Thursday, March 27, 2014

Prevent a Crack on Your Tea Whisk

Crack on my chasen tea whisk
I got a crack on the handle of my chasen or tea whisk. For tea ceremonies, chasen is basically considered as a consumable item, so it’s probably not good to use a cracked whisk. However, it is impractical to have a brand new one at every occasion for personal use or at tea schools. So, I’m still using the broken chasen at home and I kind of find the crack even charming. 

Can’t think of what has caused the crack
I have heard that it cracks in a dry environment. I sometimes use my chasen every day and sometimes don’t use it for weeks. I thought that it cracked when it got too dry during the period that I didn’t use it. But then, I have a question. Why my unused chasens in the storage don’t get cracks and why only the one I currently use got the crack? I can’t think of a good explanation on that.

I asked a chasen craftsman
On Facebook, I was asked for an advice on how to prevent cracks of chasen. So, I called a chasen craftsman asked his opinion. According to him, good-quality bamboo can crack easily because it has fine and high-density fiber and it is hard and strong. He says that temperature difference is often the cause of cracks. In Japan, you often get the cracks between March and May and also in the season when you use the heater. He said that you can hear the whisks cracking at the department store in a winter season at night. It is because it is warm at daytime but at night, the air conditioners are turned off and it gets very cold.

Ideal storage for chasen
It seems good to keep your chasen in a place with low-temperature difference and without an air conditioner. The chasen craftsman recommends a cool and dark place for storing them. My storage of chasen stocks is exactly like that. It now totally make sense why my stocks don’t get cracks. Chasen is made of natural material. So, it gets moldy if it’s not dry enough and it has a risk of cracks if it’s too dry.
< Points for treating chasen >
1. After use, rinse it with water and air-dry well (Avoid putting directly under the sunlight‏).
2. Then, store it in a cool and dark place (Don’t store it in the refrigerator).
The tips are no surprise and very basic. However, I was not able to achieve these simple things. I’ve kept my chasen in the kitchen where I use an air conditioner. Drying could be one of the reasons but I learned that temperature difference is one of the biggest causes. We hope you find it informative.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How not to fail on shopping tea online

What is your criterion when you buy tea online?
You might not know if the tea is good even though you read the description. Shops usually write nice things about their tea. You might have wondered if this is worth its price or if it is really delicious. You cannot smell or taste it online. What should you consider when choosing tea? I think that the pictures of tea on the site is very important. A picture is worth a thousand words. You can’t tell everything from pictures but you can tell a lot. Here is a quiz. If you find two teas at the same price, which tea will you buy, A or B? One has better quality than the other. 

Check color and shape
This quiz is not difficult for people who is familiar to Japanese tea. If you don’t know which tea is good, you are lucky: today I’m writing this for you. The answer is “B”. Actually they are not the same price. A is 2,000yen/100g and B is 4,000yen. 
First, check the color and texture. Good tea has profound hue of dark green and luster on surface. It is not good to have yellowish, reddish tone or dried texture. 
Next, let’s look at the shape. Good tea consists even shaped pieces. They are like thin needles. Young soft leaves can become good tasting tea. They are elastic and can be rolled up nicely. While it is difficult to tightly roll stiff leaves and they can break during production. That is why pieces gets more uneven and rough with low grade tea. You will find whitish stems, distorted and small broken pieces.
Now, let’s take a look the pictures once again. Doesn’t “B” look better now?

Shop wisely
I hope that knowing this mere fact makes a lot of difference in your future shopping. The tea A and B in the photos are both gyokuro, but this rule works for kabusecha and sencha (not deep-steamed sencha), too.   Look for tea with even pieces of tightly-rolled deep-green leaves and this is the tip for less risk of failing on shopping for tea.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Demonstration video how to prepare gyokuro

Here's a new demonstration video on how to prepare Gyokuro, Seiho.

Seiho is available on our shop >> click here