World Tea Festival in Osaka

"World Tea Festival" had been held from May16 thorough 20 at Hankyu Department Store, Umeda in Osaka. 

It was the third time, and getting bigger special event year by year.
So many tea companies got together at once, and the site was PACKED with people.

In Japan, coffee is bigger than tea, so I wonder if people gather for tea. Surprisingly, they did.
There were so many tea-ish stuff and infusion and also "dessert-tea" like cheese tea, and bubble tea. They were popular, which I expected. But other than that, people seemed to be very interested in authentic tea too, which is great.

During the event, lots of workshops were held too.  I attended a workshop done by Simon from Amba estate in Sri Lanka.

Hand-rolled tea "Tea with Flower"
Dried tea flower is blended

very delicate and a hint of honey note

Tea seems to be all the rage, but on the other hand, I know many tea farmers in Japan have been struggling their tea business too. Hope this kind of events are the good chance for more people to come to know more about tea and to brew tea themselves.


Gyokuro Saturated with Water

How to brew GYOKURO.

<What you need; (from the left)>
*a small tea bowl, ]
*a tea pot without handle known as "hohin" (lit; treasure jar)
*a vessel to cool down hot water called "yuzamashi"
1) Pour hot water into yuzamashi  and let it cool a bit.  Then transfer some water into the tea bowl. About 40- 50 ℃ is suitable to maximize gyokuro character, which is Umami savory. 

2) Put gyokuro (about 5 g) into hohin, and transfer the hot water into it.

3) Leave the lid open and see how the tea is soaking the water. Not ready yet....

4) About 2 minutes later.... soaked well. Now it's ready. You may think " No liquor!!".No worry.

5) Pour the tea until the last drop. You will get this amount of tea. You may still say this is not enough. Anyway, drink it, and you will be surprised how powerful the tea is!! Very very very rich in Umami, and the texture is really thick. You will be satisfied with even this little amount of tea.

6) After multiple infusions, EAT the leaves with a bit of soy sauce, "ponzu (soy sauce with citrus juice)" would be better if available. Like matcha, which you consume all the leaves, the used tea leaves of gyokuro is very edible and has a lot of nutrients. 


My Hand-Rolled Black Tea

I went to a tea event in Kyoto. Since I brought back a tiny amount of tea leaves I plucked, I tried to process my tea!

1.    Withering: Leave leaves for one day. Water content is reduced by 40 %. 
(Originally, the weight of leaves is 16.8g. After withering, it becomes about 10.2g)

2.    Rolling: Keep rolling while loosening the lump once in a while. It gets sticker and sticker. I did it about for 30 minutes.

3.    Oxidation: Lay the leaves thinly, and covered with a wet paper. Leave it for 3.5 hours in my case.

4  Drying: Dry them to stop oxidation. I use a hair dryer, ha, ha.

4.    Final drying: Leave it overnight to make them dry completely.

Looks like tea-ish!
too green-ish!?? I would say very light oxidized tea.

Very mild without any unpleasant bitterness.
Whatever it is, it's fun, and I am happy that I've made drinkable tea!


Three Different Covering Method

Tea trees themselves contain L-Theanine (a kind of amino acid) , which creates Umami savory flavor. Once they are exposed in the sun, it turns to catechin, a component of astringency. In other words, when the teas are not exposed in the sun, L-Theanine remains in the leaves instead of creating catechin.

So, some Japanese green teas like Matcha, Gyokuro and Kabuse-cha, which have more umami, are covered for a certain period of the time after new buds start to appear around April.

Then, how are the teas covered? There are 3 different ways:

1)    “Honzu” covering (traditional way)
Reed screens are spread on the shelf made with logs and bamboo. Later on, straws are spread on it. It keeps low temperature and high humid, which is a good condition for tea to grow slowly and nicely, creating high-quality tea. It requires a great deal of labor and time.

When you go inside, you feel nice and cool. 

Some straws fall from the top. It is OK.
They will turn to soil and help for tea grow well.

2)    “Kanreisha” covering
Due to lack of material and labor shortage, black synthetic cloth often known as “kanreisha” is used to cover recently instead of Honzu. The cloths have two layers to create breathability.

3)    Direct covering
This is the quickest and most economical way. It is covered, but compare to other two ways above, tea receive sunlight more directly and it is poorly ventilated and gets easily hot. So in terms of quality, the tea are not as great as Honzu or Kanreisha covering teas, but more available in terms of price.

Instead of chemical fiber, this eco-friendly paper covering is developing.
It is not used practically yet.


Very British in Osaka - Kitahama Retro -

A tea room, "Kitahama Retoro" , has been very popular since it opened in 1997. You have to be ready to wait for an hour, or longer.

The building is designated as a national tangible cultural property, which is one of the reasons of its popularity, but more than that. The tea room has a full of British atmosphere.

The tea room is along the river. When you see it across the river, the tiny tea room is sandwiched between the taller building.

Do you see a teapot and the sign "TEA" on the building?

The tearoom, which is sandwiched between the buildings reminds me of Twining in London. "Kitahama Retoro" is really British in terms of not only food and interior decorations but how it is built.

Twining in London.


Hoga Sengen 2019

The Kyoto tea authority announced “hoga sengen” (budding announcement) on April 5th 2019.
It’s 2 days later than last year. Since it was warmer this February, it could have budded earlier than usual. But the temperature was back to normal this March and it became colder at the beginning of this month. After going through "up-and-down" temperature, the announcement turned out to be a bit later than last year.
The announcement is annually issued when about 70% of new buds of “Yabukita” cultivar (the most common cultivar to produce green tea) cultivated at a research institute are grown about twice as big as the size of leaves which are wrapped the buds. Usually, about one month after hoga sengen, tea is ready to be plucked.
In Japan, the new era is going to start on May 1 after the current Emperor abdicate on April 30. Tea season this year is coming together with the opening of the new era "Reiwa", which means "beautiful harmony". It'll be very special for sure!


Capsule Hotel like a Tea House

Have you heard about “capsule hotel (known as pod hotel) ” in Japan? Maybe you have stayed the place. According to Wikipedia, it is a type of hotel developed in Japan that features a large number of small bed-sized rooms known as capsules. Anyway….very tiny…

I just heard that a new type of capsule hotel named Zen Tokyo opened in Tokyo. It is inspired by a small tea house for Japanese traditional tea ceremony.

its website
If you are a tea person, this hotel can be an option for your accommodations. But  remember, this is tiny.....:-)

* Zen Tokyo  https://www.hotelzen.jp/


Natural Farmed Tea

The tea is from Aso city where Mt. Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan, is located. 

Thanks to the farmer's great great care and the soil known as Andosols, formed in volcanit tephra, the tea was gentle but powerful even without any fertilizer or pesticide. Even fourth and fifth infusions, the tea had still subtle sweetness and descent body with a nice aftertaste. I felt like it nicely steeped into my whole body.

It was very refined, but at the same time I had a feeling that I'd known the taste.....

Many skilled tea producers in Japan, but unfortunately, I heard many people are struggling to continue their tea business because of various reasons like financial problem, a lack of successors etc. It will be a big loss for Japanese tea future if this tea wouldn't be continued to be produced....

*kamairi-ryokucha (pan-fired green tea)
*place: Aso, Kumamoto
*Zairai varietal (seed propagation)
*soil: Andosol
*farming method; Natural farming (No fertilizer, no pesticide)


tea & bar at The Thousand Kyoto

I enjoyed Afternoon tea at the newly opened hotel in Kyoto. 

Their specialty is wide variety of Japanese tea, especially Wakocha (Japanese black tea). They serve five different kinds of Wakocha, and four different flavored Wakocha, which is very unusual and special to serve that wide selection of the tea at such a luxurious tea room like here.

In addition the Hotel's original four kinds flavored tea and a Shizuoka smoky Wakocha, 
they have these.
1. The hotel original blend (from Wazuka in Kyoto)
2. Yabukita cultivar tea (from Shizuoka, Tokai region)
3, Benihikari cultivar tea (from Nara, Kansai region)
4. Blend tea (from Kochi, Shikoku region)
5 Benifuki cultivar tea (from Kagoshima, Kyusu region)

I went there for Afternoon tea with the grower of Kagoshima Benifuki tea. Both of us are big tea drinkers, and we had a lot of tea.... Actually, 6 different kind of the tea together. The stuff members brew each tea very carefully, and we could see how they treated the teas. 

All the tea are shining, and very aromatic!

Of course, the food was very tasty and Kyoto-ish, especially savory ones.

There are also various kinds of green tea including Gyokuro, several Sencha, Hojicha  and Matcha, of course. Why don't you drop at "tea&bar" at the hotel, The Thousand Kyoto, to try some teas!