2011/04/29

Learning another disaster hit in the US is really heartbreaking. It is so sad to see more people in the world have to suffer from the violence of nature.

Our sympathies are with you all, and we believe we can fight against adversity.

2011/04/28

Hachiju-Hachiya < good luck tea >

One of the most important days for Japanese tea is Hachiju-hachiya (literally, “eighty-eighth night”). It is a movable feast, and decided according to the traditional Japanese calendar.

traditional tea-pickers costume
In 2011, it falls on May 2.

What is so special?

It is believed that drinking green tea made from tea leaves picked on Hachiju-hachiya will bring you good health for the year. So, tea on the day is like “good luck tea”.

Tea festivals are annually held at tea-producing areas including Kyoto and Shizuoka on the day. Full-blown tea season is just kicked off!

2011/04/25

New or Aged??


fresh from the tea field!
Shincha (lit; new tea) season is just around the corner. It usually refers to "Sencha" made from the first tea leaves of the year, and is valued as high-quality of tea. However, it isn’t always the case in terms of quality. Some Japanese tea with high quality can be aged like wine and cheese are.

Shincha is particularly characterized by fresh aroma producing from young tender buds and leaves. It gives us sense of refreshing and the power of youth when drinking. While aging, tea gets matured, bringing deeper flavor and milder taste. In other words, it can be said “new tea for fresh aroma, and aged tea for deeper taste.”

Considering this, I feel that human beings have something in common with tea. When young, people are fresh and powerful. Over time, they get matured and more stable. Am I going too far?

Anyway, it completely depends on your preference which you’d select either new or aged teas. Maybe, why don’t you try both!

2011/04/21

Young Power "Wakocha"

Japanese black tea called Wakocha is a recent trend in Japanese tea industry. But this trend is not limited to its consumption. Producing newcomers seems to attract even promising young tea farmers.

PET bottled Wakocha produced by high school students of Kanoya Agriculture High School (Kagoshima prefecture) is now put on sale within Kagoshima area. The production called “Seishun 100% (lit; 100% Youth)” is made from tea leaves grown by the students, and characterized by faint sweetness and fine body according to a report.

About 2,400 bottles of the wakocha were sent to the stricken areas as relief supplies offered by the students.

Young power will help not only inspire Japanese tea industry, but also cheer up this country.


2011/04/18

Tea Season from Okinawa

A package of Shincha (the first tea of the season) has arrived from Okinawa, the southernmost area of growing tea in Japan.

Shincha season generally starts March in Okinawa, and goes up north, reaching to Kyoto around the beginning of May. So, tea made in Okinawa is truly “the very earliest season’s tea” in Japan.

Unlike Kyoto, Shizuoka and Kagoshima, Okinawa is not well-known as a tea-producing area even among Japanese. But, this is not surprising, because it accounts only for less than one percent of Japanese production.

The Okinawa's tea I have is made from a rare varietal “Inzatsu”, which is characterized by containing a lot of catechin and a particular aroma component, producing refreshing aroma like jasmine flowers. Yes, it has a great natural flowery aroma!

A varietal "Inzatsu"
In Japan, the full-blown new tea season in 2011 is just about to start. Hope lots of people throughout the country will enjoy the freshly tea.



2011/04/15

Shrine for Tea

There is a small shrine called Sukunahikona Jinja at a business district in Osaka. It is dubbed as “Shinno san”, which means “Mr. Shnnong”. The place is enshrined both “a God of Japanese medicine ‘Sukunahikona ‘” and “the Father of Chinese medicine and tea ‘Shennong’”.

As you know, tea was considered to be one of medicine in the old time.

“Shennong is credited with identifying hundreds of medical (and poisonous) herbs by personally testing their properties, which was crucial to the development of Traditional Chinese medicine.  Legend has it that Shennong had a transparent body and thus could see the effects of different plants and herbs on himself. Tea, which acts as an antidote against the poisonous effects of some seventy herbs, is also said to be his discovery. This discovery is in 2737 B.C., according to which Shennong first tasted tea from tea leaves on burning tea twigs, which were carried up from the fire by the hot air, and landed in his cauldron of boiling water. "(extraction from Wikipedia)

The area is still known as the medicine district because some headquarters or branches of well-known pharmaceutical companies are located. Since tea is not regarded as a medicine anymore, we cannot find any remnants of tea such as tea-related archives or goods. But, for some tea-lovers, this shrine is still “a Mecca of tea".

2011/04/11

Wakocha Sweets

Following sakura, tea season is coming. 
Matcha Pancake
In addition the use of tea as beverage, a variety of sweets used Japanese tea including Matcha, Hojicha and Sencha enjoys popularity among Japanese. There are Swiss rolls, cookies, pancakes, scones, doughnuts, macaroons and chocolates, just to name only a few.

And soon, Wakocha sweets (Japanese black tea sweets) will join the ranks of the items. Actually, some of the sweets such as cookies and Swiss rolls just began to come into the market. In addition, "Wakocha ready-to-drink" and "Wakocha ume plum liquor" are seen, although the production quantities and producing areas are limited.


Wakocha Swiss roll
Wakocha itself is still experimental tea, but its production has been rapidly increased these days. Surely, not only the tea, but more wakocha-tasted foods will be marketed widely before long.

Hope "new tastes" will help stimulate the tea industry and evolve Japanese tea culture.


Wakocha yokan (adzuki-bean jelly)




*More about Wakocha


2011/04/08

"Kesen-cha" to face the future

Kesen town in Rikuzen-takata city (Iwate prefecture) is the northernmost area for growing Japanese tea called Kesen-cha. The city is one of the most devastated areas, and most of which have been washed away by tsunami. However, a tea field of 1,000 square meters on a hill in the area is miraculously found to be safe.

The history of Kesen-cha dates back to the18th century. Since then, scores of tea-pickers, mostly women, have preserved the tea tradition carefully.

The residents of the town are still separated by the disaster, but the good news links them together.

These are what the survivors say;

“We would pick tea in hopes of  producing delicious tea. We really had a great time.“

“The tea field is watching over us so that we can carry on living. If we can work as tea-pickers again, we would be as happy as happy can be. We don’t want more than that.

“We cannot see our future yet. But, all we can do now is to unite against the difficulties. The tea-picking season here is usually June. So, we’d love to pick tea this coming June and produce Kesen-cha even small amount. It can be the first step towards the reconstruction of the area.

Tea buds are surely put forth again and again even after being picked. People of the district will surely show remarkable resilience. I haven’t tried Kesen-cha before, but I'm sure tea made by people of the area must taste vigorous and gentle.


"Survivor" Tea field



2011/04/01

With Gratitude

Recently, I've read an article on Japanese trend in “TEA A MAGAZINE for winter 2011”.

This is sent by the writer, Ms. Jane Pettigrew, from London.

Her article has a wealth of information including Japanese black tea called wakocha, ready-brewed tea in wine bottles, some new chic tea houses, and Kaikado - the metal caddy shop. I enjoyed reading about “tea update in Japan” from her point of view.

When I look back my history of “tea-lover life”, I’ve learned a lot from her. Strictly speaking, from her books, at first. The books on tea which attracted me were almost always hers, although I didn’t realize it to begin with.

And still, she gives me a zest for tea.

Now, Jane, I’ve had deep respect for, is also praying and helping Japanese friends in London to raise fund for the Sendai region. This is another heartening support.

The article was written before the disaster. I know lots of people in the world are now anxious about Japanese tea, even one made from last year’s harvest, which has nothing to do with radiation. Obviously, not only the tea industry, but the others in Japan have to make the greatest effort to restore the public trust in the world.

Sharing “a nice cup of tea” cheers us up and brings us together. That’s also what I’ve learned from Jane.

I believe the day will come again when we can share more attractive "tea born in Japan" and “Japanese tea update” with you all. Wish us luck.

Once again, thank you, Jane.
With my warmest gratitude,
                                                                                                 Tomoko


Some books by Ms.Jane Pettigrew

* Kaikado: http://www.kaikado.jp/english/index.html