Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The movie of Japanese aesthetic

This is my first time to go to theater on the premiere day of a film. I saw “Ask This of Rikyu” which I was looking forward to. I can’t judge if this was a good movie because I have read the original book and I have a favorable perspective of chanoyu (The Way of Tea). I generally think that it’s unreasonable to put the whole story from a book in just a few hours of film, the story often becomes shallow. I kind of find this file the same. However, what I was looking forward to seeing in this movie was Rikyu’s carriage in the ceremony and how they visually express the beauty on actual images. It’s worth watching for tea enthusiasts and Japanese culture lovers.

Nowadays, the manners in the tea ceremony are slightly different among tea schools even though the primary concept and procedure are the same. One of my biggest interests on this movie is to see how Rikyu’s ceremony and performance were like. I was satisfied with how the producers came up to show Rikyu’s behavior. It was very acceptable and natural. It gets me to imagine as if Rikyu performed so. The manners are a mixture of traditions of the three Sen-family tea schools that now exist, Omotesenke, Urasenke and Mushakojisenke. It was interesting to guess which manner is from which school tradition.  

When an actor tries to act some kind of profession, he might not look realistic enough to the people who are actually doing it. Even though ordinary people don’t notice them, the practitioner can find some awkwardness in his act. Don’t you think it happens sometimes? However, I as a tea trainee didn’t find such turnoff with Mr. Ebizo Ichikawa as Rikyu or rather his movements were even beautiful. I actually loved how he opened the lid of his tea container. I have already tried his way in the tea lesson last night, hahaha… There are some other movements that I want to copy. 


Rikyu’s behavior was surely beautiful. However, the beauty you can find in this film is not only that. I was fascinated with the artistic images. They are not spectacular or gorgeous. They are simple which you need to feel in your mind. When you discover it, you will hear “wow” from the innermost part of your heart. Those beauties were nothing special. You can find them in your surrounding nature. You might overlook them usually. They just cut them out and presented nicely. It maybe the essential of chanoyu, The Way of Tea, to enjoy discovering beauty in natural things. I hope this movie is shown overseas to introduce Japanese sense of beauty.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Rikyu was not an easy person!?

I feel that Rikyu is now something of a fad. I found a magazine featuring Rikyu at a bookstore the other day but actually there were three of them. Of course, I bought all three, hahaha. We don’t know the true personality of Rikyu, but it’s interesting to read different opinions. I think that the occasion of the boom stems from the film coming out on Dec. 7, “Ask This of Rikyu”. I welcome this boom and hope that Chanoyu (The Way of Tea) gets more popular! 


Rikyu is often introduced as an innovator. He contributed to the evolution of Chanoyu from luxurious to Wabi-Sabi style. For instance, he used a fish basket as a vase as if he is asking you “Isn’t this cool?” How modern he is! A tea master, Soshin Kimura illustrates Rikyu’s novelty like “At a wedding ceremony when everybody is wearing the morning dress, one came wearing a sophisticated washed-out linen shirt and jeans. He captured everybody at a blow.” I have no objection that Rikyu brought a new concept and created new values.

Rikyu is also known as a person with a keen aesthetic sense. Mr. Kenichi Yamamoto, the author of Ask This of Rikyu uniquely infers that Rikyu would not be an easy person to get along with. Rikyu might have sought beauty in every moment even in everyday living. I agree that Rikyu would be very particular about his aesthetics, but I’m not sure if he was stubborn; nobody knows. But then again, it’s very interesting to imagine that he was so.

When I read that Rikyu had an obsession with beauty even in daily life, a story of a grate figure came up in my mind. It’s Steve Jobs at a hospital refusing to wear an oxygen mask because he didn’t like its design. He asked them to bring five different options for the mask and he would pick a design he liked. I imagine that Rikyu would be a person like Mr. Jobs. Not only the obsession with design, they were both into Zen and also they were innovative. I think they are similar. What do you think? Rikyu and Mr. Jobs might have been stubborn but I regard them as people who had an insight into the nature of things and produced new values to the world.

Friday, November 1, 2013

How accurate is a teaspoon to measure matcha?

I encountered another surprise regarding preparing tea. My interest varies as well as my favorite tea. Lately, I drink matcha almost every day. Every time I prepare matcha, I scale the weight of tea that I scoop, because I want to be good at measuring matcha accurately with the bamboo tea scoop. After trying this habit for a while, I was kind of getting a good sense to tell the weight of the matcha visually by looking at the heap on my tea scoop. 

However all of a sudden, I could not scoop a desired amount. After a while, I earned the right sense back. It happened a few times. This kind of trouble arouses my curiosity with surprise. I realized that the reason of the miss-measuring is not me losing accuracy, but the volume and weight of tea are actually changing. The miss-measuring often happened after loading new matcha into my tea caddy.

The causes of different density of tea are as follows;
These are my mere guesses.

1. Movement
Once I’ve measured freshly sifted tea directly from the sifter can. Another time, I measured the tea after transferring into the tea container from the sifter. The tea was shaken and compacted when transferred. Also, the tea stored in the container for a while must have gotten moved during the storage. The vibration caused by those movements might have made them more compact.  

2. Stored old tea
Even though you sift matcha, the fluffiness of old tea is not the same as brand new one. Once I sifted old tea with lumps, and it became fine tea but I realized that the particles were not still as fine as brand new tea.

3. Moisture
Once I sifted matcha on a rainy day and I have also done it on a fine day. Maybe tea gets heavier when it has absorbed moisture.

Even with sifted matcha, the volume will vary from time to time. Nobody may not be able to measure the tea accurately with the bamboo scoop. There might not be a necessity to be so accurate, but I still want to try, hahaha.

Now, I got curious about the topic that I wrote on the previous post. I have to know what range does the weight of matcha has if measured with the 5 ml spoon. I actually measured it again.

The range is between 1.0g and 1.4g.

You might not find a big difference in taste between 1.2 tea and 1.0 tea, or between 1.2tea and 1.4tea. However, there will be a certain difference between 1.0 and 1.4. I just want you to be aware that there is a range, but I still think that the 5ml spoon is a useful item to measure matcha for beginners. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Purifying CHASHAKU tea scoop (Video)

In the tea ceremony, you purify the tea scoop before and after making the tea by ritually wiping it with a silk cloth.  This video introduces the way of purifying the CHASHAKU tea scoop.  The manner varies depending on school traditions.

Chashaku is available on our shop.  Click this picture to jump to the shop.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Measuring matcha and water

Do you think you prepare delicious matcha with correct amount of tea and water? I have talked about this topic before. However, it might not be so accurate to judge the correct amount by its looks or weight. Who knows, maybe your scale doesn’t exactly point to the right digit. You might not still be sure if your tea tastes right. Today, I want to share things that I realized when I was preparing things for the tea ceremony that I held the other day.

By the way, have you ever heard of the term “tatedashi”? Tatedashi is a way of serving tea by making it in another room and bring it to the guests in the tea room. The host prepares tea in the tea room only for the first few guests and the tea for the rest are served from the back by assistants. It makes the ceremony runs fast and smooth, and it’s often preferred at a ceremony with a lot of guests.

For the tea ceremony that I had, an assistant needed to make a lot of bowls of tea promptly and precisely in the preparation room. For my assistant, I looked for the way to effectively measure tea and water accurately. It helps to serve consistent quality of tea for everybody. 

1.8g of matcha and 60ml water are standard amounts of ingredients. I wanted to serve tea with light flavor because most of my guests were not so familiar with matcha. To find the best mixture for this gathering, I tried different amounts of matcha and water. My choice was 1.2g of matcha and 50ml of water. This tea is very mild but you can still enjoy the essence of matcha flavor. You will beam with delight from its sweetness hopping on a comfortable grassy note. I found perfect items in the kitchen to measure the ingredients. They are a 5ml spoon and a small sencha cup. I found out that you can scoop around 1.2g of matcha with a 5ml spoon. Take note, I said spoon, not spoonful (^-^) If I fill 95% of the Wabi-iki small sencha cup which is one of the products of our shop, it is about 50ml. With the spoon and cup, I could get my assistant to serve consistent tea.  

If you are a beginner about matcha and not sure how decent matcha tastes like. You can try using 5ml spoon to measure the correct amount. You might not have a problem measuring water but it may be difficult measuring matcha. So, 5ml spoon is useful. Try the mild tea with one spoon of matcha and 50ml water, and see how you like it. Then you can adjust the amounts to find your best mixture! Good luck.

Sift matcha with a tea strainer before measuring with the spoon.
Scoop matcha gently when measuring.

In Japan, we have two scale spoons for cooking. One is called the small spoon which is 5ml and the other one is the large spoon for 15ml. I found the equivalent English words in my dictionary, a “tea spoon (5ml)” and a “table spoon (15ml)”. Are they really for scaling? Are they common in your county? I’ll be happy if you leave a comment on this post for the answer.

Related posts:
Correct amount of matcha
Volume of sifted and non-sifted matcha
Does sifted matcha really have more volume?
Correct amount of matcha on a tea spoon

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Resonance of successful ceremony

Most of the guests were new to the tea ceremony. They are fellows from my Aikido class. I took all the utensils into the living room of my Aiki teacher’s apartment and I served tea for twelve people with my assistant. These days, I frequently think back on how good the tea ceremony went. I remember the excited faces of the fellows and kids helping on shifting matcha with their eyes alight.

 All of the guests properly sat on their knees even though I haven’t told them to do so. That’s Aikodo practitioner! Moreover, when I bowed at the beginning of the ceremony, all the guests synchronously bowed in silent. How nice it is! It instantly developed the feeling of unity in the atmosphere, and boosted my excitement. 

 I found the eyes on the person who were receiving sweets beatific. I could tell the guests were trying to sense something from my ritual performance by solemnly watching my movements with great interest. As I’m serving tea one by one, I noticed that the next guest looked slightly nerves and curious. I felt like that I could read the emotions of others without words. This session reminded me that the tea ceremony is different from casually enjoying matcha at the dining room. Maybe because you sit on your legs and bow with your hands on the floor, or the ritual gestures of the host. I don’t know what magic in it. I was more sensitive to the emotions of others. After all, I am simply glad to find that the guests were delighted. I’ve been basking in the resonance of the gathering this week.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Is it really Wabi-Sabi?

Is Rikyu’s tea really Wabi? I was shocked when I read such question in a book because I wondered about the same thing before. The author says that image of Chanoyu (The Way of Tea) is Wabi-Sabi or has a rustic ambience but when he saw a black urushi-lacquered water container which is one of Rikyu’s implements, he didn’t find it rustic at all. Urushi-lacquered utensils have luster and they are even amorous. It is difficult for me to consider them rustic, too.

When I see a black urushi tea container in a tea room, I’m captivated with its elegance. Its form is extremely simple and the coating is so black and smoothly glossy. The author of the book says that urushi products usually consist of exquisite curves, and the roundness is more emphasized by the profound urushi coating. Those utensils have warmness and power.

I imagined if you arrange all the implements with old-looking items in a rustic tea room, it would be just miserable or maybe boring. Having a few items with warmness and power makes the space alive and provides a sense of formality. The author says that the beauty stands out because the luster item is in the rustic space. This is my understanding of Rikyu’s Wabi-Sabi so far. His world is not Wabi-Sabi completely. 

Kiriaiguchi black chu-natsume

Blakck chu-natsume

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How to purify NATSUME tea caddy (Video)

In the tea ceremony, you purify the tea caddy before and sometimes after making the tea by ritually wiping it with a silk cloth. This video introduces the way of purifying NATSUME tea caddy. The manner varies depending on school traditions.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How to fold FUKUSA silk cloth (video)

I have avoided writing about this topic “Folding fukusa”. It is because I didn’t want people to think that the tea ceremony is complicated. Fukusa is a silk cloth to use for purifying the utensils during the ceremony. There is a certain way of folding it which is a little arduous. However I also realized that some people are interested in holding a proper tea ceremony on their own. On this blog, I’m planning to introduce a basic ceremony that you can try at home. Folding fukusa is the first thing that I leaned at the tea school. It is an inevitable manner. That’s why I think it is the time to introduce some of these arduous gestures. Once you acquire the movements, it is not that complicated.

You can enjoy matcha without fukusa of course. However, your tea will become much more authentic and fulfilling with fukusa. Your guests will simply get relaxed by watching your beautiful gestures while they are waiting their tea. 

In this entry, I’ll introduce how to fold fukusa and in two feature entries, I’ll show you how to purify a tea container and tea scoop with fukusa.  Please note that the manner of fukusa varies depending on school traditions.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wine bottle??

Have you ever won a prize? I never have. But this summer, I got a bottle as a prize for my magazine entry! Yeah! Do you want to know what this bottle is for? It is a filter-in bottle to prepare cold green tea!

This bottle has a tea strainer at the inside of the bottleneck. Put 15 grams (0.5oz) of tea leaves and 750ml (26oz) of cold water in the bottle and just leave it in the refrigerator for 3-6 hours. You can prepare cold sencha very easily and it’s quite practical!! If you want to do it with an ordinary teapot with handle and spout, it’s difficult because the pot will be unstable and obstruct entry in the fridge. This is quite a useful item for people like me who drink cold green tea regularly.

It looks like a wine bottle. The design is simple and it looks good on the table. It might make you feel like enjoying the tea in a wine glass. I actually tried it, hahaha. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Matcha is not about the price or origin

Yesterday, I had a chance to drive by Yoshimitsu, a confectionery shop with a good reputation on excellent tasteing sweets. I got their sweets, and on the way back home I wanted to stop by my favorite tea shop to buy some matcha. You know, you got to have matcha when you have a nice confectionery. But unfortunately, the tea shop was closed so I went to another store and bought matcha

What I wanted to write about is not sweets. It’s about matcha. The matcha I bought yesterday cost 1575yen (20g) and it's from Uji, Kyoto. When I think of the price, I was not satisfied with the tea, because it lacks the kick of umami. The flavor consists of grassy bitterness but not umami. It is like "senchatic" flavor and I wanted more richness and depth in taste.

My standard matcha is 1050yen (20g) from Toyota, Aichi. It has much nicer rounded flavor with mouth-filling sweetness, which is less expensive than the tea I bought yesterday. Toyota is a minor matcha producing region compared to Uji, which is very popular. When you shop for matcha and find tea from Toyota and Uji, you might want to go with the tea from Uji for safer choice. But you have to keep in mind that you can’t simply determine the quality of tea just by the price or production region. They can be deceiving. This tea reminded me about it. 

I’m not saying that matcha from Uji is not good. Of course, I have tried excellent tea from Uji, too.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Experiments don’t go well sometimes

I started to think that my cold sencha recipe is not very practical as I prepare the tea. It takes time and consume a lot of tea leaf, and I wanted improve them. So, every time when I prepare the tea at home or lately, in the office, I tried different mixtures.

This is the original recipe that I’m talking about.
  Tea leaves: 12g
  Lukewarm water: 50C/122F, 50ml/1.8oz
  Cold water: 200ml/7oz
  Ice cube: adequate dose

  Brew it with lukewarm water for 10sec to unfold the leaves and to help faster infusing. Then add cold water with ice and brew it for 10 minutes.

Sometimes, I casually do experiments whenever I’m curious about tea. But, I notice that the conditions are not totally consistent through my tests or I get different results from what I expected. Then I realize how stupid I am, hahaha. This is the fourth revision of this article. This time again, even after doing many tests, I could not get satisfying results or reach an organized idea. Today, I just write about the two points that I learned from the series of tests I did.

First point is that you can shorten the brewing time to 5 minutes and cut down the leaf to 9 grams. Of course, the tea lose the richness that original recipe can offer but this mixture can still bring the full-sweetness that you can’t get with ordinary preparation. The tea is extremely mellow.





Tea leaves




Brew it 10sec with 50ml of lukewarm water (50C)


200ml of Iced water

10 min

5 min




The second point is that my cold sencha recipe is not always beneficial. When I tried my recipe with kabusecha, I found a significant difference from ordinary preparation. It is definitely worth to try. But, when I tried it with deep-steamed sencha, I didn’t find obvious advantage using my recipe. The tastes are different but the tea brewed in ordinary way is also excellent, which is bitter and refreshing. There might not be big advantage using the recipe that need a lot of time and leaves. My recipe is a method to bring out abundant umami, so it works better with tea that has a lot of umami, such as kabusecha and fine sencha.

If you are suffering from hot summer, try cold sencha!

My original recipe that I’m referring in this post:

Common way of preparing iced sencha is something like this:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ocobo, a café at Kakuozan

There is a café called Ocobo at Kakuozan, Nagoya, which I’ve always wanted to visit. The other day, I finally had the chance. When I got there a few customers are calmly enjoying their tea. The cafe only has 10 seats at the bar. A man was preparing tea and he seemed to be the only person working there at that time. He is probably the master of the café. He told me to wait a little, while I was watching the confectioneries in the showcase for to-go. The master has been trained at a confectionery shop in Kyoto, so I wanted to try their sweets. While waiting, I looked around. On the shelves, there are cute cups and small teapots are displayed. I heard nice sound of the master whisking matcha. On the wall, there are some magazines and books with picture of a temple in Kyoto. I noticed that one of the customer was reading the magazine from the wall. The café was filled with a tranquility. 

In the meantime, the master finished serving the tea and came to me. I was about buying some sweets to take them home, but at the last moment, I changed my mind and decided to have tea and the sweets there. I seated at the bar and had a sencha tea set. 

The sencha was very clear and refreshing. It didn’t have much bitterness and any unpleasant flavor. The aroma like roasted chestnuts filled in my mouth. It was quite nice. The sweets that I tried was a little different from what I’ve expected. But, good ingredients seemed to be used.   

I definitely want to come back when I will be around Kakuozan. I want to try some other of their tea and sweets. Their matcha sorbet sounds good.

Ocobo (Japanese) >>> http://ocobo-wagashi.com/

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How to wipe the tea bowl (video)

You rinse the tea bowl before and after making matcha in a tea ceremony. There is a certain way of wiping the wet tea bowl using a special linen cloth called chakin.  The manner varies depending on school traditions. For instance, I have taught that you wipe the bowl with three and half strokes, but some books say three strokes.

Wiping the bowl is a little complicated. You don’t have to be perfect if it is difficult for you. The idea that we clean the bowl before making tea is one of the gestures to show your respect to the guests. The tea bowl is already cleaned in the preparation room before the ceremony begins. However, you dare to clean it in front of the guests once again. I think that it represents the whole concept of the tea that you’re serving. It is something special and purified with your hospitality. As far as, you politely clean the bowl from the heart, it will be fine. Don’t worry the details too much. Good luck with your tea gathering and enjoy!!

I’m sorry if you have difficulty checking the details on this video because of the bad camera angle. My arm seems to gets in the way of my demonstration.

Please refer the previous post for the proper way of folding chakin.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to fold chakin (video)

A special linen cloth is used to wipe the tea bowl in a tea ceremony. It is called chakin which is about 30*15cm (12*6in) large. Before the ceremony begins in the preparation room, you nicely fold a damped chakin. Then it is ready to be taken into the tea room with other utensils.

I have introduced how to prepare matcha in the past entry. One of the readers told me that he wants to know how to wipe the tea bowl properly. The manner depends on school traditions. On this video, I’ll introduce the way that I learned at my tea school. I’ll show you how to fold chakin today, and how to wipe the bowl in the next entry.

Chakin linen cloth is available on our shop. Click this picture to jump to the shop.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Trying Pu-erh tea

I rarely drink Chinese tea, but the other day, I got pu-erh tea from a friend of mine.    I don’t have any Chinese tea utensils and don’t know the proper preparation.  I just learned some tips from him.

The major differences from Japanese preparation that I noticed are as follows:
  • Consuming plenty of tea leaf
  • Rinsing the leaves
  • High temperature water
  • Shorter brewing time
  • Multiple brewing

Knowing these preparations surprised me that pu-erh leaves can be brewed more than ten times if it is in good quality or condition.

When I tried to prepare for the first try, it was a failure because the tea got too strong.  The second try went pretty well, tea was very smooth with an elegant floral aroma. It had much rich fragrant than Japanese teas which is like a smell of flowers and a note like cinnamon.  When I smelled the remaining scent in the cup after drinking, I smelled sweet caramel aroma.  The tea doesn’t have greenish bitterness like Japanese sencha has.  The bitterness of pu-erh is milder with a soil like smell. I liked this tea and enjoy finding the differences from Japanese teas. 

I took the tea set to my desk and I’m writing this article.  Now, I’m enjoying the fifth brewing.  The flavor is slightly changing but still has the good aroma.  I’m impressed with it.  Chinese tea might be good to drink at office because you can prepare it the same tea over and over while you are working.  Chinese tea has charms that Japanese tea doesn’t have.  (The opposite is equally true.)  Again, the Chinese tea aroma is excellent!  It is fun to explore tea from different country.  You can find a new way of enjoying tea.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Common Mistake on Bowing - How to bow in the tea room -

When Japanese people shake hands with westerners, we sometimes bow while shaking hands.  It might look comical to you, but I have probably done it myself before, hahaha.  I know that it looks funny but bowing is so natural for us and we naturally bow when greeting.  However, the opposite thing can happen to westerners.  When westerners bow in Japanese style, some of them stick out their heads forward.  It looks comical for us, too.  Why do you think it happens?

In the western greeting, you shake hands as you look straight at the eyes of the other person, which expresses integrity.  I think that this manner makes some westerners try to look at the other person even when they are bowing.  It makes their chin up and causes the sticking of their heads.

In Japanese greeting, we show our respect by removing our gaze from the other person.  Staring at someone directly is considered rude.  (There seem to be some exceptions, for bowing in some martial arts, we look at the opponent.)  I’ve never thought of the reasons behind the manner of bowing, but I’ve just learned it from a book that I’ve read. hehehe.   This idea makes sense to me also when comparing with the practice of bowing in the tea ceremony.  When we greet formally in a ceremony, we place a folding fan on the floor in front of us to create a temporal borderline with it.  It is the sign of condescension by not directly facing to the other person.  It supports aforementioned idea.

Not understanding these cultural backgrounds makes our greeting comical. 

This is what I have learned from my tea school and some books.  Bowing varies school to school and person to person, but this is how I do it.  I’m not sure if you want to know but I’ll share some detailed tips:

Move your hand smoothly by traveling along your lap and place them on the floor in front of your knees.

Retain a small space between both hands and make a triangle with your thumbs and index fingers.  Line up the four fingers, which looks beautiful.  Touch the floor without your palm making in contact to the floor, to make your hand look gentle.

Bend your hip and tilt your upper body with a straight back.  Try not to curl your back.
Look at the floor a little far from you, with your chin down

When raising your body back, do not push up with your arms, use your back.
Take back your hand smoothly with the backward motion

Now, you are one of the people who can bow beautifully in the tea room.

If I have a chance to shake hands, I’ll try to look at the other person’s eyes and try not to bow at the same time.  If you have a chance to do Japanese bowing, try to look at the floor!

Monday, July 8, 2013

I Bow This Way, You Bow That Way

We bow even in Japanese martial arts, judo, karate or kendo.  I started taking aikido (a kind of martial arts) lesson last year.  I bow so many times in the class.  I’ve realized that there is a slight difference in the way of bowing between martial arts and sado.

At sado, you sit on your legs and place your hands on the floor in front of your knees and tilt your upper body from your hip.  Even in sado, every school has a different style of bowing.  I have seen some people placing their fists at the side of their knees when they bow.  You can’t simply say what the correct way is.  In the aikdo class or in some books, people put out their hands one after another while at my tea school, we place both hands at the same time.  Why are they different?  However, I’ve realized that my aiki teacher and some of the students are not following the rule.  They put out both hands at once like the sado style.  The way of bowing really varies.


Martial arts

I asked my aikido teacher if there is a correct way of bowing in aiki.  He explained the reason of his way of bowing.  In martial arts, people usually place their left hand first and then right hand a moment after.  It allows your right hand free until the last moment, which is a preparation for an unanticipated attack.  You can grab your sword, defend or attack back with the right hand.  Wow, I didn’t know that the manner of hands has such meaning.  This is my teacher’s opinion.  We just practice kata (forms) and aikido is not a martial art for fighting.  So, he thinks that he doesn’t need to do the one-by-one hand bowing at aiki.  The explanation really got me.  Since then, I follow my teacher’s way in the aiki class.

Now it also clearly makes sense how we bow in sado.  There is no fighting in the tea room, so you can put out your both hands at the same time in peace, unless someone attacks you with hot tea or throws a tea cup at you. hahaha.

Aikido on Wikipedia >>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aikido

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Enhancing your tea by roasting - How to roast hojicha -

“The way to make you happy in 5 minutes”  On a TV program on NHK, they introduced how to make hojicha with such catch phrase.  Hojicha is tea made by roasting sencha or kukicha.  You can buy it from tea shops but you can actually make one at home by roasting your sencha.  I tried what I’ve learned from the TV program.  Did I get happy?  Please see what happened.

What you need:
Iron frying pan  (If you don’t have one, you can use a stainless pot.)
Green tea leaf: 15g  (Casual grade sencha 400yen/100g will be fine)

First, slowly at low heat
For the finish, rapidly at high heat

1. Pre-heat frying pan for 30 seconds at high heat

2. Place the pan on a damp cloth for 2 seconds to cool it down a little bit
This makes the pan even in temperature.  About 100gC/212F is the ideal temperature.

3. Place the green tea leaves by spreading into the pan
By placing tea into the pot, colorful green-tea aroma rises

4. Put the lid on and leave it for 2 and half minutes.
No fire, residual heat will do.

5. Open the lid
The leaves are still green.  I could smell rich fragrance already.  It has a green grass note and there seem to be some other aromas behind it.  I wanted to check them if I can find the various scent like mint, rock salt, flower, chocolate or orange.  But I didn’t have such time because I had to proceed to the next step before it will be over cooked.

6. Roast the leaves at high heat for 1 minute while stirring them.
I noticed that the odor was rapidly and continuously changing from one to another since I started roasting.  The green note became a roasted nutty aroma and then sweet smell. In 20 seconds, it already started smoking.  I guess that my stove was too strong.  I didn’t know what to do.  So, I just turned down the heat to medium and kept this processes for one minute.

7. When smoke starts to rise, put off the fire.
Keep roasting it with the remaining heat for another minute.
At this point, the odor was definitely different from the beginning.  I can acutely find the smoky aromas like cigar and cinnamon which were mentioned on the TV program.

Here is the pictures for before (top) and after (below) smoking.

Some leaves have a nice brownish color, but some small pieces are blackish.  I guess the heat was too strong on the 6th step, so small pieces got over cooked and  burned.  Besides that, it went pretty well.    I could not find all the smell that was mentioned on TV, but I experienced the fresh greenish fragrance changing into various roasted odor like nuts (hazelnuts??) and chocolate like sweet ones.  In the end smoky odor was added which is like cigar and cinnamon.  I had the nice woody smell not only in the kitchen but also in the living room and other rooms.  I asked myself if I’m happy now.  I was not sure if I was happy but I definitely felt good.  I loved the aroma of hojicha and was satisfied with the result.  The idea on the TV, “Aroma of hojicha makes you happy” or “The way to make you happy in 5 minutes” may not be totally wrong. 

There was another advantage!  I used old sencha for making this hojicha, which I didn’t like and didn’t consume much.  It has been kept for a long time at home.  But once it was turned into hojicha, it re-lived.  I prepared the hojicha and tasted it.  
Hojicha: 1.5grams
Boiling water: 80ml (2.8oz)
Brewing time: 1 minute

It was quite good!!  I couldn’t believe that it was my least favorite tea.  It is very smooth with a caramelic sweet flavor which is like a mild black tea without bitterness.  Every time I move the cup, the alluring earthy aroma was pervaded and pleased me.  After drinking, the faint aroma remained around me and my senses were surrounded with the delight for a while.  
Give it a try with your old senecha!  Now as I’m writing this article, I’m drinking hojicha with sugar and milk.  Now, I’m happy!