2018/11/23

Shennong Festival 2018

Shennong is known as a mythological deity in agriculture and medicine among people. For tea lover, the deity is known as a deity of tea. An annual Shennong festival has been held in Osaka on Nov.22 and 23.



This shrine, located in medicine district in Osaka, is usually not that busy, but people wait in a long line to thank for their health during the past year and pray for good health next year during this festival.


Some pharmaceutical companies make their own mascot.


There are a lot of stalls.

 Carp-shaped pancake filled with usually "anko", red-bean paste known as "taiyaki"

Candy apples known as "ringo-ame".....and more.

I wish you a healthy 2019!

2018/11/22

Taste is in the mouth of the drinker


I almost always find difficulties in describing the taste of tea. 

That happened again very recently when I had green tea made by “Yamakai” cultivar. The nickname of “Yamakai”is “natural Gyokuro” due to the rich taste. Some say this is herby. When brewed strong, it is also said that it has a melon notes.

Since the cultivar is very rare, it was only the second time for me to try this. When I tried it for the first time, I thought “I would describe something different rather than melon…..the taste is familiar, but I cannot remember what it is.”

This time, I was not sure what it was at the beginning again. Very distinctive, very rich and mild. But not really melon to me……what is it!!??

I found it!! It is mayonnaise!! I felt a hint of mayonnaise at the back of my tongue!

Maybe it doesn’t sound appetizing, but believe me, it has rich, mild and distinctive mayo-ish flavor. Believe it or not,  I was not the only one who said that. Other tea people felt a good mayo:-)

Some says melon-ish, others say mayo-ish, and still others say herby....

"Taste is in the mouth of the tea drinker." :-) 







2018/11/03

Yumefuki Wakocha from Kagoshima

Wakocha known as "Yumefuki" from Tanaka family in Kagoshima. Benifuki cultivar. This tea is introduced in a book "TEA COMPANION" by Jane Pettigrew. She described it as surprisingly punchy with a sweet spiciness and warm tones of sun-warmed wood.



Beautiful color, and flowery aroma. Nice and good astringency makes the tea tea. I can say this is one of my favorites.





The Tanaka family grows, produce and sell the tea and runs their own tea room both in Kagoshima and Osaka. They serve sweets and lunch together with tea!



Tea room in Kagoshima:  http://www.satsuma-eikokukan.jp/

Tea room in Osaka  http://www.satsuma-eikokukan.jp/bunroku/bunroku_b.html

2018/11/02

Washoku & Wakocha

I joined a lunch seminar “ marriage of Washoku and Wakocha coordinated by Takeshi Isobuchi, a prominent tea writer in Japan.at a traditional hotel, Funaya, in Matsuyamam city. Ehime prefecture. “Wa” means Japan”, and “shoku” means food/eating. Kocha is black tea. So it is the marriage of Japanese food and Japanese black.
 
 
Mr Isobuchi gave us the tip of brewing of tea. When you make black tea, you need the freshly boiled water drawn from the tap.As for water temperature, he added that the 95 ℃ hot water is the best rather than boiling water. If the water is boiled too much, the oxygen in the fresh water will be gone, which won’t extract the beauty of black tea. Surprisingly, preparation for Japanese broth (kombu kelp and from dried bonito) is the same, the chef at the “funaya” said. You shouldn’t let the water boil to boiling point. Otherwise, the unpleasant harshness will come out. I was surprised, actually Mr Isobuchi and the chef were even surprised to know they have something in common.


 
Anyway….many people doubted washoku and wakocha would go together. They thought that  black tea could overwhelm the delicate taste of washoku. But actually, black tea will refresh your palate and gives you more appetite as long as you pay attention to what tea you use, how you brew and how you serve. I mean choosing mild tea, making the tea lighter, and serving it room temperature will make the tea a good company with the food.
 

You may not be surprised, but for many Japanese, black tea means “tea time”, not “meal”. We always have had green tea instead. But it seems like the attendees enjoyed the marriage of washoku and wakocha.









Jikocha (Japanese Black) Summit in Ehime


An annual Japanese black tea event, known as Wakocha or Jikocha was held at the end of October. The venue this year was Matsuyama city in Ehime prefecture. 


Originally, the event is designed for the tea growers and tea people to share the information and to improve their skills. Recently, the growers sell their teas to popularize Japanese black more.






According the survey by the organizer, wakocha is produced by 742 tea fields in Japan now. The quantity in 2017 was 117 tons in total. Not a lot.....wakoha is like a microbrew. (Tea is a brew, so we may call the tea microbrew too?? )



Anyway, wakocha doesn't have to be mass-produced. Small, but it should be a good one.




2018/10/19

Tea Tour of Japan, May in 2019 by World Tea Tour

Dan Robertson, a prominent American tea expert, is planning for tea tour to Japan in May 2019.
 
Obviously, May is the most exciting season for tea lovers. "May in 2019" is more than just that. May in 2019 is very very very special for Japan as the opening of the new era.
 
On April 30 in 2019, the current Emperor Akihito is going to abdicate, which will be the first time in over two centuries, and the new Emperor, and the current Crown Prince Naruhito  is going to be enthroned on May 1. At the same time, “Heisei era”, Japanese imperial era name will change to the new one.
 
So when you come to Japan next May, you will not only see and taste a wonderful tea, but feel the new era of Japan. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!


If you are interested in the special tea tour at a special time, please check the website of 


2018/10/04

A Japanese Tea Event in Osaka

Japanese tea has been attracting more people in the world. Mr Oscar Brekell, a Swedish guy, is one of them. I should say he does just more than that. He attracts enough to be a certified Japanese instructor. What's more surprising, he speaks amazing and beautiful Japanese. I think it’s better than mine….
 
The other day, his book launch seminar was held at a tea shop in Osaka. I served as master of ceremonies.

talk about tea things, future of Japanese tea etc
with an owner of the tea shop


Many Japanese gathered to learn about Japanese tea from the Swedish Japanese tea instructor. In a way, it is sad for Japanese to forget about the beauty of Japanese tea, but it was a great chance for them to remember and re-recognize it. Also, they learned Japanese tea can be very stylish and cool, and the taste changes depending on the brewing way. Knowing that Japanese tea is getting more popular outside Japan, the guests seemed to be proud of the tea too.


  
He has published “The Book of Japanese tea”, written in both Japanese and English. It's very informative. If you are interested in Japanese tea, you will like it. 






2018/10/03

Afternoon Tea Hunting!?

“--- katsu” is a kind of fad in Japan now.
“katsu” is an abbreviated word for “katsudo”, which is translated as “activity” or “hunting”.
“Kon-katsu” means spouse-hunting. “Shu-katsu” can be two meaning. One is the job-hunting, the other is activity to prepare for death. “Asa-katsu” is activity to make effective use of morning time. “Cho-katsu” refers to improvement in your diet which is good for intestine, which is very important for your health…….etc
I’ve found a new “katsu” word (to me), which is “noon-katsu”. What is it!?
According to the articles I read, it refers to “afternoon tea hunting”.

Afternoon tea is popular here in Japan. So many hotels and tearooms serve afternoon tea menu, and lots of people, most of them are ladies, do afternoon tea hopping.  You  would say, “I am doing “noon-katsu”. Would you join us?”
To me, it doesn’t sound very elegant and sounds right, but the new word could boost the popularity of Afternoon tea further. Who knows??


2018/09/11

Energy from the Earth - tea field in the sky-

Mr Amano’s tea field in Kumamoto is often dubbed as “tea field in the sky”.

Those fields were once devastated during the second World War, but his family revived them and has been developing further to produce green tea and black tea.
 
In most cases of the current Japanese tea industry , the tea is usually propagated by cutting. However, Mr Amano has been trying to grow tea from seed, going against the current the times. Of course, with no agricultural chemicals, no fertilizers, no herbicide….

Compare to the cutting propagation, labor and time are much more required to grow tea from seed. The output is not that big either. But once the tea are grown big enough, the trees will live longer and stronger against insect pests, drought etc. And of course, the natural and powerful tea flavor unique to seed-grown tea will come out when they are processed as the tree absorbs the energy from the earth.
 
“Tea grown in the mother of nature will give you more power and energy.” This is what he says.
 
The below is the article about Mr Amano (mainly about black tea known as wakocha). Unfortunately it is written in Japanese, but you may be interested in beautiful photos



2018/08/24

Re-Infusable Tea -Sen ga Kiku-


Brewing tea in Chinese way…..this is recent “my thing”, especially when I make wakocha.

Of course, it really depends on the tea, but many Wakocha are produced in Chinese style, not Indian one, and focus on more delicate flavor rather than good body. The appearance of the leaves are bigger like many of Taiwanese black, you can re-infuse several times because the leaves open up slowly. By doing this, you will enjoy the changing of taste of infusion.

By the way, we say "sen ga kiku" in Japanese for "re-infusable tea". (lit: sen=infusion, kiku= work).
 
Taiwanese tea pot, not Japanese "hohin" (tea pot without handle)

Of course, I also like English style, which means brew it usually one time. But you may get the different taste by brewing it in Chinese way including "gaiwan" style.

When you think the tea you have can "sen ga kiku", why don't you enjoy changing the taste?






2018/08/18

Wazuka Kocha in Kyoto


Time flies! It’s been more than two month since I posted last! My brain hadn't been working enough because of this intense heat.

Anyway…..

Unlike Shizuoka and Kyushu area, you don’t see many Japanese black tea known as “wakocha” yet in Kyoto. Matcha is still king there.

When you feel like Wakocha in Kyoto, you should visit “Tea house LIPTON”. Two kinds of the teas called “Wazuka-kocha” are served there. Both of them are produced by Mr. Sugimoto, a tea farmer in Wazuka city in Kyoto.

One is “MIKI”. It’s very gentle and has a short finish.

The other one is “MIOKU”.


I had this “MIOKU” with a Matcha cake. The tea has a light body, but has a refreshing and distinguish aroma, a gentle sweetness, and a hint of pleasant bitterness.




The tea house has various tea menu items including Assam, Darjeeling, Earl Grey and so on…..but when you happen to be in Kyoto, why don’t you try “Wazuka-kocha”?

* Tea House LIPTON: http://www.lipton-teahouse.jp/

2018/06/16

Gogumi -tea blend-


“It is now our concern how we balance between keeping traditional gogumi technique and meeting the demand of the age.

A while ago, a friend of mine who runs a tea shop told me so.

“Gogumi” means tea blend in Japanese.

For many years, gogumi has been one of the key processes to provide good tea with stable price and taste to Japanese people. It takes a while for people to master gogumi skill, and gogumi is one of the traditional techniques. But recently, the single origin tea and specialty tea, whose gogumi process are not required, are getting popular.

To be honest, I prefer single origin tea to gogumi one because I take it more special.

But today, one of my friend who prefer “the usual” said to me; I drink single origin tea or so, but “The usual” makes me relax. It’s a must. 

"The usual" means the tea which is gogumi blended.

It was a casual conversation , but a food for “tea” to me.



2018/06/10

You may have known already, but it is about Matcha :-)

Matcha seems to be everywhere now, and maybe you have already known about Matcha enough, but if you are interested in it, why don't you watch this? I just happen to find it.


* Do you know how to make Matcha?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BRp9XpdL5s

by Simpleshow Japan

2018/05/27

Savory Afternoon Tea in Kyoto

I went to afternoon tea in Arashiyama in Kyoto.
Unlike traditional English afternoon tea, afternoon tea here was savory one, which was healthier.


First, a box of tea was brought to us for us to select what to drink. We can see the leaves and smell what they are like. I love that presentation.

Since it was hot outside, I had an iced orange flavored Sencha.



This is what I had.


A tiny hand-rolled sushi, a quiche with ricotta, a red wine marinated quail's egg, balsamic vinegared chicken etc. 


noodle and white miso veloute soup. 

sweets from a traditional Japanese confectionery shop "Oimatstu".

While having food, I ordered Darjeeling and another Sencha. Full of tea!!



The restaurant is along a river. This is unusual afternoon tea but I think very Kyoto-ish both food and scene. Food was not buttery and creamy, which were easy to your stomach.

When you happen to be there, it may be a good place to relax.

* Suiran  http://www.suirankyoto.com/en

2018/05/22

Hand-Made Black Tea from 90 years old tea tree

I joined a workshop on hand-rolling tea using the leaves of a 90 years-old tea tree.
Many tea at store are produced by cured cultivar tea to equal the quality and character. But tea tree themselves are grown naturally here and there in Japan.


 
The instructor for the workshop is a tea farmer and a friend of mine.

First, we tasted the tea from 90 years-old tea trees leaves made by the farmer.

Of course, hand-picked and hand-rolled tea. Unlike commercializing tea, looks so natural and so pure. Very delicate and gentle. Subtle sweetness spread in my mouth. There is no distinct flavor, but the tea went into body very smoothly. I felt like “Zen” in it.


 
 He brought some leaves he plucked and leave them for two days. This is called withering. This process helps reduce the water content to accelerate the oxidation.

When you roll them strongly, the tea color will be stronger. When you roll them very soft, the tea will have more flavor and aroma. Depending on pressure on tea, the taste will differ.

 
After that, spread the tea thinly and equally as much as possible to make them oxidize.
 

Then stop oxidization with……a hair dryer!!?? Wow!
 
You need to spread them on a flat place for another couple of days to dry them.
 
When ready, make a cuppa! Actually, not bad J