Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Way of Whisking

Graceful Whisking

In a movie “Ask this of Rikyu”, there is the scene where Ms. Miki Nakatani as Souon prepares tea. When I watched it, I thought that her performance was not so significant. However, the other day, I had a chance to watch the scene again. I realized how gracious her whisking sound and tempo were. It is sometimes said “Whisk lightly” in Omotesenke tradition. It was kind of hard for me to get a sense of it, but how Ms. Nakatani whisks struck me. This is it! It was comfortable and natural like the way a bird or an insect sings. She starts whisking it slowly, and gradually quickens her pace to the peak. Then, she keeps the constant beat. Again gradually it slows down and the whisk leaves the bowl gently. People are sometimes too busy about making froth. I wonder how many people can actually care about the grace and pace when they whisk. Whisking is my recent interest.

Good Matcha and Bad Matcha

In my tea class, I noticed that the tea taste differ, depending on student preparing it even though we use the same utensils, water and matcha. It is no wonder that the amount of water and tea are the most influential factor. However, I also noticed the way of moving the whisk differs among the students. I wonder if the way of whisking gives certain impact to the taste. I often find the tea brewed by a particular classmate bitter.

Experimenting on the Way of Wishking

I made three servings of matcha with different strength of whisking.
A: Harsh 20sec
B: Medium 20sec
C: Light 10sec
I try to peg my ideal whisking by Ms. Nakatani at “B”. I tried the other two, “A” and “C”, to imitate the way of two students from my tea class. Do you think I will find a certain difference among the three, or my ideal whisking makes better tasting tea? Let’s take a look at the result.

My Presumption Failed

One of my classmates whisks matcha hardly and I sometimes find his tea bitter. So, I expected a harsh whisking makes matcha bitter. Unfortunately, I could not find a significant difference in taste between the harsh whisking “A” and the normal whisking “B”. My presumption was wrong. I could find some texture in “C”, and the water and the tea were not blended well. What I can say from today’s test is “whisk well”. Despite of the result, I still believe that the way of whisking affects the taste in some degree, so I’ll keep seeking this issue, and I’m still attracted to Ms. Nakatani’s whisking.

Rhythmical Pace

In the movie, the camera doesn’t capture her hands entirely so I don’t know her specific moves. However, from the sound, I can tell that she whisks constantly with a comfortable rhythm. I don’t hear any irregular stroke. I actually timed her whisking. It was 20 sec with about 70 strokes. She changed the pace gradually and gracefully from the beginning to the peak, and the peak to finish. In my case, to try not to make lumps, I used to whisk with strokes like the letter “M”. It sounded kind of unsteady. Moreover, sometimes when a lump gets on the wall of the bowl, I try to get it down with an irregular stroke while whisking. It is quite difficult to whisk constantly and without getting any lumps. That is my challenge for now.

The way of whisking differs depending on school traditions. What I talked here is not an absolute way.
I took a video of the test I did. If you don’t see the subtitles, please check the setting of your YouTube.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Does Material of Teapot Affect the Taste?

Yakishime pot can brew better tasting tea

Yakishime is a type of ceramic. It is baked in a high temperature without any glaze. Tokoname and Banko wares are best example of this product. I have written “Tokoname teapot can brew more delicious tea than teapots made of other materials” in a past entry. Lately, I found an interesting site that explains about the theory. It’s the site of FOOD ANALYSIS TECHNOLOGY CENTER ( and they mention three causes. I’ll introduce the summary in the next paragraph.

Temprature, Iron and Texture

When comparing the four materials; yakishime, porcelain, glass and aluminum, yakishime has the most modest thermal conductivity. When brewing, it keeps the water warm to encourage extracting substances more.  
The clay often used on Tokoname or Banko ware is rich in iron. The iron adsorbs the bitter substance, catechin. It is considered that polyphenols like catechin has a functional group and they are easy to compound with the teapot’s surface with iron.
In the physical aspect, unglazed clay has some texture comparing with the smooth surface of glass and aluminum. The clay has a greater physical absorption of the bitter taste.

Still Wondering

So, the article says that yakishime pots encourages extracting more substances and adsorb bitter taste. That is the reason that it can brew good tasting tea. However, I find some contradictions between this theory and the data from my previous post. I still don’t understand all functions completely. I just wanted to introduce one of opinions regarding teapots’ material that I found. Anyway, both the theory and the data saying that yakishime teapots has advantage. Actually many people experienced it in the survey. This time, I’ll test it myself how effective it is.

The conditions:
Fine Sencha: 2g
Water: 27ml 70C
Time: 1min
Vessel: Left; Yakishime, Right; Porcelain

Potential of Yakishime and Porcelain

I was absolutely appalled by the result. The difference was obvious. The tea brewed in yakishime had a rounded fullfilling flavor with rich umami. The tea with porcelain was washy. I could not find the rich umami that I found in yakishime. The bitter taste exceeded the umami. The result might differ depending on the conditions, but I found that the difference in this test is almost like I was trying the teas from two different grades. I knew it as a knowledge that yakishime can brew better tasting tea. Also, I’ve been actually using both yakishime and porcelain pots at home so I’ve been vaguely conscious of it. However, I’ve never compered them in the same condition at the same time. I was not aware it has such difference. I can definitely recommend yakishime pots for people who enjoy premium green tea. A yakishime pot can make your tea one rank better.