Friday, December 19, 2014

Really Need a Chasen Bamboo Whisk?

Hesitation to start matcha

I sometimes see people making matcha with an electrical milk frother. Someone even uses an ordinary beater. Matcha beginners might wonder if you really need a chasen (bamboo whisk) to make matcha. For the people who want to try matcha for a bit to see if they will like it, purchasing chasen can be a reason to hesitate to try it. People might have an electric frother, but not a chasen. If you can use the electric frother to substitute chasen, it will be wonderful, don’t you think?

Chasen vs Electrical frother

I have never used an electric frother or an ordinary beater for brewing matcha. Today, I tried making matcha with a chasen, an electrical frother and an ordinary beater. I took a video of it. Please check out what result I got.
If you don’t see the subtitles, please check your setting on YouTube.

Use electric frother

Here is the bottom line. The tea made with the beater was not delicious, so I don’t recommend it. The electric frother can make as tasty tea as a chasen does. So, if you want to try matcha just to see if you like it, use an electric milk frother. It won’t be a problem and helps you save money. However, there is still a certain difference between the ones made with chasen and electrical one. If you like matcha and want to continue consuming it, I recommend you to get a chasen. You will appreciate the gentle foam created with a fine art of bamboo.

Need Chasen? It’s available here >>>

Friday, December 12, 2014

Is premium bottled tea really premium?

Bekkaku, premium bottled beverage

The price of bottled green tea (500ml) is usually around 150yen. You can get them at supermarkets even for less than 100yen. Kirin introduced a new brand of bottled beverage called Bekkaku. They are highly priced at 216yen for a bottle (375ml). They have green tea, coffee, ginger ale and Chinese tea. For the green tea, they use carefully collected leaves including kabusecha. They use about 2.5 times of amount of leaves than regular products. I would like to know if it is really premium and worth the price.


I could find gentle sweet aroma in green-tea smell. It has a good body with decent umami. It changes into sweet kabuse flavor, leaving a rounded glassy aroma in the after taste. It has a certain bitter taste all the way. I thought that I might be able to notice something special more about this tea if I compare it with other brands.

Comparing with other brands

I tasted the Bekkaku with three major brands, Oi,Ocha, Ayataka and Iyemon. Surprisingly, the bitter flavor of Bekkaku was the strongest among the four. However, it was also rich in other flavors. It was not astringent only, but also I could always relish matured umami and some other flavors behind. Bekkaku is the tea with the most profound flavor. It is the aspect that Bekkaku should be highly evaluated for. My impressions of other teas are as follows.
Oi,Ocha: Rich and distinct, Mouth filing roasted flavor
Ayataka: Well-balanced flavor, Aroma is week but I like it the best among the four.
Iyemon: Smooth with light grassy bitterness.


If the aforementioned teas are served in a small tea cup as you enjoy premium tea, I would be able to find Bekkaku the most flavorful. I found that the other three don’t have the flavor and profoundness that premium teas supposed to have. Bekkaku definitely has a richness in its taste. It’s not bad at all. However, I didn’t find an appealing sensation from it as a premium tea. I wonder if a customer can find Bekkaku significantly delicious when getting a bottle at a convenience store. He might not be able to appreciate its value.    I think it might be tough to develop a new market of premium bottled tea. At least, I am happy to have a new choice and hope some other makers will follow this trend. 

Kirin Bekkaku (Japanese)  >>>

Thursday, November 27, 2014

To Advance Your Tea Ceremony

Next phase

The three important elements for tea ceremony are space, utensils and manners. I have introduced them before ( I would like to introduce one more thing to add in the utensils and the manners. It is going to enrich and advance your tea ceremony and take your tea ceremony to the next phase.

What is special about a tea ceremony?

What is the difference between just making tea and serving tea in a ceremony? You might have noticed it when you watch my previous videos. The five things that the host does during the ceremony are; 1. Bring the implements into the room, 2. Purify the implements, 3. Make the tea, 4. Clean and put the utensils together, 5. Leave the room with implements. Probably, you have no trouble bringing the implements into the room or making tea, but it might be difficult for you to imagine how and why you purify the implements. I think that it is one of the special things about tea ceremony and it makes a difference from just making tea.

Purifying implements

Before the ceremony begins, the implements are all cleaned. However, we dare clean them in front of the guests during the ceremony. We wipe the tea container and tea scoop with a piece of cloth. It is a 27cm (11in) silk, called fukusa. We rinse the tea whisk with hot water in the tea bowl. These steps make the tea which is going to be served special. Some people say that the host even purify his mind as well as he does it.

Just try it

If you want to serve tea with utmost hospitality for your guests, try to purify the utensils before making tea. If you don’t have fukusa, it’ll be okay to use any kind of cloth as far as it’s clean. As I mentioned before, you don’t have to worry about the detailed gestures. Just imitate how others do. What counts is your hospitality. Fold fukusa nicely and gently wipe the items. You guests will definitely notice and appreciate your solicitous consideration in preparing tea. It makes your tea so special and blessed. Purifying items will advance your tea ceremony. 

Fukusa is available on our shop >>>

This is the video I’ve mentioned. You can see purifying the tea container and scoop at 0:57.

If you want to do it properly, refer the following videos.
- Procedure of Tea Ceremony
- How to fold FUKUSA silk cloth
- How to purify NATSUME tea caddy
- How to purify CHASHAKU tea scoop

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Every Day Matcha made easy! (video)

Matcha is too much of a bother!?

Lately, I hear many questions and opinions about preparing matcha casually. “Is there any way to prepare matcha easily?” “A hand-held electric frother might help.” “Making paste with a little bit of water can prevent getting lumps?” It seems people are looking for an easy way. Some people might also think the traditional matcha making has a lot of manners so it’s too much of a bother. In fact, I used to prepare matcha rarely because I find it kind of troublesome. However, now I have matcha almost every day without feeling troubled. I think it is easy as making instant coffee.

Don’t store in freezer nor sift it

The traditional way is easy enough. You won’t need to look for any alternative way such as using the electric mixer or the two-step method. Think about it. It’s basically just mixing matcha powder and hot water. How simple is that? The bother that I can think of are something like storing it in the freezer or sifting before brewing. Then, I would say “Don’t store it in the freezer nor sift it”. I don’t actually do them each time when I prepare.

My way of daily matcha

Today, I’m going to introduce how I prepare matcha at home. I’ll be glad if it could become some kind of hint for somebody by sharing it here. Of course, I’m not doing everything properly. What we need to do is just mix matcha, and other than that we would like to make it as simple as possible.  There are three points.
1. Not sifting matcha every time
It is the best to sift matcha just before you brew. When I serve it for guests, I’ll sift brand new tea, but for daily tea I believe that being simple is more appealing. I sift matcha once before putting it in the container. I use the same tea without sifting later on, instead I handle the container gently. No shaking nor placing it on the table with impact.
2. Not storing matcha in the fridge
I keep matcha on the shelf with the utensils. I usually consume one package (20g) in about two weeks. If you don’t consume that much in two weeks, keep the amount for two weeks in the container, and store the rest in the freezer. You only do storing and sifting once in two weeks.
3. Store minimal utensils at an accessible place
What you need is a tea bowl, bamboo whisk, tea scoop and matcha. Secure an accessible space in the kitchen for them. You don’t have to store matcha in the refrigerator or freezer.

Making matcha can become very easy if minimal utensils and the tea are available. My method is not the absolute answer, you can try anything to simplify your preparation.

Please check the video for details. 
If you don’t see English subtitle, please check the setting on your YouTube.


New package!

We made some changes on the package of matcha, Shosen. The tea is the same but different packaging. We wanted to put more air (nitrogen) in the pouch for less risk of lumping. It requires a larger box. That is why we made the change.

It is available on our shop >>>

Friday, October 17, 2014

Family Tea Traditions

Encountering a School

Your choice of tea school could be based on the atmosphere you get after visiting different schools or because you know someone taking classes in a certain school‏. Not many people know which school tradition they want to learn when they begin because they don’t know the differences. It might be something that you realize after you learn for many years. Choosing school is just an encounter. I’m no exception, and I'm learning Omotesenke because the nearest school taught that tradition‏.

The Three Sen Families

There are dozens of family traditions of tea existing in Japan. Most of them derived from Sen no Rikyu’s descendants or disciples. The three Sen families Omotesenke, Urasenke and Mushakojisenke are the major tea schools which are run by Rikyu’s descendants. I could not find any reliable data but it is often said that Urasenke School has the biggest population and then Omotesenke. Actually, most of the ceremony I’ve attended were held by either Urasenke or Omotesenke. I often see those two families in publications as well. Popularity of school might have regional differences based on historical background.


Differences on how you behave 

The tea ceremonies may look all the same if you are not familiar. However, tea practitioners will notice the small differences if the ceremony is served in a different tradition. They are quite minor differences such as; if the host enters the room with left foot or right foot, how the host folds his fukusa cloth, or arrangement and design of implements. It is said that Urasenke looks graceful and Omotesenke is modest on both behavior and implements. For example, during the flow, I see the host from Urasenke striking a pose at pivotal points. At Omotesenke, I have not been taught to make such pause. I often see the manner that four fingers tend to be beautifully straightened for Urasenke and gently curled for Omotesenke. Exaggeratedly speaking, they are different like marching and sauntering. Marching looks eye-grabbing.


What the grand master of Omotesenke says

I sometimes incorporate elegant manners and moves that I saw on TV or at some ceremonies even if it is from other tradition. Maybe I did it because I was not totally certain about Omotesenke tradition. However, my doubt was cleared when I read a book written by the grand master of Omotesenke. Once said “Oribe’s performance was conspicuous and impressive, on the other hand, Rikyu’s performance was smooth and it ended before you knew it.” Some people do admiring performance with varied pace and intensities, and some others do a flowing performance without a highlight. Our grand master said that we don’t go for prominent actions and we try to avoid unnatural things as possible. It was my “aha moment”.   It totally made sense to me.

I’m not trying to be offensive to other traditions nor to define others. What I introduced here is just an example.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Matcha-iri Sencha

A trend

There is a tea that I am curious about lately. It’s matcha-iri sencha, or matcha-blended sencha. Suntory has made a change on their leading product, bottled sencha, Iyemon. They added matcha to flavor their Iyemon. Not only bottled green tea, but also I often see the leaves in stores lately. It seems that matcha-iri sencha is gaining popularity in the market.

Matcha-blended sencha

The dry leaves look like sencha but it has bright green powder on their surface. It is sencha powdered with matcha. You can brew Matcha-iri sencha just like regular sencha. You put the tea and hot water in a teapot and steep it for a minute. The greatest charm of this tea is its fulfilling flavor which is refreshingly bitter taste harmonized with the luscious flavor of matcha. It’s good for the people who love rich greenish flavor. If I dare say the disadvantage, the tea loses its full flavor on the next brewing. Matcha flavor gets extracted mostly on the first brewing.

Left: Matcha-iri sencha, Right: Sencha


It seems that relatively cheap sencha is used for it. I think that it’s a successful method to enhance its quality by redeeming lack of its flavor or covering its off-flavor. On the other hand, for high-grade senchas, there is no need to add any flavor. Adding matcha is wasteful. Matcha-iri sencha is usually reasonably priced and you can get it everywhere. It can be enjoyed at meals and tea time.

You don’t have to buy matcha-iri sencha

On TV commercials and the internet, Suntory doesn’t only promote the bottled tea but also introduce a method, putting macha into the teapot when you prepare sencha. They try to appeal that adding matcha into sencha makes it more delicious. They promote it as if it’s something new but not so much for tea lovers like me who is already familiar with matcha-iri sencha, haha. Anyway, you don’t have to buy it. If you want to try it, just mix your sencha leaves and matcha powder before brewing. 

This is about 0.3g of matcha


I tried the mixture that Suntory introduces. However, it was too strong for me. My recipe for two servings will be the following.
  Sencha: 2 teaspoons (4g)
  Matcha: 1/8 teaspoon (0.2g)
  Water: 2 cups (180ml) 70degC
  Brewing: 1min
Put the sencha and matcha into the pot. Add hot water and leave it for one minute. Serve into the cups.

Experiment on pre-mixing

Suntory advises on their instruction to mix sencha leaves and matcha powder well in an extra cup. It is better the leaves to get matcha evenly on their surfaces. They doesn’t say the reason why but I guess this helps to brew better tasting tea. I started wonder how effective this is. It is time for me to experiment myself. I prepared two teas. One is just putting matcha on senccha, “A”. The other one is mixed well, “B”. I brewed them in the same condition. What do you think?

The brewed teas are in the following picture. Tea B is richer in color. Probably the matcha get out into the brewed tea more. What surprised me was that, despite the color, I didn’t find significant difference in their taste. Can you believe it? It tasted almost the same.

I speculate that it’s because I used sifted matcha, so on either tea I could get good flavor. This tip might be effective when using unsifted matcha. Pre-mixing sencha and matcha might help to reduce the lumps of matcha and will have similar effect as sifting. Anyway, Matcha-iri sencha is different from just brewing sencha strongly. By adding matcha, the flavor gets more complex and profound. If you want to spice up your sencha, give it a try.

Suntory webpage (Japanese) :

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Tea Bowl Making

Useless tea bowl

Have you ever tried making pottery? I guess that many of tea people have dreamed about making their own tea bowl. I’ve actually tried it by using a turning wheel at a pottery workshop. However, once the clay is baked, it shrinks and gets dense. I paid attention to forming my desired figure, but not to the size or thickness. So, the tea bowl got very thick and heavy. It didn’t even have enough space to move the whisk in it. It was useless, hahaha.

Stimulating my creativity

There are always different types of tea bowl on the shelf at my tea class, which I can get to use. There is one particular bowl that I am fond of using‏. It is a flat beige bowl. It’s a small bowl that fits in the palms. The simple clay and glaze feel calm and gentle. It looks round but it actually has slight distortions and rough surface. Those imperfectness captures me. I learned that the bowl is made by hand forming, not with a turning wheel. Now, it makes sense why it has the primitive look. I’m thinking of making this kind of bowl myself, even if I failed once in the past.

The flat beige bowl

Pottery workshop

I visited the pottery studio again. The dimensions and thickness were the points for me to pay attention this time. I’ve actually measured many tea bowls and decided the size I want. I was thinking that clay was flexible, so you could easily form it into whatever figure you want. However, it was damn difficult to fix it once it got deformed. I had to do it from scratch for a few times. Anyway, I was absorbed in working on clay forgetting about the time.

Imperfection on a bowl

The instructor said that you should try to make the bowl as carefully as possible when forming it by hand. No matter how hard you try, the bowl will have a slight of distortion and roughness. Those primitiveness will become the charm of the tea bowl. I totally agree. I made the bowl with care. However, the form got too unbalanced and the surface is too bumpy to look charming. It looks like it has been made by a child‏, hahaha. I’m happy that at least, I got the size I desired, and it’s usable. Japanese bowls look rustic and imperfect so you might think that you can make one by yourself. It’s wrong. I keenly realized that the tasteful bowls can be created only with good skills. This experience gave me a new interesting aspect to appreciate when observing a bowl in the tea room.

My handmade bowl

Monday, August 25, 2014

Teatime in the living room made special‏

At a family gathering

One of my cousins got married. He came over to introduce us his new partner the other day. I planned to hold a casual tea ceremony to welcome them. I decided to serve tea in my living room. I had six people as guest. I invited them into the living room. When they got in the room, I could tell by their faces that they were all excited. They probably felt a different ambience than usual. I did nothing special. Maybe, they sensed it from the flower on display, steam coming from the kettle, dim lighting from half-closed blinds or the cleaned table without any finger prints. It’s needless to say that the tea gathering went quite successful and the guests left in awe.

Turn my living room into a tea space

Having tea with an extraordinary scenery or a tasteful tea room is awesome. But you can experience the principle of chanoyu even in an ordinary room. I believe that the essence of tea gathering is to create a special moment in your everyday living. You don’t have to do anything special to set up a tea space. It is simple but quite effective. What you do is clean the room, display a flower, adjust the lighting and you can light incense if you want. That’s it. There is no need for conspicuous decorations. Those modest but decent works will create the special atmosphere and I’m sure that your guests will notice your quiet attention to details.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cold Matcha

It’s not formal

I want to introduce how to prepare cold matcha today. I have made cold matcha in the tea class at my previous school, but never learned it at my current school. The cold matcha is not a formal way of preparing tea, and it is a creative way of serving. I don’t remember exactly how I prepared cold matcha in the previous school. So, I searched about it on the internet.

Various way of preparation

I found many different ways of making cold matcha as I expected. There is even a method of making it by using a cocktail shaker. I thought that it's very interesting but I, as a tea person, tried to stick with the way using bamboo whisk. If I try to summarize the various methods, I can classify them based on two points of view. The first aspect is whether to use hot water or not‏. The other point is if it is blended with a small amount of water on the first step like koicha making. By considering these two aspects, I think that you can categorize most of the methods into the following four types.





Cold water only

Simple step


Mix matcha and cold water by whisking

Two steps


Mix matcha with a little amount of cold water well.  Then add some iced water and whisk more

Using hot water

Simple step


Make the matcha with hot water as usual.  Add ice cubes.

Two steps


Mix matcha with a little amount of hot water well.  Then add some iced water and whisk more

I tried the four ways myself

Now, I wanted to know which way can make most delicious cold matcha! My first test failed. I used usual amount of matcha and water, but I felt that they were too thick in cold. I tried a few more rounds of test with less matcha to find better mixture.
For evaluating the four methods, I'll check them in terms of taste, texture and difficulty of preparation.
I didn’t find any big difference in taste among the teas prepared with only cold water (No.1 & 2). The flavor is quite mellow and not bitter at all. Sweet umami taste really stands out. The teas with hot water (No.3 & 4) were more intense with rich flavor. It also had some bitterness so it was refreshing. In No.4, I found a bit of off-flavor.
There was not much difference in texture between the cold-water preparations (No.1 & 2) and the hot-water preparations (No.3 & 4). I didn’t find any big lumps in either tea. It is maybe because I sifted the matcha before brewing. However, I noticed some tiny lumps remained in the bowl in No.1 and 3 after drinking, and none in No. 2 and 4. It was a very minor difference, though.
Difficulty of preparation
Of course, No.1 and 2, the methods without hot water are much easier to prepare. So to name them in order, starting from the most difficult‏, it will be No.4, 3, 2 and then 1.






Difficulty of Preparation

Cold water only

Simple step


Mellow with good umami,

Not bitter

Slightly rough

The easiest

Two steps




Using hot water

Simple step


Refreshing rich flavor,

Some bitterness

Slightly rough


Two steps


Refreshing rich flavor,

Some bitterness and off-flavor


The most complicated


If you want mild tea, try cold-water brewing (No.1 or 2). If you prefer refreshing tea, try No.3.  No.4 had an off-flavor and it takes a lot of fuss to make it, so probably I won't use it. I personally like mellow tea, so I recommend method No.2 the most.

Conclusion for cold matcha

The facts I found through these tests are:
-Cold matcha has mellow flavor and rich sweetness without bitterness, but less aroma.
-Matcha feels thicker in cold.
My recipe
-Iced water: first-5ml, second-65ml
1. Blend gently the matcha with 5ml of iced water and make smooth paste

2. Add 65ml of iced water and whisk well

-Sift matcha before making it
-Cool the bowl and dry it before using
-You may add some ice cubes when you serve it.
The cold matcha can give briskness like a cool breeze into your day. Enjoy!

Buy the way, I have some new tea bowls on our shop. The white tea bowl in the photos is one of them.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Matcha affogato

Encounter with affogato

I was fascinated by encountering a dessert called “affogato”. It was probably one or two decades ago: I can’t remember exactly when. I knew ice cream and I knew espresso but pouring the espresso on ice cream was a shock. It was terribly good. Europeans know such cool way of enjoying ice cream. I tried it at home. I even enjoyed it with matcha instead of coffee. Nowadays, I’m into mixing Oreo cookies into ice cream. I think that it’s better than getting a ready-made cookies and cream. Anyway, I forgot about affogato lately. 

Reunion with new version

This spring, a new Japanese-tea house opened in my city. I found “koicha affogato” on their menu. This is it! I ordered the koicha affogato. The ice cream came with shiratama dumplings and anko (sweet been paste), and koicha came in a different cup. Koicha is a thickly prepared matcha, against thinly prepared usucha.  (Related link about Koicha and Usucha: What I enjoyed in the past was one with thin tea, usucha. I have never thought of using koicha. This one is new to me. I poured koicha from the top of the ice cream. I like this new version better. I can enjoy rich flavor of green tea much better. Now I think that my affogato with usucha was a little watery and koicha goes much better with it.

I tried koicha affogato at home

I liked it so much and wanted to try it at home. I found the perfect thing at a supermarket. It’s dumplings on a stick with anko!

 It’s not shiratama dumplings but it’s similar. So I think that it’ll be all right. I didn’t have to buy a whole can of anko or make shiratamas from scratch.

I disassembled the dumplings and anko, and served them with ice cream in a bowl. I made koicha with the usual recipe (matcha:3.6g, water:36ml at 80C). 

It looks quite nice, doesn’t it?

The amount of koicha was too much for100ml (a half cup) of ice cream that I used.

It’s heaven

For the second time, I tried it with a half amount of koicha. It was perfect! The outer layer of ice cream was melted by the hot matcha. I scooped the melted creamy matcha sauce and lump of ice cream together with my spoon and put them in my mouth. It is wonderful to savor the cold part and the aromatic matcha sauce merging. I also put dumplings and anko into my mouth after dressing them with the sauce. It’s nice to have various change in temperature, texture and flavor. It is a very amusing dessert. Even if you don’t have dumplings and anko, it is going to be much more fun putting koicha on ice cream than just having ice cream only.

*If you try it, don’t use expensive matcha for koicha. Use inexpensive one. Bitter flavor goes better with ice cream.

My mixture
Vanilla ice cream: 100ml (a half cup)
Koicha: matcha 1.8g, hot water 18ml


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Procedure of Tea Ceremony at Home (video)

The procedure is simple.

If you want to try Japanese tea ceremony, today’s post is perfect for you! Today, I’ll introduce the procedure of Japanese tea ceremony. I made a video that introduces the simplest way that you can try at home. Holding a ceremony is not difficult. They consists only of five steps. 
1.Bring the implements into the room
2.Purify the implements
3.Make the tea
4.Clean and put the implements together
5.Leave the room with implements
You do the things one by one, and after making tea, you just do everything backwards to put things away. How simple is that. You bring implements into the room, make tea and leave the room with implements. It begins from nothing and ends at nothing. I think that it is somewhat a Zen idea.

Benefit of making a video

I noticed some of my problems in my movements by taking videos from different angles. My fingers were not totally aligned at some points. Motion was not smooth and I had unnecessary‏ moves when I wiped the bowl. Noticing the problems is one benefit of making this video. I can make improvements on those parts.  

Just imitate

You might think the proper gestures are too complicated. But watch the video, just follow the basic steps and imitate the motions. Don’t worry too much about the detailed movements. The important thing is your attitude for devoting to serve tea. Enjoy!

*If you do it properly, check the links pasted on the bottom of this entry.  


This is the script of this video for ones who want to review the steps.

What you need

Hot water in a thermos jar, tea bowl, linen cloth, tea whisk, tea scoop, matcha, waste-water receptacle, sweets

1. Bring the implements into the room 

Serve sweets
Bring the Jar, the tea bowl and the match, and then a waste-water receptacle in turns

2. Purify the implements 

Purify the tea container and tea scoop
Take out the tea whisk and linen cloth from the bowl
Purify the tea whisk
Warm up the bowl and wipe it.

3. Make the tea 

Two scoops of matcha, 50ml of hot water
Whisk them to mix well
(The guest partakes the tea)
Rinse the returned bowl
Repeat making tea for the next guest
Rinse the returned bowl

4. Clean and put the implements together 

Rinse the tea whisk
Put the linen cloth and the tea whisk into the bowl
Clean the tea scoop

5. Leave the room with implements 

Take out the waste-water receptacle, the bowl and matcha, and then the jar
Leave the room with the plate for sweets

Related links
If you want to do it properly, check the uncut version of this video. 
Procedure of Tea Ceremony (uncut)
I also have other videos to explain each steps specifically.
How to fold CHAKIN linen cloth
How to fold FUKUSA silk cloth
How to purify NATSUME tea caddy
How to purify CHASHAKU tea scoop
How to purify CHASEN tea whisk
How to wipe the tea bowl

Monday, June 30, 2014

Tea Ceremony at Home (video)

Pleasure in serving tea

When you have company coming over, the tea ceremony is a perfect way to welcome them. Sharing a calm moment over tea has some magical effect. The time runs calmly but at the same time, you can feel some kind of excitement. I as the host, can tell the fascination in my guests’ eyes from the exotic tea serving. I also feel elated by seeing a joyful look on them. It is like watching a good film together and sharing the same excitement. 

Video of casual tea ceremony

I made a video about holding a tea ceremony at home. I’m an amateur on making videos so I could not express the fascination in the footage. However, I will be glad if you can imagine what a tea ceremony is like and learn what we do.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cold Gyokuro, A Substitute to Cold Sencha


Cold tea at the office

I want cold tea when I work at my desk in this season. It can be a cold mugicha (barley tea) or sencha. The other day, I wanted cold sencha but I didn’t have any sencha on my shelf. What only I had was gyokuro. This situation tantalizes my curiosity about tea. Can you brew a “sencha-tic” cold tea out of gyokuro?


I tried making sencha-tic cold tea with gyokuro

Gyokuro has mild bitterness compared to sencha. If you brew tea with high-temperature water, you can extract bitterness. I put a heap teaspoon of gyokuro into a teapot and added boiling water. A few minutes later, I poured the hot tea into a glass filled with ice. It was very easy to make, and the taste was excellent. It was much better than I expected. It had good amount of bitterness like sencha and at the same time, it provides abundant pleasing sweet flavor of gyokuro’s umami. It was very refreshing.

Trial and error for three weeks

I loved the sencha-tic cold tea with gyokuro, but the bitter flavor exceeds my expectation a little. So, I made it every day to adjust and improve the recipe to my taste. I tried many different mixtures with boiling water, but it was difficult to make the tea without strong bitterness. What I got after three weeks of trial and error is the recipe as follows;
- Water: 125ml/75C (4.4oz/167F)
- Gyokuro: 5g
- Brewing: 1min
- Ice: full in a glass
You pour 125ml of boiling water into an extra cup to cool it down. You leave it as you add tea leaves in your teapot and ice cubes in your glass. Then, the temperature will get around 75C and pour it into the pot. You brew the tea for 1min and pour the hot tea into the glass with ice. That’s it.
This tea is not strong and it has the delightful umami flavor of gyokuro. You can enjoy the gentle sweetness with a hint of fresh green note. 

The second brew

Right after the first brew, I put some ice cubes and cold water directly into the teapot. I leave the pot in the refrigerator for one or two hours while I enjoy the first glass. The second brew is surprisingly delicious with mild bitter flavor. There are some benefits in brewing with iced water. First, it’s very easy to prepare. Slow extraction will be good for tea at work, and the next brew is ready about the time when I want it. From the hygiene perspective, you don’t have to worry leaving the pot with used tea leaves in a hot room on a summer day and using it a few hours later for the second. The most significant advantage is about its taste. Brewing in cold temperature doesn’t extract bitter flavor so the taste gets extremely mellow and sweet.

As I did a series of test, I realized the great potential of gyokuro and I started to think not only I could brew a sencha-tic tea but one with a mellow sweet taste as well.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Friend from Singapore

Meeting a new friend
Once I received a mail from one of my blog readers. He asked me if I knew any place where he can take a week of intense course to learn the tea ceremony during his trip to Japan. I didn’t know any, so I offered to serve him a bowl of tea if he can visit me. Here he came from Singapore last weekend! 

I found out that the tea room where I had tea the other day at our town festival is a city’s property and anybody from the area can rent it. It’s a small thatched hut and perfect for holding a private tea gathering for us.

Exclusive tea ceremony
From the preparation room, I heard that he and other two guests got in the room from the crawl-through doorway. Then, I opened the door of the host’s entrance and I saw him sitting nicely with his settled posture. The room was filled with a comfortable light from the paper windows and a bit of tension. Maybe it is because of the classic tatami room, utensils and me wearing kimono. The proper arrangement of The Way of Tea has some kind of magical effect to create the special atmosphere. I felt his gaze once I started preparing tea. With his both hands, he carefully held the bowl, which I served. As if he was trying to make sure of every essence of the tea, he thoroughly relished the bowl sip by sip. At the moment, we were isolated. There might have been some sounds of car outside but I didn’t hear them. I concentrated into the moment just for us. I cleaned the utensils as usual and left the room. I could see his fascination and excitement in his smile after the ceremony. I felt certain that he truly enjoyed this gathering. We went back in the tea room again and spent a relaxing moment, taking pictures and telling how to prepare matcha. Then, he served a bowl of tea for me. It was so much fun.

Limit of words
Once I saw a TV program about sado (The Way of Tea). An instructor explained reasons why we do this or that in the ceremony. His words didn’t appeal to my mind. The grand master of our school says that there are reasons for every single movement in the ceremony but he doesn’t like to give the explanation for everything. When I started learning sado, I wanted to know those reasons. But now, I’m kind of getting what the grand master was saying. Words cannot describe everything and even create a limit on things. When you watch a Picasso drawing or listen to a Mozart symphony, you don’t need someone’s explanation. You just feel and discern it, then you will find an overwhelming sensation. If you try to express it in words, it loses its profoundness. 

I and the friend from Singapore were together only for a half day but we could get on personal terms. It is because of the tea ceremony and the benefit of it. It’ll be vain if I say it in words that the tea ceremony is to escape from daily life and enjoy the fellowship. However, I’m sure that he realized the reason after experiencing it why Japanese do the tea ceremony. He mailed me a short massage the next day, “Words cannot describe my gratitude for a perfect day.” I totally understand what he means. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Evolution of Bottled green tea

Decaf culture
There was a thing that surprised me when I went to the United States about one and a half decades ago. At coffee shops, some people were ordering a kind of coffee that I’ve never heard of. It was decaffeinated coffee, which was not common at all in Japan. It was difficult to understand the existence of decaf coffee for the person like me, who can enjoy thick matcha. Today, I checked the Starbucks Japan website. I still couldn’t find decaf coffee on their beverage menu. (Some people say that you can get a decaf at Starbucks even if it’s not on the menu.) I have to say that our decaf culture is still a few decades behind than American’s. Even if I say so, it’s also a fact that the decaf drinks are finally getting attention in Japan these days. Kirin released a new product, Decaf Namacha. It’s the world first bottled decaf green tea.

Decaf Namacha

Added Value Tea
The market of bottled green tea in Japan is quite competitive nowadays. Many products come in the market and fade away. Makers try to launch new products with added value like the decaf green tea. Here are two more examples. One is Shokumotsusenni-ga-oishikutoreru-ocha or Green tea with fiber from Itoen. You can intake 7.5g of dietary fiber out of a 500ml bottle. Another example is Iyemon Tokucha from Suntory. It is a green tea that takes off your body fat. This tea contains an amount of quercetin glycoside, which is equivalent to the amount that can be found in three onions. It is a kind of polyphenol that helps to break down fat. We may be a primitive nation regarding decaf coffee but we might be the most advanced country regarding bottled green tea. If you have a chance to visit Japan, it’s fun to try some of our latest green teas!

Green tea with fiber

Iyemon Tokucha

Review of the Decaf Namacha
The original Namacha is one of my favorite brands. Its flavor is very mellow and aromatic. It has less bitterness than other brands so you can guzzle it when you are thirsty. Now, let’s try the decaf Namacha. At first, I noticed that it smells really good. It smells sweet like freshly-picked young tea leaf, which I can only find in high-grade sencha. Its taste also has the same note. It’s not bitter at all and the mellow sweet flavor of young leaf fills your mouth. This is totally different from other brands, which have bitterness in some degree for refreshing taste. Namacha preserves mellowness but it could be too mellow for some people. One disappointing thing is that a flavoring ingredient is added, but I really like this tea after all.

Following sites are all in Japanese.

Kirin Decaf Namacha:

Itoen, Green tea with fiber:

Suntory, Iyemon Tokucha: