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Showing posts from 2017

Tip for Preparing Matcha

Have you made a bowl of Matcha at home? Has your matcha gotten lumpy? 
A friend of mine working at a tea company in Kyoto gave me a tip about making Matcha without lump: that is, adding a bit of water. 1.Put some Matcha into a bowl. (about 1.5 to 2 tea scoops for one bowl). 2.Add a bit of water (not hot water) over the tea and knead them with a tea whisk.
3.Then pour hot water into the bowl and whisk it until it’s ready.
Please do remember this is OK for you to prepare Matcha at home. It will never ever be done at a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. 
One more thing. Matcha doesn't have to be frothy. It really depends on the school. Urasenke school considers tea with bubble better while Omotesenke schooldoesn't. Omotesenke tries not to make the tea frothy.  (ref: Omotesenke needs 1.5 tea scoops of tea while Urasenke does 2 tea scoops of tea) 
Either way, this is worth trying!

How to make "CHASEN (tea whisk)"

This is the way of making CHASEN (tea whisk).  
You will see Japanese master craftsmanship! Don't miss it!

* You Tube: Takayama tea whisk

* FYR, see the blog written on January, 2011

"Kyakudo" = soil improvement

Kyakudo ---- To add fertile soil or soil from the different area into tea farm to improve the soil.
I’ve learned this word recently from a farmer that I know. Kyakudo literally means “guest soil” in Japanese. What an interesting word! It maybe natural for farmers to prepare good soil, but I re-recognize that “tea is not produced in a day”, and should appreciate their efforts.

Harmony with Nature - "Chagusaba" method -

Some tea in Shizuoka, especially Higashiyama area, is cultivated by the traditional “chagusa-ba” method, which is often translated as traditional tea-grass integrated system. 
The dried-grasses mainly bamboo and pampas called “chagusa” are cut down, dried, shredded and spread around the roots of tea trees as a mulch. Eventually it will be a good compost. It seems that “chagusa” prevents weeds from growing along the furrows, enriches the soil, helps retain moisture and fertilizer for a long period, and helps new leaves grow better. Naturally, the tea taste gets better and the flavor improves. 
This method is not only for making good tea. It is good for biodiversity. Since the grasses are cut down regularly, other fauna and flora including rare and endangered species survive in that area. (This methodis designated as GIAHS 'Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System').
* You will learn about Chagusa-ba method "The secret to High Quality Tea by UNU Channel" http://kake…

Hotel for Tea lovers - The hotel 1899 TOKYO-

“The Hotel 1899 Tokyo” will open in December 2018.  Don’t say “So what?”.------Because the concept of the hotel is “TEA”!  
The rooms will be designed like “Iori (hermitage)” inspired by Japanese tea house. The restaurants’ signature will be tea, of course. We still have one more year to see what’s like, but it’s already the talk of tea people. 

Learn Tea from Tea Room

When I was younger, Japanese tea was served as a welcome drink with free of charge at eatery places. Nobody had imagined to pay for Japanese tea. No wonder we didn't see almost any Japanese tearooms back then. Now, we see them. Not popular as much as coffee shops and British style tearooms, but they are seen here and there.
I realize that Japanese tea rooms tend to introduce “hand-on” style unlike coffee shop and the British style tearooms. 
At some tearooms, you brew the tea yourself followed by the instruction. 

At a tearoom in Osaka, you prepare your own tea by whisking Matcha or freshly-ground Sencha. And you can choose the teacup you want to drink with. 

When I am at Japanese tearooms, I sometime hear the conversation like those:
This tea pot is so pretty! Ah, I see. This is how to brew it. Interesting! I didn’t know there are many different kinds of Japanese green tea. The taste is different from bottled one! It's tasty!
These days, people drink more bottled tea, and they don'…

Tea Gardens of Scotland

It is the year of tea in Kyoto. Lots of events are held in Kyoto throughout the year (from April 2017 through March 2018) under the name of “Discover Premium Green”.
One of the events, but the first one as an international version, “International Expo” was held on Nov.10 and 11. Some tea-related groups from overseas participated it.

One of the exhibitors is “Tea Gardens of Scotland (TGS)”, which is a group of nine of female tea farmers who grow tea in Scotland!
In Japan, it's generally said that Akita prefecture, which is located at lat.40 NL is the northernmost place for growing tea. Scotland is further north! So I was surprised to hear that tea has been cultivated in Scotland, and I was so excited to know that people who grow tea in Scotland were coming to Japan.

Ms Beverly Wainwright, the adviser of TGS, and Ms Catherine Drummond-Herdman, one tea farmer of the group attended this Kyoto Expo all the way from Scotland, and spoke about what they have been doing and their visions.

They …

Tea is a great contributor - Jikocha Summit in Minamata -

An annual Japanese black tea event known as "Jikocha (local black tea) Summit " was held in Minamata city, Kumamoto prefecture on Nov.4 and 5. It was the 16th event. 
It was originally started as the meeting where tea farmers gathering from all over the country share the information and improve their producing skills. Recently, it is also the opportunity to popularize and sell their black tea more.
People sampled the tea from more than 30 different tea farmers’ stands . Other than that, there are various local sweets shops, food stands too.

There were various seminars for farmers and tea people including: how to produce better tea, the future of the black tea, the marketing, the research of “zairai (native tea)” for tea

For customers; how to enjoy Japanese black tea, and Afternoon tea with Japanese black tea etc....
During 2-day event, more than 6000 people in total came to the venue. As the event in a local city, it was a great great success.
This event is usually organized by lo…

Japanese Words for Geeks

The other day, I was asked what to say those in Japanese. So….FYR.
*Tekisai 摘採 tea plucking * Icho萎凋 withering * Junen 揉捻 rolling * Hakko発酵 oxidation * Kanso乾燥 drying
Little bit more…..
* Zairai在来: Native tea grown of the region from of old, not the one propagated from cultivars.  (Actually, since the origin of zairai is unknown, strictly speaking, some may not be really native. But it became a part of native over a long long period of time. ) * Yamacha 山茶: wild tea * Misho 実生: seedling * Sashiki 挿し木: cutting
Zairai is a tricky word. The definition is a bit ambiguous. Actually, zairai is sometimes explained the tea from seed, which is true. But tea from seed is not always called zairai in Japanese. Some cultivars are propagated from seed too.

Pan-fired, Withered Green Tea from Seed – Green Farm KAJIHARA-

Most of the Japanese green tea is steamed to stop its oxidation. But some areas, especially in Kyushu area, pan-firing method is used instead of steaming.
This called “MIYAMA” is one of the "kama-iri (lit; kama=pan, iri=firing)" tea produced by Mr Kajihara in Kumamoto prefecture, Kyusu area.

The tea plant used for "MIYAMA" was grown from seed in the wild mountains. We call this "zairai", or wild tea. Since the cutting, or ready-made plants are often seen recently, the production of wild tea. or grown from the seed are very small throughout the nation.
After the leaves are plucked, they are withered a bit. which can add a bit of extra aroma. Since most of Japanese green tea don’t require withering process, withered green tea is still rare in Japan.
- Pan-fired tea is special as Japanese green tea. - Wild tea is not that common. - Withered green tea is getting popular now, but still not that seen everywhere………but this tea has everything:-)

Worth trying!
*Green Far…

Ichoka -Withered Japanese Green -

To process Japanese green tea, soon after the leaves are plucked, they are supposed to be steamed or pan-fired to stop its oxidation. Yes, as soon as possible after the leaves are plucked. Otherwise, the tea would be withered. 
The process of withering adds some aroma to the tea, and it is considered to make Japanese green tea quality worse since the distinguish trait of the tea is umami (savory), not withered aroma. In short, it is thought that withering could destroy the quality of Japanese green tea. This seems to be a rule made by the Japanese tea association during the mass-producing era when it was considered that the taste of the tea should be unified.
However, it’s becoming the thing in the past. Nowadays, Japanese green tea with a bit of withering are seen more and more.
The time has changed now and it is more “individual” era, not mass-producing era. "Unified" is not always needed. Recently, people, especially younger generation appreciate aroma. For tea geeks, it is …

Aroma of Bancha -banshu-

Have you heard of the word “Banshu”? Actually, even among tea lovers in Japan, this term is not that well-known. 
“Ban” is for Bancha, which is mainly produced from summer or autumn leaves. “Shu” means, in this case, aroma. So, “banshu” is the aroma of Bancha.
How do you describe this aroma, then? One of the experts said that it is like “the scent of futon aired out under the sun”. Sounds interesting, but I can feel it. 
Bancha is considered to be lower quality, not a special and connoisseur tea. If you look at it from a different angle, it’s an everyday tea, giving us the feeling of warm and secure. I can say it is like a "comfort tea".
The mornings and evenings is getting cooler these days. It is a good season to drink Bancha with warm and nice “banshu”.

Tokyo's Newest Sweets Treats

You may think Japanese are on a healthy diet. Japanese women desire to lose weight and eat less rice and meat…..BUT, many have a sweet tooth and cannot resist it!
This program has nothing to do with tea, but something to do with teatime. If you have a sweet tooth, check it out.
*Tokyo's Newest Sweets Treats by TOKYO EYE 2020, NHK world

(Available until Sep27, 2018)

Milk Tea Flavored WATER

Japan is a “bottled” country. Lots of bottled drink are seen everywhere. Flavored bottled water is one of them. I can say popular flavor are like lemon, orange, apple, peach for water. 
Now, “Suntory Natural Water -PREMIUM MORNING TEA LEMON-“ is on sale. (by SUNTORY HOLDINGS LIMITED). It’s clear, not tea color, because it’s water, not tea. But tastes lemon tea. Looks very curious. So I tried it. Actually it was not bad as a flavored water. It was really fresh and good for morning.

To more surprise, the company will release “milk tea flavored water” called “PREMIUM MORNING TEA MILK” at the end of this month. Again, it's clear, not milk tea color. The company says this water has a lot of body and aroma of milk tea, and has a refreshing aftertaste. To me, it doesn’t sound right, but curious enough to try.

Afternoon Tea with GYOKURO

More hotels and tea rooms serve Japanese style afternoon tea recently. The Hotel Granvia Kyoto is one of them. But unlike others, they serve it with gyokuro.
Usually, gyokuro is served by a small cup because rich umami (savory) flavor is condensed in it. Since the tea has very distinctive and strong taste, we often enjoy gyokuro as gyokuro, not with sweets (very little if any) . I mean gyokuro could overwhelm the food, or the tea could clash with tea food.
According to their website, jam for scones are not made from strawberry. It's made from veges grown in Kyoto instead. Sounds interesting too.
I haven't tried this afternoon tea yet, but I am curious how gyokuro is brewed, and how the tea food and the tea go well with. I should go to check it.

* Web: Hotel Granvia Kyoto

Blend of Japanese Tea and Coffee - CHASHITSU -

At a tea shop called “CHASHITSU” in Osaka, I ordered this: “hojicha coffee jelly tea”. Is this hojicha? coffee??

According the shop, "this drink has coffee jelly, coffee essence and a slice of orange IN hojicha. You can enjoy the coffee as if you do tea."  That made me more confused…..but I shouldn’t complain it until I try….so I did.

Surprisingly, it was not bad. I tasted coffee rather than hojicha, but like I said, it was not bad. Better than I expected. It was difficult to tell what it was, but  as a summer drink, it was good. A slice of orange gave it refreshing aroma too. Actually, an elder guy at the next table said “Wow, it’s more tasty than I expected.”
The shop has relatively ”conventional” drink too, but also soda of blending of hojicha and coffee with some grapefruit, coffee with thick Matcha cream on, coffee mixed with hojicha.... and so on.

I prefer tea as tea, but it's interesting to try something else once in a while. I should remember that tea can be anything.…

"Funmatsu" vs "Kona" Tea

There are two kinds of Japanese teas which mean very similar, but different. One is “kona-cha”, the other one is “funmatsu-cha”. Name-wise, both of kona and funmatsu mean powder in Japanese. Therefore, people get confused.
“Kona-cha” is dust tea. It is a by-product and the leaves are very very tiny, but cannot be dissolved completely into hot water. So kyusu teapot is required to make "kona-cha".
“Funmatsu-cha” is powdered tea. Unlike matcha that shade-grown tea is ground by a stone mill, funmatsu-cha is usually powdered sencha, which is grown in the sun. Funmatsu-cha is dissolved into hot water like instant coffee. Sushi-go-round restaurants in Japan usually have this tea, so you may have had this tea if you've visited Japan. I heard funmatsu-cha has sold well recently.  Maybe, it is because that some media have been talking that the powdered tea is good for you since you can consume all the nutrients in tea. Also they say that you don’t have to clean up a teapot afterward…

The Pride of Shizuoka

In Shizuoka, there is a prefectural ordinance which bans on adding any additives like flavoring, coloring and so forth. For examples, if you want to add some dried flowers or fruits to produce flavored tea, you have to report it to the governor to get permission, whose procedure is said to be very complicated. 
Recently, some people had voiced concern over the future of their tea business, saying like "Amid growing the demand on flavored tea, this rule can disturb the business to expand." , “People’s demand have diversified. Shizuoka tea business will get left behind due to the rule.” "If “umami” additive is allowed to use for the second flush, even the tea can be sold at the higher cost, which can help the farmers continue their business in the long run." and the like. 
In response to those voices, Shizuoka government discussed if they should abolish this rule. Opinion seemed to be divided on it. Some say that abolishing this rule can help create more variety tea pr…

Rediscovery of Japanese Tea

I joined a seminar titled “The Charm of Japanese tea” lectured by Mr Oscar Brekell, a Swedish certified "Japanese Tea Instructor" in Japan. Actually, this certificate itself is not easy even for Japanese to pass. In the first place, he must’ve had a really hard time to learn Japanese, not just a spoken Japanese. This exam is done only by Japanese and has so many lingoes written in Japanese including Kanji characters, which is sometime hard to read even for Japanese. 

Anyway, during the seminar, he explained what makes Japanese tea “Japanese tea” while introducing us three different kinds of varietal teas, which are the cultivars of “Shizu 7132”, “Zairai” and “Koshun”. To me as a tea-lover, their tastes are familiar, but they are not for most of participants who are not really into tea. Usually, people don’t know the Japanese tea has so many different kinds of cultivars. 

Cold-brewed “Shizu7132” and “Koshun”, both of which have a distinctive aroma, are served with wine glass, w…