Thursday, January 16, 2014

Confessions of a Tea Blogger (I've been tagged!)

This round of tea tag began last year with The Cup of Life.  I have been tagged by Cinnabar of Gongfu Girl, which happens to be the first tea blog I discovered and continues to be a great resource and inspiration.

1) First, let’s start with how you were introduced & fell in love with the wonderful beverage of tea. 

My family are dedicated coffee drinkers.  We didn't have internet when I was growing up and the local grocers' only offerings were the ubiquitous Lipton and Red Rose.  The only time I had access to tea was during church gatherings where they provide a large vat of something passing itself off as "tea" that was almost palatable with a heavy dose of honey.  For over 20 years of my life, I believed that all tea was meant to be moderately objectionable.

In 2001, I visited Japan for the first time.  After a humorously frustrating exchange with a waitress over my wish to not have the coffee portion of my meal set delivered and subsequently wasted and her desire to provide the full set as advertised whether or not it went to waste, I learned that this was an argument I would never win.  Later the same week, I ordered a meal that came with tea and wisely didn't try to refuse it outright.  The appearance and aroma of this tea was significantly different from the liquid punishment of my youth, so curiosity demanded that I take a first, tentative sip.  The fresh, green flavor hit my tongue, my eyes went wide in that "aha!" moment of fantastic discovery, and I spent the rest of the meal hovering over the cup like the Gollum protecting his "Precious."  The rest, as they say, is history.

2) What was the very first tea blend that you ever tried?

I believe my first tea blend experience was a coffeehouse blend of peppermint and green tea.  It was nice initially, though it left an odd metallic taste in my mouth that quickly ruined the novelty.  I've had some lovely blends since then, and keep one or two in stock for guests.

3) When did you start your tea blog & what was your hope for creating it? 

The Hanamichi blog started in 2009.  It was originally intended as a way to share my love of Japanese and East Asian dance and theatre, with the blog name being a reference to one of the most auspicious stage elements in Kabuki.  I took a lengthy hiatus from studying and performing nihon buyo (Japanese dance) soon after starting the blog, resulting in a content wasteland.  Once I began seriously studying tea and realized that many people were passing tea shops and tea rooms in their daily lives without recognizing the great resources and opportunities they present, I decided to take the blog in a different direction.  I began sharing my own experiences with tea businesses, tea events, and tea tastings with the hope of  inspiring others to make their own tea discoveries.  Dance is still dear to my heart and will continue to make appearances in future blog posts.

4) List one thing most rewarding about your blog & one thing most discouraging. 

The most rewarding thing about my blog is that I can track my growth as a student of tea. The most discouraging would have the be the lack of feedback.  It would be wonderful to hear more from others who want to share their own experiences, insight, and enthusiasm.  Questions and requests for clarification are also quite welcome.

5) What type of tea are you most likely to be caught sipping on?

While I enjoy almost all teas, I tend to gravitate most toward matcha in the morning, roasted, pan-fired, and smoked teas during the late-morning and afternoon, and white teas in the evening.  Matcha is my preferred morning tea because it gives me that extra boost of energy and refreshment I need, taking away the temptation to crawl back into bed and greet the day at a more civilized hour.  Work provides an endless parade of distractions and deadlines, so I prefer the comfort and simplicity of roasted, toasty, or smoky teas during the daytime.  Houjicha, Genmaicha, Dragonwell, and Lapsang Souchong make frequent appearances in my workday cup.  White teas offer an impressive array of flavor and aroma profiles, while tending toward the lower astringency that I prefer toward the end of the day.

6) Favourite tea latte to indulge in? 

I prefer my tea without milk, so the nuance of aroma and flavor aren't lost or muddled.  I did once try a Houjicha latte out of curiosity and the roasted flavor of the tea held up well with unusual, but pleasant results.

7) Favourite treat to pair with your tea?

I rarely pair food with tea with the exception of wagashi (Japanese sweets) when I practice Chado (Japanese tea ceremony).  While wagashi tends to be sweeter than I generally prefer, it's a feast for the eyes and the perfect complement to the flavor of the matcha.  Aside from that, I have found one tea room that serves the most delicious scones with their cream tea set.  Since the tea room is over 300 miles away, it's a once-a-year treat at best.

8) If there was one place in the world that you could explore the tea culture at, where would it be & why?

I am fascinated by Japanese tea culture, from production to presentation.  If I had to pick one region, it would be Kyoto Prefecture where Uji is believed to be the site of the first tea cultivation in Japan.  Kyoto is also home to the headquarters of the Urasenke and Omotesenke tea schools as well  Senchado schools.  

9) Any tea time rituals you have that you’d like to share?

I don't have any daily rituals, but I do perform ryakubon temae (a semi-casual tea ceremony) weekly and will  occasionally prepare gongfu style tea for guests.

10) Time of day you enjoy drinking tea the most: Morning, Noon, Night or Anytime?

I can't think of a time when I wouldn't enjoy drinking tea except perhaps in my sleep.  That would be a messy endeavor at best.

11) What’s one thing you wish for tea in the future? 

My one wish would for a consistent increase in available, factual tea information and a consistent decrease in questionable production methods. 

Whom do you tag? 

While I'm familiar with a number of tea blogs, I'm not familiar with those that might also read my own blog and have not already been tagged.  If you're reading this and would like to join in, consider yourself tagged!

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