Monday, August 30, 2010

Karigane tea (twig tea) at Iyemon salon in Kyoto

We went to Kyoto, again. I like visiting small rustic shrines or temples that have cozy Japanese garden. But this time, we visited some famous big temples.

We visited Nijo Castle, which was designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. It was built for the official Kyoto residence of Shogun (the leader of samurai), and it has good examples of Early Edo period building designs, lavish paintings, and carvings. Webpage (Japanese) >>>

We also visited Iyemon salon, Japanese tea café. It is popular, and we had to wait for 20 minutes to get in. When we were seated, cold green tea was served. I had hamburger steak for the lunch.

Since Iyemon salon is Japanese tea café, I wanted to try some tea there. I ordered karigane tea, twig tea. When tea is produced, the leaves, twigs and fine broken leaves are sorted. The twigs are called, kukicha or karigane. Karigane is usually reasonable than leaves. But the price is depends on what tea the karigane is made from. Ofcause, the karigane from gyokuro is expensive, and the kregane from cheap sencha is reasonable. The tea came in the teapot, and I brewed it myself.

I waited for a minute, and poured the tea into the cup. The brewed tea is clear light yellow. My image of karigane tea is light and simple in the flavor, and it has delicate sweetness, but this karigane was different. It had nice umami and profound flavor. I found the umami that I had never tasted in karigane. I was surprised with the taste; it changed my image of karigane. I loved the tea (^-^) I guess I had drank some cheap karigane, and this karigane must have been made of some good tea.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Telling good sencha by appearance of dry leaves

Can you tell good sencha by the appearance of dry leaves?

The color should brilliant deep green for sencha. Somber dark green, yellowish or reddish green are not good. Good leaves have a little luster, and low quality tea looks dry on the surface. The shape should be very thin spindle shape, like needles. Tightly rolled leaves are good. Loose rolled leaves, uneven leaves, too many twig or broken leaves are not good.

So, can you tell good tea and bad tea from the five sencha?
The color of following individual pictures is not even among the five. Sorry. To compare the color, please look at the group photo above.

The answer is ….

“エ” > “ア” > “ウ” > “オ” > “イ” The order from the best one
(I typed a Japanese character. I hope it doesn’t show garbage character on your PC)


How was your prediction? Can you tell the best one?

The best quality sencha out of the five is “エ”. (Japanese character)
The leaves look tightly rolled and thin. The leaves are very fine and beautiful.

The worst one is “イ”. (Japanese character)
The leaves are rough and uneven. You can't tell from this picture, but it was actually a little yellowish. It has some swigs.

I wish I could show you the correct color of sencha. But I’m glad if you find some hits for telling good sencha from today’s post. I hope this will help you to find good sencha at tea shops (^-^)

Japanese tea tasting workshop

The other day, I joined a workshop for Japanese tea appraisal (?), or I should say Japanese tea tasting. Sorry, I don’t know the correct English word for it. Anyway, I practiced three types of appraisal for sencha.

1. Telling the picked season of tea by dry leaves
2. Telling quality of tea by dry leaves
3. Telling quality of tea by brewed tea
There were five samples on each appraisal.

The third one was very difficult. As I was tasting many tea, I was losing the sense of taste, and could not tell the subtle difference. I think the first impression may be very important at tea tasting.

I was good at the second appraisal, (Telling quality of tea by dry leaves). I was perfect on this. Can you tell which leaves are good and which are bad out of the five? In this practice, you have to answer the order of the quality from good one to bad one. I’ll tell you the answer on the next post.

Click for the large picture

Monday, August 23, 2010

About Japanese confectionery I tried the other day

Some people asked me what the tastes of the sweets are like, which I introduce on the last post. These jelly-type sweets are popular in the summer. I don’t know exactly how they are made, but I think they are made of agar and sweated bean past. Brown one had brown sugar flavor and it had white sweated been past inside. White one had a comfortable natural sweetness.

It is difficult to explain the taste of sweated bean past. The bean past is called “An” or “Anko”, and used in many Japanese sweets, and very important. If you want to know how Japanese sweets tastes are like, you will need to know the sweated bean past, I think. I know some western people don’t like it, and some love it. Most of traditional Japanese confectioneries do not contain fatty stuff, like whip cream or batter. So the tastes are simple than western sweets. I hope someday you have a chance to try sweated been past, I mean Japanese confectionery, hopefully not cheap one, try nice one. Nice confectioneries will be smooth and has natural sweetness. They will really go with Japanese tea!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Matcha with tea bowl of your choice

Seto-city where I live is famous for ceramics. There is a community center called Setogura. It has cnfrence rooms, a hall, restaurant, ceramic shops and small ceramic museum. On this summer holidays, we took my grandfather to the museum.

The museum displays old style ceramic factory, implements or process of manufacture. And there is a small café space in the museum. They have a collection of tea bowls made by ceramic artist from Seto. You can enjoy matcha with one of the tea bowls of your choice. It was so fun to look for a favorite tea bowl from a large selection. I could not decide the one right away. I walked back and forth in front of the showcase. The tea tested much nicer with the tea bowl. My grandfather was also satisfied with the tea and the tea bowl. We had a really good time. It was 500yen, and came with sweets.

This is the tea bowl that Hiro chose.

My choice

My grandfather’s choice

My mother’ choice

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Do you want to try the sencha that I have tasted?

Hi, how are you doing everyone? I was on the summer holidays.

I’m buying some teas that I have introduced on the last post. I’m thinking to buy three extra sets to provide to who read this blog and are interested in these tea. Do you want to try the sencha that I have tasted? I wanted you to try many different sencha so each package is very small. 2-3g of tea leaves is used for one serving.

The set includes …
1. Honyama sencha 30g 378yen
2. Morimachi deep-steamed sencha 30g 315yen
3. Shizuoka blend deep-steamed sencha 30g 189yen
4. Ariake sencha 30g 378yen
5. Kawane sehcna 50g 1050yen
Plus domestic shipping (from the shop to me) 120yen
The total for the set: 2430yen (Not Intended for Individual Resale)

International shipping (EMS from Japan Post)
1100yen: Asia
1500yen: Oceania, North America, Middle East
1800yen: Europe, Russia
2100yen: South America, Africa

Customers are responsible for any taxes and customs charges. When you receive the package, you will need to pay taxes and customs charge upon request by your country's regulation.

If you are interested in buying the set of tea, please email me ( with your shipping address and phone number. I’ll tell you more information regarding the deal. It is sold on a first-come-first-served basis. Thank you (^-^)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Looking for good sencha

One of our customers asked me if I can sell sencha for him. We (Everyone’s Tea) do not sell tea and never exported tea, but I decided to help him personally. He is exploring sencha, and wants to try some different sencha from what he’s tried. He wants to try what I recommend, and is looking for some good sencha in the price range of 1000-1500yen/100g or more.
There are some shops that offer free tea tasting for a couple kind of tea. But it is difficult find tea shops that offer tea tasting for many kind of tea. I know a lady who is a Japanese tea instructor, and works at a tea shop. I visited the shop that she works which offers the tea tasting. She recommended me five kind of sencha and I tested the five teas. I liked all of them. I’ll introduce the sencha I have tried. I’m sorry that the color of pictures is not good, kind of yellowish.

1. Honyama sencha
Good balance of umami and bitterness. This is very sencha. Good looking tealeaves. The tealeaves were preserved by the classical method and naturally matured.
Price: 126yen/10g (sold by weight)
Production region: Suruga Honyama in Shizuoka prefecture

2. Morimachi deep-steamed sencha
Nice aroma. The tea was brewed little strong, and it has pronounced flavor but still mild.
Price: 105yen/10g (sold by weight)
Production region: Enshu Morimachi in Shizuoka prefecture

3. Shizuoka blend deep-steamed sencha
Good *fire aroma (hika). Soft umami and good bitterness. If you want to know what hika is, this will be good one.
Price: 63yen/10g (sold by weight)
Production region: Shizuoka prefecture

*Fire aroma: Sorry, I could not find good translation for hika. Tea leaves are dried in high temperature in the making process. In the drying process, the distinctive aroma is given to the leaves, and it is called hika. And I translated it into fire aroma here.

Sorry I forgot to take a picture of the leaves.
4. Ariake sencha
It was very distinctive. Profound umami and flavor. The tea I tested was brewed with cold water, so I can not simply compare with the other teas brewed with hot water. But, I was impressed with the very rich umami like kabusecha. I believe it was deep-steamed sencha.
Price: 126yen/10g (sold by weight)
Production region: Ariake Kagoshima prefecture

5. Kawane sehcna
The flavor was rounded and accomplished. Nice umami and smooth bitterness. I liked this tea the best. This is made from 100 years old tea plants. It is very old for tea plants.
Price: 1050yen for 50g package
Production region: Kawane in shizuoka prefecture

The teas I tasted were all very good. I can recommend either of them to the customer. If I prioritize these teas with my preference, it will be the same order with the price. I don’t think the price of tea always decides the quality of tea, but this time it did.
I will definitely recommend the “# 5. Kawane sencha”.
If he wants to try …
Rich umami, “# 4.” will be good.
The standard sencha, “# 1.” will be good.
Nice deep-steamed sencha, “# 2.” will be good.
Fire aroma, “# 3.” will be good.

If you are looking for good Japanese tea, I’ll recommend finding a good tea shop that offers tea tasting for many kind of tea.

Price for sencha in Japan

You can buy sencha at tea shops, super market, department stores, online shops, or gift shops in Japan. There are various prices, from reasonable daily teas to expensive fine teas. You will find reasonable one at super market, which may be about 500 yen for 200g package. I think the average price is about 700yen/100g. If you want some good sencha, they will be about 1000-1500yen/100g. Some expensive ones cost you even 2000-4000yen/100g. I often buy about 1000yen/100g tea, but I sometimes buy reasonable ones and sometimes expensive ones.
(100g = 3.527 ounce)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sencha cup for the summer

Do you drink hot tea in the summer? I have cold tea most of the time in the summer, but still I want to have hot sencha once in a while. In Japan, wide opening cups are appreciated for sencha in the summer. It’s something like in the picture. I think it is because the large surface will make the tea get cooler easily. It’s good for the summer, don’t you think?

The tea cup is for sale >>>