better than ordinary gyokuro on those hot days.  Worth to try it^^  Jah!

Nakamura-Tokichi Tea website (Japanese) >>>
Byodoin branch (We visited) >>>

Monday, September 26, 2011

Temples in Uji, Kyoto

On the third day in Kyoto, we visited Uji.  Mampukuji was the first stop there. 

We were welcomed by an angry guy,

Calm guys,

Smart men,

And Smiley guy

This Zen temple is established by Ingen, a monk from China.  It is said that he introduced Chinese kung-fu style tea.

Mampukuji (Japanese) >>>

Another temple we visited was Byodoin.  It was built about a thousand years ago.  It is considered as a world Heritage.

I believe that most of people who have visited Japan have seen the temple even if they haven’t visited Kyoto.   Can you think of where people can see the temple? 

On the back of 10yen coin.  Jah!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Malebranche , a café in Kyoto station

There is a café in Kyoto station that I’m always interested in.  It is a casual looking café but I could tell they serve Japanese tea by the colorful tetsubin teapots displayed by the window.  I finally had a chance to drop by with my wife.  It was the second night of our trip in Kyoto.  We were tired but wanted to have a break before going back to the hotel. 

Konnichiwa, it's Koheiヽ(^。^)ノ  It was a cozy place.  People from different walks of life were spending their time; a female office worker on the way home, a tourist couple, a group of female students and business people.  Some of them seemed having a tea set that comes with the tetsubin teapot.  I wanted to have something sweet so I didn’t try a tea set here.  I had matcha ice cream and my wife, Hiro had iced latte.  I made an excellent choice.

I have checked about this café, Malebranche on the internet.  (Webpage -Japanese- >>>  They are originally a confectionary shop and they have a popular green tea cookie.   What I was surprised about was that they don’t seem to serve green teas.  So what about the teapots I saw?  I could not find their official menu so I cannot say for sure, but they serve black tea with them.  Some people say they had hojicha, but I’ve never found that someone had green tea.  Disappointing…

Anyway, they are at a located very convenient place.  The ice cream I had was great and their green tea cookie sound very good.  I think it is a nice place to spend your spare time at the end of your sightseeing in Kyoto.  Jah!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Raku ware museum

The ancient tea master, Rikyu, designed utensils to achieve his ideal tea.  An example of this is the Ruku tea bowl.  Rikyu asked a craftsman, Chojiro to make his original bowl.  It is hand molded instead of using the turning wheel.   It is thick but feels lighter than it looks.  It is very earthy and I assume it goes really well with Rikyu-designed tea room that is simple and rustic.  Please imagine that you are in a dark tiny tatami room with clay walls.  The earthy bowl will be perfect in there.  A sophisticated white shiny porcelain bowl would look out of place.   When you hold the Ruku tea bowl, it fits in your hands naturally and you can comfortably feel the warmth of the tea through the thick soft clay.  Some people describe it as you almost feel like drinking tea from your own bare hands.

Konnichiwa, it’s Kohei (^^)ノ  I also visited the Raku ware museum on the Kyoto trip.  After Chojiro, The Raku family continued making Raku bowls.   Now 15th generation of Rakus is making them.  At the museum, I saw the successive potter’s pieces.  What I was most fascinated with was that I had an opportunity to hold the bowls.  I held them for viewing and not to drink tea from them.  We were lead to a tatami room.  As we view a tea bowl in a tea ceremony, we were able to appreciate three Ruku bowls.   Each piece is individually unique.  One has a rough and rustic texture.  Another one is glazed and smooth.  As I held the bowls, I tried to imagine how it’s like drinking tea out of them.  It was totally a different experience from just looking at the pieces in a case.  Jah!

Google image search result for Raku tea bowl (楽茶碗) >>>

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tai-an, tea room designed by Rikyu

Have you heard the name, Sen no Rikyu?   He is the most significant tea master in the history who has perfected The Way of Tea.  He also designed tea rooms with his distinctive aesthetic sense.

Konnichiwa, it’s Kohei.  On our Kyoto trip, we visited Myokian temple.  It has Tai-an that is the only existing tearoom confirmed as Rikyu’s design.  Tai-an is one of the three tea rooms designated as national treasure of Japan. 

You cannot get inside the room but you can view it from outside and see the inside from the windows and entrance.  My impression of Tai-an is indeed very rustic.  The inside which is surrounded with soil wall was dark and extremely small.  It is only two tatami-mat room.  The common size room at that time was 4.5 tatami mats.  I wonder why he wanted to make the room so small? 

Maybe, the limited space and light make people concentrate on the tea itself, or stimulate more mutual bonding among the attendances.  I’m not sure, but I really want to experience a tea ceremony in this kind of space.

The monk at this temple told us that we can find Rikyu’s designs on ceilings, windows and Tokonoma- alcove.  Some of them are elaborately presented to make the room look larger.  Some people say that it seems vast like the outer space.  But the monk said that it’s not that large.  Two tatami mats are two tatami mats and nothing more.  Ha,ha,ha (^^;;   Jah!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Kaboku Tearoom 2

In Japan, tonight is the night that you can see the most beautiful full-moon of the year.  People view and appreciate it.  I guess we are very romantic.  Do you guys have a similar day to appreciate the moon?

Konnichiwa, it’s Kohei.  At The Kaboku Tearoom, other people in my party ordered matcha, genmaicha and hojicha.  I took a sip of all of them.  I thought my choice was the best.  Other teas were also good but my sencha was the most distinctive and different from ordinary tea.  It was worth to try it.

While we were enjoying our tea, a lady came in the cafe and sat at the table behind us.  She seemed to be a foreign tourist who doesn’t speak Japanese.   She was asking if she can get some assists to prepare her tea.  One of the staff helped her at the table by giving instructions in English.  I also noticed that their menu was written both in Japanese and English.  I thought they are friendly to beginners and foreigners.  If you want to enjoy Japanese tea in Kyoto, The Kaboku Tearoom is a good place to visit.  

Try to view the moon tonight.  I guess we are watching the same moon, so it must be beautiful from your place as well.  Jah!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Kaboku Tearoom

I had tea in a cafe called Kaboku at Ippodo Tea. 

I had their best grade sencha.  At the cafe, you brew your own tea.  The staff gave me instructions for brewing tea at our table.  There were plenty of leaves in the pot.

 She told me to pour hot water into a cup and leave it for a moment.  Then I needed to pour the water into another cup which is used as a watercooler.


While pouring the water, I spilled some and it almost scalded my fingers (^^;;  The staff told me to hold the cup like in the picture below.  Yes of course, I knew it.  I was Stupid.  Ordinary Japanese cups have a base, called hama in Japanese.  So, the bottom doesn’t get so hot usually. 

Look at another picture below.  See, I’m holding the cup the wrong way, again, hahaha…  I’m one of those typical people who often forget what was properly taught.
Anyway, the staff told me to be certain about the brewing time.  The correct time for this tea was 50 sec.  You can start timing from the moment you pour the water into the teapot.  I thought it was pretty strict.  I guess it’s because this brewing method uses about twice the amount of leaves to extract generous tea.  As a result, a slight time difference will affect the taste.
The staff also advised not to shake the teapot; slowly tilt it until all the tea is out when you pour the tea into a cup.

The tea color was nice clear yellow and I found an elegant sweetness in its aroma.  I sipped it.  I was shocked with its flavor.  The most distinctive taste was mouth-filling umami..  Umami is never that rich in ordinary sencha.   At the same time, this sencha was very crisp so I could find and enjoy various flavors in it.  At The Kaboku Tearoom, I learned to be more careful about the time and not to scald my fingers, haha..  Jah!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ippodo Tea

I went to Kyoto and visited Susumushi-dera.

And, the temple of bamboo, Jizouin.  

Konnichiwa, it’s Kohei who loves visiting rustic temples and shrines.  

I always look forward to visit tea shops or cafe on my Kyoto’s trips as well.  This time, we stopped at Ippodo tea shop.  They have a long 300-year history.  Now, they have branches all over Japan.  I visited their main store in Kyoto.  They have different kinds of tea in various grades.  Samples are available on the counter.  What I got was sencha (its grade name is Hosen).  It costs 1500yen/100g.   In their main store, they have a cafe named The Kaboku Tearoom, where I had tea as well ^^.  Jah!

Ippodo webpage >>>