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Showing posts from 2014

Ring Out 2014 and Ring In 2015

The time did fly by. I still can't believe 2015 is just "there". Have I done something? Maybe, maybe not....
The first thing in the every morning, I boil a kettle and make tea. During the daytime, I drink tea. After supper, I have tea..... Always tea is with me. Tea for myself makes me relax, and tea to share makes me happy.
Again, I have to keep in mind that  how lucky I am to be able to have tea. I'm very grateful to this year and hope 2015 will be a peaceful and happy year. 
I know we still have three more days to the end of the year, but let me thank you all for reading my blog this year. Thank you for sharing your ideas this year. And thank you for sharing tea with me.
Where are you going to greet 2015?  Wherever you are, I wish all of you a Happy New Year.

"Queen" of Teatime

You may know that Victoria sandwich cake is one of the traditional British tea cakes. It was named after Queen Victoria who was believed to enjoy it for teatime. 
Unfortunately, not many tearooms in my neighborhood serves and I missed it. But a tearoom I often go adds the cake as a dessert for special Christmas menu. Yes! Of course, I went and tried it. It was Lovely!! Yummy!. 
Actually, Japanese and English flours seem to be different. I am not the specialist for flour, so I can't say what's different, but it Is different. The cake made from Japanese one usually creates more smooth, fluffy and silky texture. The Victoria sandwich cake I had there had more rough, which reminded me of British style. As I guessed, that was not from Japanese flour.  
I am not saying Japanese one is not good. I like it. But this is the British cake. I am glad to feel more texture in my mouth. And that texture made me feel like " I need more tea!" and I did. Christmas tea from Taylor's o…

As You Like it

The way of enjoying Japanese tea doesn't have to stick to the conventional way. More shops have served the tea in more casual way recently. 
I learned that another new Japanese tea stand “Tea Channel” just opened in Kyoto. To me, their way sounds like very Starbucks-ish. First, the customers choose the size of cup and what kind of tea you would try. Second, they can choose the taste. Would you prefer bitter, mild or super mild etc?? They prepare the tea according to your taste. Then, you can also order “the topping” such as whipped cream, nuts, honey, the leaves etc. “Topping” sounds very “novel” to me for Japanese tea. I heard that they also serve some interesting “tea leaves and apples smoothie”, which I have never had.
Kyoto is the heart of traditional tea culture. It is good to see enjoying the old drink in the new style at such a time-honored place. Enjoy as you like it.

Lovely to see you, Typhoo!

I prefer using tea leaves for my cup of tea and usually don’t buy tea bags myself. However, some tea bags bring back memories of my days in London, making me feel warm. 
Tetley, PG Tips and Typhoo are some of them. They were everywhere as long as I remember. Especially when I saw a huge box of tea bags named “Typhoo” for the first time, I thought “Typhoon!!?? What is that!!!??? ” Soon I found out it was Typhoo, not "typhoon", but the name left me a powerful impression, anyway. 
PG Tips has been available in Japan, but Tetely and Typhoo had not been around at least in my area. BUT, I came across it! I haven’t seen you for a while, Typhoo! You look a bit different now, don't you? I am not saying this is one of my favorites, but still I was happy to find it.  Now, I’m looking forward to seeing you, Tetley! Ha, ha. 

Would you like a cup of tea with Hello Kitty?

When I was a kid, I had stationery that Hello Kitty was drawn on. A pen case, pencils, a notebook……Hello Kitty was around me. Now, not even one though. .I know she is cute, but I am surprised to know that she is that popular around the world. 
This may be a great news for Kitty-lovers. "The Japanese Style Tea House Hello Kitty Saryo" has opened recently in Kyoto. They serve various foods like Kitty wagashi, Kitty Matcha latte, Kitty box lunch, Kitty parfait.....whatever you order, she comes with. 
Which would you like to try?  
 * Hello Kitty Saryo Website

For the God of Tea -Shinno Festival-

The annual festival for “the God of Tea” has come this year too. You may think “A festival? For the god of tea??”
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 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 onNov 22nd and 23rdat 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, I want to say that  this …

What's Wakocha like???

I wrote about a wakocha event on my previous post. You may be interested in what they are like. Well, that’s difficult to describe it because there are so many, but roughly speaking, I think the tea can be divided into three different types. 

1) Umami flavor type:  Made of same varieties as green tea including yabukita, sayamakaori and okumidori. Those varieties have less tannin, creating very mild taste, slightly sweet aroma and umami flavor.
2) Fragrant type:  New types of varieties and hybrid are often used to create flowery and refreshing aroma.  
3) Body type:  The hybrid between Chinese variety and Assam variety with more tannin are often used to produce more oomph than the other wakocha. The varieties like benihomare and benifuki give coppery red liquor with a good body.

This is just from my experience, not based on scientifically evidence, but some wakocha remains good taste even when cold. Some get better. The tea color also remains without becoming cloudy known as "creaming do…

Wakocha, Wakocha and Wakocha in 2014

An event of Japanese black tea, known as wakocha, held in Kanazawa city was over. The city has prospered as a castle town and retains traditional and dignified atmosphere, which reminiscent of Kyoto. 
The event was full of Kanazawa taste. At the sampling site, we tasted about 20 different kinds of the tea gathered from all over the country with “Kutani ware” tea cup specially ordered for the event. We enjoyed the black tea with Japanese sweets at the very traditional villa of the feudal chief. Steeped in such an atmosphere, I remembered an expression of “wakeiseijyaku”, literally means “harmony, respect, purity and tranquility”. 

According to the survey, more than 500 farmers produce wakocha as of 2014. In my humble opinion, the quality has been much refined on average. Most of the tea used to be made from Yabukita variety or Benifuki variety, but now, Benifuji, Sayamakaori, Benihikari, Koshun, Mirai….to name but a few. Some tea have flowery aroma created by leaf hopper like some Darjee…

First Cup to Japanese -Tea Day-

I've posted about the day of black tea known as “Kocha-no-hi” before. Unfortunately, this is not that popular as much as Halloween and Christmas…maybe far from them….But those who know it, know it very very well. Let me write about the day again just to remind you.
The day is set by Japan Tea Association in 1983 to boost the consumption of the tea.
When is it? 
It’s November 1st, which was considered the very first day when Japanese ever had “black tea”. The person was a 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.He was received in audience by Catherine the Great and obtained permission to return to his country. Finally, he could come home. He was lucky enough to get the permission, but also invited to her tea party on November 1st, having a cup of tea. This is why the day was chosen as “the day of black tea” in Japan.
I assume he must have been too…

Enjoy "Autumnal" Tea!!??

Japanese autumn has several nicknames such as “sports autumn”, “reading autumn” and “appetite autumn”. It is because the season is not too hot and not too cold. ‘Goldilocks’ to do sports. The night is getting longer. People spend more time at home, which allow them to read more. Also it’s the harvest season including our staple food, rice. Other than that, we enjoy lots of food in season such as sweet potato, chestnuts, squash and mushroom to name but a few. 
I love to eat food using those products while drinking tea. Don’t you? What about drinking tea used those ingredients? 
The other day, I found “sweet potato, chestnut and squash flavored tea” at a tea shop. Unfortunately, as I'm not 'a those kind of infusion person', I didn't get it. But I know some enjoy it and feel autumn. Can we call it "autumnal tea"???  Maybe....maybe not. Ha, ha.

British Fair 2014

I posted about the event last year. Let me say this once again.
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. Yes, no exception… Maybe you can see it from the picture.

People queued up for three hours to get a popular tearoom Bettys tea, for one and half hours to get fish and chips, and for hours to eat cream tea served by Davenports Tea room. Long long queues were everywhere. Unfortunately, I’m not patient, so I gave up joining in such a long queue, but luckily I was able to have “English Breakfast” without waiting long.(served by Eckington Manor, Worcestershire). Baked beans, sausages, scrambled eggs, and mushroom…..Baked beans are not popular in Japan. The taste of English sausages are different from that of Japanese ones. So I was happy to have the dish for the first time i…

Steep Yourself in Wakocha

Have you been to Kanazawa city, Ishikawa prefecture? Don't you have any plan to visit there at the beginning of November? 
As I posted earlier, the annual two-days Wakocha (Japanese black tea) event will be held on both 1st and 2nd of November. 
When you visit Kenrokuen garden, you will enjoy Wakocha tea ceremony. When you come to Kanazawa castle park, you can meet the tea farmers gathering from all over the country and sample tea from all over the country. If you are lucky to find your taste, you can get.
It will be a perfect opportunity for you to explore Japanese black tea. Steep Wakocha and steep yourself in Wakocha!

*Website about the event (Sorry, only Japanese)
* My earlier post about the event

Little Cute Kyusu

Look at the little cute Kyusu in the picture. Compared with a teaspoon, you can see how it is small. 

It’s tiny, but has a decent strainer inside. This is handmade. How on earth did a potter make it, even tiny starainer?? Increadible! I made Sencha with it. It worked!!

Japanese Pu'er Cookies

Japan is not the country of "green tea only". You may know black tea known as Wakocha and Oolong tea have also been seen recently. 
Other than that, several kinds of fermented dark teas, in other words, Japanese Pu'er tea (known as Goishicha, Ishizuchi-kurocha, Awa-bancha etc.),  have been produced in some local areas. They are not new, they've been produced as local teas since olden times. The quantity is very small respectively and the teas are not that well-known. Also distinctive flavors that the teas have don't attract many. In addition, the process requires a great deal of labor and times, and the number of the farmers has been decreasing. For those reasons, I seldom see those teas in the market. 
The other day, I happened to find "Ishizuchi-kurocha cookies", I couldn't find the tea itself there though. I suppose  the black stuff in the cookies should be the leaves, but unfortunately they don't have any flavor of the tea. 
Whenever I come acr…

Green Tea Scarf

My mother is a dyer. Especially she does tie-dyeing, and ties again, again and again……unbelievably A LOT. 
She uses chemical dye for Kimono. 

For scarfs, she uses natural dyestuff such as roses, dandelions, onions, Ai (Chinese indigo). 

This is one of her works, which is dyed with "Green tea", camellia and dandelion. Yes, tea can be a good dye. As a tea-lover, I should keep it. I would love to. And this is mine now.

More Tea for Processing

Do you know what is “tencha”? It is ground with a stone mill into powdered tea. This is what we call “matcha”. So we could say that tencha is “an origin” of matcha.
Recently, the production of tencha has been increasing rapidly in Japan. It's been doubled in the last decade. This is not because that we drink more matcha or enjoy Sado (traditional Japanese tea ceremony). It is because the matcha-flavored sweets and foods are getting so popular here and there, maybe in your country too. Chocolate, cake, cookie, ice cream, pan cake, noodles………We see a lots of lots of matcha-flavored stuff.
Due to this situation, even one of the most famous sencha producing areas in Kyoto has changed their ways. I heard that more tea farmers produce “tencha for processing” than sencha.
In general, people less drink tea, but more eat tea-flavored food. Don't get me wrong. I like matcha-flavored snacks and foods. I just wonder since when tea has come to be “a thing to eat”……..

Let's Get TEAgather

An annual Wakocha summit is going to be held in Kanazawa city, Ishikawa prefecture at the beginning of November. This summit started in 2002 in order to improve the quality and promote Wakocha. It will be the 13th event this year. 
I hate to say this, but it was hard to find good quality of Wakocha before, but not now. Thanks to tea-farmers and tea-related people’s passions and efforts, good-quality teas are seen more, which is great.
Kanazawa is a historical and beautiful city with a lot to see and eat. Other than this event, it is worth visiting and I am sure you will love it. If you happen to be in Japan, why don’t you come and enjoy Wakocha and the city?

Date: November 1st (Sat) / 2nd (Sun)   Place: Around the Kanazawa castle, Kenrokuen garden etc     *More information will probably be posted at a later date once ready.

*As for the past events, please check my old posts below: 2012

Somen - Summer Noodles-

You may have tried some Japanese noodles such as Ramen, Udon and Soba. Then, have you ever eaten “Somen”? 
Somen are very thin noodles and often served with a light flavored dipping sauce. As Japanese summer is very hot and humid, we often feel like eating something simple. In that case, they are good. Since the taste is very simple, the noodles can go well with anything like meat, veges and egg. So you don't have to worry the lack of nourishment caused by eating only Somen. You can add more nutrition to combat the heat.

Usually, the noodles are white because they are made of wheat flour. But some are colored. The picture shows the one blended with matcha. Somen with hint of Matcha flavor can also improve our appetites.

My Old Sweet TEA

Regarding tea,  I have been demanding more and more. I knew that. I am excited to try tea made from uncommon or special variety, and produced by a slightly different way or whatever. 
The other day, I had a green tea made in Shimanto, Kochi prefecture. It made from Yabukita, the most popular variety for green, and produced under open-air, which is also traditional way to grow to produce Sencha. In that sense, this is the very standard Sencha. 
The tea wasn't the same one that I used to have, but when I sipped it, it reminded me of my childhood. I don't know why, but  I just remembered the tea made by Mother or Grandmother, which made me feel relaxed. 
I like something special, but I also feel happy to find out the taste that I had been with me.

Happy to Sample

It is not easy to convey exactly what you think about “the taste” to others, but at the same time, it is fun to share what you think about it with others. 
Today, I joined a wakocha (Japanese black tea) sampling session to share our thoughts. A tea farmer brought four kinds of his black tea. Together with him, eight other tea-lovers tasted his tea and made a frank comment. As you may know, tea-lovers talk a lot, right?? Some comments might have been harsh on him, but he always says he would like to know frank opinion from consumers in order to improve the quality of tea. 
Like him, more Japanese tea farmers produce black tea earnestly. To be honest, Wakocha wasn't refined enough before, but I am sure more tea has been improved a lot. 

Steep Yourself in Tea

Japanese tea is supposed to be “drink”, but it can be good to “eat” too!
A new restaurant “GREEN TEA RESTAURANT 1899 OCHANOMIZU” specializing in “enjoy eating tea” is going to open in a hotel in Tokyo on August 1, 2014. 
I hear that even cooking oil they use is not just an oil. They use “tea oil”, which means the one that tea is soaked in oil. Also, various tea are to be served in harmony with the dishes. Sounds like enjoying dinner with wine, doesn’t it? When you come to Tokyo, why don’t you STEEP yourself in Japanese tea world? Of course, I would love to try too!

Web Sites: * Hotel Ryumeikan Ochanomizu Honten *GREEN TEA RESTAURANT 1899 OCHANOMIZU :

You Love Tea? TEA LOVES YOU.

Do you keep a record of tea that you had? 
What kind of tea is it? Where did you get it? And how much? Does it have a good body? Do you like the aroma? How is the tea color? ..and such. 
I tried and did once in a while using my PC, but it didn’t last long because I am not a PC person. I mean that I used to write down my impression on the tea on a small notepad while drinking, and type it up on my PC later. But I should've known that I’m not very well organized…
Today I just got an Ochazuki Techo (lit: a tea-lover’s notebook) at a small tearoom in Osaka. It is made just to take notes on tea. You can write how you like and what’s it like. For some tea-geeks, this could be a good record and  happy tea diary.

Personally, I like the cover, especially the bottom part; “TEA LOVES YOU”. Can you see the kettle that tea is been pouring to “V”? It’s cute, isn’t it? This “little teapot, short and stout”, which reminds me of a song "I'm a little teapot", motivates me to open the not…

TEA vs COFFEE –Bitterness-

In taste-wise, tea has something in common with coffee. Both have "bitterness", don't they?. Look like the same, but don’t you think they have different bitterness respectively? 
It is not easy to explain the taste, but in Japanese we use different words for them, which are "shibui" for bitter taste of tea while "nigai" for that of coffee. It is completely my opinion, but I feel that tannin-ish taste could be "shibui", caffeine-ish taste is "nigai". 

In English, you may say "astringency “, "pungency “ or whatever other than "bitterness". How would you describe the bitterness of tea? How would you distinguish tea-ish bitterness from coffee-ish bitterness? I am very curious......:-) 

Make a Wish on a Star - tanabata -

July 7th is a Japanese star festival known as Tanabata (lit: the seven evening), which celebrates the reunion of the lovers of star, Vega and Altair. 
Legend says that they are allowed to see each other only once a year on July 7th, separated by Milky Way except that day. Vega was believed to be good at weaving, and people would think that “I want to be as good at weaving as Vega is.” or “I wish I were as good as her.” So people used to write their wishes on a piece of paper on the day. Gradually, people came to hang the paper on a bamboo branches in hopes that their wishes could reach to Vega in the sky, which is how we celebrate the day now. What have “developed” are...the paper is more colorful, and our wishes are more demanding, ha, ha. 
Wagashi (Japanese traditional sweets) representing “star” is also available during this season to celebrate the day. Wish on a star while looking up to the sky and enjoying Tanabata sweets and tea.

Less Sweetness and Less Bitterness

I remember the words below by a Wagashi (Japanese traditional sweets) chef at a traditional shop in Kyoto. 
“Wagashi is supposed to be sweet. In olden times, people took sugared sweets as  special treats because sugar was very valuable back then, and enjoyed sweetness. But now, many say ‘I like this because it's not so sweet!’  I understand people have come to be health-conscious, but as a Wagashi chef, I have mixed feelings to hear that comment.”
He said this jokingly, but I found an interesting point in his remarks. 
I sometime remember his words when I hear a comment on tea. Some says “I like this tea because it is not bitter.” To me, bitterness is vital in tea. I need good bitterness, which I think gives the complex to the taste. Of course, this is just my thought and I understand everyone has his/her own taste. 
 Peoples' tastes change.  “Something which is supposed to be” is not our favorites anymore.

Let Tea Breathe!??

Black teas like Assam, Uva, Keemun and so on often turn stale when cold. Also, the color become cloudy. 
However, I've found that Japanese black tea known as wakocha don’t. I am not saying all of them, but at least some as long as I have tried. They taste different when cold. Some change even for the better, which is interesting. Do they need “air”? Should I let wakocha breathe like we do so for red wine?? Ha, ha. Luckily, many wakocha remain the color even when cold, so it won't disappoint you by appearance.
Tea is not simple. That’s why I cannot get out of tea. You all agree, don’t you?

Teatime to Get Through the Summer

As you may know, wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets)  places an importance on season. Different types of sweets are seen according to the changes of the seasons. 
In June, it’s Minazuki’s turn. It is made of Uiro (sweet rice jelly) and adzuki beans. Uiro gives a refreshing feeling to look at, and adzuki beans are believed to drive away the evil spirits in order to get through the summer. Also what matters most is its shape. It has to be triangle, which refers to “a chip of ice” to give you the coolness to the eye. 
With this sweets, we enjoy teatime, drive away evil spirits and feel coolness….. Let's say that it kills “three” birds with one “Minazuki”.

Blessing - Tea Event at a Shrine-

An annual tea event was held at a shrine in Kyoto. Thirty-three tea stands open at the precinct this year. We enjoy not only Japanese tea, but also Taiwanese, Chinese and even Turkish teas. Isn't that exciting? 
It was so hot for this time of the year, but  good for  "teastand-hopping" while sampling tea, chatting with the owners and bumping into a lot of tea friends. The event has nothing to do with religion. That's more like the one to enjoy tea. Still tea is a blessing. Always...

Matcha, Matcha, Matcha!

Originally, Matcha is a drink. Especially, it is served at Sado (traditional Japanese ceremony) as a special treat. 

Now it is everywhere and has altered very much in appearance. Soft ice cream, chocolate, cake, cream puff, pudding, parfait, pancake…There are lots of Matcha-flavored sweets and snacks, which are very popular especially among female. 
In addition, we have Matcha bread, Matcha soba noodles and Matcha curry. 

Matcha is not just a drink anymore, seemingly it can be anything. It is versatile.