Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Deep-steamed sencha served at a tea shop

Hello, everyone! We went to a tea shop, Ochahiko in my town, to buy teas for year-end gift. We got a package of sencha and kabusecha for our tea master (picture on the right). I think it was kind of the same thing we got for the summer gift. We also got gyokuro for our parents.

At the tea shop, they served us a cup of sencha while we are waiting for the rapping. It was deep-steamed sencha. Brewed tea color was dark green, and it was darker than what I usually prepare. I think they used plenty of leaves to prepare the tea. It was strong, but wasn’t much bitter. It had rich green tea flavor and nice umami. I pretty liked it.

Our shop is closing between Dec.30 to Jan.5 for the winter holidays. I’m taking days off, so I won’t update this blog for a while. Thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope everyone has a great new year and all is well with you!! See you in the next year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Rice cracker, Senbei

Hello, everyone! My today’s snack with tea was Senbei, Japanese rice cracker, which is very popular in Japan. Many people enjoy senbei at their tea time. There is various kind of senbei. The one I had today was kind of thin, but very basic type of syo-sauce flavored senbei. Senbei is crunchy and has nice roasted soy-sauce and backed rice flavor. It really goes well with green tea. I wish you a happy Christmas!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bottle of strong sencha

Hey, everyone. I’ve got a bottle of sencha. What I got is O-i, Ocha RICH from Itoen. I have introduced regular O-i, Ocha before. This is stronger than regular O-i, Ocha. I think this is richer in bitterness, and I’m not sure if it has richer umami. The accentuated bitterness softens umami impression. It will be good with sweets or at meals. But personally I prefer regular O-I, Ocha. Have a nice day!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reasonable sencha

Hi, everyone! When I went to a grocery store yesterday, I found some reasonable teas. They were about 300-400yen / 100g. They were all Itoen brand, and regular, deep-steamed, and matcha-flavored sencha, and hojicha. I haven’t try them, but I think those reasonably priced teas will be appreciated for your daily. I have hard Itoen does some good work producing regular-quality sencha. I want to try them sometime. Have a nice day!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

It snowed on Saterday.

How was your weekend everyone? Here in Seto, it’s been very cold in these few days by a cold wave covered the Japanese archipelago. On Saturday, my MINI was covered by snow. As I mentioned last week, we are doing general house cleaning on weekends. This weekend, I painted preservative on our wood deck. It was tiring and outside was freezin. I was wearing garbage plastic bag (T_T) Sorry there is nothing about tea today...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Removal tea strainer teapot

Hi, everyone. When you look for a teapot for Japanese tea, tea strainer will be one of an important factor to choose a pot. Today, let’s talk about a teapot with removal tea strainer.

Good things about a teapot with removal tea strainer are…
-There is no chance of pouring problems because of clogged strainers like with fixed tea strainers.
-It can prevent continued brewing of the tea by taking out the strainer with leaves when brewed tea still remains in a pot.
-It is easy to clean the strainer.
-It is relatively reasonable.
-These strainers are usually made of metal or plastic, and have fine mesh. So, it can be good for either regular or deep-steamed sencha.

There are some negative points about a teapot with removal tea strainer.
-The brewing space is not as large as fixed strainer teapots. Therefore, it does not brew quite as well as fixed strainer teapots.
-It is not good for preparing few serving. There is space below tealeaves with this kind teapot, and the leaves will not be soaked enough in little water.

I usually use this type of teapot for casual use, like my daily tea at work or at friends gathering. Please think about both merits and demerits of strainers when you look for a teapot. Take care and have a good weekend!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Our master showed us her temae.

Hi, everyone! This morning it snowed little in Seto. It doesn’t snow much here. It may be only several times in a season. I think it used to snow much more when I was a kid. An effect of global warming? I hope nations will reach an agreement at COP15.

Last night at the tea lesson, our master played a host and showed us her temae. It was the second time since Hiro started taking the lesson, and an important opportunity to us to see her temae. I watched her preparing the tea with eager curiosity, and was trying to learn anything from her performance. Her flowing movement was just beautiful and practical. Even attitude of her hands holding the tea bowl was nice and graceful, and different from our uncouth one. I notice that my movement was crude, especially when hitting the tea bowl edge with teascoop to flick off excess matcha remained on it. Our master’s gesture was gentler. I had a lot of things to learn by watching her temae. Have a nice day!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fish-shaped cake, taiyaki!

Hi, everyone. Today, I had taiyaki, Fish-shaped cake at my tea time. Taiyaki is pretty popular in Japan. The taste is not anything related to fish. The classic taiyaki is fish-shaped pancake stuffed with bean jam. So, it is just a sweet cake. The outside pancake is brown and sweet been past inside is dark gray for the classic taiyaki. But, taiyaki is evolving with times. New staffing came out, something like chocolate, or custard. And now white taiyaki is in fashion! The one I had today was that the white outside was a kind of rice cake, and custard was filled inside. It was so good!! I enjoyed with sencha, which I brewed with high temperature water (about 90C) to bring out rich bitterness. Have a nice day!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Haiyu kannyu sencha cup

How are you doing, everyone? Japanese people have a custom of doing a general year-end cleaning of both the inside and outside of their homes to greet the New Year. I used to do it in the last week of the year, but it has always been kind of stressful. So, we decided to do the cleaning little by little on each weekend in whole December. This weekend, I cleaned the bathroom, and Hiro did the cupboards and drawers in the kitchen (^-^)

The other day, I went to a potter’s studio to pick up new tea cups for my shop. The potter served me nice sencha with the cup. The cup is kannyu finished. Kannyu is cracking on the surface, which is created by difference of coefficients of clay and glaze. The cracking on a brand new piece (on the left in the picture) is not so obvious. As you use the cup the cracking appears more clearly and gives it a stately look (on the right). I think a charm of kannyu is that you can enjoy the gradual change in cracking expression as you use it, and make one-of-a-kind your own piece. I hope I can introduce it in the near future on our shop. Have a nice day!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Flower of the day, Nov 25, 30, Dec 2 and 9

How are you doing everyone? It is a chilly rainy day here in Seto. The maple tree in my back yard shed its leaves.

Tsubaki from Nov 25 lesson.
I like the modest arrangement with small vase and simple flower.
It is subdued , but see how great it looks in tokonoma (alcove)

The item displayed in tokonoma on Nov 30 was not flower, it was a an incense burner

Tsubaki again on Dec 2
I think tsubaki is very popular as winter tea flower. The leaves on the branch behind were autumn colored, and add a seasonal flavor.

Tsubaki with a hanging vase on Dec 9

Have a nice day!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Regular sencha vs. Long (Deep) steamed sencha

Hey, everyone! I talked about Regular and Deep steamed sencha for the last two days. Today I’ll talk a little bit more about them.

Regular sencha
Color: Clear yellow
Taste: Great harmony of umami and bitterness

Deep-steamed sencha
Color: Greener and murkier than regular sencha by particles of broken leaves slipped through the strainer.
Taste: Richer than regular sencha but less bitterness, weaker aroma

These are general perceptions for regular and deep-steamed sencha. But, they are not always true. The tastes depend on area of production, producer, and grade. The picture is for my two minute brewed regular sencha and one minute brewed deep-steamed sencha. I don’t think my deep-steamed sencha has less bitterness than my regular sencha. They are almost the same, but the type of bitterness is different. Or I should say that those teas have different flavor. My regular sencha has rich earthy umami and the bitterness comes after. The straight bitterness and umami come together at the deep steamed sencha.
Popularity of each sencha varies by region. I like both types and have them daily. The process of finding your favorite tea is kind of fun, and I always look for a new tea myself. I hope you try some of these teas and find your own favorite. Have a nice day!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Preparing regular sencha and Long (Deep) steamed sencha

Good morning everyone! Yesterday I talked about regular sencha and long steamed sencha. But my translation of “fukamushi sencha” was not quite correct. I should have said deep-steamed sencha instead of long-steamed sencha. Hereinafter, I call it deep-steamed sencha. Sorry.

Preparing of either sencha
Water: 60-90ml/serving 70-90 degree C (140-194 F)
Higher grade sencha: Use small amount (60ml) and low temperature (70degree C) water
Low grade sencha: Use plenty (90ml) and high temperature (90degree C) water
Leaves: about 2g /serving
The difference for preparing regular and deep-steamed sencha is brewing time.
Regular sencha: 1-2 min
Deep-steamed sencha: 45 sec – 1 min

Usually deep-steamed sencha leaves have more broken leaves and are finer; therefore infuse faster than regular sencha does. And it is better to use fine-mesh strainer for deep-steamed sencha. See that 1 min brewed deep-steamed sencha on the left in the picture is even darker than 2 min brewed regular sencha on the right. I used 70 degree C (140F) water for both here.

What I introduce here is just a standard brewing. You can try different amount or temperature of water, different amount of leaves, or infusing time. You will be surprised by the great potential of sencha. Today, I also wanted to talk about the taste, but maybe tomorrow. See you soon. Have a nice day!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What are Regular sencha and Long steamed sencha

Hello, everyone! Sencha is the most common and produced green tea in Japan. Do you know that you can categorize sencha into two major types? When producing sencha, the tea leaves are steamed about 30 seconds, which is a regular steaming time. This is regular steamed sencha (on the right in the picture). It is called “sencha” or “futsu-sencha”, means regular sencha. Regular sencha does not mean regular quality sencha in Japan. It means regular steamed sencha. It’s kind of confusing, so you need to be careful about it. The other type is long steamed sencha (on the left), which is steamed about twice to three times longer than regular sencha is done. Longer steaming makes leaves more fragile and yellowish. Therefore, Long steamed sencha has more broken leaves and leaves are usually finer. Please look at the label at your sencha package. Does it tell you if it is “futsu-sencha” or “fukamushi-sencha”? If it doesn’t, look at your leaves and compare with the leaves in the picture here. Tomorrow, I will tell you about the brewing and teats of these sencha. Talk to you tomorrow!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cold green tea at misokatsu restaurant in Nagoya

Hi, everyone! Yesterday we took a half-day off, and went to an orchestra concert, which Hiro won as a prize from cosmetics. They played some Christmas music and popular songs everyone is familiar, so we could enjoy them very much. They played soft and beautifully sometimes, and sometimes powerful and dynamically. It was amazing to create one musical composition by many players. I thought this live was a kind of performing art!

Before the concert, we had dinner at a famous misokatsu restaurant in Nagoya, Yabaton. Misokatu is deep-fried breaded pork with miso-sauce. Misokatsu there was so-so to me. They served cold sencha in a glass. I like cold green tea with fried meal. Tea refreshes your mouth! Have a nice day!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tea room with sunken hearth

Hello, everyone! I had another tea lesson last night. Hiro was not feeling well and skipped the lesson. I did a winter-style temae, using a sunken hearth instead of a brazier. I think something special about tea room is the sunken hearth, which an ordinary Japanese tatami room doesn’t equip. The sunken hearth is usually used from Nov. through Mar, and the brazier for Apr. to Oct. We wanted to practice more of brazier temae, so we are one month late of starting sunken hearth. Have a nice day!

I asked my master to be in my picture. It is her first appearance in a while!!
If you want to compare with the summer setting >>> Picture of hirademae setting with brazier

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tasting bottles of Japanese green tea

How are you doing everyone? As I mentioned yesterday, I tried four bottles of major Japanese brand tea. They were different in taste, and all good. I don’t say one is good and another one is bad, it depends on your preference and occasions.

From the left
1. “O-i, Ocha” from Itoen
Color: Light yellowish orange
Taste: Good bitterness, a sense of roasted flavor
2. “Ayataka” from Coca-cola Japan
Color: Darkest in these four, little murky
Taste: Strongest, Full body, bitterness in the after taste
3. “Namacha” from Kirin
Color: Light yellow
Taste: Most mild in these four, mellow and sweet
4. “Iemon” from Santory.
Color: Green -yellow
Taste: Good bitterness, a sense of roasted flavor

I personally liked Namacha best. My wife Hiro liked O-i,Ocha best. O-i,Ocha and Iemon were similar. They both have pronounced flavor, but you can taste the flavor light after you sipped O-i,Ocha, and Iemon has the flavor in aftertaste. Now, I know the difference of these four, so I can choose a right bland at a right occasion.

Namacha: When you want to enjoy tea itself, the sweetness will be nice.
O-i,Ocha or Iemon: At meal, and when you are thirsty, the fine bitterness will refresh your mouth.
Ayataka: For teatime with confectionery, the rich flavor will suit with sweet.

This is my personal opinion. People will have different tastes in these green teas. You should try them yourself! Have a nice day!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bottles of Japanese-brand green tea

Hello, everyone. It’s in December, now! A tea lover from Singapore told me that they can buy a bottle of Japanese-brand green tea there. It is “O-i, Ocha” from Itoen. It is also popular in Japan. When I found a bottle of sweated green tea in the US about fifteen years ago, it was a bit of shock. But times are changing. As you can find Japanese-brand tea at Singapore, I believe that now more overseas people can enjoy pure Japanese teas.

We of course have many brands for bottles of green tea. When I buy a bottle of tea, I usually choose one what my mood tells me at the moment. I’ve never seriously compared them. So, I thought this is a good time to see what we have in our market now. I got four bottles of major-brand tea, which you can find at any places here. They are standard sencha from major company, including “O-i, Ocha” from Itoen. These 500ml bottle beverages are usually sold at 150yen/each in Japan. I got them at 98yen/each on sale at a grocery store. Is it expensive or reasonable comparing to the price in your country? I’ll taste them and report it tomorrow. Have a nice day!

From the left
1. “O-i, Ocha” from Itoen
2. “Ayataka” from Coca-cola Japan
3. “Namacha” from Kirin
4. “Iemon” from Santory.