Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gyokuro prepared with 80degC water

Yesterday, I prepared gyokuro like sencha brewing. But it didn’t have much bitterness and it was too mellow. I didn’t like it very much. So I tried it again with higher temperature of water and shorter brewing time.

** Today’s condition **
Tea: Gyokuro 2g
Water: 80degC, 50ml
Brewing time: 90sec

Today’s tea got better. It had cross between good umami and bitterness and tasted like kabusecha (^-^) I think the higher temperature of water worked fine. I think it’s fun to explore tea.

My online-shop, Everyone’s Tea is closing between Dec.29 to Jan.5 for the winter holidays. Shipping for orders and replies to any inquiries during this period will be delayed until Jan. 6. We are sorry for any inconvenience. I’ll also take a break from posting new blog during the period. Thank you for reading my blog, see you in the next year! Have a great new year!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gyokuro prepared like sencha

When I went to Uji, Kyoto, I bought a package of sencha, called Soencha. Now I’m having that tea at home. It has very rich umami. I think it is more like kabusecha rather than sencha. To bring out its rich and savory flavor, I brew the tea with plenty of leaves. I really like Soencha, and now I’m pretty into it.

I am curious if I can brew the similar taste of tea with other leaves as well. Gyokuro has rich umami so I wondered if gyokuro will taste like Soench by preparing it with plenty of 70degC water. I mean I’m preparing gyokuro by sencha-brewing method.

*** Condition ***
Tea: gyokuro 7g
Water: 70degC, 200ml
Brewing time: 2 min

This is the tea I brewed. It was not terrible but not good. This is not high-grade gyokuro, so I found a little unpleasant taste in the brewed tea. It had rich umami but it didn’t have a good bitterness. Without the bitterness, the tea got too mellow. My experiment was a failure (^_^;) I want to try it again with higher temperature of water to bring out more bitterness.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sweet dumplings

Last night, I went to a supermarket for shipping for Christmas dinner. It was pretty crowded with customers. I got some cheese and vestibules for cheese fondue, and a whole chicken. I also find reasonable sweets there. They were 98yen per package, which had 5 little pieces of sweet dumplings. I got two different packages. I already had two of each, so in the picture only three pieces left (^_^;)

These dumplings were the sweets to go with my today’s tea. The darker one has a white chewy dumpling covered with sweet bean paste. The white one is made of the white chewy stuff, and has sweet bean paste in it. Even though they are very reasonable, they give me a great pleasure for my tea time. I love those reasonable sweets (^-^) Wish you a Marry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The last drops - sencha -

This is a continuation from the past blog. >>> “The last drops of tea from a teapot.
Majority of books tell to pour all tea until the last drops of it from teapot into a cup. Because the last drops have the richest flavor. There is an opposing theory that you may pour or not pour the last drops to adjust the taste of your tea. I wondered how the last drops taste like.

I actually brewed tea and tasted the last drops. Today, I used futsu-sencha (regular steamed). The last drops sure had a strong flavor. They were bitter but I also found flavorful umami behind the sharp bitterness. The after taste continued with the bitterness and a savory green tea aroma came through my nose. I thought they were too bitter to taste but not unpleasant.

I also compared the teas with the last drops and without the last drops.
A: Tea with the last drops
B: Tea without the last drops
C: The last drops only
** Conditions **
Tea: Futsu-sencha 2g
Water: 70ml, 70degC
Brewing time: 2mins

The brewed tea color was slightly brighter with Tea B and darker with A. With this tea and the conditions, A had nice taste with good body. B was light and weak and it was too mild for me. I have already explained about C earlier. Maybe throwing away the last drops doesn’t work for correctly-prepared sencha, and it will work when tea is accidently brewed strongly.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The last drops of tea from a teapot

Majority of books tell to pour all tea until the last drops of it from a teapot into a cup. There are two reasons for it. One is that the last drops have the richest flavor of the tea; they are sometimes called the golden drops, so that you don’t want to waste them. The other reason is that the reaming water in the teapot will make the leaves continue infusing, and will make the tea taste bad in the second brewing. That’s why most books recommend pouring all the tea in the teapot.

The other day I found an article which tells you that you can adjust the taste of your tea by pouring or not pouring the last drops from the teapot. With the last drops, the tea will be rich and profound. Without the last drops, the tea will get lighter and milder in taste. I thought it makes sense. I am naturally using this method. Whenever I pour tea into cups and I find that the tea looks well-brewed and strong, I naturally throw away the last drops. (Or I sometimes pour the last drops and add hot water to weaken it.) Anyway, I wonder how the last drops taste. Do they have condescended umami? Strong bitterness? Well-branced flavor? Have you tasted just the last drops of tea? I thought I would try them. I will report the result on the next post.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sweet pick at tea ceremony

It is a little cold cloudy day, but the sun comes and goes from breaks through a cloud sometimes. By getting the comfortable sunlight, my dining room is not so cold. I enjoyed my peaceful tea time with a confectionary and matcha in the room. The confectionary I had today were the leftover sweets from yesterday’s tea lesson. Our master is very generous and sometimes gives us the leftover sweets.

Yesterday’s confection was a little unique. It was made of a dried persimmon and has a white chewy sweetened dumpling in it. I love dried persimmons so I liked this confection. We usually use a sweet pick to have a confection at a tea ceremony. This is what I personally use.

But the dried persimmon is a little chewy as well and it was too difficult to eat it with the pick. You can bite it directly in this case. The sweets served at many tea ceremonies are usually easy to have it with the pick. This persimmon confection is not so suitable for tea ceremonies, our master said. But she also told us if you ever had a confection that is difficult to consume with the use of a pick, you may have it with your hands for too fragile ones or for biting it directly with very chewy ones.

Last night we had the last tea lesson of this year. For next year’s first event, we are planning to join a tea ceremony which will be held in a neighborhood city. I’m so much looking forward to it!

Monday, December 20, 2010

How various sizes of tea strainer mesh affects the taste of fukamushi-sencha

I did a test to find out how the mesh fineness affects the taste of futsu-sencha (regular steamed) on the previous blog. Today, I’ll do the same test with fukamushi-sencha (deep steamed).

Fukamushi-sencha leaves are usually finer than futsu-sencha so I assume the fineness of the mesh will have more impact on the taste. This is the fukamushi-sencha I used today which has pretty fine pieces.

Here are three teapots with different strainers.

Teapot A, Mounted stainless strainer (Finer than ceramic strainers)
Teapot B, Fine-mesh ceramic strainer
Teapot C, Regular-mesh ceramic strainer

*** Conditions ***
Tea: fukamushi-sencha, 2grams
Water: 70ml, 70degC
Brewing time: 30secnds

Based on the result, I think A and B are good for fukamushi-sencha.

I found fine grains of leaves on the bottom of A and slightly larger grains in B. I could not tell how big the pieces are in C because it was too murky. After leaving them a couple of minutes, I could check the grains and pieces of leaves more clearly at the bottom. C had more grains of leaves than A and B. It is not obvious in this photo but there are some larger pieces with C.

I’ve tasted them. These are brewed with the same tea and condition so basically they all have similar flavors. However, as you see the difference in their color, the tastes were a little different among the three. B had the lightest flavor and C had a profound flavor and a little bitter. I don’t know why B was lighter than A. Could it be because of the material of the strainer and teapot? I couldn’t say which strainer is good or bad for the taste. It depends on your preference. But I personally prefer A and B. The grains on the bottom make the last sip muddy and bitter. I’m not so comfortable sipping a muddy and bitter sencha. A and B had less grains than C. To conclude, stainless or fine-mesh ceramic strainers are better for fukamushi-sencha.

I also tested the agitate-brewing method at the second brewing. Before pouring, I moved each teapot in a circular motion. Here are what I got from the brewing.


They are all too murky and I could not tell the size of the floating pieces. I left them for a couple minutes but they were still murky.

I took a sip of each tea. They were all too rough in texture and too bitter even with the finest stainless strainer. I don’t recommend moving or shaking a teapot when you prepare fukamushi-sencha.

If you want to know about futsu and fukamushi-snecha, please check out my three previous posts.
1. http://everyonestea.blogspot.com/2009/12/regular-sencha-vs-long-steamed-sencha-1.html
2. http://everyonestea.blogspot.com/2009/12/regular-sencha-vs-long-deep-steamed.html
3. http://everyonestea.blogspot.com/2009/12/regular-sencha-vs-long-deep-steamed_10.html

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tea scoop

At this week’s tea lesson, our master showed us a part of her tea scoop collection. Tea scoop is a utensil to scoop and move matcha from a tea container to a teabowl at a tea ceremony. The common tea scoop is made of bamboo with a knot at the middle. We only used the common type of tea scoops during the lesson which is composed of just two scoops from the right. The three from the left are higher-grade tea scoops which are used at some certain tea ceremonies. These tea scoops without a knot are called shin type. What our master has are made of wood, turtle shell or ivory.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mesh fineness of tea strainers and the taste of sencha 2

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post.

Well, here is the result…

I did NOT find much difference. They are all clear in color and similar in taste. So, my assumption was not correct. When I did this test I didn’t move or shake the teapots before pouring. I gently poured tea into the cups. Maybe that’s why I didn’t get big difference among these three.

So, for the second brewing I moved the teapots in a circular motion to agitate the water and leaves.

Based the result, the difference was slightly more apparent than the first brewing. But the fineness of mesh didn’t affect the taste as obvious as I expected. I think this is because the tea was good futsu-sencha, so it didn’t have many fine pieces of leaves. The result would have been different with fukamushi-sencha. However, I found a slight difference among these teas through these two brewing. Without much surprise, fine pieces of leaves that slipped through the strainers were finer with the stainless strainer and bigger with that of the regular-mesh strainer. The color was the darkest with Teapot C and lightest with B. I don’t know why B got the lightest. Despite the color, C had the mildest taste. The milder taste was affected by the materials of the teapots, not by the finenesse of the strainer, I guess. I assume the rough-grained texture of the material had something to do with the taste.

What I can say today is that the impact to the taste is limited by the fineness of tea strainer, and I think you don't have to concern too much the fineness of strainer for futsu-sencha. I want to try this test with fukamushi-sencha next time. (^-^)

Mesh fineness of tea strainers and the taste of sencha 1

The other day, I did a test to check the relation between the taste and the material of tea strainer. >>> Do ceramic tea strainers brew better tea than stainless ones?

Speaking of strainers, I’m also wondering how the fineness of the mesh affects the taste. I sometimes see mucky-green tea and sometimes very clear tea. I do not think it is just about futsu (regular steamed) or fukamushi (deep steamed) sencha. I believe the fineness of mesh has an impact to the color and taste of tea and wanted to check it out myself.

Here are three teapots with different strainers.
Teapot A, Mounted stainless strainer (Finer than ceramic strainers)
Teapot B, Fine-mesh ceramic strainer
Teapot C, Regular-mesh ceramic strainer

*** Conditions ***
Tea: sencha (regular steamed), 2grams
Water: 70ml, 75degC
Brewing time: 1 minute

Today I’m using futsu-sencha. Do you think the brewed teas will be very different by using these strainers? What do you think? I’ll tell you the result tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Matcha cake

It was raining in the morning, but now it’s getting sunny. I’ve just had a Japanese confectionery and bowl of matcha. I feel that it’s gonna be a good day(*^。^*)

The other day, I got some cakes from a neighborhood pastry shop. There was a matcha flavored cake in them. I loved it. It was layered with some matcha sponge cake, mousse, cream and chocolate. It was very smooth and had rich flavor like high quality chocolate. Nowadays matcha flavored sweets are very popular. It is not only for Japanese confectioneries. I even see a lot of combinations of western sweets and the matcha flavor in Japan. I guess most of the chocolate flavored sweets can be substituted by matcha flavor for the bitterness. That’s why matcha flavor goes really well with western sweets as well. Are green tea flavored sweets popular in your country?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rare teas at a buffet restaurant

This weekend I went downtown Nagoya to see a play. Before the play, I had lunch at a buffet restaurant called Sweets Paradise, which was specialized for sweets. They have some food menu but they also had a big selection of sweets. I had little salad and pasta, and then I had tons of sweets. I’m partial to sweets, and I was so happy ヽ(^。^)ノ They also had a big selection of tea. They were teabags. I didn’t try any of them. There were some rare teas which I have never seen, such as honey hojicha, plum green tea, white peach oolong, and corn medlar tea. I should have tried some, but I was so busy having cakes and cappuccinos. Ha ha ha….

Sweets Paradice webpage (Japanese) >>> http://www.sweets-paradise.jp/

After the play, we had dinner at Gambo and Oyster Bar. I had many different oyster dishes and wine. At the downtown, the Christmas illuminations were glittering beautifully.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Do ceramic tea strainers brew better tea than stainless ones?

Some people prefer teapots with a ceramic strainer rather than stainless one. They say that the irony taste gets mixed in the tea and they don't like that. I’ve heard about it and thought it might be true, but I wasn’t so concerned about it myself. I use both teapots with ceramic and stainless strainers at home. I thought it is time to check the fact of the matter myself (^-^)

Here are 6 teapots. Three of them (A, B and C) have the stainless strainer, and the other three (D, E and F) have ceramic or plastic.

A: Mounted stainless strainer

B: Removable stainless strainer

C: Mounted stainless strainer

D: Regular-mesh ceramic strainer

E: Fine-mesh ceramic strainer

F: Removal plastic strainer

I thought it may be easier to notice the irony taste in plain water rather than in tea. So before brewing the tea, I poured just hot water into each teapot and left them for a while and tasted it later with blindfold. Do you think I could tell the difference in taste between the water in each teapot?

Well… I smelled the water but I could not tell the difference. I took a sip and tasted the irony taste! The hot water in Teapot F had the worst flavor and thought it was the water with stainless one. The F is the teapot that I’ve used for the longest and brewed not only green tea but also English teas. I think it has some stains from the plastic strainer, and they affected the taste. I could not tell perfectly, but I think people can tell the irony taste in the water.

On the next step, I brewed sencha with these six teapots. I smelled the brewed teas first. You know what? I could not tell the difference with the water, but I could slightly notice the irony smell in the brewed teas. I don’t know why, but it is very interesting. For the taste, Tea pot F made it tricky to tell the difference, again. I could not tell them perfectly, but I could still tell most of them. Here I didn’t like the taste with the teapot “A” the most. “A” is a brand new teapot, so maybe that’s why. It was more difficult to tell the irony taste in tea than in water.

In conclusion, you can say that ceramic strainers can brew better tea than stainless ones. Maybe, I’ll use ceramic-strainer teapots when I brew expensive tea, but I’ll keep using my teapots with metal strainer for daily tea. I think it is not a big deal.
There are some advantages of stainless strainers. They are usually reasonable and the mesh is finer than ceramic ones. Stainless-strainer teapots are actually sold many in Japan, and a lot of people are using them. I don’t want you to be paranoid too much about it. Brewing tea should be fun and easy (^-^) Right?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Flowers of the day, Sep 27 –Dec 8

Here in Japan, you see some Christmas illuminations around the town now. And also you will find some The New Year items sold at supermarkets. Happy holidays to you all!
Today I’ll upload some photos for the flowers displayed at our tea lessons.

Sep 27

Oct 6

Oct 13

Oct 18

Oct 20

Nov 3

Nov 10

Nov 17

Nov 29

Dec 1

Dec 8