Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bright porcelain wares

Bright porcelain wares will make the ambience cool and refreshing.  They look good on your home for summer afternoon tea breaks.  You can proudly offer tea to your families and guests with the coming season.  

New products are available on our shop! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Enshu’s tea room

One of the reasons that I wanted to visit Ocha-no-sato tea museum is a tea house and garden by Enshu Kobori.

The garden has ponds.  You can walk around the ponds and enjoy different sceneries of the garden.  This is not really my type of garden, but it is elegant and beautiful.

The house is a restored architecture of magistrate's office and traditional house with tea rooms.  The design of Enshue’s house is formal and geometric compared to Rikyu’s natural rustic tea room, Taian.  Both of them are simple and nice.

You can have matcha in one of the Enshu’s rooms.  When we visited there, we were the only guests.  We sat on tatami-mats and waited for the tea to be served.  The photo above is taken from the position where I sat.  There was a delightful surprise, there!  At most of tourist spots that serve matcha, the tea is usually prepared in another room and is brought into the guest’s room.  But here, the host appeared with tea utensils in our room, and stared preparing the tea in front of us!!   I was so excited about it.  An assistant served sweets and talked to us.  It was pretty much a casual tea ceremony!   In the meanwhile, another big party of guests came in and joined us.   The host prepared a few servings and the rest of bowls were prepared in the back.  It was a quick 10-15 minutes, but we are very much satisfied with it.  

This is a rare place for tourists where you can see actual matcha preparation.  If you have never seen it before, this is a good place (500yen)! 

Ocha-no-sato tea musume (Japanese):

Friday, May 25, 2012

Matcha milling

Have you seen how matcha is milled?  At Ocnha-no-sato tea museum, you can try milling *tencha into matcha. They give you a small pouch of tencha.  (Tencha is steamed and dried tealeaves, which is the ingredient of matcha.)     

You put tencha into a hole on the top of the stone mill.

Hold the handle and turn the mill slowly (about 1 turn in 1 second).  It is a little heavy, but turns smoothly with a comfortable sound.  You should not turn it too fast for good quality tea.

In a short while, you will find that green fine powders spill from the rims.

After several minutes of milling, you have a pile of matcha on the tray.  Then, the turning sound slightly changes, and you won’t find any more tea coming out of the slit. 

You can take your own milled tea home.

Matcha particle are about 1-20μ(micrometer).  The particles of fine quality matcha range 1-5μ.  Too high friction heat of milling can deteriorate the hue and flavor.  Stone is still the best material for the mill even in the modern time.  Auto-mills at tea factories also use stones.  Slowly turning the mill is nothing exciting, but it is a great experience to try actual matcha making^^

Ochano-no-sato tea museum (Japanese):

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ocha-no-sato Tea Museum

Have you heard of the name, Enshu Kobori (1579-1647)?   He was a feudal lord and tea master.  He added brightness and beauty on former tea masters’ “wabi-sabi” style, and created his own tea.  It is called “kirei-sabi”, or gracefulness and simplicity.  He held about 400 tea ceremonies and invited 2,000 guests in his life.  What impresses me is that he was so versatile.  He was talented not only in tea, but also in calligraphy and poetry, and supervised in pottery making, building gardens, tea houses and even castles.

The other place we stopped on the Shizuoka trip was Ocha-no-sato tea museum, which has a tea house and garden designed by Enshu.  It is not a large museum, but I think it’s an interesting place for tea lovers.  It is the place where I experienced tea picking (seasonal activity).

At the café there, you can enjoy different teas that you cannot usually try at ordinary cafe.  Most of teas sold on the market are blended different teas, so you don’t have many chances to try single breed tea.  But there, they serve different breed teas (such as; yabukita, asatsuyu, saemidori and so on) and also teas from different production regions (such as; Simada, Makinohara and kawane).   For a tea enthusiast like me, it is kind of exciting to choose a tea from that selection.  What I had was yutakamidori breed iced tea.  I wanted to tell you the taste of tea, but it was a few weeks ago.  I only remember that it was good but don’t exactly remember how good it was, haha.  Sorry (^^;;

The menu
You prepare your own tea



Ocha-no-sato tea museum (Japanese):

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tea picking

There are some places where you can experience tea picking for recreation. 
I had chance to try it on the trip to Shizuoka on Apr. 30.

Traditional clothes for tea-picking (The lady in the center)

You pick one bud and two leaves from the tip, which is one of the ways of picking.
Fresh foliages are still soft, so you can easily pick them by lightly pinching and pulling.  I believe that you can also tell  from the photo that the leaves are delicate.

We picked a bag of tea in 20 min.  When you smell the inside of the bag, it has a fresh green aroma which goes through up your nose.  It is quite different from the dry leaves.  I guess that the aroma comes from the odor of leaf alcohol (one of the substances of tea).  

You can take them home.  I wanted to make homemade tea, but I was so tired when I got home. So, I just sautéed them for a dish but I was a bad cook. Hahaha (^^;; 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Importance of brewing conditions

I don’t think that there are many places where one can have gyokuro.  I had the chance of having gyokuro at Gyokuro-no-sato, a tourist spot.  You pass through a classic gate.  You can enjoy the beholding sceneries like the soothing-to-the-eyes pond and the eye-catching green maples, which will definitely amuse you as you walk on the steppingstones approaching the tea house.

We were lead to a large room, and tea wares were displayed there.  But, they didn’t prepare tea in that room.  Tea was prepared in another room, and a staff brought in confectionary and tea.

The staff told us to have the sweets after we enjoy the first serving of tea.  Did you know that you enjoy sweets first at the tea ceremony for matcha, but with gyokuro or sencha, you usually enjoy the tea first?  I think that it makes sense when you consider the thickness of the teas, and it is the best way to relish both tea and sweets.

The served gyokuro was absolutely my taste.  Its roundness was perfect and it smoothly wet my mouth.  Moreover, it had an exquisite balance in flavor.  In preparing gyokuro, brewing conditions have huge impact to the taste.  This tea was slightly lighter than the tea I usually prepare.  It reminds me that this way of brewing is also excellent.

More amount of water was definitely used when compared with the way I do it.  Fewer leaves might have been used, and the temperature must have been pretty low as mine.  I’m not sure for the brewing time.  I’ll have to try some combinations myself.  I’ll get into finding a good recipe at home for a while, haha.

It is good to have tea out.  It inspires me!

The second serving came in a small teapot

Gyokuro-no-sato (Japanese):

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Memorial trip

I have had the same brand of car for twenty years.  This year, I’m thinking letting it go.  Before that, I wanted to go to a memorable trip with it.  We headed to Shizuoka prefecture where you can view Mt. Fuji!! 


One of the places where we stopped by is Gyokuoro-no-sato that has a small garden and a tea house.  Let me introduce some photos.
It is located in a country side surrounded with greens.

You can walk around the garden for free.

There is a tea house. 
 Only the people who pay for tea can get in.Of course, we had tea there.After having tea in a large room, you can look around the house.  This tea house also has a small tea room.  I got to see it. 
Preparation room

Small tea room (about 4 tatami mats)

hanging scroll and flower at tokonoma alcove

Elaborately designed ceiling


Nijiriguchi, crawl-in entrance


Position where the host prepares tea
I found a pretty unique thing there.Look at the sign.  Can you read Japanese?

It is gyokuro ice cream!!
I have seen matcha ice cream or green tea ice cream, but never gyokuoro’s.

 Its flavor … um … I didn’t find significant difference from regular green tea ice cream. But, it tastes really good, and it has actual tea on the top as sprinkles^^  

On the next entry, I’ll introduce the gyokoro we had in the tea house.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What is the advantage of hand-picking?

I think that one of the biggest advantages of hand-picking will be evenness of leaf form and it gives less damage to the leaves.  With a machine, some leaves might be cut in the middle, and big leaves might be included as well. 

I said “Really!?” when I leaned a new trivia which will be another advantage of hand picking.   Before I tell you about it, I would like to show you a picture.  Do you realize that there are different shapes of plants?

Some plants on the near side have an even surface, which you can usually find at common tea fields.  They are trimmed for the machine picking for the reason that I explained in the previous entry.  On the other hand, can you find some plants on the back which wildly grow their foliage?   The surface for hand-picking plants doesn’t have to be even.  So, they are grown wildly.

What is the advantage, then? 

What I learned is that the leaves from wildly grown plants have more amino-acid (umami) than ones from trimmed plants.  Isn’t it surprising?  Maybe because, wildly grown plants have less stress??  I didn’t have a chance to ask details.  But if it is the fact, it will be a very reasonable advantage for hand picking. 

I have to mention that all hand-picked tea is not always from wildly-grown plants.  You can hand-pick from trimmed plants.  But anyway, I was so delighted learning a trivia about hand picking.

wildly grown plants

Friday, May 4, 2012

Beautiful machine-picked tea

As it turned out, the machine-picked tea leaves are very beautiful!  Since you can collect the tea leaves such beautifully by a machine, I might not able to tell the difference in taste between the hand-picked and the machine-picked tea.  I wonder if there is much advantage on expensive hand picking.  What do you think?

By machine picking, you shear the surface of the plants in one stroke and collect the fresh buds and leaves.   I thought that it would contain some old stiff leaves and twigs, but I didn’t find any of them in the collected leaves as shown in the picture above.  I knew that you trim the surface in the fall and spring to make it even and to prevent mixing the old leaves and twigs when harvesting.  But I didn’t know that you can adjust the height of the shearing surface with such great accuracy.  That makes a good quality of harvest possible. 

Now, let’s go back to my question in the beginning.  What is the advantage of hand-picked tea?  I’ll talk about it on the next post.