2011/05/30

Power of Tea – Kesen cha-

Tea (known as Kesen-cha), produced at Rikuzen-takata city, Iwate prefecture, is ready to be picked as in other years.

The city is one of the devastated areas caused by the disaster this March. Luckily, most tea firms of the area remain safe, located on the hill. However, most houses were washed away by tsunami, and its scenery is completely different from what it used to be.

Even so, people in Rikuzen-takata city have stour hearts. They didn’t expect they would be able to produce the tea at first. But, they’ve been finding some ways in order to produce the tea even under such a harsh condition since they learned the tea firms are still alive.

Hope is a must for human beings to survive. The tea must be a ray of hope for those living in the area. One of the tea-pickers said this with smiling; We weeded the tea firm few days ago. Being in the firm gives us energy .”

Unfortunately, there are many who are suffering from disasters throughout the world. There is a little I can do, but I believe this.  “Where there’s a ‘hope’, there’s a way.”

Tea-picking for Kesen-cha will start the beginning of June. The tea will surely be a symbol of their remarkable resilience.



<related post dated on April 8, 2011>
 http://japaneseteastory.blogspot.com/2011/04/kesen-cha-to-face-future.html

2011/05/26

"Tsukemono" Afternoon Tea

I enjoyed "afternoon tea" in Kyoto. But, no scones and clotted cream.

What I had was "tsukemono (Japanese pickles) afternoon tea"!  I know that sounds weird, and please don't get me wrong. This is not popular afternoon tea menu in Japan. It is served at a prestigious tsukemono shop as their eye-catcher.

The menu includes pasta, sandwiches and dessert, all of which are “harmonized “ with tsukemono. (I'm not going to say “perfect”, though .) 

Of course, tea is a must for afternoon tea. They don’t have Uva, Darjeeling and even Assam. Only they have is Hojicha. We can drink all Hojicha we like and it goes well with the rarity. Believe me. This pairing 'is' perfect!!


2011/05/23

The Processing of Gyokuro - Jade Dew -

 This is how Gyokuro is made. After picking tea leaves......

                 1) ”Jonetsu” : Steaming
                     ( to deactivate oxidizing enzyme and preserve the green color)
Jonetsu (Steaming)


2) “Soju”    :  First rolling while drying

3) “Junen”  :  Second rolling in order to equalize water content
  
Junen (Rolling)


4) “Chuju” : Third rolling while drying ( to reduce more moisture content )


5) “Seiju”  : Forth rolling into needles shape

Seiju (rolling into needles shape)

6) “Kanso” : Final drying

In many cases, all these processes are carried out by the farmer. Then, teas are transported to retailers, and blended in line with the taste of each shops. Some are shipped directly from tea farmers.
..............................................................................................................................

Nowadays, machines are used to make Gyokuro. Hand-made tea is really rare and valuable. On that day I visited the tea firm, I was lucky to see skilled tea farmer making tea by hands. It takes four or five hours to make the tea. It looks hard , doesn't it? It really really does.

Hand-made
Gyokuro is often translated as "Jade Dew". Sip it slowly and savor it on your tongue....yes, like you would enjoy a fine brandy.


             Gyokuro


* Preparation for Gyokuro (for 3 teacups)*
      Quantity of tea leaves:       about 10g (2 heaping tablespoons)
      Quantity of hot water:         about 80ml
      Temperature of hot water: about 60 degree
      Steeping time:                    about for 90 seconds.

This is an example. Find your favorite taste!



2011/05/19

Gyokuro Tea Firm 

...........This is continued from the previous post.

Gyokuro is grown under the shade in order to enhance umami. How are tea trees covered, then?

Soon after new buds come out, tea trees are covered with reed screens on a shelf made with logs and bamboo. About ten days later, straw are spread on the top of the shelf in order to reduce the amount of sunlight more. And, wait another ten days. Now is the time to pick Gyokuro tea leaves.

Traditional Shade with reed screens and straw

I was lucky to go inside. Rays of sunshine and wonderful air through reeds and straw. I felt great and so comfortable.

Inside


But, unfortunately, this style is traditional and rare even in Kyoto, because, as
you can imagine, making reeds screen and spreading straw are labor-intensive. Instead, the shade cultivation using man-made cloth is more popular now, which is less burden for tea farmers. Thanks to an improvement of man-made cloth, the quality of Gyokuro is almost equal to those grown in the traditional shade.

Shade with man-made cloth

Take a look at my harvest!! To be continued....




2011/05/16

Two Types of Tea Firms

For Japanese tea, there are two types of cultivation.

One is "open air cultivation" for Sencha (i.e. grown under the full sun), and the other is "under-shaded cultivation" for Gyokuro and Tencha (material of Matcha) .

Due to the sunlight, amino acid (the source of umami) in tea leaves changes into catechin (the source of astringency). Therefore, Sencha grown under the full sun has pleasant astringency.

On the other hand, Tencha  and Gyokuro tea leaves are shielded from the sun about for 20 days or more after new buds come out. This causes the amino acids known as theanine in the tea leaves to remain instead of changing into catechin. This shading process gives the special flavor and aroma to Tencha and Gyokuro.
 
The other day, I was fortunate to visit Gyokuro tea firm in Kyoto. My hands-on experience for picking-Gyokuro tea story is coming soon.



Under-shaded tea firm (called "Ooishita-en")



Open-air tea firm (called "Roten-en")
 

2011/05/14

Iced Japanese Tea

During the summer time in Japan, cold drink is a must. I usually keep iced tea including black, flavored and green teas in my fridge. What would you drink?

Today, let me tell you the easiest and simplest recipe for iced Japanese tea.

1) Put 500ml of water and 5g of tea leaves into a container.
2) Leave it for 3 – 5 hours or overnight in the fridge. When ready, take out tea leaves from the container. (Or, transfer tea into another container in order to separate from tea leaves.)  Enjoy!


Remember this ratio:  100ml of water per 1g of tea leaves .
This means, when you would like to make 1000ml iced tea, use 1000ml of water and 10g of tea leaves. So simple, isn’t it!!

In my case, I’ve got a container with strainer, which is really handy. I usually prepare it before going to bed, and leave it in the fridge until the following morning. When I wake up, just take out the strainer and throw away the tea leaves. That's it!

Generally, Japanese tea has more amino acid called theanine (responsible for umami flavor), which is more extracted by using lower temperature hot water. Therefore, using “water” does make sense. You will enjoy gentle and sensitive flavor of Japanese green tea.

Of course, keep the iced tea in the fridge and better to finish it within 24 hours.

2011/05/09

The Highest Price: Wazuka tea

The Kyoto tea auction was held on May 1, which was about a week later than usual because of the recent lower temperature. However, the quality is really good.

An average price per kg is 20,322 yen (3,300yen higher than last year). And, the highest price is hand-made tea produced in Wazuka town, and is as high as 111,888yen per kg!!  It means about 11,000yen per 100g (the same price as last year).

This is not the maximum price among teas in Kyoto, the highest in Japan. Again, tea in Wazuka preserves its honor!!!


Reference: the highest price in other areas
  *Shizuoka   88,000yen 
  *Yame      100,000yen

2011/05/06

Goishi-cha

There is a wide variety of Japanese tea including Matcha, Sencha, Hojicha, Genmaicha, Kukicha, Mecha etc. Bancha is also one of them and often translated into coarse tea, but I would like to call it “local tea”, because the definition of Bancha varies from region to region.

Here is one example of Bancha known as “Goishi-cha”, a kind of the post-heating fermented tea produced in a town in the mountains of Kochi prefecture.
sun drying
The rough method of production is this;

1) tea-picking
2) steaming
3) fermenting
4) pickling
5) cutting into square shapes
6) sun drying
7) packing in straw bags

What does "goishi" means?
It refers to black or white stones used for a Japanese board game. The tea is named after the game since the tea need to be laid out on a straw mat neatly to be dried in the sun as if those stones are done on a game board.

How do we drink, then?
Tea is extract by being boiled in a kettle rather than infused. Actually, the tea has a distinct sour flavor, so it is often used for tea porridge, too.
Goishi-cha

Since a great deal of time and labor to produce is required, the number of the tea farmers dropped drastically. But, thanks to the further study for the benefit of the tea, it comes to gain more attention again. Goishi-cha is really rare. I hope this tea will keep alive.

2011/05/02

Wazuka-cha in a Dish

In order to enliven freshly tea season, tea-related events are held here and there.

One of them is a joint project between a prestigious the RIHGA Royal Hotel (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Sakai) ” and "Wazuka-cha”.


Tea produced at Wazuka town in Kyoto boasts its quality. Especially, its sencha (the most common Japanese tea) is known as the finest in Japan, and has played a great role in Uji-cha. In other words, about  40% of tea produced at Wazuka are blended in tea named "Uji-cha".

The chefs and patisseries of the hotel take advantage of its quality, creating their original recipes using the tea as an ingredient. Wazuka tea-tasted lunch, dinner, sweets and alcohol are served at the hotel through June.

Whatever others may say, green tea is believed to be good for you. This project will make us happy both mentally and physically.