2011/06/28

Lucky stalk

This doesn’t happen a lot, but, have you seen a tea stalk floating vertically in your teacup when you have Japanese green tea? In Japan, it is believed to be a lucky sign. If you see it in your morning cup, you will have a good day.

Can you see "a tea stalk"?


But, there is one condition. Don’t tell it to anybody that you see it. Otherwise, your luck will be gone. Be careful!

2011/06/24

Going green!?

Green tea is more than just a beverage. There are various kinds of food mixed with tea/tea powder such as ice cream, chocolates, bread, and scones.

Curry (left) and Jam (right)
These are “green tea curry” and “green tea jam”.

Why don’t you have green tea bread with green tea jam for breakfast, and green tea scones with green tea jam for teatime? And for dinner, green tea curry is available.

Then, you will be able to lead a “green” life, that’s for sure.

2011/06/22

World Tea Expo 2011

As you may know, World Tea Expo in 2011 will be held in Las Vegas soon. I really really wanted to visit, but unfortunately, I'll miss a chance this time. Poor me...

Without a doubt, all attendees must keep watch on Japanese tea amid growing concern about radiation.

What's going on with Japanese tea?
Is tea produced in Japan really safe to drink?
How do people in the tea industry deal with this problem? .....etc.

If you happen to visit the Expo, why don’t you attend a panel session on Japanese Tea Plan, scheduled on June24th 13:30-14:30? A Japanese farmer, who is a member of ITFA, will explain the present situation of Japanese tea sincerely based on accurate data.

It's completely your decision what to choose, but before you stay away from Japanese tea, listen to his word. It will help you judge the safety of Japanese tea.

2011/06/17

Turning Point every 400 years

Japanese tea culture has been evolving over many centuries. And now, tea is the heart of our culture and a part of our lives.

When we look back on the history of Japanese tea, a turning point came roughly every 400 years.

The arrival of tea dates back to the beginning of the 9th century. Tea was brought  into Japan from China, and consumed only by monks and the nobility as medicine. In the 13th century, a priest Yosai (or Eisai) wrote a book on tea and spread tea more, especially among Samurai warriors, under the shogunate. Around the 17th century, even common people came to enjoy tea in their daily lives. It was also in the beginning of the 17th century that people in Europe tasted tea for the first time. Some of the teas were believed to be Japanese green tea shipped from Japan.

Now, in the 21st century, we are at the another turning point if we are following suit. Unfortunately, the transitional stage of  this time started from adversity. The consumption of green tea has decreased because more people prefer coffee, black tea and water. Let’s say they choose green tea. Even in that case,  PET bottled teas are more favored, not infused tea from tea leaves. In order to fight against this decline, tea farmers try to make teas that attract more people. Wakocha (Japanese black tea) is one of them, and this seems to be showing good signs of recovering its popularity.

However, as you may know, another adversity has come. That is, the radioactive substance itself and the damage from rumors caused by radiation. The problem that “Japanese tea” faces now is totally different from those that it used to have.

To hand down our tea culture to future generations, safety and tasty tea is a must. To provide safety and tasty tea, enough accurate information and data for people to trust are necessary.

a Buddhist Priest, Yosai

2011/06/13

Two Types of Hojicha

Hojicha, roasted tea, attracts many people thanks to its nice fragrance. Did you happen to know there are roughly two types of Hojicha? One is mainly made from tea leaves, the other is from stems (known as “Kuki-Houjicha”).

Generally, Kuki-Hojicha has slightly darker color and richer taste, while the other has lighter taste, but more aroma. Why? Nutrients are taken in from roots, then come through stems, and finally reach to leaves. Therefore, stems absorb more nutrients first before they reach leaves.
left)Kuki Hojicha    right) Hojicha

Which one would you choose, either “stems for taste” or “leaves for aroma”? It is really up to you. Enjoy Hojicha according to your preference!

*The word “stem” refers to kuki in Japanese.

2011/06/10

Pride and Responsibility

On June 9th, Shizuoka prefectural government admitted that green tea produced by a local tea farmer contains radiation (cesium) higher than the officially-permitted level. Shizuoka, as you may know, is Japan's biggest tea-growing area.

Not only tea, but also some Japanese agricultural products are also damaged by the radioactive contamination. Japanese farm products were widely esteemed for their safety and we were proud of it. In order not tarnish its reputation any further, accurate data and information are “must”. And I believe this is Japan's responsibility, too.

2011/06/09

Promising tea - Pouchong-

One "Japanese Pouchong (or Light Oolong)” I tried in Shizuoka convinced me that the next promising Japanese newcomer is Oolong.

Believe it or not, it tasted really good. I loved it. Unfortunately, the tea hasn’t been on the market yet, but this Japanese Pouchong will bring new tea culture in Japan.


* FYR: About Pouchong
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pouchong

2011/06/06

Wakocha Farmers in Mariko

The other day, dozens of tea farmers got together at Mariko tea factory in Shizuoka in order to refine their skills to produce Wakocha. Not a farmer, l was fortunate to join them thanks to the invitation from an organizer of this meeting.

As of 2010, at least, 200 tea farmers produce Wakocha, and the number is surely bigger and bigger.

The process of making black tea is different from that of green tea, especially withering and oxidizing processes. (Those processes are not required for green tea.) Interestingly, Wakocha are made from various kinds of tea varietals. Some farmers use the small-leaved Chinese varieties (that is, the same as green tea), and others do Japanese improved varietals suited for black tea. Therefore, the optimum condition of each process differs according to variety, and the farmers have to pay great attention to teas not to miss the right moment individually.


While having their competitive spirits, yet exchanging information what they have, all the farmers are pursuing the finest “Wakocha” everyday.

How long should these tea leaves wither??



2011/06/02

Japanese black tea "Wakocha"

The history of Japanese black tea dates back to 1870’s. Tea was one of the most important exported items, then. Since black tea was much more popular than green tea in the world, the government wanted to boost its production. At that time, Japanese knew how to produce green tea, but not black tea. Therefore, then the Japanese government sent Mr.Tada to India and China during 1875-77. He learned "the know-how" of black tea, and brought back tea seeds/seedlings of the Assam variety, tea-related machines, and books. After coming back to Japan, he moved to the Mariko area in Shizuoka and started tea cultivation. At the same time, he made a great effort to spread the black tea industry in Japan and teach how to make it to tea farmers throughout the nation.

Mr.Tada's momument in Mariko


In due course, new varieties of Japanese black tea were created, and 8,525 tons of the tea were produced at peak periods, in 1955. (During the wartime, production went down, though.) However, the tea had gradually lost competitiveness on an international scale in terms of price and quality. Production dropped sharply. To make it worse, since the restriction on foreign trade of tea was relaxed in 1971, the situation became worse. The production reduced to only three tons in 1975, and the tea fell into obscurity.

But, the time of "The Japanese black tea Renaissance" has come. About 20 years ago, a tea farmer in Mariko, Mr.Muramatsu, started to revitalize black tea production. Being in Mariko, the birthplace of Japanese black tea, he believes that he should keep and revitalize forerunners’ wishes. Mr.Muramatsu plays a leading role in the current trend of the tea production. Thanks to his effort, the tea has been revived as “wakocha”, and has been paid greater attention to recently. As the trailblazer, Mr. Tada, did, Mr.Muramatsu also gives advice generously to tea farmers throughout the country in order to aim for improvement in quality.