Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Tea Review: Green Tea with Mikan (Japanese Green Tea)

Green Tea with Mikan
Japanese Green Tea
Type: Flavored Green
Origin: Japan, Shizuoka Prefecture
Product Description: Our premium green tea is mixed with fresh Japanese orange (mikan). The tea can be enjoyed hot or cold by simply mixing with water.

New flavors are developed over one year of research and collaboration with Japanese local high school students (Shizuoka Commercial High School).

After over a year of prototyping, Arahataen is proud to introduce the newest tea taste in Japan: Green Tea with Japanese Orange (Mikan).

This blend contains citrus unshiu (Japanese orange/mikan), green tea, sugar, dextrin, sucralose, and natural flavor.

Cold Infusion
2 teaspoons tea, stirred into 8 ounces of chilled water

Mixing with cold water will take slightly more effort than with hot water which is still easy.  I stirred with a spoon, though the process might be even easier with a small kitchen whisk or a shaker.

The infusion is bright opaque green with a lightly sweet citrus aroma.  The taste is much sweeter than the hot infusions and reminds me of freshly peeled chilled mandarins with just the barest hint of tartness.  

Hot Infusion - 175° F
2 teaspoons tea, stirred into 8 ounces of 175° F water

Mixing with hot water takes almost no effort.  There was a little sediment at the bottom of the cup, though I found it to be pleasant enough to not require additional stirring.

The infusion is bright opaque green with a sweet aroma of freshly peeled citrus.  The taste is sweet, though less so than the cold infusion, and citrus-y with a faint tartness and no astringency.

Hot Infusion - 208° F
2 teaspoons tea, stirred into 8 ounces of 208° F water

Stirring seemed to go even more quickly than the 175° F infusion.

The infusion is bright opaque green with a bold citrus aroma.  The taste is sweet and citrus-y, though milder than the 175° F infusion with no astringency.

Prepared hot or cold, the mikan flavor comes through nicely.  The recommended measure of tea is 2 teaspoons, though you can easily experiment with more or less to suit your tastes.  I haven't had mikan in a long while and it was a welcome opportunity to experience that flavor again without waiting until the next visit to Japan.  

This tea was purchased by me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tea Shout-Out: Beijing Noodle No 9

The Tea Shout-Out highlights restaurants and other businesses who go the extra mile to serve good quality tea.

This Tea Shout-Out goes to Beijing Noodle No. 9 in Caesar's Palace Las Vegas.  Instead of the standard house tea, this restaurant offers a variety of options including green tea, jasmine green tea, oolong, and pu'erh.  For this visit, I enjoyed a delicious pot of Tung Ting Oolong while watching the chef prepare the hand-pulled noodles for my Shrimp Chow Mein.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Tea Review: Organic Benifuuki Wakoucha (Charaku)

Organic Benifuuki Wakoucha 
Type: Black
Origin: Japan, Kagoshima Prefecture, Kirishima
Product Description: Japanese Black Tea, or Wakoucha (literally "red tea,") is not nearly as well-known as Japanese Green Tea, even though black tea has been produced in Japan since the late 1800's as an export item to Europe and the United States. The Benifuuki varietal is a cross between Assamica and Sinensis varieties, and is well-suited to creating a uniquely Japanese black tea. It has a lovely red color, and a slightly fruity flavor and aroma. The level of astringency is relatively low compared to non-Japanese black teas, so it can be enjoyed with or without milk and sugar. We hope you will enjoy this unique Japanese tea.

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

The dry leaves have a sweet and floral aroma with notes of brown bread, oats, and fragrant wood.

The copper-red infusion has a richly sweet aroma with oat, baked persimmon, and dark brown bread notes.  The taste is mildly astringent and sweet with a hint of tart fruit and a long, sweet baked fruit finish.

Following the recommended steeping times worked out very well, especially for the 2-minute second infusion which developed a heady aroma and an almost dessert-like finish.  The third infusion had full aroma with less nuanced flavor and this may be a result of steeping at 208° F.  After the initial review, I prepared the tea again at 195° F.  Results were similar for the first and second infusions except that the astringency was much more mellow.  The real change took place with the third infusion which was sweet, full-flavored, and just as nice as the previous infusions.  

This tea was purchased by me.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Tea Review: Island Green Tea (Mauna Kea)

Island Green Tea
Mauna Kea
Type: Green
Origin: Hawaii, Honokaa
Product Description: Young tender leaves, picked and pan-fired for a fresh sweet flavor.

Temperature: 175° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3 minutes

The dry leaves have a rich aroma of sweet oats, barley, and dark brown bread with a faint hint of flowers.

The light green infusion has a sweet, savory, and nutty aroma with a hint of marine/nori.  The taste is smooth, sweet, and nutty with a light vegetal (snow pea) finish.

Three infusions produced sweet and nutty results and I would expect to get at least a couple more similar steepings.  I also oversteeped an earlier infusion for approximately 5 minutes and the results continued to be nutty and sweet with floral notes moving to the front, yet only nominal astringency.  This is a tea that welcomes experimentation with  time and temperature.  On a personal note, I had meals with rich brown bread and snow peas over the holidays, so finding these notes that I associate with winter in a fresh green tea that should remind me of spring was a pleasant surprise.

This tea was purchased by me.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

East-West Chanoyu Center & Chado Through Japanese History at Sakura Con 2018

Japanese Tea Ceremony with East-West Chanoyu Center

I was fortunate to attend the first tea ceremony demonstration presented by East-West Chanoyu Center during Sakura Con 2018.

An introduction and narration was provided by Timothy Sowa Olson.  The host (Teishu) was Taylor, the main guest (Shokyaku) was Isaac, and the second guest (Kyaku) was Joann.  The scroll reads "Wakei Seijaku" which are the principles of tea.  "Wa" is harmony, "Kei" is respect, "Sei" is purity, and "Jaku" is tranquility.

Tea ceremony creates a profound bond between the participants.  Sen no Rikyu emphasized heartfelt hospitality, regardless of status, through aesthetic experience and skillful use of resources, creating a sense of warmth in winter and coolness in summer through shape, pattern, texture, and imagery.  In springtime (when this demonstration took place), camellia, cherry blossom, and iris motifs will appear on teaware and in sweets.

Sweets provided to the guests at the start of the ceremony help to balance the astringency of the matcha that will soon follow.  Before preparing the matcha, the host will adjust their position, using this time to empty their mind.  Before taking a sip, the guest will raise the bowl slightly to show respect (kansha) to the heavens, to nature, and to the efforts of the people involved in producing the tea.    

If you're interested in learning more about tea ceremony in Seattle, tea rooms include East-West Chanoyu Center in Hawthorne Hills, Shoseian in the Seattle Japanese Garden, and Ryokusuian, a 3-mat teahouse in the Seattle Art Museum.  Matcha and Mindfulness as well as introductory classes are held on Saturday afternoons and demonstrations are held at the Seattle Art Museum on third Thursdays.

Chado (Study of Tea Service) Through Japanese History with Nakagawa Masaye

Masaye-san's presentation began with a video of kencha, a ceremonial offering of tea to the deities, as part of Mifune Matsuri (the Mifune Festival).  The first bowl of matcha is an offering for the deity/deities, prepared with great care and carried to an ornately decorated boat.  The second bowl of matcha is served to a re-enactor of Lady Sei Shōnagon, Heian-era lady-in-waiting and author of the Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon

We learned that when the monk Essai originally brought tea seeds to Japan, he had to smuggle them because at that time in history China would sell tea, but not the seeds or plants. 

The great tea master Sen no Rikyū was a member of the merchant class which was ranked among the lowest social classes of the feudal era.  At that time tea implements were Chinese and tea ceremony was only for the wealthy, so Rikyū was forbidden to take part.  Instead, he was inspired to look for more austere tea tools of Japanese origin and developed a style of tea ceremony that is the basis for most Japanese tea ceremony today. 

Masaye-san also shared some of the differences between the wabi-cha of Rikyū and buke-cha (or buke-sado) of the warrior or Samurai.  The event concluded with a taste of matcha.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Tea Review: Makizono Kirishima Organic Zairai Sencha (Charaku)

Makizono Kirishima Organic Zairai Sencha
Type: Green
Origin: Japan, Kagoshima Prefecture, Kirishima
Product Description: Makizono Kirishima Organic Zairai Sencha is a chuumushi (medium-steamed) tea that brews to a warm green color. It's a low astringency, soft and smooth, medium body tea with mellow amami (sweetness) notes. Zairai means native and represents an older cultivar of the Japanese tea family.

Temperature: 175° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 30 seconds-2 minutes

The dry leaves have notes of butter, nuts (macadamia), minerals, fresh cut grass, and nori.

The light golden green infusion has a savory, buttery, nutty aroma with mild notes of fresh cut grass.   The taste is clean, sweet, and green with mild astringency.

Following the suggested steeping times of ~2 minutes for the first infusion, 1 minute for the second, and 30 seconds for the third resulted in a great tea session.  In 1 minute, the second infusion developed moderate astringency while also being sweet.  The third infusion had low astringency with the refreshing sweet green taste I was hoping would carry over.  I was reminded of opening the windows during the first days of summer and letting in a warm breeze carrying the scent of newly cut grass.

This tea was purchased by me.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Tea Review: Harukasumi (Marukyu-Koyamaen/Matcha and More)

Harukasumi/春かすみ Matcha
Marukyu-Koyamaen/丸久小山園/Matcha and More
Type: Green
Origin: Japan
Product Description:  Not provided.

Temperature: 175° F
Tea Amount: ~1 gram (1 teaspoon)
Water: ~2 ounces (1/4 cup)

The matcha powder is vivid green with a sweet, nutty, and savory aroma.

The aroma in the warmed bowl is deeply savory with cooked edamame (soy bean), marine (sea air), mild grass, and mineral notes.

After whisking, the matcha aroma became sweet and more prominently green with edamame and mineral notes.  The taste was smooth, creamy, and mellow with mild notes of edamame.

Harukasumi is only available in springtime, from early March to the end of April.  It can be used as both usucha (thin tea, standard preparation) and koicha (thick tea).  The mellow characteristics of this matcha give a sense of a gentle spring breeze and I suspect it would make a pleasant koicha.

This tea was purchased by me.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Tea Review: Green Leafy (Bitaco)

Green Leafy
Type: Green
Origin: Colombia, La Cumbre
Product Description:  A well-rolled leaf and the largest leaves of our green teas. Green Leafy is low in astringency with sweet, nutty flavors; the liquor is clear and has a bright yellow/jade color.

Temperature: 175° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of fragrant wood, oats, and pepper.

The pale green infusion has a lightly nutty, toasty, and sweet green aroma with a mildly nutty green taste and a mild dry finish.

This green tea was very approachable with longer steeping times (3-5 minutes) bringing out more flavor without a notable increase in astringency.

This tea was provided as a free sample without guarantee of a review.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Tea Shout-Out: Makers and Finders

The Tea Shout-Out highlights restaurants and other businesses who go the extra mile to serve good quality tea. 

This Tea Shout-Out goes to Makers & Finders, located on Main Street in the Las Vegas Arts District.  They're a Latin cafe and coffee/tea bar offering hot and iced teas and matcha and their Tip Cup Premium Tea Service features a selection of direct-trade teas curated by Tealet.  Premium tea is only available in-house and is served in a tipping cup (thus the name).  By design, the cup tips slightly to one side for the hot water to be poured over the tea leaves in the built-in filter.  When the tea is fully steeped, you can tip the cup to the other side to prevent over-steeping and enjoy! 

Satemwa Dark Puer

Avocado Relleno

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Tea Review: Hojicha (Jugetsudo)

Type: Green
Origin: Japan
Product Description: This roasted green tea is very popular in Japan, and increasingly so in the U.S. This tea has roasty, nutty flavor with less caffeine.

Temperature: 175° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 2 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of roasted nuts with a hint of cocoa.

The golden amber infusion has a rich aroma of roasted nuts and smoked foods.  The taste is also rich with notes of roasted nut shells and caramelized sugar with a lingering sweet and roasty finish.

The rich and roasty flavor held up very well throughout three infusions and would likely be flavorful enough for more.  It would also do well with shorter steeps at higher temperatures.  Though I could easily drink this year-round, the taste and aroma are especially ideal for the colder seasons.

This tea was purchased by me.