Friday, February 26, 2010

Sweets of the day, Feb.24 Sakuramochi

Sweet on Feb 24 lesson was Sakuramochi, which is rapped with cherry leaf. You can eat it with the leaf. Sakuramochi is popular in the spring, and one of the most favorite confectioneries. I especially love the pink sticky rice cake part. When I was a kid, I snitched just the rice cake when my mother was cooking sakuramochi. It is so good.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Matcha latte at Gusto

The other day when we went to Gusto, Hiro had matcha latte. I tried a ship of it. It was sweated and the foam on the top was fine. It was milkier and milder than matcha latte at Mos burger. Hiro liked this sweet matcha latte!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Matcha latte at Mos burger

Today we went to a hamburger shop for dinner. Mos burger is one of the popular hamburger chain stores in Japan. I like them because they have originality, and value quality rather than selling cheap.

I had matcha latte that wasn’t sweated. It had substantial matcha flavor with rich bitterness. It was rich and premium. I liked it, but it would be much better if it had more milk.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Black bean tea at Gusto

The cold weather is coming and going these days, here. I’ve bet that snow season is over, and I changed my snow tires to regular ones this weekend. How is the weather like in your town this season?

We liked Gusto, so went there again this weekend. This time I tried sencha and black bean tea.

Sencha was from Sizuoka. The leaf was looking good for this reasonable restaurant. The aroma was okay, and the taste was nice. I could not find so much umami, but it had a good distinctive bitterness. Somehow, the tea brewed yourself tastes better than tea just served.

I had never seen black bean tea. It looked like coffee beans, and had roasted soy aroma. The brewed tea was brown, and the taste was mild and did not have bitterness. It tasted like watery coffee. Oops, watery coffee does not sound delicious, does it? I didn’t mean that. It was pretty good. Let’s see, I could say it was similar to hojicha and had rich soy flavor and faint sweetness. I liked memorable roasted flavor.

I had hamburger in stew with rice and miso-soup.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Flower of the day, Dec. 16 – Feb 17

Here are flowers displayed at our tea lessons. All of them are Camellia. Our master has different kind of Camellia trees in her backyard.



These are the flower and rice bale ornament at hatsugama on Jan 6.





Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Japanese green-tea online shops

Where do you purchase your green tea? At tea shop or supermarket in your town? Or at online shop? One of our customers from Sweden told me that it's difficult to find good tea stores in Sweden. It seems most tea stores there don't know how to handle tea. How about teashops in your country?
I don’t usually buy my tea on the internet, so I don’t know any good online green-tea shops. But, I though Japanese tea shops could know how to handle tea better than some green-tea shops oversea like in Sweden. So, I looked for online teashops located in Japan that have English website and do international shipping. I thought I could find some shops that are not popular internationally yet, but appear on Japanese internet search. Surprisingly, it was difficult to find that kind of teashop. I could find some online shops offer international shipping, but most of them don’t have their English site. Here are a few tea shops in Japan I found, which have English website and international shipping.

They are a tea retail shop from Kyoto. They have nice informative webpage.

Yamechanosato >>>
They are located in Fukuoka prefecture where is well known for Yame tea. They produce tea themself. Please find a “English Here” button at the upper right on their home page. It will translate the pages.

I’m sorry that I am not responsible for the products or services from the listed websites. Please visit them if you are interested in. You might or might not find good Japanese tea (^-^)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tokoname teapot artist, Yokei

Tokoname is one of the poplar ceramic production regions for teapots in Japan. There are many skilled craftsmen there. It is said that Tokoname teapots are well designed not only for beauty, but also for utility. The details determine the quality of teapots, such as the angle of handle, shape of spout tip, strainer, and fitting of lid and body, which are well-done with Tokoname teapots.

Let me introduce one of artists from Tokoname. It is Yokei. He studied at a ceramic school in Seto. His father was also a teapot craftsman in Tokoname. After graduation, Yokei worked with his father, and was trained. Now he is one of experienced teapot artists in Tokoname.

Here is a good example of Yokei’s work, Yohen flat teapot. He creates great yohen pattern, discoloration of ceramic. After first firing, he adjusts and finishes the fitting of lid and body, then he fire the teapot again with rice husks. The rice hanks create the beautiful yohen. Each piece has unique yohen hue and pattern. It is the one of a kind, and makes each teapot special.
Ordinary teapots have a hole on lid. He places two holes for balanced design to this spacious lid. The holes give interesting accent to the teapot. Other details like spout or strainer are also carefully crafted.

Yokei’s products at our shop, Everyone’s Tea
Yohen flat teapot by Yokei
Yohen fukurogata teapot by Yokei

Friday, February 12, 2010

Genmaicha at Gusto

Yesterday, we went to a new casual restaurant in my town, called Gusto. They serve beverages in buffet style. At the drink bar, there are soda fountain, coffee & espresso maker, and many tea selections, which make me excited.

They had sencha, hojicha, genmaicha, some English teas, some Chinese teas, organic teas, beans tea, and some herbal teas. I wondered where to start!

What I had was genmaicha. Genmaicha is roasted brown rice blended green tea, which is not expensive type of tea. It is casual tea like hojicha. Do you see roasted brown rice with sencha in the picture? Little white staff is popped rice like popcorn.

My genmaicha is the left one in the picture. The one in the middle is sencha and the right one is Oolong tea. Hiro put too much sencha leaves, so sencha was little too bitter (^_^;)

This is genmaicha. The color was peal brown and little muddy. I smelled nice roasted rice flavor, and noticed slight of sencha aroma behind it. This tea is a mixture of sencha and rice, so I think genmaicha has depth in the taste, and you will find a flavor of sencha and also roasted flavor like hojicha. I enjoyed the rich roasted flavor with this tea.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I walked though a Starbucks the other day. I found an interesting new item on their signboard. It was Hojicha-latte. What? I have never seen a latte with hojicha. That’s new! I guess this is an original item at Japanese Starbucks. I wonder how it tastes like. I assume it’s like milder chai? Hojicha does not have as much bitterness as English tea has, so Hojicha-latte would be milder. I didn’t have time to stop by, so next time, I’ll try it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The air brews delicious green tea? 3

I did the tasting of tea with two kind of water. Today’s blog is a sequel to the past two blogs, please check them.

***Common Conditions***
Tea leaves: Deep-steamed sencha 4g
Water: 70 degree C 160ml
Serving : Two cups at one brewing (70ml*2cups)

Unfortunately, I could not find significant difference in these teas. Brewed tea color, density and aroma were almost same. I also tasted the same elements of flavor from both teas, and the tastes were in the same direction. The slight difference what I notice was the feeling. I felt the same qualities as the waters I tasted yesterday.
Theory A: Tea by water with less air
The flavor came straight. It was clear and bold, and little heavier than Tea B. The tea naturally conformed to my tongue. I felt faint sweetness in the aftertaste.
Theory B: Tea by water with much air
When I drank this, my mouth was filled with the tea. It had a longer tail, and I could feel comfortable bitterness for a while.

30 minutes later, I tested the same teas which got cold. I could not find any difference in them. They were the same.

I can’t say which tea is better or more delicious. It depends to each his/her own taste. I think they are almost the same, but Tea A is straighter and Tea B has longer finish. I need to try and learn them more. With the feeling I got from today’s tasting, I would have Tea A when I want to enjoy tea itself. I would try Tea B at meal, because the tea that remains in your mouth longer could refresh your mouth better. What do you think?

Monday, February 8, 2010

The air brews delicious green tea? 2

How are you doing everyone! This weekend we went to a sake brewery, Onnajoshu in Ena, Gifu prefecture. They are holding events on every weekend in February, called “kuragiraki” for releasing of the new sake of this year. We are not big drinker, but we came here for free sake for three years in a law. They were offering three kinds of sake of this year for free tasting. So there were many happy drunks around. We thought somehow this year sake tasted better than before. There was a gentleman next to us who seems love sake and knows about it. He talked to us, and he said that Onnajoshu made excellent sake this year. According to him, sake test different each year like wine does, which I didn’t know. So, sake we tasted was actually better than previous years. And he also said that this sake is categorized in dry sake, however good dry sake doesn’t have any pungent taste, and even have sweetness and fruity flavor like this sake does. It sure had sweetness and fruity flavor, and was extremely smooth. It was so good. I don’t have much experience on sake, but this was one of the best sake I ever had! The bland I loved was “shinmai-ichibanshibori” which is a winter-limited product. If you have a chance to visit our region, try this year’s “shinmai-ichibanshibori” from Onnajoshu (Iwamurashuzo)!

Onnajoshu webpage (Japanese):

Okay, let’s talk about tea now. This is a sequel to the last blog. If you haven’t read the previous one, please read it.

I prepared two kind of hot water. One is water with less air and another one is water with much air. I expected that there is not big difference in the tastes. When I tasted them, I didn’t actually find a difference in taste. But I got a different feeling from these waters.

A: Water with less air (Well-boiled water)
It was heavier than Water B, but also smoother. It hugged my tongue. It seemed seeping into my mouth.

B: Water with much air (Well-boiled water poured twice from height )
It was lighter and milder than Water A. It remained longer in my mouth.

I thought it was very interesting to get this result; same taste but different feeling. I'd rather like Water A for water itself, even it was heavy. I’m very curious which water makes more delicious tea. Water A could make smoother tea. Or Water B which remains longer in your mouth could make tea with better aftertaste. I’ll make teas with these waters, and report you next time. See you soon!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The air brews delicious green tea?

How are you doing? It is still cold here and little snowing outside. How do you prepare hot water for tea? I have heard two different theories regarding air in hot water for tea brewing .

Theory A: Water with less air infuse better tea
When brewing tea, you sometimes find few floating tealeaves on water surface. With this theory, invisible small air bobbles in the water stick to tealeaves and buoy some of them. It inhibits good infusion, and makes tea pale. Therefore this theory tells to take out the air from water by boiling the water really well. You won’t find floating tea leaves in well boiled water, and can prepare delicious tea. Also, well-boiled water is used at official tea tasting.

Theory B: Water with much air makes better tea
By boiling, water loses air in it. So by pouring the hot water from height, you can give the air back into the water (see a picture). With this theory, water with much air tastes milder, and infuses milder delicious tea than air-less flat water does.

What do you think? Have you heard of either theory? I don’t know which is true. Before testing teas with both theories, I thought I should try just both water. I’ll review the water tasting on the next blog! See you next week!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The angle of the tea whisk when checking it

The spring started from today on Japanese calendar. However, it is still cold and we had light snow falls this morning.

Yesterday we had another tea lesson. One new thing I learned was an angle of the tea whisk when you hold it. Before and after making tea, we raise the tea whisk and check it for breakage of splines in temae. I used to raise the tea whisk horizontally (left picture). But our muster advised me that it looks more beautiful if I hold it with its head down little. (right picture) I agreed with it. The movement with tilted tea whisk looks more natural and beautiful. I know this little thing is nothing related to the taste of tea. You might think why Japanese care so much detail just for preparing tea. But, this is The Way of Tea, and preparing tea gracefully is one part of it. I’m proud of this highly developed culture matured around tea. I was glad learning something to make my temae better.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Which is popular? Gyokuro or Sencha?

What kind of Japanese tea do you drink? Many of our customer at oversea are drinking gyokuro. I mainly drink sencha. Do you know which kind of tea is popular in Japan? Gyokuro? Sencha?

The most produced tea in Japan is …

1. Sencha!

And the next is …
2. Bancha
3. Kabusecha
4. Tamaryokucha
5. Tencha (ingredient of matcha)
And then
6. Gyokuro

Isn’t it interesting? Gyokuro is produced less than on one hundredth of sencha in Japan. Gyokuro seems popular oversea but not so much in Japan. Maybe Japanese think gyokuro is little too expensive for daily tea. I like gyokuro but actually don’t purchase it so often. Kabusecha is a type of tea in between sencha and gyokuro, so it has more umami than sencha and is more refreshing than gyokuro. It is usually reasonable than gyokuro. You might like kabuseha, if you love gyokuro.

*Type of green tea >>>