Friday, February 28, 2014

I tried brewing gyokuro in different mixtures

Turning-point temperature that encourage extracting bitterness
The water temperature was the first aspect that I focused on for brewing our gyokuro, Seiho.   I tried brewing it in three different temperatures, 40,45 and 50℃ (104,113 and 122℉) water.
 40℃: No bitterness at all, pleasing sweetness only
 45℃: Similar to the 40℃ tea rather than 50
 50℃: The same sweet umami as the 40℃ tea but it also has a certain astringency.
If you brew cheap gyokuro in low temperature around 40℃, it will probably have an unpleasant soil-like taste and it tastes yucky. Seiho didn’t have such off-flavor. You can tell the high quality of Seiho from this test. I found some bitter taste in the 50℃ tea while there is none in the 40 and 45 tea. The 40 one is very nice but it could be too mild. You might realize that the 45 tea has a slight grassy note than the 40 one. It makes the flavor more profound and attractive. I love the flavor of 45. I learned that there is a turning point between 45 and 50℃ to encourage extraction of bitterness with Seiho.

Do you use 3g or 4g of leaves to brew gyokuro?
The next point that I considered was the amount of ingredients. I kind of narrowed it down to three combinations: 3g-tea/20ml-water, 4g/20ml and 3g/15ml (20ml=0.68oz, 15ml=0.51oz). If you prefer your tea light, 3g/20ml would be good. If you want to enjoy a richer flavor, I would say 4g/20ml or 3g/15ml. Actually, 4g/20ml and 3g/15ml are exactly the same proportions so it’s just a matter of amount. I came to the conclusion that I don’t need 20ml to relish this powerful extracts, which is almost like Soseki’s tea that I mentioned in the previous post. 

This is the recipe for Seiho
Through my dozens of brewing tests, the following is what I consider as the best recipe so far‏.
 Seiho: 3g
 Water: 15ml/0.51oz, 45℃/113℉
 Brewing time: 120sec
 - Second brewing: 15ml, 50℃, 30sec
 - Third brewing: 15ml, 60℃, 60sec (140℉)
You can fully appreciate Seiho this way. If you prefer mellow gyokuro, 40℃ can be a good alternative.  You might not usually use a thermometer to prepare tea, but try it once to see which temperature is the best for you. 

Seiho is available on our shop >>> click here

Thursday, February 27, 2014

See real value of my gyokuro

What makes it difficult to find good gyokuro?
The price range of Gyokuro in Japan is probably around 1,500yen up to 10,000yen for 100g. It is quite expensive kind of tea. I tried many average gyokuro around 4000yen, but it is difficult to find one that I really like. I don’t like the unpleasant woody flavor that I find in some gyokuro. It disturbs the nice sweet flavor of it and makes the entire taste rough. The wood like flavor was the reason why I keep looking for a better tasting tea‏.

Gyokuro for my shop
I have been looking for gyokuro that I can sell at my shop. What I care about was that the tea does not have the disturbing taste. Coincidently, when I visited a tea farmer for matcha, I tried their gyokuro as well. This is it! I loved their gyokuro that has rich umami but doesn’t have such woody taste. I decided to deal their gyokuro in our shop. I named it Seiho.

Evaluating my gyokuro 
I’m not saying my gyokuro, Seiho, is the best gyokuro ever but at the same time, I think that not every average gyokuro has this level of quality. By the way, how many times do you brew the same gyokuro leaves? I know the flavor of some gyokuro lasts even until the fifth brewing. Unfortunately, Seiho releases its extracts on its early few brewing. You can only enjoy its umami at its best up to three brewing process. Nevertheless, that’s where you will learn and appreciate the great reward of Seiho. The allure of Seiho is its smoothness. It rarely have off-flavors so you can enjoy the true flavor of gyokuro. You will find its umami pleasingly sweet like chestnuts. You will probably close your eyes to feel its aroma permeating your head. 

Seiho is available on our shop  >> click here
In the next entry, I'll share about how I find the best tasting recipe for Seiho.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Demonstration video how to prepare matcha

Here's a new demonstration video on how to prepare matcha shosen.

Shosen is available on our shop >> click here

Matcha is not delicious?!

A computer lab becomes a wonderful tea room.
The place where I went the other day was a local elementary school. I wore kimono and headed to their computer room. Why? The school has a tea ceremony every year. Their computer room becomes a nice tea room on that day. My tea teacher is the one who organizes the ceremony. A few students from our tea school helps the gathering. This year, I got a chance to be a part of it. We had several rounds of ceremony and I’m happy that I had chances to perform making tea in three sessions. In the ceremony, kids were looking at each other silently with their wistful eyes. One tried to sit properly when a bowl of tea was brought in front of one. It is the nicest computer room that I have ever been to. 

 Yucky matcha
After the ceremony, a boy was asked how he liked the tea. He said “It is yucky!”. Hahaha! I like that kids are so honest. It’s probably true that the taste of matcha was not for him. I have heard that “Kids don’t like bitter and sour taste. Humans instinctively feel bitter and sour flavors unpleasant, because those taste are often naturally found in toxic food. It’s an innate reaction for self-preservation. As you get older and the sense of taste gets matured, you can savor the bitter and sour taste.”  So, you need a little more time and experience to enjoy matcha, boy!

Locked tea bowls
Some potters donated their tea bowls to the elementary school. Our town is well known for ceramic production and we have many great potters. Some of the potteries are worth as much as a car. The donated items are stored in the locked shelf in the principal’s office always. It’s wasted. That is why they stared having a tea ceremony once a year and give an opportunity for kids to appreciate the treasures of the town. I think it is a wonderful approach and I hope some other schools try it, too. Even though, the kid didn’t like the taste of matcha, he seemed very excited and enjoyed the special event. Drinking yucky tea from a super expensive bowl will definitely be an unforgettable experience for him.


Monday, February 17, 2014

The matcha surpasses my usual one from a local shop.

Source for matcha
Where is a good place to buy matcha online? I often receive this question from my customers and blog readers. I’ve regretted to tell them that I don’t know any shop that I can recommend. I usually buy matcha at local shops so no need to buy it online. And also, some shops don’t have an international shipping service unfortunately, even though they have good tea. Today, I finally solved this dilemma. I’m pleased to inform that I started dealing matcha and gyokuro in my shop!! Yeeaah! Forgive me for advertising it here, haha. I have only two types of tea, but I’m really proud of them. Now, I can recommend my teas. 

You never know where you are going to meet your tea.
Once I was astonished by the flavor of matcha that I had in a tea ceremony. Intuitively I realized that I loved this matcha more than the one I usually get from a local shop. This tea has as much umami as my usual one, but its flavor is more natural. I could simply enjoy the sweet-umami note in the pleasing grassy flavor. I visited the tea farmer finally and got the deal to sell their matcha

Taste of matcha
I get a chance to try different matcha every time I attend tea ceremonies.‏ Their flavors differ. The flavor of some matcha are clear and refreshing with a green hint. Some have a mellow milky flavor created with luscious umami. Basically, two major flavors that matcha consists are spinach-like bitter taste and mellow sweet flavor of umami. Cheap matcha has a strong bitter taste and good one has abundant umami. The umami is a distinctive flavor of Japanese tea. It is appreciated in Japan but it doesn’t seem true for everybody. I’ve heard that some Westerners doesn’t like umami in green tea much and rather prefer a hint of fresh green.

Our matcha, Shosen
With my experience, shosen is one of the matcha with richest umami. I don’t recommend it to people who are not very keen on umami, but if you are the one who wants to try a significance of Japanese tea, you’ve got to try Shosen. It is matcha for umami.

Shosen is available on our shop >> click here

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How to purify CHASEN tea whisk (Video)

In the tea ceremony, you purify the tea whisk with water before and after making the tea.  This video introduces the way of purifying the CHASEN tea whisk.  The manner varies depending on school traditions. 
This video includes English subtitle. If you don’t see it, check your setting on YouTube.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Gyokuro is not something to drink!?

Full cup of gyokuro
I often see pictures of full cup of gyokuro when browsing the internet. There is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to preparing tea. It’s a personal preference and you can enjoy it whichever way you want. However, gyokuro is a premium green tea which has abundant umami, and there is a unique way of preparing it to bring out its maximum advantage.  

It’s not something to drink
Soseki Natsume (1867-1916), a novelist described about the tea exquisitely well. I can’t translate it well with my English, but he is saying something like as follows. “People recognize tea as a thing to drink but it is wrong. You put a few drips on your tongue. Pure thing dissipates all directions and there is hardly much liquid to go down to your throat. Just nice aroma pervades through your esophagus into the stomach.” This is exactly how I think of gyokuro. You only need a little amount of tea to relish its flavor.

I tried preparing gyokuro like sencha.
When I was looking for a good way of brewing gyokuro, I tried preparing it like how I prepare sencha (Tea: 2g, Water: 80ml/80℃, Time: 1min). The taste of gyokuro brewed with a lot of hot water is far different from the one prepared ideally. It is even different from sencha. The full cup of gyokuro has a gentle sweetness. It’s not bad but it doesn’t have a kick with bitter flavor that green tea is supposed to have. The flavor is not tangy enough and it’s just a weak liquid with potato like note. It is too mild for me. I’ll probably need to try different mixtures for the full-cup gyokuro.

Left: Gyokuro prepared properly, Right: Gyokuro prepared like sencha
Give it a try - the Soseki way of gyokuro
If you have never tried brewing gyokuro with a little amount of water, I want you to try it at least once. It’s not difficult. Use a small teapot and a cup and follow these:
- Tea: 3g
- Water: 20ml/50℃ (0.7oz/122℉)
- Brewing time: 2min
Experience what Soseki enjoyed. It’s not something to drink and it’s something to savor.

Past entry:  How to brew gyokuro