Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shinano ceramic center in Seto, Aichi 1

This weekend, a new facility opened in my town, Shinano Seto. I don’t know if you have the same kind of facility in your country. It is called michinoeki, literally means a road station. Michinoeki is a public resting place for drivers, which consists of a parking lot, bathrooms, an information center and local shops. There are about 370 of them along the road all over Japan. The one that has opened is just 15min away on foot from my place. The opening day was a chilly and windy day, but we walked there. I wanted to have Seto-yakisoba, a local noodle. But actually, it was so crowded and people were lined up to get into the restaurant. We didn’t want to wait outside, so we gave up the noodles 。・゜・(ノД`)・゜・。 It’s not a long way so we can come back anytime.

Why I started write about Michinoeki is that I wanted to introduce Shinano ceramic center, which is located in the same property. The ceramic center is not new, and has been there for a long time. They sell local ceramic wares and also have ceramic workshops. You can learn and experience pottery making. I myself have actually tried it a few times. Once, I made a tea bowl using a wheel. How do you think I did?

Talk to you tomorrow!

This is Shinano ceramic center.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mochi-kichi, a Japanese rice cracker shop

Do you know what Japanese rice-cracker is like? Have you tried it? You can find rice-crackers anywhere in Japan, somewhere like supermarkets, convenience stores or department stores. They are made of rice, which are readily available in grilled or fried crackers. It is difficult to explain the taste, but I guess crunchy salted pretzel is the most similar snack I can think of. The Japanese cracker has more ricey taste. There are various flavors, such as salty, soy-sauce and sugar-sprinkled flavors. Some of them are wrapped with dried laver seaweed. Huum, it sounds yummy. It may not for you, haha(^^; But you know what. The rice-crackers really go with Japanese green tea. I’ll recommend sencha or hojicha for the crackers. I hope you can try the cracker with green tea if you have a chance.

This weekend, I got to go to a Japanese rice-cracker shop, called Mochi-kichi. They are rice-cracker specialized chain shops. They have a big selection of crackers. The price is reasonable and taste good. I love them and you may check their website (Japanese) at

This is what I got this time. I believe this is fried one and has sweated soy-sauce flavor.

The crackers remind me some quality times with my family. When I was a kid, the cracker was often on the center of the table at our tea time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Adjust the amount of ingredients

Yesterday, I introduced a guide to show you how much ingredients I’m using for matcha making. But the measurement always varies. In sado (The Way of Tea), you need to slightly adjust the amounts depending on the guest. If the guest is a beginner for matcha, he/she may prefer a smaller amount of light tea. If the guest is thirsty, then a plenty amount of tea might be appreciated and also it would be better if it’s not too hot. If the guest is an experienced one, he/she may prefer richer tea. I think you need to consider and read the guest’s mind to serve a blissful bowl of tea.

If you want to make a light tea or a little amount of tea, try to scoop matcha powder less than usual. Scoop more powder when you want to make a rich tea or a plenty amount of tea. Try to adjust the water amount around 40-70ml (1.4-2.5oz). I hope you will meet the authentic flavor of matcha. Have fun!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Correct amount of matcha powder and water

As I mentioned on the last entry, we are not taught the exact amount of ingredient in grams or milliliters for making matcha. However, I’ll introduce what I think the correct amount is through my experience.

This is how much one scoop should be.

Put two scoops of matcha into the tea bowl. This is how much TWO scoops of matcha looks like in the tea bowl.

In the tea ceremony, we measure the correct amount of water by using the bamboo ladle and also through experiences. Although, I have never measured exactly how much milliliters I use when making matcha.

Today I actually measured it. My standard amount is about 50ml (1.8oz). I usually use the amount of water around 40-70ml (1.4-2.5oz), but it never gets as much as 120ml (4.2oz) which is something I have seen on YouTube videos from other people.

This is how much the water looks like when measuring in regular-size sencha cup. To make it clear, I used orange juice instead of water in the picture.

This is what the 50ml (1.8oz) of water looks like in a tea bowl.

This is the amount of tea made with 50ml (1.8oz) water.

Please try this recipe with a good-quality matcha. The flavor of matcha is totally different by grades. You will find strong bitterness in low quality matcha. Good matcha has milder bitterness and profound umami. Why don't you give my recipe a try? ^^

Friday, March 25, 2011

Can you make delicious matcha?

Are you sure that you are making matcha with correct amount of matcha powder and water? I introduced a video for preparing matcha on the previous post, and I had a chance to see some matcha making videos from other people on YouTube. I noticed that the amount of matcha powder or water is not quite correct on some of the YouTube videos. Some of them use too much water. I assume that the tea is too pale and not good. You don’t have to know the manners and procedures of sado (The Way of Tea) to make matcha, but I think you want to know the correct measurement of ingredients. Otherwise, you are drinking substandard tea. The amount makes a big difference to the taste.

In the tea lesson, you are not taught the exact amount of ingredient in grams or milliliters. What I have learned was a rough guide only, which is two chashakus (teascoop) of matcha powder and one scoop of hot water using hishaku (ladle). In the first few lessons, our master told us the amount by saying it’s too much or less as we made it. But since then she hasn’t taught us about it. We are kind of learning the correct amount thought the experience. You might not think it’s logical, but that’s the way it is. So I guess we Japanese are not good at telling how to prepare matcha in quantities to the world. It was not clear about the amount in my video as well. On the next entry, I will show you the close up pictures of powder and water in correct amount. See you next week!

This is the ladle, hishaku used in sado

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How to prepare matcha (video)

As I write this blog, I sometimes feel the limit of what I can tell by photos and texts. I wanted to tell you things on video. Here, I tried making a video on how to prepare matcha (about 9min). I myself appear on it. This will be the first time you are going to see me speaking … and moving ^^. I talked in Japanese and I added English subtitles. I thought making a video is not gonna be a problem, but it took a lot of time and effort ^^; So I could not post for a while. Anyway, see you in the video! He he he ^^

Edit: Aug.9 20013
New entries
How to fold chakin (video)
How to wipe the tea bowl (video)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sweets in the past

Here are some other pictures of sweets we had in tea lesson. These are what we had from April to November in 2010. Do you find the seasonal difference on the sweets? By the way, the sweets shown on the other day’s entry were sweets used in the lessons from Nov 2010 to Mar 2011.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Different from the charcoals for BBQ

Do you want to see how it looks like in a sunken hearth? We have used an electric stove for the kettle instead of charcoal in our tea lesson. However our master used the charcoals in the recent lessons. Here it is …

You might think it’s nothing special and it looks just like the charcoals for barbecue. But actually these charcoals are special. They are charcoals for sado (The Way of Tea). The box contains a set of different shaped charcoals. Each piece should be in certain shape and size. Each piece even has a name.

Moreover, the charcoals should be placed in certain positions in the sunken hearth. There are manners and procedures in placing them. I think the practical combination and position of charcoals create a stable heat during the tea ceremony. We Japanese have a very strict discipline when it comes to many things. We even follow certain rules to place charcoals just to have a cup of tea, he he he … (^^;; I was reminded of the profoundness of sado (The Way of Tea).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sweets in tea lesson

We are now encountering a pile of problems such as the nuclear plant damages, electricity shortage in Tokyo area and distribution of relief supplies. The massages and supports from overseas are introduced on Japanese TV. I strongly believe that those massages and supports will encourage the suffering people and also the people working to solve the problems. Thanks to the world!

These are the sweets that we had in the resent tea lessons.

My favorite, sakuramochi!