Friday, January 29, 2010

Container for powdered thick tea, chaire

Ntsume is container for powdered thin tea, which we have been using in our lessons. Common type is wooden and urushi lacquered (on the left). Different type of container is used in thick tea temae. It is ceramic container (chaire) with pouch (shifuku). The one used at our hatsugama is in the right picture. Isn’t the pouch beautiful?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Organic powdered tea

I got complimentary powdered tea. It is organic tea from Kyoto. This powdered tea looks like matcha, but it’s different. I believe this is made from sencha, not tencha (matcha ingredient). You just put the powder into a tea cup and add hot water. That’s it. It had similar smell as matcha, and I found slight of woody aroma. The prepared tea was murky green. It had green tea flavor, but it tasted totally different from sencha or matcha. It was easy and tasted good. I could taste little powdery texture in the aftertaste.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sweets of the day, Nov 25 ‘09 – Jan 6 ‘10

Here are the sweets from past tea lessons. I don’t remember how tastes were liked for some of them (^_^;)

Nov 11
It is difficult to see, but it has yellow ginkgo leaf design.

Nov 30

Dec 2
This was very interesting confectionery. Real dry persimmon is used for this sweet. Been pest was inside. Japanese confectionery are often formed into shapes with been past that reflect the seasonal food, flower or scenery. But this one is used real flutes.

Dec 9
It is chestnut shape, and had small pieces of chestnut.

Dec 16

Dec 28

Jan 6
At Hatsugama, there are two kind of sweets are served. Sweet in the round tray is called hanabira-mochi, which has burdock root in it. Look at the picture. Something sticking out from the sweet is the burdock. It is special sweet for New Year. I don’t usually like it very much, but this year’s one was better. It was not that bad, I thought. Sweet on the square trey is higashi, dry confectionery

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sweet from Oguchiya, Hiro’s favorite

Lucky us! We got to see classic music concerts two months in a law. So, we went to Nagoya this weekend again. We were absorbed in Beethoven Symphony No. 7. I felt cheerful sense and tremendous energy in various expression. Now I’m listening to it over writing this blog.

<YouTube ↓ ↓ ↓ >
My favorite part is jubilant note from a quiet around 3:00.

After the concert, we looked for a Japanese confectionery shop in Nagoya, called Oguchiya. Once Hiro had a chance to have a confectionery rapped with a leaf from Oguchiya, and she really loved it. She was sure Oguchiya has a branch in one of department stores in Nagoya. We found it in Sakae-Mituskoshi, got the confection she’d had before. The sweet is called Anpu-sankira. I had it on tea time today, with sencha. It had smooth been past covered soft and springy gluten. When you bring the sweet to your mouth, you can smell faint aroma of leaf. I liked the comfortable sweetness and earthy flavor.

*You don’t eat the leaf.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ceramic strainer teapot

Hi, everyone! Today is sunny, and a topical winter day here.

I talked about removal tea strainer teapots the other day. Today let me write about teapots with ceramic strainer.

Good things about a teapot with mounted ceramic strainer are…
- Lager space for tealeaves than removal strainer, which allows the leaves to expand well, and makes better tea.
- You can preparer few serving of tea with this type of teapots. Removal strainer teapots are not good at preparing few serving. Usually removal strainers are not deep enough to reach the bottom of teapots, so you need pretty of water to soak tealeaves when brewing.

There are some minor negative points with ceramic strainer
- The mesh is coarser than metal mesh. Therefore, small pieces of leaves can slip through.
- The dimensions of the strainer are smaller than removal type. Therefore, there is a chance of clogged mesh with tea leaves when pouring.

Standard ceramic strainer (on the left), Fine mesh ceramic strainer (on the right)

If you are looking for a teapot for derisions tea, go with mounted strainer teapot rather than removal strainer type!

We have released some new teapots on our shop.
Please visit us >>> Everyone’s Tea

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thin tea and thick tea

What we have been practicing at lessons was “thin tea”. One and half scoop of matcha is used for one serving of thin tea, and each serving is made and served in an individual bowl. There is another tea called “thick tea”, which our muster served at the hatsugama. About the double amount of matcha is used for thick tea. Thick tea is shared in drinking with number of guests from one tea bowl.
While prepared thin tea is light green, thick tea is dark, deep green. As you sip thick tea, the rich flavor fills your mouth. Thick tea is very dense or I could say heavy, so you can taste each flavor of matcha, umami, sweetness, and bitterness with a long finish. Usually high grade matcha is used for thick tea.
I think thick tea is not as popular as thin tea. I know some places, restaurants, hotels or café that serve matcha, but they are usually thin tea. I hadn’t known thick tea until I stared learning The Way of Tea. You can experience thick tea at tea ceremonies or tea schools, but I don’t know where else you can try it. I guess there are many Japanese who have never tried thick tea. When you have fine matcha, why don't you try thick tea? Have a nice day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The first tea lesson of 2010, hatsugama

How is it going everyone? The first tea lesson or tea ceremony of a year is called hatsugama. It is kind of special. Our muster says that in general masters invite their students, and serve tea to the students. So, at our hatsugama on Jan 6, she treated us with her tea. She played the host and served thick tea. It was little formal. The tea flower, sweets, and some utensils are different from usual. There was a sense of tension at the hatsugama, and we could enjoy the tea and the feeling.
Have a nice day!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hojicha at kaiseki cuisine

Good morning everyone! At Suimeikan, the dinner was kaiseki cuisine, Japanese multi-course meal. The courses are served in turn to match pace at which people are eating. The local specialty, Hida beef was featured in this kaiseki. The interesting dish was raw beef sushi. The beef could have been slightly grilled, but it was pretty much raw. It must have been very fine and fresh beef. Raw beef for sushi? Isn’t it novel, is it? Actuary, it was quite good. I liked it. It was raw beef, so kind of chewy. But, I think it was very tender for raw beef. There are some other Hida beef dishes and some others. They are all great and I was very satisfied with the dinner. Here again, the tea served with the dinner was hojicha. Hojicha is very popular tea for meal in Japan. They served a cup of hojicha in the beginning, and left a teapot with hojicha on our table for refills.
Have a nice day!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mini Tea bar in a hotel room

Hi, everyone! I have one more thing I’d like to talk about from my New Year holiday trip. The room we stayed at Sumieikn was equipped a wet bar with a tea set. The tea set was a teapot, cups, saucers, tea strainer, tea cloth, wastewater receptacle, and sencha in a tea caddy.
I was already relaxed with youkata (casual kimono) and comfort of tatami room, plus having sencha soothed my soul. The sencha, I guess it was Sirakawacha, had a comfortable bitterness like fresh breeze in forest. I think a nice environment make tea more delicious. Have a nice day!

The picture on the right is the view from our room.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Flower arrangement with Hanamochi

How are you everyone? Suimeikan is a Japanese-style hotel, known as ryokan. Suimeikan has a Japanese garden with a pond, which you can see from the lounge. Ryokan usually have traditional-style guest rooms with tatami. Our room had a tokonoma, alcove where art or flowers are displayed, which typical tea rooms also have. Hanamochi was used in the flower arrangement in the tokonoma. Hanamochi is a special ornament for New Year, and a branch or branches decorated with small pieces of rice cakes (picture above). Have a grate day!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Welcome drink at ryokan, Suimeikan

Hi, everyone! This is a year of Tiger in Japan. There was a tiger statue at a ryokan, Japanese-style hotel we stayed in Gero hot spring resort. The ryokan that we stayed there for a night was Suimeikan. In Japan, people enjoy hot spring bath and meals featuring local specialties at ryokan. Most ryokan have the casual cotton kimono known as youkata for guests (what we ware in the picture). Japanese bathing culture is a little different from western. There is washing space outside of the bathtub, and tub is just a place for soaking in hot water. I think, for many Japanese, “Taking bath” implies relaxing in hot water, rather than simply washing your body. So, some people soak in bath several times in a day, after all that’s the main reason for a trip to hot spring.

Suimeikan is a nice hotel. They served matcha as welcome drink at our room. I think typical ryokan serve sencha. I was happy with the matcha, and it made me relaxed. The taste of matcha was not as good as what we have at tea lessons, but wasn’t too bad. The matcha and little sweet relieved my weariness of the long drive.

Have a nice day!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Senbe at Senbe-do in Takayama

I hope everyone is fine at countries suffering by big chill now.

We visited Tkayama in Gifu prefecture on our holiday trip. Takayama has popular streets with old houses remaining from Edo period where many tourists visit. There are merchants’ houses, sake breweries, and private houses there. The other day, I introduced senbe (Japanese rice cracker) on my blog. It’s one of the best snack for green tea, I think. There is my favorite senbe shop, called Senbe-do on the ancient street in Takayama. They have many kind of senbe; soy, sugar, red peppers, seaweed-rapped, miso and more, and are grilling some senbe at the front of the shop. It gives off a nice roasted senbe smell to the street, and people follow the smell into the shop. My favorite is basic soy senbe. I like their senbe for the good crunchy texture and delicious soy flavor by backing until beautiful brown. We bought a package of the soy senbe, but I forgot to take a picture before we ate, sorry… If you have a chance to visit Takayama, try their senbe. Have a nice day!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Matcha on New Year day

Hello, everyone! I usually have matcha with our family on New Year day’s tea time. It’s a kind of our family custom, which I started. So, we usually buy matcha and sweets for it on the end of year. There are some Japanese-style confection stores in my town. Our favorite store is Azumaken. They make very exquisite confectionery that is pleasing to the eye, which is why I love about them. Azumaken always has different selections in season. They especially have good selections around New Year day. These are the sweets from Azumaken.

We visited my grandpa at nursing home on New Year day. We brought matcha and tea set, and had matcha there (^-^) He doesn’t look happy in this picture, but actually he was very much happy and enjoyed matcha with us. We were so glad that we could have tea together this year again. Have a nice day!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bad matcha-latte with fine matcha

Hi, everyone! I usually spend time with my family on the New Year day.
In Japan, people enjoy traditional New Years Osechi dishes, which are usually prepared in order to be preserved for at least three days so housewives don't have to cook during that period. Our relatives used to gather at my parents home, and had osechi on New Year days. So, my mother used to took several days cooking ocheshi every end of year. But since the last year, my grandparents are not at the house anymore, my mother stared buying osechi from a store. The picture is for the osechi we had this year.

My wife, Hiro made matcha-latte for herself on the New Year day.
1. 2 scoop (2g) of match and sugar into a teabowl
2. Pour hot milk (60ml) into the teabowl
3. Mix the matcha and milk with a tea whisk for 20 seconds
She made it as my usual recipe. She used very fine matcha for it, which we bought just for New Year holidays. But, she didn’t like the latte. It tasted like something's missing. I think the latte needed more bitterness. Fine matcha is very generous and has less bitterness. Fine mellow matcha and milk made the latte too mild. I think more reasonable bitterer matcha will suit for matcha-latte; like strong bitter espresso makes good café-latte. So when you make matcha-latte, don’t use expensive matcha. Use cheep one (^-^) Have a nice day!

* After using the tea whisk with milk, immediately rinse it with running water really well; remained milk component can be a cause of getting mold.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tea and the AVATER

Happy New Year!! I’m back from my New Year holidays! We spent some time at my parents place and my wife's family home, and went a trip to Gero hot spring resort in Gifu prefecture. I have a lot of things I’d like to talk about. I’ll tell you about my holidays little at a time.

In the end of last year, I went to a theater for AVATER. It was my first 3D movie since CAPTAIN EO at Disneyland about two decades ago. First of all, it was amazing, and was the Hollywood type of film I was waiting for! It was a great entertainment.
3D glasses were handed out when I was getting in the theater. Somehow I was expecting cheap paper glasses, but actually they were quite good glasses (red ones in the picture). 3D effect was weird in the beginning, but I got used to it in a second. During the film it was pretty natural, and it helped drawing me into the story. The only difference from the real sight is that you can focus wherever you want in real vision, but you can’t in the 3D movie. There was only one focus point in the picture. Even if you wanted to look at background or foreground, usually they were little blurred. Of cause there were some scenes filmed with deep depth of field, and clear from foreground to background. The beautiful pictures are not only feature of this movie. I also enjoyed the story. I felt almost like exploring and learning a new planet “Pandora” myself with the main character. Communicating with natives, learning their culture, and building relationship with them were interesting.
By the way, what beverage do you usually have at a theater? Coke? In Japan, we of course have coke and some sodas. And also teas and coffee. I don’t remember if they had English tea, but I found oolong tea and green tea there. Green tea in a theater? It’s kind of Japanese, don’t you think? I had popcorn and oolong tea. Do you think popcorn with oolong tea is little strange? It is not that bad. Try it when you go to a theater in Japan.
May this year be happy and fruitful for everyone!!