Help me to understand


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Re: Help me to understand

Postby TubbyCow » Dec 31st, '09, 15:06

brose wrote:I still can't tell a really good expensive green tea (so I am told) from the $4 tin that I get at the local Chinese grocery store. With oolong I can work with the good or not so good.


I definitely don't think it's a bad thing to love the cheap, easily-accessible teas as much as the more "elite" ones. It certainly makes tea buying less expensive and easier.

I can appreciate the super cheap grocery store jasmine green almost as much as the premium stuff, and I'm hoping that's one thing I can continue to like and avoid getting too snob-ish about.
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby Geekgirl » Dec 31st, '09, 15:51

skilfautdire wrote:When I see a chawan for $1000 I find it very ridiculous on all aspects except perhaps the one of making an art collection. To drink matcha I use an IKEA bowl of the right size and that's it. I use a simple chasen because nothing comparable can be found in kitchen stores. If it was possible to whisk it good with a common tool (not an electric frother) then I'd do it.


:lol:

Sure you can do that, nobody is stopping you. But this braggadocio regarding your ghetto utensils... is that meant to be some kind of statement? (please note that I'm using a general "you," not targeting any particular statement. The quote is simply a springboard statement.)

Of course, each to his own, but just as different shaped glassware can have a profound effect on wine, so too the various utensils used in preparation of matcha (not talking about the ceremony, just simple prep,) are designed specifically to be optimal for that preparation.

It seems we readily acknowledge the superiority of a chasen over any western tool that could be substituted, so why is there such resistance to acknowledging the superiority of the chashaku? Or why do some behave as though it's a badge of honor to use a mixing bowl or a dog dish, instead of one of the many options in chawan?

I once knew a lady who loved to cook. She had enough money, she had a nice home, drove a nice car, and otherwise showed a certain willingness to pay for nice items. But she insisted that she would never upgrade her kitchen utensils, pots and pans, because the ones she had were "perfectly serviceable." She cooked everything in old heat-warped teflon pans from BiMart, chipped baking pyrex, ancient aluminum pastry pans. She used the oldest, most disgusting stained wooden spoons that were splintering and chipping, her plastic spatulas were melted, and her knives were made of exceedingly cheap materials and could not hold an edge.

She seemed inordinately proud of the fact that she could "cook anything without wasting her money on fancy cookware." Having tried to always use tools that were more than adequate to the task, I was dismayed to try assisting in meal prep, and discover knives that wouldn't cut, pans that couldn't hold an even temperature across their entire cooking surface, baking dishes that were potentially dangerous (did you know that chipped pyrex loses integrity and can be prone to explosion when heated and cooled rapidly?)

It always seemed to me that her insistence on using these things, rather than advancing her culinary arts by employing the proper tools, was far less about "wasting money," and more about her sense of pride and her belief that those of us who spend for advanced tools are foolish, pretentious fops.

I don't meditate when I drink matcha, I simply enjoy making it and drinking it. I love it that my tools are ideally suited to the task, and I love that my chawan seem particularly designed to enhance the experience, both tactile and visual. I love that my matcha tastes different in various chawan, better than I ever remember it tasting in my white Ikea cooking bowl that I used in the beginning.

In the beginning.

Personally, I recommend that people start in just that way. Why waste your money on something so unusual until you know if you like it? My husband HATES matcha. If he had purchased chawan, chasen, chashaku before trying it, that would absolutely have been an unfortunate waste of resources. On the other hand, we both like a serving of fine scotch or other handcrafted liquor. We have good quality snifters, highball, rocks and martini glasses, and good beer and wine glassware. Sure, we absolutely could drink our fine scotch out of a plastic dixie cup. You might argue: same liquor, same taste. I disagree.

So if it's your point of pride that you do and will always use cheap substitute utensils, great! I simply find bragging about it misplaced and ill-informed.
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby TubbyCow » Dec 31st, '09, 16:41

Geekgirl wrote:So if it's your point of pride that you do and will always use cheap substitute utensils, great! I simply find bragging about it misplaced and ill-informed.


I personally think it's fair for people to stick with what they know until they feel as though it isn't adequate. Although there is something to be said for not wasting money on good teas if you don't have the good vessels to make it in. I would neither buy fresh salmon (in December in mid-Canada, good fresh fish seems like an unattainable delicacy) and fry it in my room mate's warped $5 Wal-Mart pan, nor spend $60/ounce on matcha right now because I just straight up don't have the proper vessel (or the knowledge) to appreciate it. I wouldn't personally know if the $1000+ chawan is really superior to the $100 one, other than aesthetically and as a collectible, and I know I won't really be able to tell for many years, if ever. If I crossed a line by hinting that practically, they may not be that much more superior, I sincerely apologise. Forgive my Japanese teaware ignorance. I've barely begun to scratch the surface.

Which brings me to my big conundrum: I haven't felt pulled into the world of chawans as of yet, so I don't want to go buying willy-nilly and end up with ones on hand that I never use because they aren't any good. I really just want one, good, solid chawan until I learn to appreciate the need/desire for more. Mind you, I'm willing to pay for one that feels right, looks right, and will do any matcha justice, but again, I don't know enough to know what that is and what is just labelled and priced as such.

Anyone care to point me in the right direction or link a pertinent thread? Looks don't matter nearly as much to me as how it feels in my hands (which, in case it matters, are extremely tiny) and how it affects the tea. Personal experience of others is always more valuable to me than online research (though in this case, I'm researching personal experience online. Ow, my brain), especially since I won't be able to hold my teaware before I buy it. I love the vast pool of knowledge that is TeaChat.
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby TubbyCow » Dec 31st, '09, 16:49

Geekgirl wrote:I don't meditate when I drink matcha, I simply enjoy making it and drinking it.


I only meant that I find the formal Japanese (forgive my not knowing the name off-hand) matcha ceremony terribly intimidating. I assume most Westerners don't follow the whole dealio when fixing their morning matcha.

I've been wrestling to get a practical amount of Chinese tea culture and geography under my belt the past few years. I have barely begun to touch on Japanese anything. I just wanted to share my minimally-informed opinions as I started. If they're decent, then great, and if not, then you guys can steer me in the right direction. It's win-win for me. You may even say win-win-win.
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby Chip » Dec 31st, '09, 16:59

*raises hand* first bowl was a BB&B 50 cent clearance cereal bowl and metal whisk. Seemed adaquate at the time given that I never tried Matcha before.

Once you have Matcha in an authentic Chawan, whisked properly with an authentic hand carved Chasen (whisk), it is virtualy impossible to go back, quite seriously.

I cannot imagine brewing Japanese tea without a Japanese Kyusu ... I really enjoy brewing tea as much as drinking tea, so, it is a critical element for me.

Same with the kitchen utensils as Geek mentions. Once you have the proper tools, whether they are aesthetically pleasing or simply most suited for the purpose. Without the right tools in the kitchen ... or tearoom ... something you may love doing can simply become an unpleasant chore.
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby Geekgirl » Dec 31st, '09, 17:01

TubbyCow wrote:
Geekgirl wrote:So if it's your point of pride that you do and will always use cheap substitute utensils, great! I simply find bragging about it misplaced and ill-informed.


Which brings me to my big conundrum: I haven't felt pulled into the world of chawans as of yet, so I don't want to go buying willy-nilly and end up with ones on hand that I never use because they aren't any good.


Definitely something to be said for this view. I have several that I don't regard as adequate to the task. Yes, they are pretty, but not so much with the useful. Simply having the label "chawan" does not make it any better than the Ikea mixing bowl.

I really just want one, good, solid chawan until I learn to appreciate the need/desire for more. Mind you, I'm willing to pay for one that feels right, looks right, and will do any matcha justice, but again, I don't know enough to know what that is and what is just labelled and priced as such.


I think the first thing is to identify the style you love. It needs to be something that you will enjoy using every day. For some, that is something more delicate, like the kyo-yaki selections. For others, a heavier clay is more appropriate. You mentioned small hands, that's a very important detail. A too-large bowl would not be enjoyable or comfortable. The true dimensions of a bowl can be difficult to visualize. I can try to post some reference pictures later on that could be helpful.

IMO, you can't go wrong with browsing some of the selections at Rikyu. My first real chawan was from there, and I still use it frequently, as it is perfectly balanced, comfortable to use, and ideally suited for using a chasen. Some of our TeaChat artists produce lovely and functional chawan. I personally have several from Cory Lum, a couple of these are larger and heavier (one is larger and heavier enough for me that, sadly, I don't use it,) but two in particular are lovely, smaller (nearly travel-size) versions that feel like they were made with my hand specifically in mind.

It was recently pointed out to me that yuukihas some nice chawan as well, although it's worth noting that many of them are 12+cm wide, which is a little large for very small hands.

Your choice might also be affected by how much you tolerate cooling tea. A thin chawan such as kyo-yaki usually are, will not retain heat well, even pre-heated, whereas a heavier clay will keep your matcha near temp if you are a sipper.

Possibly more later. :)
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby Geekgirl » Dec 31st, '09, 17:03

Chip wrote:*raises hand* first bowl was a BB&B 50 cent clearance cereal bowl and metal whisk. Seemed adaquate at the time given that I never tried Matcha before.


For sure. My first attempt was similar.

Once you have Matcha in an authentic Chawan, whisked properly with an authentic hand carved Chasen (whisk), it is virtualy impossible to go back, quite seriously.


As usual, someone sums it up much more succinctly. :lol:
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby TubbyCow » Dec 31st, '09, 17:18

Geekgirl wrote:The true dimensions of a bowl can be difficult to visualize. I can try to post some reference pictures later on that could be helpful.


Estimating sizes is among the many things on my list of stuff I'm terrible at, so references would be grandiose. For reference, I wear a size 3.25 ring. Ridiculously small.

Geekgirl wrote:Your choice might also be affected by how much you tolerate cooling tea. A thin chawan such as kyo-yaki usually are, will not retain heat well, even pre-heated, whereas a heavier clay will keep your matcha near temp if you are a sipper.


I'm very much into simplicity, and I drink quickly enough that thin clay may be best. But I know nothing of Japanese clays, so any notes about that would be extremely helpful as well. Or mayhaps just a link to a trustworthy site/TeaChat topic on the subject. I really appreciate you guys helping me along in my baby steps!
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby TubbyCow » Dec 31st, '09, 17:21

Chip wrote:*Once you have Matcha in an authentic Chawan, whisked properly with an authentic hand carved Chasen (whisk), it is virtualy impossible to go back, quite seriously.


I shudder when I think of my first experiences with matcha, which were done without a Chasen. Rishi told me I could prepare their matcha by shaking it up, but looking back I can't imagine why. It doesn't exactly do the leaf justice.

Now that I'm converted to the Chasen, I should follow with a proper Chawan, but that is much, much more difficult to buy.
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby Chip » Dec 31st, '09, 17:22

TubbyCow wrote: I personally think it's fair for people to stick with what they know until they feel as though it isn't adequate. Although there is something to be said for not wasting money on good teas if you don't have the good vessels to make it in. I would neither buy fresh salmon (in December in mid-Canada, good fresh fish seems like an unattainable delicacy) and fry it in my room mate's warped $5 Wal-Mart pan, nor spend $60/ounce on matcha right now because I just straight up don't have the proper vessel (or the knowledge) to appreciate it. I wouldn't personally know if the $1000+ chawan is really superior to the $100 one, other than aesthetically and as a collectible, and I know I won't really be able to tell for many years, if ever. If I crossed a line by hinting that practically, they may not be that much more superior, I sincerely apologise. Forgive my Japanese teaware ignorance. I've barely begun to scratch the surface.

Which brings me to my big conundrum: I haven't felt pulled into the world of chawans as of yet, so I don't want to go buying willy-nilly and end up with ones on hand that I never use because they aren't any good. I really just want one, good, solid chawan until I learn to appreciate the need/desire for more. Mind you, I'm willing to pay for one that feels right, looks right, and will do any matcha justice, but again, I don't know enough to know what that is and what is just labelled and priced as such.

Anyone care to point me in the right direction or link a pertinent thread? Looks don't matter nearly as much to me as how it feels in my hands (which, in case it matters, are extremely tiny) and how it affects the tea. Personal experience of others is always more valuable to me than online research (though in this case, I'm researching personal experience online. Ow, my brain), especially since I won't be able to hold my teaware before I buy it. I love the vast pool of knowledge that is TeaChat.

Good questions and points that we have all faced, so do not feel you are alone. I personally started basic, around 25 bucks for a Chawan. They can be found at almost any of the listed vendors under green tea: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=11556
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby Geekgirl » Dec 31st, '09, 17:24

Chip wrote:Good questions and points that we have all faced, so do not feel you are alone. I personally started basic, around 25 bucks for a Chawan.


Ditto. And IIRC, my first chawan from Rikyu was $33? Anyways, relatively inexpensive. My second was an ebay steal: $10 for a chawan (perfectly serviceable,) and chasen. :lol: I still use THAT chawan at my office.
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby TubbyCow » Dec 31st, '09, 22:27

Chip wrote:I personally started basic, around 25 bucks for a Chawan. They can be found at almost any of the listed vendors under green tea: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=11556


Geekgirl wrote:And IIRC, my first chawan from Rikyu was $33? Anyways, relatively inexpensive. My second was an ebay steal: $10 for a chawan (perfectly serviceable,) and chasen.


So, in short, check out the green tea vendors listed at TeaChat, and start basic? Also make sure it's on the smaller side... and... What kind of clay should I head towards for a thinner, more delicate feel?

Thanks!
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby tenuki » Jan 1st, '10, 05:36

If you can't tell the difference, don't pay the price.

However, it's probably a mistake to assume that your experience is the same as everyone else's and judge them based on that bad assumption. Some people think cilantro tastes like soap due to genetic difference, but to most it is yummy. Using your logic someone with that genetic difference would think all the people who like cilantro have fallen prey to the cilantro marketers.

Thank your poor taste buds for saving you the expense.. ;)
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby Geekgirl » Jan 2nd, '10, 15:46

TubbyCow wrote:
Geekgirl wrote:The true dimensions of a bowl can be difficult to visualize. I can try to post some reference pictures later on that could be helpful.


Estimating sizes is among the many things on my list of stuff I'm terrible at, so references would be grandiose. For reference, I wear a size 3.25 ring. Ridiculously small.


Up for your perusal:
Matcha bowl (chawan) size reference
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby chris&amy » Jan 3rd, '10, 23:10

Wow , I never thought when I started this thread that it would go this far. Haven't been around in about a week because of the holidays but I have made a little discovery.

I was at the mind set that the green tea that I got at the local Asian market was just as good as the more expensive teas that we have bought. I WAS WRONG!!! As I have said before I drink lots of cold green tea throughout the day. The cheaper tea that we were brewing and refrigerating was really good so we decided to have some hot and that's when we noticed that when it was hot it was lacking in taste and was on the bitter side. I chalked it up to maybe it was not brewed correctly so we made another pot and the same thing occured it was bitter and the quality just was not there.

Now call me crazy and no I do not have a answer but for some reason the cheap is very good cold but when it is hot it is lacking. If anyone has a answer please explane.


Happy New Year,
Chris
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