Monday, August 14, 2017

Tea Review: Kesennuma Kuwacha (Kesennuma Kuwacha Eitoku)

Kesennuma Kuwacha (Mulberry Leaf Tea Powder)
Kesennuma Kuwacha
Type: Tisane
Origin: Japan, Miyagi Prefecture, Kesennuma
Product Description: The leaves of mulberry that are used for Kesennuma Kuwa Cha are ones that are grown, chemical-free, by contracted farmers in the Shishiori area in the city of Kesennuma, and in the town of Minamisanriku.

The tea leaves are plucked in the morning and refined, avoiding nutrient loss. The end product features a delicate sweetness and is deep green in color.

Temperature: 208° F
Amount: 1 teaspoon
Water Volume: 6 ounces

The dry power has a bright green, herbaceous aroma.

Prepared Hot: The infusion is opaque and bold avocado green in color. The aroma is sweet and reminds me slightly of freshly piled tree leaves. The taste is mild and sweet with green vegetal notes.

Prepared Cold: Made with ice cold water, the infusion looks the same as when it's prepared hot. The aroma is sweeter and less herbaceous, reminding me slightly of matcha. The taste reminded me of green veggie juice.

This tisane has an enjoyable mild flavor and aroma when served hot or cold.  If you find that the flavor is bit too strong, reduce the powder to half a teaspoon. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017


During the World Tea Expo, Tealet hosted a tea community gathering at their Las Vegas studio and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a long overdue visit. Thanks to Rie and Michael for letting me drop in early and unannounced!

Tealet is an award-winning grower network, founded in 2012 by Elyse Petersen.  Their focus is on supporting small growers and co-ops in eight countries, helping them to become independent and confident in sharing their high-grade teas.  They facilitate wholesale direct trade from tea farm to buyer and encourage buyers to speak directly with the tea growers and even visit their farms.  On the Tealet website, buyers and consumers can trace their tea from field to cup through detailed updates and videos in the grower's profile.  Visitors to the Tealet studio can enjoy a casual and informative tasting session while learning about the teas and growers they support.

Shortly after my arrival, a few more people arrived early for the event, so we gathered around the tea table where Rie began preparing and serving a broad range of delicious and intriguing teas.  

Some of the teas we tasted include:

Amber Red (2016 harvest) made by Sarad Subba of Hariyali Cooperative in Ilam, Nepal.

Moonshine, a hybrid white/green tea also made by Sarad Subba of Hariyali Cooperative.

Heritage Firewood Green made by Ishan Baruah of Heritage Tea Assam in Assam, India.  Rie presented this as a mystery tea and everyone is stumped.  Green tea from Assam is already incredibly rare and firewood smoked green Assam tea is one-of-a-kind.

18 Ruby, made by Alfredo Lin, is a cross with a native wild mountain Taiwanese cultivar and Assam.  Alfredo is a student of Master Aones, the tea master who made Taiwan's famous Ruby 18 black tea so popular.

Early into the evening, a New Mexico ceramicist dropped off some of his handmade teaware to try out.  He's still experimenting with shapes and styles and there were some definite winners like this yellow glaze teacup and a large gaiwan that was immediately put to use at the tea table.

The evening progressed and cups on the table multiplied as we were joined by artisans, bloggers, tea growers, authors, tea festival organizers, and more.  It was a wonderful feeling to be in this space, surrounded by people who share a love for the labor and artistry behind the tea leaf.  

Thanks to Elyse Petersen, Rie Tulali, and Michael Petersen for the great experience!

Tealet is currently moving from their Russell Road location to a new space in Chinatown. Their location and business hours will be updated when they're available.  Until then, be sure to visit their official website and follow them on Facebook.

Address:  Pending

Hours (prior to move): 
10:00am to 6:00pm 

Tea Review: Black Tea (Zealong)

Black Tea
Type: Flavored Black
Origin: New Zealand
Product Description: Zealong Organic Black tea is a full-bodied, deep-amber liquor with a sweet, honeyed undertone and smooth, silky finish.

Temperature: 208° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of fragrant wood and brown bread.

The infusion is red-orange with an aroma that is floral and spicy with notes of baked fruit and freshly baked brown bread.  The taste is rich, floral, and mildly savory with a long, sweet, floral finish.

This tea is almost fool-proof.  If you forget and leave it steeping, you'll still have a delicious cup of tea.  Two steepings produced full flavor and aroma while a third infusion mellowed noticeably.  

World Tea Expo 2017 Day Three

Day Three at the World Tea Expo wrapped up with a brief yet rewarding visit to the Exhibit Hall. 

Sugimoto America has created an intriguing series of flavored tea blends intended for use in the food industry.  It would surprise no one that I dropped by when they were serving their ceremonial-grade matcha.  It was great seeing Kyohei, Noli and Sara again!

JADE:LEE has been hand-making teas and tisanes since 2010.  It was a pleasure to meet the owner and to taste samples of his delicious teas.  Even the pumpkin tisane was unexpectedly tasty.

Boseong Jeda processes their teas using a combination of steam and pan-firing.

Boseong Woohae Tea Plantation produces some of the first teas of the season due to their misty seaside location.

Before I left the Exhibit Hall for the final time, I was given a paper crane by the daughter of a tea vendor.  This gift brought my time at World Tea Expo 2017 to a heartwarming conclusion.

Onward to World Tea Expo 2018!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Tea Review: Oregon Breakfast Black Tea (Plum Deluxe)

Oregon Breakfast Black Tea
Plum Deluxe
Type: Flavored Black
Origin: Not Provided.
Product Description: This breakfast tea is how Plum Deluxe folk like to start their day. The earthy base helps center you; the ping of orange helps wake you and get you excited about today’s possibilities. It’s a simple tea and yet it is rich with subtle flavors.  Hazelnut in its oil essence form has tons of great anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant benefits, as well as vitamin E. Paired with some orange, you’re getting a true boost from this tea in every cup.

Temperature: 208° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3 minutes

The dry leaf blend includes black tea, honeybush, orange peel, and hazelnut essence. 

The red-orange infusion has a sweet aroma of citrus, hazelnuts, and berries.  The taste was lightly sweet with mellow notes of hazelnut and citrus.

The flavor and aroma were at their best for the first two steepings, becoming much more mellow by a third steeping.  Picking up pleasant berry notes was unexpected since there are none in the blend.  I would guess that had something to do with the how the aromas of the ingredients interacted.

World Tea Expo 2017 Day Two

Day Two at the World Tea Expo was spent almost exclusively in the Exhibit Hall.  

The morning kicked off at the Sara's Tea Caddie booth where Sara Kadowaki lead a tasting of teas from all over Japan. While I was there, we tasted Tenryu Sencha Special, Fukuoka Zairai (cultivated from seed from 100 year old bushes), Sakimidori Sencha, Organic Oolong Black Tea, Kabusecha (shaded for 2 weeks in Mie), Gyokuro Goko (shaded 16 days in Yame).  During the tasting, I learned that high-grade shaded teas will be shaded with natural materials while lower grade teas are shaded with synthetic materials.

Chazen founder Rie Takeda is a Japanese Tea Association Instructor and holds the title of Associate Professor with the Urasenke school.  She offers a variety of tea ceremony experiences and workshops at Chazen tea room in Ginza, Tokyo (next to Kabuki-za).  This year she unveiled a matcha gift set, a decorative mailer the size of a greeting card containing a single portion of matcha, a fold-out whisk, and instructions for preparing the matcha.  It's a clever gift idea for tea loving friends and family and it's ready to mail with no additional packaging.  Look for a review in a future post.

While visiting the Chazen booth, I had the opportunity to pause for a moment of peace to enjoy tea prepared by Takeda-san.  

Please enjoy this beautiful promotional video for Chazen.

The Real Beauty of Japanese Tea

Nihoncha Instructor Oscar Brekell, in association with the Japan Tea Export Council (JTEC) and hosted by JETRO, made an informative presentation on Japanese teas on the Special Events Stage.   Notably, Oscar holds the distinction of being the only foreigner certified to make hand-made sencha. 

Japan's main growing regions are Aichi, Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Kyoto (Uji), Mie, Miyazaki (Saga), Nagasaki (Gifu), Nara (Shiga), Saitama, and Shizuoka.

We learned about several Japanese tea cultivars and their characteristics.  Among them, Yabukita is the dominant cultivar in Japan because it's easy to produce and provides a good yield of high-quality tea.  Production of single-origin and zairai (native) teas propagated from seeds has increased over the past ten years.  Japan exported a lot of tea to the U.S. as far back as 150 years ago and hybrids of assamica and sinensis in Japan are the results of attempts to produce black teas to appeal to the U.S. market.

Most tea in Japan is a blend from many farms.  Tea farmers produce aracha (crude tea) and sell this to wholesalers who will blend, store, and refine the tea (firing and sorting), then distribute it to retailers.  The general term for refined tea is shiagecha.  It's worth noting that aracha has a high moisture content (~5%) so it is not good for storage.  You also can't taste the uniqueness of the cultivar in aracha that you can taste in shiagecha. 

As Oscar said, the beauty of Japanese tea lies in the flavor.  The main taste elements for Japanese teas are astringency, bitterness, sweetness, and umami.  These elements can be broken down into the basic components of tea:

Arginine - bitterness
Caffeine - bitterness
Catechins - astringency and bitterness
Free Sugars - sweetness
Glutamic Acid - umami
Pectin - tasteless, accentuates sweetness
Theanine - sweetness and umami
Vitamin C - sourness

Catechins dissolve easily in hot water resulting in a bitter or astringent taste while amino acids dissolve easily in lukewarm and cold water resulting in a sweet taste.

When serving Japanese teas, pour a little into each cup, making as many passes as necessary to empty the teapot.  By this process called mawashitsugi, the tea will have even strength and color in each cup.  Taking the lid off after pouring allows the heat to escape, resulting in a tastier second infusion.  Oscar recommends boiling water to soften it before using it for cold-brew (mizudashi) tea.

During this presentation we were served a cold-infused single-origin gyokuro (Amakai cultivar) and Koshun-cultivar tea made using local water.

ITI Presentation

The ITI booth held a talk and tasting with Hidenori Moriguchi (MîTÉ Co., Ltd.), Bhavin Shah, and James Norwood Pratt.  MîTÉ is the global distributor for Ise-cha, the branded name for teas produced in Mie Prefecture which was once known as Ise Province.  Mie is the third highest producer of tea in Japan, specifically aracha (unrefined tea).  They produce tencha, but not matcha, as well as a significant amount of fukamushicha (deep-steamed sencha).  During the talk, we tasted sencha, fukamushi sencha, and organic kabusecha. 

Zealong produces single-origin teas from a Taiwanese cultivar, grown and processed in the Waikato region of New Zealand.

Nepal Tea LLC is celebrating a successful Kickstarter campaign.  I've had the pleasure of reviewing several of their teas and it was great being able to speak with founder Nishchal Banskota again.

JusTea directly sources fair-trade teas like the Kenyan Purple Leaf Tea produced Tumoi Teas.  This was a rare opportunity to meet Tumoi Teas farmers Boaz and Jamilla.

Tea Spot introduced their Mountain Tumbler featuring double-walled stainless steel and a removable stainless steel filter.  Since it's lightweight, insulated, and handles hot and cold beverages, it may be just what I need to reduce my collection of tumblers and bottles.

Silk Road Teas specializes in sourcing rare and artisan Chinese teas, including "fresh" teas produced in the spring by local custom and to local preference. I've had the opportunity to sit in on a couple of their tea tastings at the Northwest Tea Festival and it was great to see them at the Expo.

Yoshimura Package Partners introduced Kawaii Ziplock Bags featuring decorative washi exteriors.

Bitaco teas are grown and harvested in the Andes Mountains of Colombia at elevations between 1,700 and 2,000 feet.  I had the opportunity to review some of their teas a few years ago and it's great to see how much they've grown and made refinements to bring out the unique characteristics of their terroir.

Teas Unique sells teas from several famous growing regions in Korea.  I've had the opportunity to review a few of their teas and I was happy to finally to meet them at the Expo this year.

Kanei Hitokoto Seicha has been producing tea in Shimada, Shizuoka since 1865.  They have a a store in Shimada near the Ocha no Sato (World Tea Museum) and their products are sold in other retail locations.

Dobashien is the overseas distributor for JA Kakegawa and they had a joint exhibit this year.  I was honored to enjoy tea prepared by Tea Instructor, Akiko Dobashi.

Kagoshima Seicha has been in business since 1881.  Their retail tea business, Birouen Tea, was established in 1883 and Kagoshima Seicha Co., Ltd. was established in 1947 to handle the wholesale side of business.  In addition to a visit to their tea shop, they also also offer factory and tea field tours. 

Nanami Tea has been producing tea in Uji since 1859 and currently produces single-origin USDA organic green teas.

World Tea Awards

Bruce Richardson and Kevin Gascoyne co-hosted the 2017 World Tea Awards.  In addition to the award recipients, we joined Sri Lanka in celebrating the 150th anniversary of Ceylon Tea and the Sri Lanka Tea Board.

Award Highlights:

I was seated next to Linda Gaylard who won Best Tea Publication for The TEA Book and seeing her light up with surprise and joy at the announcement was priceless.

Rona Tison (ITO EN) won The John Harney Lifetime Achievement Award and we were treated to a slideshow of memorable moments in her life and career, including photos with culinary celebrities and an amusingly candid photo co-starring a fellow tea blogger who shall remain nameless. (I might have taken a photo for posterity.)

Honorable mention goes to our table's lovely teapot floral centerpiece.

  Visit World Tea News for a complete list of 2017 World Tea Award winners.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Upcoming Event: Oolong Extravaganza (World of Tea Series)

Northwest Tea Festival will host a tea and food tasting event as part of the World of Tea Series on Saturday, August 19th.  

Hosted by Andrew Goodman (The Happy Tea Man)

The Happy Tea Man will brew, discuss, and tell stories about five famous and delicious Oolong Teas; Baozhong, Shan Lin Xi, Tie Kwan Yin, Da Hong Pao, and Phoenix Mountain Dancong Mi Lan Xiang.
Date: Saturday, August 19, 2017
Time: 10:00 am -12:00 pm
Location: Rainier Arts Center, 3515 South Alaska Street
Seattle, WA 98118
Price: $15

Tea Review: Premium Spring Tippy Black Tea (Nepali Tea Traders)

Premium Spring Tippy Black Tea
Nepali Tea Traders
Type: Black
Origin: Nepal
Product Description: Elevate your senses with our exquisite spring tippy, grown in the clean mountain air. The very first buds and new leaves are picked with precision, then withered, rolled and naturally oxidized. Once the optimum flavor profile is achieved, the tea is wood-fired. The result is a lovely light honey infusion with a refreshing spring astringency and a full mouthfeel. The flavor profile reveals a bouquet of crisp spring vegetables, melon and persimmon.

Temperature: 185° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of flowers and oats.

The golden infusion has an aroma of baked fruit, apricots, flowers, and honey.  The taste is lightly sweet and floral with notes of baked fruit.

This tea reminds me bit of both Jin Hou black tea and oolong.  It welcomes experimentation to find your ideal flavor profile.  Following the suggestion on the packaging, I steeped this tea at 185° F which produced full flavor and aroma.  The second steeping tended more dry and astringent and reducing the steeping time by a minute reduced the astringency while still preserving the flavor and aroma.  Reducing the temperature brings out sweeter results or the 195° F recommendation from the website produces a bold cup.  Out of curiousity, I also tried steeping it at 208° F which produced a fascinating aroma of baked fruits, but a flavor that was much, much more bold than I prefer. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

World Tea Expo 2017 Day One

World Tea Expo 2017 took place at the Las Vegas Convention Center on June 13th through 15th.

Day One had a slight twist on the usual schedule.  In response to feedback requesting more networking time, the Exhibit Hall did not open until 3pm.  While I didn't get to meet many vendors on the first day, I did attend some noteworthy workshops and presentations.

Uncovering the Jewel of Korean Tea & the Dedication of Tea Masters

Dr. Fred Yoo (Professor, Kookmin University and Vice Chair, Korean Tea Society) presented this session to raise awareness of the Korean tea industry which has been thriving for centuries and yet is only recently gaining recognition in the west.

Legend says that tea seeds was brought to Korea from India by princess Heo Hwang-ok (Princess Ho) as part of her dowry in 48 AD.

Buddhist Zen Master, Cho'ui Seonsa, is often known as the Korean tea saint.  He introduced tea ceremony in the early 19th century and in 1830 wrote ChaSinJeon (Chronicle of the Spirit of Tea), a transcription of a Ming Dynasty work, and in 1837 wrote DongChaSong (Hymn in Praise of Korean Tea).

Production and Processing:
Korean tea growing regions are among the northernmost, with a temperate and partially subtropical climate and temperature variations in the high mountains that are ideal for growth.  Eighty percent of the tea plants in Korea are a domestic variety.    

Ninety seven percent of tea production is in Gyeongsangnam Province (Hadong) where the tea plants are allowed to grow more wild, South Jeollanam Province (Boseong) where the tea plants are more aesthetically maintained, and Jeju Province (Ossuloc) where the tea is maintained in neat rows, similar to Japanese tea fields.

Growing seasons are Spring (April-June), Summer (July-August), and Autumn (September-October).
Wujeon tea is plucked and processed before April 20th.
Sejak tea is plucked and processed between late-April and early-May.
Joongjak tea is plucked and processed in mid-May.

Tea leaves are plucked, pan-fired (ddeuk-um-cha), rolled, dried, and heated.  Korean green tea is slightly roasted at a higher temperature than Chinese teas.

Preparation Methods:
Green Tea/Nok Cha
  • Pre-heat the teapot and cup.
  • Add 2 grams of tea to the teapot followed by 3.5oz/100ml of water heated 175° F/80° C.
  • Steep for 1.5 minutes for the initial infusion.
  • Steep for 30 seconds for the second and third infusions.
Black Tea/Hong Cha
  • Pre-heat the teapot and cup.
  • Add 3 grams of tea to the teapot followed by 3.5oz/100ml of water heated to 203° F/95° C.
  • Steep for 2.5 minutes.
Ideally the green tea color should be very clear and pale green with a golden tone.  The aroma should be fresh, light, and long-lasting and the taste should be savory and very smooth with a rounded mouthfeel, slightly roasted notes, and less bitterness and grassy notes than other similar green teas.

Tea Producers:
Dr. Yoo introduced us to a number of tea producers and tea masters who have been making important contributions to the Korean tea industry.

Seonamsa (Seonam Temple) was established in 527AD in Suncheon, South Jeollanam Province and is one of the oldest temples in Korea.  The monks of the temple have been producing tea since the late-9th century, using labor-intensive methods that include pan-firing and rolling the leaves approximately nine times.

Hankook Tea Company was established in 1951, making it one of the oldest Korean tea companies.  Not only are all their teas produced organically, they also have two generations of nationally recognized masters of yellow tea and powdered tea.

Boseon Jeda is a second-generation family tea company, established in 1975.  Their tea production process includes a combination of steam and pan-firing.

Chunbo Tea Estate (Formay) has been producing tea for 20 years, specializing in high-grade green and black teas.

Bohyang Tea Co. was established in 1937 and is currently being run by 4th and 5th generation tea farmers.  In 2009, they became the first tea producers in the world to feed colloidal gold solution to their plants to produce Bohyang Gold Tea.

Dadorak produces organic tea and has received the Korean Top Brand Grand Prize in 2016 and 2017.

Boseong Woon Hae Green Tea was established in 1970 and is located near the sea where the mist rolls into the region, thus the name Woon Hae (Misty Cloud Ocean).  Their teas are usually the first of the season.

Jo Tae Yeon Ga was established in 1962 and harvests teas that grow naturally on Mt. Jiri.  They are well-known for their Jukro Cha (bamboo dew tea).

Ganging Dasan Tea was established in 1992 and produces organic teas.

Ossuloc Farm is the only place in the world with three designations: Biosphere Reserve, World Cultural and Natural Heritage site, and Geological Park of Jeju Island.  Development of the tea fields began in 1981.

Taming Chinese Tea Names

Danielle Hochstetter (Director of Tea, Teforia) graduated from Zhejiang University with a Masters in Tea Sciences and placed first in the Zhejiang University Mandarin Chinese competition for non-native speakers.  In this interactive workshop, we learned about the broad variations in Chinese romanization, how the current standard for romanization compares to past systems, and how to accurately write and pronounce Chinese tea and place names.

Writing is the same across China, even when pronunciation differs.  In Chinese writing there are no spaces, not even after a period, and most characters are not pictographs (a common misconception).

Many of the systems for Chinese romanization were developed by Europeans traveling to China including Wade-Giles (1892),  Postal Romanization (1906), and Yale Romanization (1943).  Systems developed by Chinese scholars include Gwoyeu Romatzyh (1928), Latinxua Sinwenz (1931), and Hanyu Pinyin (1958).

To illustrate the challenge created by having so many systems, the following are examples of two famous Chinese teas and they names they are currently marketed under.  This can and does create a lot of confusion for people in the tea industry and their customers.

Ti Kwan Yin
Ti Kuon Yin
Iron Goddess of Mercy
Tie Guanyin

Long Jing
Lung Ching
Dragon Well

Hanyu Pinyin was approved by China's State Council in 1978 and accepted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1982. In Taiwan, Hanyu Pinyin became official as of 2009.  It's a useful system because it accurately reflects the pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese with consistent pronunciation of letters, children in China begin learning Pinyin in 1st grade, and the government has adopted it throughout China.  The weakness to Pinyin is that there are so many different dialects that the same word can be read dozens of ways.

One rule for Pinyin is that words, such as tea names, with 3-4 syllables should be brought together.  Examples include Tieguanyin, Dahongpao, Baijiguan.  Words with more than 4 syllables can be separated into words or brought together.

Another rule for Pinyin is that place names should have no spaces and have only the first letter capitalized.  Examples include Hangzhou (not Hang Zhou), Qimen (not QiMen), Anxi (not An Xi), Fujian (not FuJian), and Xihu (not Xi Hu).

Cities names containing -shan (moutain) should have no spaces while mountain names should have a space before Shan.  Examples include Huangshan (city) and Huang Shan (mountain) or Alishan (city) and Ali Shan (mountain).

Pinyin has no hyphens, but it does have apostrophes which should be put before any syllable that begins with a vowel in the middle of the word.  Examples include Tian'anmen, Lu'an, and Pu'erh.  In the case of pu'erh, the outmoded Wade-Giles romanization "Pu-erh" is still in frequent use.

Lion Dance

Shortly before 3pm, we were treated to a high-energy lion dance performed at the entrance to the Exhibit Hall.

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Chado Urasenke Las Vegas presented a Japanese tea ceremony with narration by Jodie Soen Cohen.  The teishu (host) was Kazuko Sowa Underhill and the hantou (assistant) was Rev. Shokai Kanai.  Miyuki Miyamori was the shokyaku (main guest) and Jessica Drake was the kyaku (second guest).  Nobuko Soshin Inuma, an Urasenke Los Angeles tea instructor with over 68 years of experience in the study of chanoyu, was also in attendance.

Following introductions, Paula Patterson presented a brief history of Japanese tea and tea ceremony.  The Buddhist monk Kūkai is believed to be the first to bring tea seeds to Japan from China in 806 and is credited with the first use of the word "chanoyu".  In 1191, Buddhist monk Eisai brought back tea seeds from China for propagation and later wrote Kissa Yōjōki (Drinking Tea for Health).  Murata Shukō is considered to be the founder of the Japanese tea ceremony, incorporating Japanese wabi-style (transient and austere) tea utensils which he described in the Kokoro no Fumi (Letter of the heart) in 1488.  Takeno Jōō (1502-1555) was a follower of Murata Shukō's wabi-cha and developed a style of tea ceremony that differed from the popular style in Kyoto. Sen no Rikyū was a student of Takeno Jōō and went on to become the most influential figure in Japanese tea ceremony, refining and defining it in a way that is reflected in today's tea ceremony practice.

Jodie Soen Cohen provided narration throughout the presentation. She explained that the principle concept within tea ceremony is ichigo ichie (one chance, one meeting).  Our time on earth is short and we have this one opportunity to have tea with each other.  If we meet again, it won't be the same.  Tea ceremony incorporates a vast range of disciplines including woodwork, metalwork, architecture, gardening, calligraphy, floral arrangement, and tea production.   

This style of tea ceremony utilizing tables and chairs is called ryurei.  Each Urasenke iemoto (grand master) will create their own tea ceremony style and ryurei was introduced by Gengensai Seichu Soshitsu, 11th generation Urasenke iemoto, to allow foreigners to enjoy tea ceremony.  Ryurei is also an excellent style when the host or guests have mobility limitations.

The scroll reads "Wakei Seijaku".  "Wa" is harmony, "Kei" is respect, "Sei" is purity, and "Jaku" is tranquility.

The sweet container is Heian-style red lacquer.  The first chawan (tea bowl) is red Raku and the second chawan features a motif of a carp and a sento spring.  The mizusashi (water container) is bamboo yakkan and the natsume (tea container) is Sotetsu lacquer-ware (preferred by Urasenke).  Had this tea ceremony taken place in winter, the hishaku (water ladle) would have been bigger.

As the bowl of tea is presented to the first guest, they will turn to the guest on their left, bow, and say "osakini" or "osakini shitsureishimasu" which means "Excuse me for going ahead of you".  When the next guest receives their tea, they will turn to the guest on their right, bow, and say "oshoban itashimasu" which means "Thank you for letting me join you".  If there is a guest to their left, they will also bow to them and say "osakini".

Tea Review: Red Buffalo (Chariteas)

Red Buffalo
Type:  Oolong
Origin:  Vietnam
Product Description:  A Vietnamese spicy and malty dark oolong.

Temperature: 195° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3 minutes

The dry leaves have a peppery, spicy aroma with notes of seasoned wood.

The golden infusion has a rich and spicy aroma with notes of dates and spice bread.  The taste is rich, sweet, roasted, and spicy in a way that reminds me faintly of masala chai.

The liquor darkened significantly after the first infusion, bringing out mild floral notes while remaining rich and free of astringency.  A third infusion was milder in flavor which could be easily fixed by starting off with more tea leaves, resulting in at least a couple more flavorful steepings.