Monday, January 31, 2011

How the taste changes after several brewing

Today I would like to talk about how the taste of green tea changes as a result of several brewing. The following numbers express the difference between amino acid (umami) and tannin (bitterness) contents which are produced on each brewing. (deep-steamed sencha)
First brewing: 0.45
Second brewing: 0.28
Third brewing: 0.21
Fourth brewing: 0.17
Fifth brewing: 0.15
The abovementioned numbers are obtained by dividing the proportion of amino acid by the ratio of tannin (amino acid / tannin = n) as shown in the example below:
Example: First brewing - Amino acid 63mg, Tannin 140mg, 63/140 = 0.45
(The data is from Nihoncha adviser Kouza dai2kan)

Hence, you can find umami in the earlier brewing. You taste more bitterness and less umami in later-brewed tea. A lot of umami substance is extracted in the earlier brewing. Bitterness infuses constantly to the later brewing. By the third brewing 78% of umami and 43% of bitterness in the leaves extracted out. By the fifth brewing, 97% of umami and about 63% of bitterness is extracted from the leaves.

You can enjoy the change of the taste on each brewing. That is one of the charms of Japanese tea. You enjoy umami in the green tea flavor on the early brewing. As you brew the tea some more, umami is gone and you can enjoy the refreshing taste with bitterness on the late brewing. Have fun!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Several brewing

People sometimes ask how many times you can brew the same leaves. For the most of Japanese tea, you can brew for a couple of times. But actually it depends on the type of tea and individual leaves. You can brew about three times for sencha, kabusecha and gyokuro. Kukicha doesn’t last as many brewing as sencha. I only brew twice for one type of gyokuro I have which doesn’t taste good after a couple brewings, but I enjoy another kind of gyokuro which I can brew up to five times. It depends on the leaves. You can tell by its aroma if the leaves still can be brewed. If they don’t have much aroma left, they may not give good tea any more.

Also it depends on occasions. If you want to enjoy good flavor of tea on your tea time or when you serve tea to guests, maybe twice to three-time brewing is better. You want to use fresh leaves anytime when you have guests. You can brew three to four times for your daily tea. Sometimes I brew even up to five times on my casual tea, ha ha (^^;;

When you brew deep-steamed sencha for five times, about 80% of the flavor is infused during the first to third brewing. The details are 37% on first brewing, 25% on the second and 17% on the third. (The data is from Nihoncha adviser Kouza dai2kan) So the first brewing usually has the richest and best flavor. The flavor gets paler as the number of brewing goes on. I hope you enjoy the change of taste. I’ll write about how the taste changes over several brewing on the next post.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Batabatacha-tea from Toyama prefecture

I tried another local tea from Toyama prefecture called batabatacha at the tea workshop. Batabatacha is served when you invite neighbors to your house on ceremonial occasions. It is black tea (Post-fermented tea) which is originates from China. It is also whisked like botebotecha which I introduce yesterday, but you don’t put the toppings in the tea. You just have pickles and light meal as snacks with the tea. I was expecting a very distinctive taste of black tea, but it wasn’t so bad. I though the tea got milder after whisking.

The tea brewed tea is dark brown. A double whisk is used for this tea

Whisk the tea by moving the whisk to right and left, not back and forth like matcha or botebotecha.

We had some pickles with the tea.

Video from the tea workshop (Japanese)
Sorry, the sound is not clear

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Botebotecha-tea from Izumo area

Let me introduce another local tea that I tried in the tea workshop. It is from Izumo area called botebotecha, which is bancha with foam on its surface and is enjoyed with some toppings such as rice, beans and pickles. The foam is made by whisking bancha with a whisk. There are various stories regarding the origins of botebotecha. One of the stories is that matcha was the tea for high society in the old days, and people imitated matcha and came up with botebotecha.

You pour brewed bancha in a tea bowl.

The whisk is coarser and longer than the whisk for matcha.

You put a little bit of salt on the tip of the whisk. It will help to make the foam.

You whisk the bancha by moving the whisk back and forth until it gets foamy.

You put some toppings in the tea. I added rice, beans and some pickles but they are under the foam so you can’t see them in the picture.

You move the tea bowl in circular motion to mix and pour down the toppings with tea into your mouth. I tasted a little salty flavor in the rice with tea. I thought it was more like a light meal rather than tea. I like that the sweetness of beans added a nice accentt in the taste. I quite like botebotecha.

Video from the tea workshop 106sec (Japanese)
Sorry, the sound is not clear.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Ofukucha is not a name for a type of Japanese tea. It is sencha with pickled plum and dried kelp (seaweed) in it. It is enjoyed as a lucky-charm tea in Kyoto or some other areas on New Year’s days. I have not seen it in my region, but I was able to try it buring the tea workshop.

Ofukucha is originated from the tea served about a century ago. When the epidemic was spreading in Kyoto, a monk served the tea with pickled plum and dried kelp to the people. It is also said that the Emperor at that time had the tea as well. Ofukucha is appreciated at New Year’s nowadays as a lucky and healthy charm tea. This is the oldest story regarding the tea for people in Japan, but nobody knows whether this is true or not.

At the workshop, we put a pickled plum and dried kelp in a cup and poured brewed sencha. The tea looked nice with colorful hue. The taste was sencha with a slight salty flavor of the plum and kelp added. After drinking the sencha, the plum and kelp were left in the cup.

We refilled the cup with the second brewed sencha. This time, I broke the plum in the tea, and gave the tea more flavor of the plum. The kelp also released more flavor on the second serving. I liked the second serving better, because it has stronger flavors of plum which is sour and umami of kelp.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Local bancha

There are some local teas around Japan. I know of those local banchas which I have read in the text-book, but I have never seen or tasted them. I was able to experience some of them on the tea workshop I attended this weekend.

There were around 15 to 17 different kinds of local tea at the workshop. Most of them were coarser than sencha and had a roasted flavor and less bitterness, which reminds me of a hojicha’s taste. There were some fermented teas, which have more distinctive taste.

Koybancha from Kyoto
It is popular daily tea in Kyoto. This tea uses the leaves that are left after picking leaves for gyokuro. The brewed tea was brown. It is deep roasted so it has a smoky aroma and nutty taste.

Goishicha from Kochi
This is a fermented tea. It contains lactic acid bacteria. I tested a flavor like soil and sour like citrus.

Yoshino-no-hoji-nikkan(hiboshi)banncha from Nara
It made by sun drying. When I sipped the tea, a distinctive taste came first, and it had a clear aftertaste with a faint taste like English tea and hojicha.

Some other teas (click for the large picture)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Size of tea bowl

I saw matcha prepared in a cup at a blog written by someone overseas. I think a cup is too small to prepare matcha. Today I would like to talk about the size of tea bowls. In Japan we use a tea bowl to prepare matcha. It is called chawan, sometimes o-chawan or matcha-jawan. It is a vessel to make matcha, to drink matcha from and to appreciate as an art. Tea bowls have to be of certain size to move a bamboo tea whisk in it. So, tea bowls are much larger than regular sencha-cups.

There are various designs for tea bowl. I measured the diameter of the tea bowls I have. The four tea bowls at the front row were something between 12.2 and 15.2 cm, which is 4.8 - 8.98in. The three cups on the back side are too small for preparing matcha. Even the mug doesn’t have an enough space to move the whisk. If you can’t whisk well, you might get lumps of matcha and the tea won’t taste good.

If you are looking for a substitution of a tea bowl, look for a bowl with a diameter larger than 12cm (4.72in). The shape of bowl affects ease of whisking, and you can’t tell good or bad only by the diameter. However the diameter of the tea bowl can be one of your guides if you are looking for the substitution. The white bowl in the picture below is an ordinary bowl that can be used in many ways; rice, meal or soup. Something like that could be the substitution.

Matcha is prepared with about 60ml (2.1oz) water. So the tea in a tea bowl looks very little. When I had a bowl of matcha for the first time, I remember that I wondered as a kid why the tea is so little. Now I still don’t know the reason. You need a big bowl to move the whisk in it perhaps or it might have other reasons. Now I got used to the amount of tea and the bowl size, and I think it should be the way it is. I hope you find a correct size of the tea bowl♪( ´▽`)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Onsenji-temple in Gero, Gifu prefecture

We just felt like going for a walk and wanted to go somewhere during our stay in Gero. We took a walk to Onsenji-temple. It was nothing special; a small and quiet temple in the town. .

Long stairs to the temple

Again, here is kadomatsu. I mentioned it yesterday.

Click for the large image

Can you tell what the white pieces on the branches are?

These are written fortunes on small pieces of paper.

You can draw sacred lots to tell your fortunes at temples or shrines. If you draw a good fortune, you take it home with you. If you draw a bad fortune, you tie the paper on a tree at the temple or shrine and leave it there. This is what I’ve heard, but there are some different beliefs. Some people tie the paper whatever fortune he or she draws. But, I don’t care much about this kind of stuff, ha ha ha (^^;;

View from the back of the temple

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Omotenashi-spirit, hospitality at Japanese hotel 2

There were some other omomtenashi at Suimeikan.

There were some events and activities for guests.

They had a room for table tennis. Table tennis was a very popular activity at ryokan in the olden days. I don’t see table tennis much at ryokans nowadays. We enjoyed it. My brother and I are pretty good at table tennisψ(`∇´)ψ

Live jazz at the lounge for free ♪( ´▽`)

Bingo game at night
We all won some prizes except Hiro, my wife.
Poor Hiro 。・゜・(ノД`)・゜・。

I joined a little tour in the hotel.
They showed some art pieces in the hotel and facilities such as huge banquet room, a hallway for small banquet rooms and the stage for Japanese play called “No”.

During the tour, we passed a tea room. The guide didn’t explain about the tea room. I wish they had served tea at the tea room.

There were some flowers and decorations in the hotel. I think they are a part of their omotenashi.

Kadomatsu, a New Year's decoration made of bamboo and pine branches, literally means gate pines. It is displayed in pairs outside of the main entrance as a gate.

Decorations with rabbit figures at the lobby
Rabbit is the animal of the year.

Flowers around the hotel

Kagami-mochi, a special decoration for New Year made of rice cake.

Flowers in guest rooms