Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reasonable sweets at supermarket

Usually a piece of sweets costs about 120-300yen at Japanese confectionery stores. I found reasonable sweets at supermarket today. They were on sale. A package for four pieces was sold at 98yen. How cheap! They are not as good as the sweets sold at confectionary stores, but it’s better than nothing. I often have this kind of reasonable sweets to enhance my casual tea time at home. They make me happy!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kuwakojoku, utensil stand

At hira temae, natsume (the container for tea) and fresh-water container are brought in the tea room by the host during temae. But with the temae with a utensil stand, the tea container and fresh-water container are already prepared before the temae starts, and displayed on the stand.

This month, we are practicing temae with kuwakojoku utensil stand. This utensil stand is used in the summer. You place natsume on the top and the fresh-water container on the second shelf on kuwakojoku.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Flowers of the day, Jun 23 – Sep 22

Here are the flowers displayed at our tea lessons between Jun 23 and Sep 22.

Jun 23 I liked the vase.

July 7

Sep 15

Sep 22

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Unique lunch at a Japanese pickles shop

We went to a Japanese pickles shop, Yamatoya in Nagoya. It was a branch shop at Sakae underground mall. At the back of the shop, they have a very small restaurant, which has only six seats at the counter. They offer a unique dish only at lunch time.

In Japan, there are many kinds of pickles, made by different kind of vegetables* and ingredients**. They are usually served one or two kinds at a meal in a small amount as a subsidiary item. But Yamatoya made the pickles the main dish on their lunch menu. There were twelve kinds of pickles on the mail plate. I thought it was very unique. And it came with rice, miso soup, and two side dishes. Generically, pickles have distinctive flavors. I love some of them, and I don’t like some kinds. But, the twelve pickles were the kinds I love. The tea served with the lunch was hojicha. I was very satisfied with the lunch, and I want it sometime again.

* The vegitables for Japanese pickles: Japanese radish, cucumber, Chinese cabbage, plum, carrot, egg apple, burdock or so on.
** The ingredients for Japanese pickles: Salt, sake lees, miso, rice-bran, or so on.

Yamatoya URL (Japanese) >>>

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bottled mild green tea, O-i ocha maroyaka

The other day I tried a bottled tea. It was a new version of the popular brand, O-i ocha. It says maroyaka,which means mellow or mild. It sure was mellow. But I didn’t like this tea much. It was little too mild. There was no bitterness. It is much milder than regular green tea. You can drink it like water. So the tea is good for when you are thirsty. I guess this is made to fit that kind of needs. If you are not a big fun of green tea, you could start with this tea.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Matcha shave ice at Komeda

We stopped by a café, Komeda coffee on the way home from the ceramic festival. Komeda is local coffee shop chain. It was so hot on the day, and I had a shaved ice with condensed milk and matcha syrup. I don’t remember the price, but it was probably around 600-700yen. It was not a reasonable shaved ice, but it was very good. We all loved it. The ice was very fine saved, and light. The amount of the syrup was just right, not too much or less. It was my favorite kinds (^-^)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tea lesson after a long interval

It’s getting cooler these days, here. But it was extremely hot this summer. We didn’t have the tea lessons these two months. Our master wanted to have a little break from the lesson because of the heat of the summer. Last night we had a lesson after a long interval. I realized again how much I love tea ceremonies. It’s not just about tea. It’s about all the experience regarding the ceremony.

Our master is showing the correct movements for purifying the tea whisk.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ceramic festival in my town

This weekend there was a ceramic festival in my town, called Setomono-matsuri. This is held at the downtown of Seto city in this season. The main street become free of vehicle during the festival, and many stands for ceramics, foods or games will open on the street.
We went to the festival. But it was extremely hot with the scorching sun on the day, and we could not stay there for a long time. I didn’t buy any ceramics, just got some snacks and drink, and came home. I wish the weather was a little milder. By contrast, it was a crisp autumn weather today (^-^)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Single malt whisky and chocolat

This Saturday there was a work shop hosted by the Nihoncha (or Japanese tea) instructor association. But it was not a work shop for Japanese tea. It was for whisky. Tea and alcohol have a common aspect, which they are not essential to human life, but they are drank to be enjoyed.
I learned the mariage of chocolat and whisky. We have tasted five different whiskies (three Scotch and two Japanese) and chocolates. The whiskies are all single malt whisky and 12 years aged.

Glenfiddich: fruity and smooth
Hakushu: little smoky and sweet
Yamazaki: nice and profound, aroma like vanilla and taste like coconuts
Bowmore: Dry and smoky
The Macallan: Mellow and full body

I don’t drink whisky much. I usually have reasonable whiskies. This is my first time to try these good ones. They are all good. I loved Glenfiddich with the wonderful aroma. I also loved The Macallan and Yamazaki. I did not so much like smoky whisky. The theory for the marriage is to try the whisky and chocolate that have the common taste in the flavor. We enjoyed smoky flavor whisky with bitter chocolate, fruity whisky with fruity chocolate, or full body whisky with profound framboise chocolate. I thought the theory made sense. I think the same theory can be applied to Japanese tea and sweets or snacks.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Japanese tea tasting contest

I participated in a Japanese tea tasting contest for tea advisers and instructors, held in Uji Kyoto. It was my first time to enter this kind of contest, so my goal was not to score the lowest mark. I might be indulgent to myself, ha ha (^_^;) To see how the contest is like, and experience more tea from different region, and different breeds was my another goal.

About eighty tea advisers and instructors from all over Japan participated in the contest. Some were tea farmers or tea shop clerks. Even for them, the tea tasting seemed difficult. I guess you need special experiences or training to get a good result on the contest.

I didn’t get the lowest sore, and I experienced many teas. So, I could say that I achieved my goal for this contest. My score was so-so for the first try. It was a great experience and I enjoyed trying different teas v(^-^)v

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Double-wall glass

I have double wall vacuum insulation tumblers of Thermos. It keeps the drink cold, and doesn’t sweat at all. I love them, and am using the tumbler at work. But, I think glass tumblers make the drink look more delicious than metal ones.

I’m having a shochu party at home this weekend. Shochu is Japanese liquor, made of rice, potatoes, or wheat, and retains some of the original flavor. Being distilled, it contains more alcohol than sake. I like drinking shochu with water.
I wanted some glasses for the party. I bought some double-wall glasses of Bodum. The insulation is not as good as Thermos metal tumblers, but it is much better than regular glasses. They still have certain insulation, and also look much nicer than metal tumblers. I am pretty satisfied with them. I think they are also good for iced tea. You can enjoy the color of tea. The picture is iced mugicha in the Bodum glass (^-^)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Making your own blend tea 2

We were a party of three, my wife Hiro, mother Akiko, and me. We wanted to make the own tea, one of each. Hiro wanted to make a tea with very mellow and rich flavor like gyokuro. Akiko wanted profound flavor, which is often found in deep steamed sencha. I wanted a light refreshing tea with sweetness, like sencha. The instructor served some single breed teas for each of us. We sheared the tea each other, so I could try many different breeds. I guess I tried ten kinds. It was so much fun. Each tea was unique. Some were bitter, and some were sweet. Some were mellow and some were rich. We enjoyed talking and tasting different breeds of sencha, kabusecha, and gyokuro. I think there is no other place that you can try so many different breed teas.

Hiro liked Goko breed of kabusecha and Goko breed of gyokuro. Hiro wondered the proportion of the teas. 10 % difference of the ratio makes a certain difference on the result. She tried three different ratios, 50:50, 30:70, and 70:30 of kabusecha and Gyokuro. She liked the proportion of 70% of Goko kabusecha to 30% of Goko gyokuro.

Akiko chose one sencha and one gyokuro. The sencha she chose doesn’t have special breed name. They called it “zairai 1”. Gyokuro was Goko breed. Akiko tried the ratio of 50:50 and 40:60 of sencha and gyokuro. She didn’t like much gyokuro flavor in her tea, so she decide with 50:50.

I wanted to make a refreshing tea with sweetness, so I thought I would choose two sencha. But I actually chose one sencha and one kabusecha. I chose zairai 1 sencha. The taste of zairai 1 was very natural and it was something that I was looking for. The breed I chose from kabusecha was Fukamidori breed, which had nice umami and sweetness. I loved the Fukamidori, and I thought the Fukamidori will add good sweetness into the zairai 1 sencha. I tried the blend of 50% (zairai 1) and 50% (Fukamidori). I instantly loved it. I was very happy making the tea that I wanted. We bought our own teas to take them home. The price depends on how many breed you taste and what tea you blend. I bought 60g of my tea, and it was about 1800yen. Hiro’s tea was 2000yen/60g. Akiko’s tea was 1900yen/60g. We were so excited and enjoyed all the process of making our own tea. We all had a great time.

I don’t know any other place that you can try this kind of maniac tea experience. If you are a Japanese tea freak, you will really enjoy the tea blending. You gotta try it. But if you are not so much into Japanese tea yet, I’ll recommend some other activity that you can try at Fukujuen. How about a casual tea ceremony? They have a tea room and you can experience the casual tea ceremony. It will be fun.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Making your own blend tea 1

We visited Ginkakuji temple on the Kyoto trip, which is the World Cultural Heritage Site. It is rustic but very sophisticated. I find Japanese beauty “wabi sabi” there. They have a 4.5 tatami mat room, and it is said to be the begging of So-an style tea room. You can’t get in the buildings at Ginkakuji, I wish you could see the inside. It is one of my best three favorite temples.

After visiting Ginkakuji, we went to a teashop, Fukujuen. I have introduced the Uji branch of Fukujuen before. This is the main shop. We visited there to make our own blend tea. As I said before, most of Japanese tea sold at tea stores are blended some breeds of tea to make them delicious and keep certain quality. Here, you can try making your own tea by blending your favorite breeds with your proportion.

What you do here is …
1. Get counseling
A tea instructor ask you your drinking custom and preference.
2. Tasting single breed teas and find your favorite tea
The instructor recommends you some breeds from their tea selection.
You taste them and decide your favorite breads.
3. Get the teas blended, and try and decide the proportion
The instructor blends your teas, and you taste the blended tea.
You decide the blending ratio of your teas.

The instructor does all the brewing and blending. So, what you need to do is to taste the tea and tell the instructor how you like the tea. And the instructor gives you advices.

They have many single breed teas of sencha, kabusecha, gyokuro, and tencha. You can even make a special tea by blending different types of tea, something like sencha and tencha blend tea, which you can not usually find at tea stores. It was so much fun. We really enjoyed making own tea. I’ll talk about it a little more on the next post. See you soon.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Zen temple Kenninji in Kyoto

On the Kyoto trip, we visited Kenninji, a temple of the Zen sect. Kenninji has a very famous folding screen. It is the image of the wind and thunder gods. This is one of the national treasures of Japan, and a hallmark of Twwaraya Sotatsu’s work. (The image in this picture is a replica.)

Kenninji is the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto, and was founded in 1202 by the priest Yosai (or Esai). Yosai is studied in China, and the one who introduced tea culture into Japan.

There are Buddha statues and dragon painting in the hall. The twin Dragons were drawn on the ceiling.

The painting is dynamic and dragons are very alive. I loved it.

Kenninji has a tea house, Toyobo, which is a typical Riky style. The tea house was used at a historical large tea ceremony, Kitano tea ceremony.

Kenninji has some gardens. Each one is unique. One has big rocks and trees with dynamic composition.

Another one is a simple courtyard with a single tree and white graves.

There is another courtyard. It is a beautiful moss garden with rocks and maple trees. People were looking out into the yard, and relaxing in the tatami rooms or at decks. I really loved Kenjinji. It will be definitely one of my favorite temples.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Breeds of tea plant

I decided to enter a Japanese tea tasting contest for tea advisers and instructors. The specialized abilities and experiences are need for the tea tasting. I have taken few workshops about it, but I’m still new to the tea tasting. I want to learn more about Japanese tea, and I thought that participating the contest will be a good experience, and I could learn more about tea.

The other day, there was a meeting in Mie prefecture to practice tea tasting for the contest.
There will be four type of tasting in the contest.
1. Telling the picked season of tea by dry leaves
2. Telling the breed of tea by brewed tea
3. Telling the production region of tea by dry leaves
4. Telling the production region of tea by brewed tea

We practiced all four at the meeting. I could try single breed tea for the first time for the second tasting practice. The most tea sold at tea shops are usually blended some breeds of tea. Each breed has distinctive flavor, and you can make delicious tea by blending them, and keep certain quality of tea. Single breed tea is not so major. Here are some breeds that I tried at the meeting.
The comment on each breed is my personal opinion, not general description. It is what I felt and find in the tea at the meeting.

The most major breed in Japan

Mild and aroma like chest nuts

Flavor of Japanese honeywort

Well balanced flavor but not much umami

Rich flavor with umami


Aroma like mint, milky flavor with sweetness