Digital thermometers and Tradition


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Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby ummaya » Aug 16th, '09, 04:18

When I started to drink Sencha I used to bring the water's temperature down by pouring the boiling water from the kettle into an empty teapot and immediately from the teapot, equally into 2 teacups. I waited for one minute and then I transferred the water from the 2 teacups back into the already pre-heated teapot with a tea spoon of tea leaves now inside.

Many told me that doing that way I may not get the "exact" temperature for each of my preferred brand of tea and that this way of brewing is not accurate enough. So I purchased a digital thermometer specially for measuring fluids and since then I get the "exact" temperature. Using the thermometer is easy of course but the truth is that I do it very unenthusiastically and sometime I go back to my old way and find the result very fine.

That led me to the following question: what did the Japaneses do for about a thousand years to get their water to the exact temperature without a modern thermometer ? How did they know that their water is 74C or 76C or 79C simply by using a samashi water cooler?

I guess that the tea prepared during a genuine traditional tea ceremony (a real one, not one for entertaining tourists) is a good/right traditional Japanese green tea; I maybe wrong but thermometers are not used during such ceremonies, so how do they get their water to the exact right temperature?
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby tenuki » Aug 16th, '09, 04:27

Every moment is different.
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby Chip » Aug 16th, '09, 10:30

Modern contraptions sometimes can enhance our daily lives, such is the case with thermometers ... generally speaking.

Through a series of pours and general touch, Japanese did and still do determine their water "temp." I am sure some grew to be extremely skilled in this practice.

Were they able to obtain the same consistant brewing results as we do with all the modern tools at our disposal, likely not. I have seen this first hand with Japanese preparing sencha, each preparation was quite different and not always the best it could be.

With the tea ceremony, the prep of matcha is not quite as temp sensitive as sencha or gyokuro brewing. So a thermometer is not really needed.
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby fnord » Aug 16th, '09, 11:26

for my daily teasession i don't use a thermometer anymore.
i know i have 70C-75C after i put boiling water into my cup and then into my yuzamashi.thats enough for me.
if i have new teaware,more water or i want to have a special temperature i use it until i know the settings for the prefered temperature.
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby chingwa » Aug 16th, '09, 11:47

Every moment is different.

That's perfect. :D
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby Maitre_Tea » Aug 16th, '09, 12:11

I use a method that I saw on The Tea Gallery's blog about testing the temperature...you run the water over your fingers. It should be hot, but kind of bearable...I've been doing this for a while now and I think that all my green tea sessions have turned out fine.
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby J. » Aug 18th, '09, 05:35

I have no thermometer, because I newer looked for thermometers.

I agree it would be useful if I wanted to prepare always the same tea (as a weighter would be useful).

To check temperature, I have found my "technique" for fukamushicha.
I suck my little finger, dip it into the water. When it's hot but bearable, It will produce a sweet drink with a long sugary aftertaste.
When it's hot and nearly unbearable, it will produce a drink that is less "green" and a bit more astringeant with nearly no sugary aftertaste.

According to me, it's like trying to learn riding a bicycle without that two little lateral wheels.
Wheels can be useful to learn and then you can ride without it.
I brew without thermometer, I'm not afraid to fall, sometimes it will give nothing good.
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby sriracha » Aug 18th, '09, 14:19

I use a thermometer since I seem to be able to forget that I'm heating water-or anything really-in an instant. Also wouldn't be able to gauge temp with my fingers or I'd have 3rd degree burns...the curse of being fair/redhead with all that it entails. =_=
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby ummaya » Aug 19th, '09, 01:53

J. wrote:Wheels can be useful to learn and then you can ride without it.


That's the way it worked for me. I started to brew according this method (http://www.o-cha.com/brew.htm) and made some adjustments according my taste and each brand of tea. Once I got my thermometer I used it to check if the water's temperature is in the right range.

I still periodically (once a month maybe) use the thermometer to check if I am still within the right temperature range but I think to drop this habit. If the water's temperature is 72C instead of 75C, then let it be.

My way is certainly not scientifically accurate as with a thermometer and a scale and my tea sessions may slightly differ one from the other but most of them have been fine until today. When used the thermometer for every cup of tea I also got different results.

tenuki wrote:Every moment is different.


How true !
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby Carl » Sep 4th, '09, 10:34

Found an interesting carving with the phrase Ichi go Ichi-e, ascribed to the Way of Tea, and translated as One encounter, one chance. The artist, Guy Junker, is Hawaiian and does some very nice work.
Image

Have any of the Teaware Artisans created yunomi with that calligraphy? It seems it would be a natural...:D
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby chamekke » Sep 4th, '09, 11:49

ummaya wrote:I guess that the tea prepared during a genuine traditional tea ceremony (a real one, not one for entertaining tourists) is a good/right traditional Japanese green tea; I maybe wrong but thermometers are not used during such ceremonies, so how do they get their water to the exact right temperature?


The water in the kettle should be simmering ever so slightly ... so that it makes the sound known as "the wind in the pines".

There are also microadjustments you can make. If I'm making thin tea for someone in the tearoom, and the water when added is too hot (as in, the chawan is uncomfortably hot to the touch) I spend some extra time whisking it, perhaps up to half a minute. The additional whisking - and delay prior to serving - helps to cool the liquid down.

Also, when preparing thick tea in the warmer months, one adds a ladleful of cold water to the kettle at a certain point just prior to making the tea. This is because at this time of year, the matcha being used was generally little "old" (not from the most recent tea harvest), and older koicha-matcha is supposed to taste better if you prepare it at a slightly cooler temperature. When the tea year begins in November, the ladleful of cold water is omitted because it's assumed that you'd be using freshly ground leaves then.
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby brad4419 » Sep 4th, '09, 17:22

I use a thermometer all the time except black, puerh and somtimes oolong. I respect tradition and that its fun to do things traditionally but I reason that when tea was invented long ago if they had themometers they would have used them. Then today, we would consider them necessary. I enjoy tea brewing with or without the thermometer so why not increase your odds of brewing the tea to its highest potential more often.

also thermometers make it more accurate to try different variables with your tea brewing to find what you like.Experimentation is another joy I get from brewing tea. "Egor, bring me another gram of sencha and increase the temperature 5 degrees, its time to unleash the monster Muahaaaaa..."
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby ummaya » Sep 5th, '09, 04:37

brad4419 wrote:I respect tradition and that its fun to do things traditionally


It is really fun but the truth is that I don't like to use a thermometer mostly because I don't like to stand there and check and re-check and check again. It is a laziness thing :oops: and not a"pro-tradition" thing.

To use a modern digital thermometer (or any other modern device) when preparing tea is not only legitimate but very useful and in no way a sacrilege and desecration of the tradition. I never steep without a digital timer and I always use a digital thermometer when I try a new type of tea until I find how I like to brew it.

I really wanted to know how in the past , before the modern thermometer , the digital scale and timer the ancients got their tea "right".


I reason that when tea was invented long ago if they had themometers they would have used them. Then today, we would consider them necessary


No doubt; if they had invented the digital thermometer in their period then today it would be considered traditional like a bamboo whisk or a chawan. They had their "thermometer", it was just very different that the modern one.
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby Rainy-Day » Sep 5th, '09, 22:21

I think the key here is concentration and attention. If you concentrate on what you're doing you will be able to set the flame at the same level, use the same amount of water, see the bubbles forming in the kettle, touch the kettle to check how hot it is, and sense how much time has passed. If you do all of these things and pay attention, it won't be hard to get close enough to the temperature you need. As for me, I almost never do that because I do minor clean-up when I'm waiting for the kettle to boil. I have little spare time now and I'm trying to save it whenever I can. I'm planning to learn to brew tea perfectly without a thermometer and a timer, eventually!
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Re: Digital thermometers and Tradition

Postby ummaya » Sep 6th, '09, 16:31

Rainy-Day wrote:I'm planning to learn to brew tea perfectly


That's exactly what I told myself when I started to drink Japanese greens but since then I realized that perfection is something that goes one step further each time it seems I get one step closer to it.

Gradually and continuously improving my brewing skills seems a more achievable goal than reaching perfection.
Last edited by ummaya on Sep 6th, '09, 23:56, edited 1 time in total.
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