2015/12/19

About KFC, Not About TEA :-)

It has been relatively warm for this season, so I don’t really feel “Christmas” or “the end of this year” yet. But Christmas season has already started for sure in Japan too. Illuminations are seen here and there and Christmassy stuff are sold here and there. Christmas songs too. And many Christmassy commercials are seen on TV, which makes many kids excited. 

One of them is KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken. You may have already known about this, but KFC is popular for Christmas season in Japan, especially among families with kids.

 KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN JAPAN LTD

We are happy to celebrate Christmas. But I guess KFC chickens and some cake shops which sell a Christmas cake with a lot of whipped cream and strawberries with edible Santa Clause’s decoration must enjoy this season the most! 

Fujiya Co.,Ltd

BTW, for myself, I’ve never had KFC at Christmas because Mom didn’t like prepared food especially such a special occasions, ha, ha.

2015/12/18

Beyond Words

It is so difficult to describe the taste. The taste is beyond words. 

The other day, some tea friends and I tasted Sencha produced from a very rare cultivar. It had very distinctive flavor. I really didn’t know how to express it, but at the deep in the tea, I felt the aroma of “fish bone”. Fish bone!?? I know it doesn’t sound appetizing At All. Rather than that, you would say that you don’t want to try it. But don’t get me wrong. It was Good. I didn't mean it was no good.

My friends were surprised to hear what I said, but one said “Now you mention it, I feel that too.” Another said, “ I can feel that too, but more like 'tai-chazuke' dish (green tea poured over the of sea bream and rice). Well, let me put it this way. It's like umami coming from the 'tai-chazuke'”.That’s it! That’s what I tasted. It sounds much better than fish bone, doesn’t it? 

I know that my expression is often weird, but not only me (Phew...:-) . For other teas, some said “This is like tatami straw mat.” or “I feel as if grass is coming out from my mouth” or so. I have never put tatami mat in my mouth and I don’t want some grass to be came out from my mouth, but understand how they meant. 

infused leaves
The sense of taste and the way of description are different from person to person. That’s why it is fun to share teatime with my friends and share our comments. 

BTW, I don’t want you to get a wrong image from my comment, but the tea I had was sencha produced from "Yamato-midori" cultivar. It has a good body and distinctive flavor with umami, which is "deep in the tea". Again this is my way of expression. Whatever I say,  believe me,  it was good.




2015/11/30

Wakocha Summit 2015 in Shimoda

An annual wakocha (Japanese black tea) event, what they say “the Domestic Tea Summit”, was held in Shimoda city facing the Pacific Ocean. It is also known as the place where Commodore Matthew Perry arrived to negotiate Japan to open to American trade and the Japan-US Shimoda Treaty was signed in 1857. What a historical place!

Commodore Perry's Monument

It is called "Perry Road"

At the sampling site of the summit, which was open to people in general, we tasted about 20 different kinds of the tea gathered from all over the country. 



The special event, highlighted the city of the sea, was “afternoon tea on board”. While looking at the beautiful ocean on the sightseeing boat, they enjoyed a tea seminar and afternoon tea. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? 


Before, only tea-related people and tea-enthusiasts came to this event, but not anymore. The tea is finding favor with people in general, which is a good sign.

Actually, what made me excited the most was an evening gathering for people involved. I chatted with the distinguished tea people from various fields including the executive of a tea company, prominent tea experts and shop owners and tea farmers. Of course, they have their own views on the problems, the future of the tea and so on. While chatting with them, I felt that a turning point in wakocha is getting near. I am not sure what it is, but I just felt that.

I know wakocha still has a long way to go, but to look at it from a different angle, it means that the tea has great potential. I trust in it.






2015/11/13

Go Out Hunting with Tea !?

“Konkatsu” is popular (in a way!?) here in Japan. That is, “marriage hunting”. Unmarried people attend the a “konkatsu” party or an event in order to find a future better-half. 

A tea company, CHA-ICHI WORKS, held “konkatsu” tea event in Tokyo. It was the seventh time and it seems to be a success all the time. Attendees, who meet there for the first time, work together to test Japanese tea by tasting and guess which is which. When they answer all the questions correctly, they can leave the site together if they like. 

Although it is the first time meeting for them, its relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere seemed to help feel more at ease about speaking to and enliven their conversation. While learning about Japanese tea, they could find a spouse-to-be. I know that tea often brings synchronicity. So I believe that it can happen. Don’t you think? 

frm CHA-ICHA WORKS web
* CHA-ICHI WORKS  http://www.chaichiworks.com/




2015/11/06

High-Priced Bottled Tea

ITO EN, LTD has released another bottled tea. It’s 100% Gyokuro bottled tea. Very special, isn’t it? 

Usually, bottled tea (525 ml) is about 140-150 yen per bottle. Of course, it is not the same. 1000 yen per bottle (375 ml)!!  It’s special in this way too, right? But it's been selling well :-) 

Photo by ITO EN LTD website

Cross the Ocean

Cool Japan Fund Inc. has decided to invest 260 million yen in new-established company to manage Japanese tea café in the States. The new company will be established mainly by MAETAKU CO.,Ltd ( the parents company of MAEDA-EN, USA) , and other 12 companies located in Nagasaki prefecture. 

They are planning to set up 50 outlets within 10 years in the big cities in the States including Los Angeles and San Francisco. They will serve several tea like sencha, hojicha, matcha espresso, caramel hojicha latte, sparkling green tea to name a few. Hasami-yaki, the local pottery, will be used to serve tea in order to make people feel and enjoy more “Japan” and its tea culture. 

Luckily, Japanese food known as “WASHOKU” has been popular outside of Japan. This movement might back up the popularity of Japanese tea, which can also revitalize our tea industry. At least, I believe that many Japanese tea-related people are hoping so. 





 


* Reference frm the organization’s website:
Cool Japan Fund was founded in November 2013 as a public-private fund with the aim of supporting and promoting the development of demand overseas for excellent Japanese products and services. Cool Japan Fund aims to commercialize the “Cool Japan” and increase overseas demand by providing risk capital for businesses across a variety of areas, including media & content, food & services, and fashion & lifestyle.

2015/10/30

Happy Tea Day!? - Tea-Scented Softener -

November 1st is known as “the day of black tea” in Japan because it was considered the very first day when Japanese ever had “black tea”. 

To mark the day, FaFa Japan Co., Ltd will put tea-related goods on sale, not TEA itself. That is an English rose tea-scented softener. It seems that this aroma is selected to give the impression of elegant and grace of Britain. 

Do you fancy using it? Maybe....I’m not going. :-)


Photo Frm FaFa Japan Co.,Ltd

2015/10/24

Japanese-Flavored Halloween

When I worked at an English school for kids about 15 years ago, it was hard to find Halloween-related goods. People didn’t show much interest in the event. Now, the story is so different. According to a report, the economic effect of Halloween reached 110 billion yen last year. This is much more than other Japanese traditional events and more than Valentine's day, which is also loved by Japanese people. What's going on here! 

When the season comes, the city is covered with orange color. People wearing costume get together and have a party, and spend a lot of money.

And this year more wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets, seems to joins the event. Can you see the sweets?

by kozakuraya

I believe that we can say that Halloween is now a part of Japanese custom. Enjoy Halloween over the cup of tea and wagashi :-) 

by Aoyagi

2015/10/17

Go to Drugstore for Tea !?

According to a dictionary, a “drugstore” is a shop where drugs and medicines are sold or given out, and where you can buy cosmetics, some household goods, and drinks and snacks. Right. That’s what I know about a drugstore. Japanese drugstores are also like that. 

Some of them, especially the ones located around the area for tourists have become like “tea shop”. I already knew tons of Matcha sweets and foods are sold there. 

Full of Matcha snacks 

Recently, tea such as Sencha and Hojicha are on the shelves. And what is more surprising, they are BIG! One-kilogram bag!!! I’ve never seen such a big bag at the retailers. That’s for wholesalers!! Obviously, they are for tourists from abroad, but I’m curious how many bags are sold a day.

1 KG Hojicha and Green tea

2015/10/15

The British Fair in Japan 2015

For Anglophiles in Japan, a much-talked and long-awaited event “The British Fair” was held at a major department store in Osaka. It is an annual event. Every year, we, British-lovers, become so excited around this time of the year. 

Tens of thousands people inundated this site during the fair. So many queues of people were seen here and there waiting to have fish and chips, scones, tea, muffins, sticky toffee pudding, jam, Shepard's pie, welsh cake....etc.





The Bridge Tea Room

Double Winners of the UK's Top Tea Place and 
the Home of West Country Afternoon Teas


RINGTONS TEA

 A horse carriage, which was used to deliver tea to there customers, was at the site in Japan. Also, Mr Smith, the president and Mrs Smith came to Japan and held the short lecture for us.


                                                           Take-away scones from
                                        Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London.

                                                

Being a tea -lover, I didn't queue for Fish and Chips (Sorry!), but I did for scone and tea! 
Why do we love "Britain"?? Actually, not only Britain, but other countries too. We love foreign culture and food!!

2015/10/04

From Tea Cooking to Tea Entertaiment

Nowadays, green tea-flavored sweets are everywhere. What about green tea dishes?
Even in Japan, it is not that common other than tea-producing areas.

I joined a tea cooking class held in one of the tea places, Ujitawara town in Kyoto.
These are what we cooked and ate.


*Tea-flavored mushed potato’s deep fried chicken roll
*Chawanmushi (literally "tea cup steam" ) is an egg custard dish with tea thick sauce
*Tea furikake (rice seasoning sprinkled on a bowl of rice)

*Fish carpaccio with tea flavored sauce

*Matcha affogato


Even the vegetable we used are grown the town. I feel like I had full of “Ujitawara”.
After that, we went the local tea farms, which was a nice walk after a big meal.


Before I forget, I would like  to mention this. One of stuff members showed us “tea juggling” not cocktail juggling. You might say "What is that!!??" I couldn’t take a movie long enough, but why don't you click it?


video


And these are teas what he made! Surprisingly....they were good.


We enjoyed Ujitawara tea from food to entertainment :-)

2015/10/01

Japanes Tea Day this and that

There seem to be two different “Nihoncha no hi”, the day of Japanese tea. One is October 1, the other one is October 31. 

The former is decided by ITO EN, LTD to commemorate Grand Kitano Tea Ceremony held by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a warrior commander, on October 1, 1587. 

The latter is set by a Japanese tea institution. It is believed that Yosai (or Eisai), a Buddhist priest, brought back some tea seeds and its manufacturing process from Sung to Japan for the first time on the day in 1192.

Interestingly, I’ve found other tea days. According to my research, "Matcha no hi (Matcha day)" is February 6, and "Genmaicha no hi (Genmaicha day)" is November 1. I didn’t know that, ha, ha. 

Each institution and company has its own good excuse to promote tea. Hope it works!!

Toyotomi Hideyoshi -Wikipedia-



2015/09/21

Not Thin, Crispy and Toasted "English Toast"

When I hear “English toast”, it reminds me of thin and crispy toast. Marmalade is spread on toast and have it with a nice cup of tea for breakfast in the UK. Sounds very English morning to me.

photo by KUDOPAN
“English toast” in Japan seems to be different. Actually, I didn’t know it and I have never tried it. It is a local product, by KUDOPAN Co.,Ltd, particular to Aomori prefecture in Japan. I heard it's so popular among people in Aomori, the northernmost prefecture on the main island. As I mentioned, I didn't know it, but everyone there knows it. 

What is it like? Even if I haven’t tasted it, I can easily image the taste because it’s a sandwich with spread margarine and sprinkled granulated sugar, and not toasted. In Japan, round top bread is called “English sliced bread”. Since this type of bread is used for the products, it’s called “English toast.” I still don’t know why it says “toast” though.
                                                                                    

Everyone but people in Aomori may think, “It’s so simple. I can make it at home!!”, but they say “No…., it won’t be the same. The balance between margarine and sugar is just right!” 
Sounds like it's  their "comfort food" or "soul food". The prefecture is far from my place, but if they insist…I have to try when I have a chance.

BTW, the Union Jack is on the package. Is that OK??? Don’t worry. The company has obtained permission of the British Embassy. :-)


2015/09/15

Kombucha - in English vs in Japanese -

Have you tried kombucha before? I suppose kombucha you may know could be “fermented tea”, but for Japanese, it’s not. It’s a drink made from powdered kelp called kombu

What you call kombucha was popular when I was a kid as “kocha-kinoko”, literally means “black tea mushroom”. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? It was not appetizing AT ALL to me, as a little girl. Due to such a weird name, I remember its existence, but I was too scared to try back then. 

Recently, I found a canned kombucha made in the US. I am already grown up enough to try, and I did. I did green tea and lemon flavored one. Unfortunately I didn’t taste any green tea, but as a drink it was good. Much better than I expected. 

BTW, Japanese kombucha is also good to drink and to season foods. When you have a chance, give it a try!


Japanese kombucha and Ume (pickled plum) flavored kombucha
Photo by Fuji Shokuhin Co.,Ltd


* FYI  -frm Wikipedia -

<History> 
It is not known exactly how or where kombucha originated from.The drink was consumed in east Russia at least as early as 1900, and from there entered Europe.

<Etymology> 
The English word kombucha has been in use since at least 1991, and is of uncertain etymology. The American Heritage Dictionary suggests that it is probably from the "Japanese kombucha, tea made from kombu (the Japanese word for kelp perhaps being used by English speakers to designate fermented tea due to confusion or because the thick gelatinous film produced by the kombucha culture was thought to resemble seaweed)."

2015/09/12

Things that We Enjoy at Cafe

How to brew the second and
third infusion provided by a tea cafe
When we ate out and sat down to a meal, a green tea was served free of charge as welcome drink. And still "is" at many places. So many of us didn’t/don't take the tea as what we pay. When bottled green tea emerged in the market, we thought “Who on earth bought green tea??”. Now the bottled tea is very very popular so that many people take the tea as what they drink from a bottle. 

Bottled tea is still popular, but the new trend is also seen these days. New green tea cafes are mushrooming here and there. Each café has its own style, tea menu and tea food, but many cafes have the tea menu serving with kyusu (teapot). I know people in general go to such a new place mainly because they want to try its special food and sweets, not for tea. But once they visit and have some tea, they can find out its “real” taste and learn how to brew because many cafés teach it. Especially younger people, who didn’t know the real taste made from kyusu, seem to enjoy their green tea time. 


Anyway, green tea is becoming a thing that we pay. Green tea is becoming a thing that we enjoy. 








2015/09/10

ICHO - withering -

To produce sencha, the tea is steamed or pan-fired in order to stop oxidization soon after plucked. For black tea, wilt the leaves for a while. This process known as "withering (icho in Japanese)" helps create a specific aroma. The aroma created by icho, called icho-ka, is considered as “not appropriate” for umami-centered sencha. But now the situation seems to be changing. Some farmers produce sencha with slight withering “on purpose”. 

Actually, sencha in the past would have a little bit of accidental natural aroma due to the lack of mechanization. The work would need more hands and took more time back then. So even plucked, the leaves were often left as they were. This caused unintentional withering, adding a faint aroma. I remember what an elderly people say: “Sencha in the past had sensitive flowery sweet aroma, which I liked better (than the one now)”. Since the standard of sencha was set by an organization at one point, the tea with icho-ka has not been valued as high quality. Mechanization is good to standardize the tea, but it can mechanize it. 

Nowadays, the values of people have diversified. Sencha with a hint of icho-ka may create the buzz sometime soon.


2015/09/07

Particular about Texture

Japanese language is rich in words to express "texture". 

According to a research by National Food Research Institute (2003), there are 445 words to express texture in Japanese while 77 words in English. BIG difference, isn’t it?
 
To name a few.....

When you eat those food below, I assume you could use CRISPY/CRISP, but we often use different words respectively.
* lettuce = "shaki-shaki"
* cucumber = "pori-pori".
* crisps (chips) = “pari-pari”
* toast = "kari-kari"
 
What about CRUNCHY?
* rice crackers = “bori-bori”
* oat biscuits =”zaku-zaku”
* tempura=”saku-saku”  
 
CHEWY can be translated more than one.
* fluffy pancake / rice cake = “mochi-mochi”
* firm noodles = “koshi ga aru”

 
Of course, how you express texture is different from person to person, but you can see that we are busy in using different words depending on what we eat. Even teatime is no exception.

"mochi-mochi" crumpets, "shaki-shaki" salad,  "toro-toro"poached eggs
and "puri-puri" prawns



2015/08/28

Can "Wakocha" Be a Household Word?

Mitsui Norin Co.,Ltd, one of the major beverage and food manufacturers, announced that they will put the "wakocha (Japanese black tea) tea bag" on the market this autumn. 

Now, since the tea is often sold directly from the tea farmers, it will be the first wakocha to be sold by a major company and available throughout the nation. Although it seems a little more expensive than the teas that they have now, it can be a good chance for wakocha to become a "household name". Many tea people -- including me -- are pinning our hopes on it. 


- photo by Nihon Shokuryo Shinbun online news -

2015/08/18

Morning Ritual of Drinking Tea

Japanese people of old times would believe the power of "morning tea". They considered it as the one to ward off accidents. Knowing that there are many proverbs related to morning tea in Japan, you may understand what it means.

To name but a few.....here are some proverbs related to morning tea.
   1) Drinking tea in the morning before you go out avoids trouble.
   2) It’s good sign if a tea stem floats upright in your morning tea.
   3) If you set out on a trip without drinking morning tea, you have to go back to drink even if  you have to turn back halfway.
   4) Drinking tea in the morning brings more good luck to you.   
                                     

In practice, drinking tea (especially sencha) in the morning is also good for you at the time of this year to protect from ultra-violation. It is because that the tea is rich in Vitamin C, which can remain even in infusion.


A morning tea is a must to protect yourself and your beauty, isn’t it?


2015/08/06

Hospitality in Business World

When I started working at a company, which was more than 20 years ago, whenever the guests came, the female employees would serve a drink using a ceramic cup. It was common practice in general. Recently, that isn’t always the case. A friend of mine told me what happens to the company where she works. They buy drinks from the vending machine in the office and serve them. That can be more efficient, but I was not sure if it becomes a common practice.

I found a survey about “hospitality to the guest at the workplace”.
 
1)Do you serve the guests with a drink at your office?  
     Yes 86%
 
2) What kind of cup do you use? (a multiple-response questionnaire)
      Pottery/porcelain  76%
      Glass  58%
      Paper cup 16%
 
3) What kind of drink do you serve? (a multiple-response questionnaire)  
      Japanese tea 87%
      Coffee 85%
 
4) Do you feel bad to use a paper cup for the guests?
     Yes 53%
     No 47%
 
According this survey, a lot of company still use pottery or porcelain for drink. Regarding 4), 10 years ago, 66% of people felt bad to use a paper cup. Compared with it, the rate is declined, but still more than half of people feel reluctant to use paper cups. 

In order to show the feeling of  "omotenashi”, which is heartfelt hospitality, “how to serve” seems to be still important in Japanese business field.