2013/12/29

With Gratitude.....

As you may easily imagine, I’ve had a lot of tea throughout the year. Sometimes I make tea for myself, and sometimes to share. In any cases, I have tea.

I tend to take that situation for granted, but I shouldn't. I shouldn’t forget that it is fortunate to be able to drink tea that I like. I can drink because I’m healthy, I live in peace, and the environment is still safe enough to grow tea etc.

I'm grateful to 2013, and hope peace, safety and health of body and mind will be with all of us in 2014.

tea field -T-

2013/12/26

Large Happiness Tea -obukucha-

Believe it or not…2014 is coming very soon.

As Christmas is very special for many, New Year’s day is very very special for Japanese. Especially in Kyoto, there is a special tea drunk on the special day. It is called “obuku-cha” that umeboshi (pickled plum) and kombu (sea vegetable) are simply added in a cup of green tea. It is because that we believe that umeboshi protects us from evil and illness and kombu is a symbol of happiness.
There are various views about the origin of the name. This is one of them.
In 951, when an epidemic raged and a lot of people were suffering, a priest named KUYA gave a tea with a pickled plum to the people in order to save them. It worked. The situation settled down. The Emperor then heard about it, having the tea later on. Since the Emperor had the tea, it came to be called “obuku-cha”, which means “the tea drunk by the Emperor”. Nowadays, we call the same, but use different Kanji character, which literally means “large happiness”.


Hope 2013 will be filled with happiness!


2013/12/19

Christmasy Wagashi

During Christmas time, we see a lot of western-style Christmas sweets mainly fancy cakes. But not only those.
 
Recently, even Christmassy Wagashi (traditional Japanese confectionery) can be seen. Wagashi is traditionally served with Matcha at tea ceremony, especially the types made of mochi(sticky rice), adzuki bean paste, and fruits, so originally it is far from Christmasy sweets. Yet, what is the Japanese confectionery’s principle?  it is to place an importance on “season”.
 
Now December is associated with Christmas even among Japanese. So, why not?
 
 

2013/12/13

What’s Your Christmas Dinner?

First of all, I have to tell you this is not about tea. Sorry. It is about Christmas and something else....:-)

It is rather commercialized, but we still celebrate Christmas. I am happy to enjoy Christmasy atmosphere here and there.

I assume that many countries have some traditional special Christmas foods including turkey, Christmas pudding, Stollen or whatever.

What do you think Japanese eat for Christmas dinner?? Since turkey is not available in general here, chicken is more chosen. Many, especially families with kids, like to have a special chicken, which is KFC. I’m not joking, chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Around 70’s, KFC started advertising their chicken for Christmas, offering the set meals only for Christmas. They won! They succeeded in attracting Japanese. Unfortunately or not, this is not my case, though. When I was a kid, Mom usually roasted chicken at home because she didn’t like buying prepared food especially on such a special occasion. Therefore, I've never had KFC Christmas set meals till now.

BTW, we don’t call the founder “Colonel Sanders”. He is often called “Mister Kentucky” and liked by younger Japanese especially at this time of the year. Whatever it is, we enjoy Christmas!


Christmas illumination in Osaka -T-

2013/12/05

Washoku -Intangible Cultural Heritage list-

Washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) has been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list amid increasing its popularity throughout the world. Washoku is the accumulation of this eating culture over the last 15,000 years, being  well-balanced, full of seasonal colors, and simply cooked to bring out the true flavor of the ingredients. Especially, in Washoku it is important that the sense of the season be reflected in everyday meals, and this concept has long been in our food culture.

However, many Japanese especially younger generations do not pay enough attention to the values these days. As the society has become more globalized, our dietary habits have also globalized. We have more westernized food. I am not saying western food is not good. It is fine, but  sad for us to lose our food culture.


As its change, our tea culture has been changing. Green tea goes well with traditional Japanese food like less fat, more fresh veges with subtle flavor, and white rice. However, the westernized food, which is usually more fatty, is good with black tea in order to refresh your mouths. No wonder the green tea consumption has been decreasing. The more choices, the better. But we should keep our dietary culture too.
 
The Cultural History of Japanese Food
English translation by Tomo
 
 
 



2013/11/28

Keep Away from Cold

Toward the end of the year, our lives are getting busier. We don’t have a time to be laid up with a cold or flu, do we? In that case, tea could help.

Japanese green tea is said to have a lot of catechin, which has the effect of killing bacteria. Some schools especially at the tea-production areas encourage their students to gargle with tea during winter. Between classes, after PE class, before school lunch…..the all students gurgle with tea. According to those schools, fewer students catch a cold since they have introduced this system.

Even tasteless tea made from used tea leaves has enough catechin to work for killing bacteria. So why don’t you make use of it “to the last catechin”?


2013/11/23

Shinno (Shnnong) Festival

There is a small shrine called “Sukunahikona Jinja” a at a business district in Osaka. It is dubbed as “Shinno san”, which means “Mr. Shnnong”. He was regarded as the one who first tasted tea.

The shrine -T-
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. 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.
Every year, “Shinno Festival” is held on Nov 22nd and 23rd at the shrine. Lots of people visit there during the festival to pray for their health, but most of them don’t know the connection with tea. However, for some tea-lovers, this shrine is still “a Mecca of tea".

banners -T-





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)

 

2013/11/14

Drink Gyokuro and Eat Gyokuro

What would you do with tea leaves in a tea pot after drinking green tea? Maybe, many would say “Throw them away!” But, in case of good tea, especially Gyokuro, don’t do it!! There’s still plenty of nutrition in the leaves. Why don’t you eat?

A tea farmer, Mr. Harashima, in Yame makes Gyokuro rice. His recipe is really simple. Just mix used tea leaves with rice and add a little bit of salt. That’s it! Easy, but looks good, doesn’t it?

I know you don’t usually eat a bowl of rice. Then how about tea leaves omelette?
 
In any case, throwing them away is mottainai (what a waste!)!


gyokuro rice  photo by Mr Harashima
 

BTW, have you noticed where Mr. Harashima produces Gyokuro? It is Yame. Yes, Yame is one of the best Gyokuro producing areas. No doubt that his tea is great to both drink and eat :-)

*Mr.Harashima’s website: Ocha noTiyonoen   http://www.yokaocha.com/
(English is not available. Sorry! When you are interested in his tea, let me know.)

*About Gyokuro and Yame (from my older posts) http://japaneseteastory.blogspot.jp/search?q=Gyokuro

 

2013/11/12

Japanese Black Tea Festival in 2013

Ad for the event
An annual Japanese black tea festival was held in Ureshino, one of the most popular tea producing areas, at the beginning of November.

We enjoyed a sampling session with a special cup, which could be taken home as a souvenir. Since there were cups of various designs made by some local pottery producers, it was not easy to choose only one, but fun. When you found tea you liked, you could buy it there. Also various wakocha sweets and tea-related goods were for sale. The venue was full of wakocha and spirits.

special cups for sampling
Even outside of the venue, we enjoyed the Wakocha day. Some local hotels served their special afternoon tea menu and even Wakocha bath, which was interesting.





I know it is too early, but I’m already looking forward to 2014 summit held in Kanazawa.


*About 2012 summit (from my older post)

2013/11/06

Tea Lesson on a Train

Thanks to excellent public transportation system around my area, I use it a lot almost everyday, especially subway. And I always find many ads suspended over the center aisle of a train. Ads for new magazines, for a company, for an event…..Always something similar :-(

However, there is one which makes tea-lovers happy in a Kyoto subway. It’s about “How to make good Sencha” sponsored by the municipality in order to promote tea, which is a local specialty. Isn’t that cool?

Let’s learn how to make good Sencha on a train!
 
Ad in a train  -photo by M.Hashimoto-
 

2013/10/26

Wagashi, but not edible! -CHAEN-

wagashi box, not edible:-)
Can you see the picture?

It is a box of assorted Wagashi (Japanese traditional confection)!
Looks good, doesn’t it?

Wagashi is usually a good company with tea. Yes, usually…but not this one:-). They are not edible, they are “felt- wagashi” made by a Japanese tea shop “Chayen” owner.



Surprisingly, he just started making felting handicrafts all of sudden a few months ago and has made a lot of stuff already (including animals too!). Good news is that the felts draw more customers, especially kids, to his shop. Remember, this is a tea shop. They serve “real eatable wagashi "with tea, too! Whatever the reasons may be, kids who usually don’t drink tea a lot could come to like tea. Which is good!

felt animals made by the owner. So cute!


* My previous blog: about this tea shop (Chayen)
http://japaneseteastory.blogspot.jp/search?q=Communi-Tea

2013/10/21

The Day of Black Tea

In Japan, there is a day called “ kocha-no-hi”, which means “ the day of black tea”, set by Japan Tea Association in 1983 to boost the consumption of the tea.
 
When is it?
 
It’s November 1st, which mark the very first day that Japanese ever had “black tea”. The luckiest person was a Japanese castaway, named Daikokuya Kōdayū. In 1783, his ship drifted on the way to Japan, but managed to escape to the Russian mainland. People there saved his life and he stayed for a while. Eventually, he had Catherine the Great allow them to go back to Japan. During his stay, he was invited to her tea party, and had a cup of tea. This is why November 1st was chosen as “the day of black tea” in Japan.
 
I’m curious what he thought about his first taste of black tea.
 
Daikokuya Kodayu frm web
 
 

 

2013/10/13

British Fair in Osaka

The British Fair is held at a well-known department store in Osaka at this time of every year. Tens of thousands of Anglophiles flooded during the fair. Especially, tea and scones captivate so many people every year. And it is no exception this year, either.


ad for the fair  -by T-
Davenports Tea room awarded the 2013 UK’s top tea place opens their shop temporary and serve cream tea. Scones from The Goring Hotel awarded the 2013 top London Afternoon Tea Award sells scones at a hall. A surprisingly long long queue forms in front of the shops all day and every day long during the fair.




I remembered a word that an old English lady told me when I was in London a long time ago. While I was having “cream tea” which is scones-and-tea set at a tea room in London, she spoke to me and we started chatting. Since she was a regular customer, the tea room owner joined our conversation, and I was spending very good tea time there with them, although my English was much poorer back then. Anyway….what they asked me jokingly then was “Why do all Japanese order scones?? You love scones that much??”

Seeing the long queue to seek tea and scones at the fair, I remember the conversation. Believe me, yes we do. We love English tea and scones. No doubt.

a queue to seek scones  ^by T-

2013/10/07

Tea Club at an Elementary School

Did you belong to any club activities at school when you were a child? Basketball club? Baseball? Or Brasband??

Recently, “Black tea club” has set up at an elementary school in Tochigi prefecture. I know students can join Sado club (Traditional Japanese tea ceremony club), but I had never heard of “black tea club”. It must be the first one in Japan.


photo by T
Tochigi prefecture is now nation’s number one consumer of black tea. So, the municipality might want to boost its popularity further. The students who join the club are supposed to learn basic knowledge about black tea, how to make good tea and how to serve tea. Also they are plannning to make their own original blended tea, and hold a tea party.

The school hopes the students will learn not only tea, but the spirit of hospitality throughout the club. It could be a good way to cultivate a wide range of sensibilities.







2013/10/05

English Style in Osaka

Is this a tea room in London?? No, it’s not. This is the one of my favorite tea rooms in Osaka known as Torrington Tea Room.


photo by T

They serve a good selection of tea and great food including their special Egg-Benedict. They use crumpet instead of English muffin. When I feel like having something light, Torrington-style cream tea is good too. Other than crumpet, Walsh cake, which few shops serve in Japan, is served there with cream and seasonal jam made by the shop manager’s own recipe such as nectarine-and-ginger jam, fig-and-nuts jam, peach-and-almond jam etc.

Last month, they saw their first anniversary of the opening of a business. Luckily we enjoyed special menu using big savory scones, which was great too.
photo by T

It is always fun to choose what tea I want to have, and what food I should get with…or vice versa. In Osaka, tea is often served by a cup, which makes me disappointed, but it is served by a pot at this tea room together with a milk jar and a water jug too. Again, this is still unusual in Osaka. This is a great place for a big tea drinker like me!

2013/09/25

Becoming a Legend

photo by T
A big-name tea house "MUJICA" in Osaka wound up business. It opened in 1952. At the beginning, it was a coffee shop where records of classical music were played, and changed to a shop specializing tea in 1969.

The owner, Mr Horie, started to import tea directly from the tea-producing areas. He has visited those areas and selected the tea by himself in order to introduce us "the real tea". The tea house was the first place where tea was served with a teapot in Japan, and kept telling us how wonderful tea is.

MUJICA had always been there. MUJICA had always been with us. Physically the shop's gone, but we will remember that it was there and it was with us.


photo by T

2013/09/22

Tsukigase Wakocha -Benifuki Autumnal-

It was a lovely day. An ideal day for plucking tea!! So…I went to Tukigase in Nara to join the event to enjoy the tea garden .

isshin niyo   -by T-
About 40 people got together and kept plucking “isshin-niyo (one bud and two leafs)”, which creates high-quality tea. Tea variety that we took was "Benifuki", which is recommended to produce black tea rather than green. Unlike the variety suits for green, "Benifuki" is reddish, slightly thicker and has bitter taste itself. After picking, the sweeter aroma came out too. What we did today was What we did today was just pick, pick and pick!  The farmer, Mr. Iwata is going to produce black tea using leaves that we got and send us later. Yes, we will have the luxury to have tea made from what we picked. Can’t wait!

Other than enjoying the garden, for the first time in ages, I saw a grasshopper and mantis in the farm. Some acorns fell and hit me, ha, ha.  Being in Nature always relaxes me.


Benifuki -by T-

2013/09/17

Tea and Pen

New flavored goods will be put on the Japanese market soon. The flavors include tea with milk, apple tea, caramel tea au lait, tea with lemon, peach tea, vanilla tea au lait etc.

Sounds like this is talking about new tea, but it is not. The new goods are “pens with tea flavor”. They will be released by ZEBRA. Co. Ltd (Japanese company of writing instruments), which has worked together with Lipton (Unilever).

Which flavor would you like to choose to “write” with?

from Zebra Co.,Ltd

2013/09/10

Love Moon -Tsukimi-

At last, I’ve come to feel “autumn” these days, which makes me relieved after having scorching hot days. I think due to a clear and crisp air, the moon can be seen more beautifully around this season.

We love moon and take it very important because, I suppose, our predecessor lived with the waxing and waning of the moon. You may be surprised there are more than 100 ways to call the moon depending on its shapes.

As one example to show our love to the moon, there is a traditional event known as “tsukimi (moon-viewing)”, refers to Japanese festivals honoring the autumn moon. It takes place on August 15th and September 13th in the lunar calendar. (These days normally fall in September and October of the modern solar calendar.)

Traditionally, we made” tsutkimi- dango” (rice dumplings for the moon-viewing) and offered crops in season together with pampas grass, appreciating the rich harvest of the year and hoping for good crops in the coming year.

Nowadays, the way of observance has changed, and less people offer pampas grass and crops in season. But, we still appreciate the nature, enjoy viewing moon and eating "tsukimi-dango" with a nice cup of tea.



2013/09/05

Movie -ASK THIS OF RIKYU-

If you are a fan of traditional Japanese tea culture, I believe you know who “Sen no Rikyu” is.

He (1522-1591) is the most influential figure in the Japanese tea ceremony world. He became a tea master for Shogun then, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Especially, at the era of Hideyoshi, he became one of closest confidants. However, in the end, Hideyoshi ordered him to do Seppuku (commit suicide) due to crucial differences of opinion and some other reasons which are unknown.


photo by T
What did the tea mean to Rikyu? What did the beauty mean to him? Were there any other real reasons that he had to commit suicide?

The film called “Rikyu ni Tazuneyo (Ask this of Rikyu)”, will be released this winter inJapan. I would love to watch it.



 


2013/08/24

Tea Seasoning -Chabasuco-

You know “Tabasuco”, don’t you ? Then, do you know “Chabasuco”?

Actually, I didn’t know that either. This is an unique seasoning , born in Yame (one of the biggest tea producing areas), using Yame tea, vinegar and pepper. Tea is “cha” in Japanese, so this seasoning is named “Chabasuko”, not Tabasuco. Ha, ha.

I hear this seasoning goes well with even vanilla ice cream. Interesting, doesn’t it?



*Chabasuko  photo
http://mainichi.jp/graph/2013/08/22/20130822k0000m040106000c/image/001.jpg

2013/08/19

Simple Recipe for Iced Tea

It is hot here, especially this summer. It is enervating.... I drink hot tea even summer, but also cold tea often sits in my fridge. My recipe to make iced green tea is very very simple.

1) Put 500ml of water and 5g of tea leaves into a container. (To be honest, prefering stronger tea, I use more tea leaves!)
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.) This is it!

In my case, I’ve got a handy container with strainer. I usually prepare the iced tea 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.

handy container by T
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.