Tasty Teacup!?

Have you ever eaten a teacup after enjoying tea? That's a silly question, isn't it? But, believe me, you can get an edible teacup.

Look at the picture. You can prepare Matcha with the tea bowl. Being dried, it can be used several times. And finally..... break the cup and eat it!

Of course, it is not made from clay, made from "O-higashi", a type of Japanese dry confectionary. It is not used at the formal tea ceremony, yet, it will make a good topic of conversation at tea time. Don't you think so?


Tea Flowers

Tea plants known as Camellia sinensis can be grown in the wild. Some plants are seen even in my hometown, Ehime prefecture. And my parents have several tea plants in their garden just to enjoy, not to produce tea. The plants are evergreen and the pretty white flowers open in autumn, so it is good to have in the garden.

However, we don’t usually see the flowers in the tea farms.
How come?

To produce tea, the leaves are generally used, not flowers. If the flowers open, they absorb nutrition and the leaves can get less. In order to give enough nutrition to the leaves, the flowers have to be taken out. Poor little flowers.... but this is to make great tea. That's life, I suppose.


What is your taste?

Sencha is sencha. But, did you happen to know it is just more than one? What does this mean?

Since most of Sencha have been made from the variety “Yabukita”, which is still main pillar, the taste of the tea is almost always the same. However, the teas made from “non-Yabukita” are receiving more people’s favors these days due to several reasons such as the developments of technique and the consumers’ demands. People have come to like “something special” and ”something different” rather than “the same as others”.

Asatsuyu variety
The picture shows Sencha made from variety “Asatsuyu”, for example. This variety is often called as “natural Gyokuro”, since it contains more umami and less astringency itself. However, it is very sensitive to grow enough, so Asatsuyu sencha is really rare yet.

Sencha is still sencha, and will be. But, under one “happy” condition. We can enjoy finding our own favorite taste Sencha!


Real "Iced" Tea!?

During summer, I often prepare umami-rich Japanese tea such as Gyokuro and high-quality Sencha with using ice cubes.

This is how I do it. First, place tea leaves in “Hohin” (a Japanese teapot with no handle), and put some ice cubes over the tea leaves in it. All you have to do is just wait until ice cubes melt. Now, tea is ready. Isn't that simple? No need to boil water and worry about steeping time.

Maybe, I can say this is the "real 'iced' tea". Enjoy! 

* See my post about "Hohin" dated on 2011/1/12 http://japaneseteastory.blogspot.com/2011/01/treasure-pot-hohin.html 


Kombucha vs Kombucha

I know what “kombucha” is. I also know it is well-known outside of Japan, but as a different drink. I believe the word itself comes originally from Japanese. “Kombu” means edible kelp, and “cha” does tea in Japanese. So, this is literally “kelp tea”.

We prepare Japanese-type Kombucha by pouring hot water over dried powdered kelp in a cup, like you do instant coffee. Also, this powdered kelp can be used as a seasoning for Japanese cooking.

Kombucha (Japan)
I am not sure how and when the word has come to refer to the drink for medicinal purposes in English, but if you ask for “kombucha” in Japan, you will definitely get “kelp tea.” If you like, ume (plum)-flavored kombucha is also available, which is more my taste. In either way, Japanese kombucha is good for your health, too!


Soy Sauce Sweets

“Shoyu”, soy sauce, is one of the most important seasonings for Japanese cuisine. We wouldn’t be able to live without it. Interestingly, it is just more than a seasoning nowadays. It is also used even to make sweets, which is still rare even in Japan, though.

This is Swiss Roll with sauce made from “shoyu”.
I doubted whether it tasted good, but, surprisingly, the nice salted and sweetened flavor pleased my palate. How about tea, then?  To me, Hojicha, which has nice-smelling, was a good partner with this sweet.


Wish on a Star - Tanabata -

Japanese food is known for its emphasis on “season”. Traditional Japanese confectionery, called “Wagashi”, is not exceptional.

In July, the sweets representing “stars” can be seen a lot. It is because we annually celebrate Tanabata (the Star Festival) on July 7. Nowadays, we celebrate the day by writing wishes on strips of colorful paper and hanging them on bamboo branches. The decorated bamboo are set up at home or stores in order for people’s wishes to reach the stars.

Enjoy July while having a nice cup (or “bowl”, too) of Japanese tea and the sweets representing twinkling stars. And…..wish on a star.


Gyokuro for Umami-Lovers

Do you have a umami tooth? If so, the tea in this picture will be one of your favorites. Or, some may say "Is it really tasty?" judging from the light color. Truly, this is one of the finest qualities of Gyokuro, often translated as “jade dew”, made in Kyotanabe city in Kyoto.

High-quality Gyokuro generally produce pale tea color, but really rich and full-bodied. A lot of umami is condensed into even small amount of the tea.

However, it is also true this concentration divides the preferences. Some appreciate the richness while others don’t even among Japanese. If you tried before, but didn’t like it, just try another Gyokuro. The taste differs from tea farmers, production regions and tea varieties. One of my Japanese friends is a good example. She is not a fan of Gyokuro originally, but really enjoyed this tea. Isn’t that interesting?

In order to extract Umami enough, use lower-temperature hot water to infuse. The lower is better, so I often use water at room temperature. And, remember this. When you try, savor it as you would the finest brandy. Don’t gulp it down!

Kamairicha made by Mr Kajihara in Kumamoto

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