Back from Japan


Made from leaves that have not been oxidized.

Back from Japan

Postby Michael_C » Oct 23rd, '07, 20:17

Every time I leave Japan it feels like leaving half of my life behind, the language, food, spirit, and family.

I'm right now drinking a sencha that was pan fired just last Thursday - this is probably the freshest sencha I've ever had.

I brought back another sencha, a Nara green, one of the last gyokuros available, hojicha and a matcha that was about $30 direct from the company that produces it.

I got a new chasan (for $3 new!), some new tins, a very cool glass and stainless steel smallish teapot that matches the Adagio teaware perfectly, and a hand-hammered copper tea container. The last was a gift from Yuki's mother - boy, does she have my number.

I sat in on a hand rolling sencha session, observed matcha production, and talked to a few Uji tea masters and the owner of one of the oldest tea shops in Nara.

That's the short of it - I've got to get some sleep - oh, and there isn't white tea in Japan. None that I could find. When I asked a tea master about it he said "Like in China? No, I don't drink it. It doesn't have much flavor."
Michael_C
 
Posts: 115
Joined: Sep 10th, '
Location: New York City

Postby Space Samurai » Oct 23rd, '07, 20:38

Can I have your life. You know, when you're done with it. Please.
User avatar
Space Samurai
 
Posts: 1634
Joined: Jan 28th, '
Location: Fort Worth, TX

Postby scruffmcgruff » Oct 23rd, '07, 21:01

Pan fired?
User avatar
scruffmcgruff
 
Posts: 1665
Joined: Jan 11th, '
Location: SF Bay Area, CA

Postby Proinsias » Oct 23rd, '07, 21:01

A move to ban Michael_C.

Then we could all go back to being content with our tea drinking.
Proinsias
 
Posts: 1535
Joined: Mar 19th, '
Location: On the couch

Postby Wesli » Oct 23rd, '07, 22:58

Sounds like it was an awesome trip.

I would love to hear a story or two, and I'm sure everyone else would too!
User avatar
Wesli
 
Posts: 1611
Joined: Jun 8th, '0
Location: 3161 A.D.

Postby Michael_C » Oct 24th, '07, 07:13

I got up at 4am (go figure), so I figured I'd add a little more.

It feels almost like a relief to spend time where tea is something both ordinary and special - we stayed with Yuki's parents, and it was so nice to wake up every day and just pour some hot water from the heater into a teapot and drink sencha with the family. Tea really is like water - they just keep a water heater (which is always full), and the house has one container filled with the house sencha - they don't have lots of different kinds of teas, just the one tin of sencha, which they drink every day, with every meal. They eyeball the leaves in the teapot, pour hot water, wait a few minutes, and pour. No timing or weighing. The water is just warm, so they leave the leaves in the pot while talking and eating and drinking. It goes quickly enough that oversteeping isn't an issue. If the family drinks it quickly, they resteep, but that usually isn't the case. They'd laugh if they saw this, how much I think about what's such an ordinary activity for them.

Really, it's making me rethink my tea here - I need to keep only the teas I drink daily (or weekly) - no more jasmine, no more flavored teas, no more variety of greens or earl greys... just one green, one good black, a good oolong, a silver needle, and a little tin of pur-eh (it keeps forever anyway). Freshness should never be an issue, and whites and greens should be changed every 6 weeks or so.

Everyone (in Nara Japan) makes tea, - and it's all loose leaf tea. No teabags. You can stop in on friends and they'll ask if you want tea. Every kitchen has a kettle, a small ceramic teapot, and a strainer or infuser or paper bags to be manually filled. You can always ask what kind of tea it is, and people are happy to tell you - what kind, when it was made. Everyone - even the grocery store tea isle has a chart of what the different greens taste like, and which regions produce which teas. It's not a special interest. Even the dollar store has a tea section of cups, infusers, and pots. I can only imagine how it must seem to someone not interested in tea, a well intentioned but unintentionally insensitive tourist or businessperson - "Wow, they really like tea here." A true understatment. Every mall has a tea shop, every downtown has a few. Japan is truly a tea drinker's paradise (a green tea drinker, I mean). Kyoto would make a great tea excursion for any enthusiast.
Michael_C
 
Posts: 115
Joined: Sep 10th, '
Location: New York City

Postby Michael_C » Oct 24th, '07, 07:26

Pan fired = sencha is prepared on a hot pan covered with thick paper.
Michael_C
 
Posts: 115
Joined: Sep 10th, '
Location: New York City

Postby Wesli » Oct 24th, '07, 10:27

Thanks so much for the perspective on how tea is regularly drunk in Nara, more like water than how we would think of tea. It would seem that our tea connoisseur status would be carried with us if we ever went to Japan! :D

Were you able to take any pictures while you were there?

Remember, though, if you do go the route of holding on to only one type of tea at a time, that you might get tired of whatever one type that is. It's always nice to have an assortment of similarly satisfying teas. I make sure I always have a regular sencha and a fukamushi to satiate my desires.

OK, just ten more short writings like this one and I'll be content. :wink:
User avatar
Wesli
 
Posts: 1611
Joined: Jun 8th, '0
Location: 3161 A.D.

Postby xine » Oct 24th, '07, 11:17

Welcome back! Your trip sounds great- I'm PM'ing you now. :)
User avatar
xine
 
Posts: 536
Joined: Mar 23rd, '
Location: dirty Jersey.

Postby Michael_C » Oct 24th, '07, 13:55

The nice part is, it's okay to be a tea connessieur! We don't have an analogy for this in America. While green tea is a pretty ordinary commodity, there is a huge range of it, priced from grocery level through astronomical. I saw a green tea that sold 50g for $120! Likewise, you can get 50g for $4 as well. So drinking fine tea and knowing about it is, again, not at all unusual or 'special-interesty'. All of the teas also have 'best by' dates on them, something I (usually) sorely miss here. I'll put up some pictures soon.
Michael_C
 
Posts: 115
Joined: Sep 10th, '
Location: New York City

Postby bambooforest » Oct 24th, '07, 14:04

That is fantabulous that the bags all have best by dates!

*Note to self, go to Japan!*
User avatar
bambooforest
 
Posts: 410
Joined: Jul 22nd, '
Location: Uji Japan is in my heart

Postby Space Samurai » Oct 24th, '07, 20:57

Thanks for the lovely story; its quite eye-opening, and definitely something to think about.
User avatar
Space Samurai
 
Posts: 1634
Joined: Jan 28th, '
Location: Fort Worth, TX

Postby Michael_C » Oct 25th, '07, 08:40

I took a one-day class in sencha making, also, although the teamaster made clear that most teas are not hand processed, only the more expensive ones. When I asked if that made a difference taste-wise, he shrugged a little, and said he honestly didn't know, but there was something special about green tea picked and rolled by hand, not touched by machines. It's hard to disagree with that.

Matcha, likewise, is machine made nowadays, unless you go out of your way for a hand-milled one. Having used a matcha mill (as part of the course) it takes a while, and can be a little tiring - it takes some force to grind the tea, and the speed has to be kept constant for a fine powder. About 30 minutes of that and you want to drink a cup just to relax!

It was good to see a teamaster prepare matcha, also. There was so little water used, and it was really no hotter than 'warm'. It was much thicker than I typically make, creamy, more like a fresh vegetable juice than a tea in terms of viscosity. Matcha is so expensive because it takes a lot of tea to make it relative to steeping leaves.

I tell ya, the more I study tea the better it gets. Those little buds unfold to reveal countless layers of history, culture, cuisine, and spirit. It doesn't hurt that it's healthy, either.
Michael_C
 
Posts: 115
Joined: Sep 10th, '
Location: New York City

Postby Michael_C » Oct 25th, '07, 14:27

Here's what I'm drinking now:

Image

On the left is a Nara green, which is still a little soft to the touch - it's a very vegetal tea with an extremely clean finish. It will be the household green for the next month or so. I bought it at the local supermarket.

On the right is a hojicha I bought in Uji Kyoto, the tea center of the country. It's surprisingly similar to the Adagio hojicha, actually, a little more mellow and nuttier. This is also going to be a daily tea for the next six weeks or so (100g of hojicha sure goes a long way).
Michael_C
 
Posts: 115
Joined: Sep 10th, '
Location: New York City

Postby Michael_C » Oct 25th, '07, 18:43

Here's the flyer from the sencha class I took:

Image

Image

Pretty neat, and only about $10 for the day.
Michael_C
 
Posts: 115
Joined: Sep 10th, '
Location: New York City

Next

Instant Messenger

Permissions
You cannot post new topics
You cannot reply to topics
You cannot edit your posts
You cannot delete your posts
You cannot post attachments
Navigation