A Journey Through the World of Tea

Posts tagged “Green tea

Matcha 411

I love matcha. I love everything about it; whether it ranges from the vibrant green color to the distinct vegetal aroma. Ever since I was first introduced to this special treat back in early May, I have been drinking one bowl every day. As a matcha tyro, my goal is to spark your interests in the art of this unique tea.

Origin:

Now, imagine that you are a gyokuro leaf, a special type of Japanese green tea. Your roots are buried deep into Uji earth, a region in Japan where only the best matcha is produced. Fifteen to twenty days before your leaves are picked off; only 10% of sunlight is able to shine through the trees above you. This important step will provide the sweetness and robustness found in your leaves and no where else. Leaf processing begins thereafter where you are steamed and carefully dried. Your stems and veins are removed so only the most delicate parts remain. The end product is ground in a traditional stone grinder and a very fine powder is produced. Hooray, you are now matcha tea!

Preparation: The General Procedure

  • Have all of your utensils CLEAN and READY
    • Japanese Tea Ceremony
      • Chasen|Whisk
      • Chashaku|Bamboo Scoop
      • Chawan|Matcha Bowl
      • Chakin|Hemp Cloth
      • Tea Caddy
      • Ceremonial Grade Matcha
      • Etc.
    • Janna/College Student Prep:
      • Chawan (A tea bowl/cup)
      • Chasen (Whisk)
      • Chashaku (Bamboo Scoop)
      • Filtered Water
      • Matcha of your choice

Note: As a college student, the matcha process can be very expensive; especially in terms of buying ceremonial grade matcha and the associated tea accessories. It CAN be done, I promise! Don’t be afraid of the price, it is well worth it! Also, you can hold back on purchasing specific materials, etc., but always make sure you are using high quality matcha and filtered water for premium results. When I first started, I only had my trusty chasen. Now, I have a chawan, chashaku, and a chasen.

  • The Process
    • Place 3 scoops of Matcha using the Chashaku into your matcha bowl/cup. If using a teaspoon, measure out 3/4ths.
    • Boil water to around 170 ° and measure ~1.5oz.
    • Now add a little bit of water in order to avoid making clumpy matcha. To ensure that the powder does not clump together, I make a paste first. Pour a little bit of the boiling water into the bowl. Use the Chasen to whisk in an “M” shape motion. Do this several times until the mixture becomes viscous.
    • Add the rest of the water, and whisk vigorously. This process should last for a minute or two and there should be a good layer of froth at the top. Your arm should also be tired! For the picture below, I added organic soymilk for a different treat 🙂
  • Enjoy!
    • Sip it alone, or sip it with others. Personally, I enjoy matcha alone so I can harvest its benefits & experience the Zen. Also, be sure to slip it SLOW! Savor the moment!

Tips for Purchasing Matcha:

  • Know the main differences:
    • Food/Culinary grade: Used in baking in cooking
      • I.E. Yummy Matcha Cupcakes
    • Ceremonial grade: Used for tea drinking
      • Thin (aka Usucha)
        • More common
        • Stronger than thick tea (in terms of taste)
      • Thick (aka Koicha)
        • Made from older tea plants
        • More expensive
        • Sweeter
  • Buy smaller portions at a time:
    • Instead of buying 200g at one time, purchase only 30g at a time so your matcha can be guaranteed fresh
  • Look at the color:
    • Is it bright? Or is it dull?
      • The brighter the green, the fresher it is!
  • Expiration Dates:
    • I’ve found that the more reputable matcha sellers have expiration dates on their products to determine freshness.
  • Review the website:
    • Does the seller claim where he/she gets their matcha?
  • Order from a trusted site:

Enjoy your matcha experience! 🙂

xoxo,
Janna


A New Tyro: Janna Laverdière

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi! My name is Janna, and I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Maine! For now, I currently reside in Michigan but I do miss home once in awhile. As a 20 year old junior at Michigan State University (Go Green! Go White!), I am studying Nutritional Science and specializing in Environmental Science. Someday I hope to attend the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, and become an Integrative doctor later down the road. I’m passionate about holistic health, wellness, and my new obsession with tea! 🙂 I especially love to travel, and appreciate the little things in life.
Where are you from?

Maine 🙂

How did you come to enjoy tea?

Oh gosh, I had always known about tea for the longest time. However, as a child who grew up in the U.S. I was never truly accustomed to it. The summer of my sophomore year in college, my boyfriend (not at the time) introduced me to tea. He actually sent me an ingenuitea (by Adagio) and the green tea starter set. After trying this high quality tea, vs. bagged tea, I fell in love.

Whats your favorite tea?

I absolutely love Matcha! I couldn’t live without it! But if that wasn’t an option, then I would say Oolong. Something about it just reaaalllyyy hits the spot. 🙂

What is your favorite tea moment?

My favorite tea moment was possibly visiting Samovar for the first time. I was blown away by how beautiful it looked! I went to the location by the Yerba Buena gardens, and although I didn’t have anyone to share the experience with, it was absolutely beautiful for the first time. I enjoyed their Matcha Nouveau (matcha with soymilk), which was fantastic 🙂

Is tea better solo or with friends?

I think it really depends on the mood. When I’m drinking Matcha I like to drink it alone so I can focus on how it affects my body and soul. Something about Matcha just really adds that extra kick in my step, it’s indescribable. However, if I’m drinking green, or oolong, or something along those lines, I like to share the experience with another. It makes the social experience a whole lot better- 🙂

Lastly what advice would you give to people just getting into tea?

Ooh! I used to be one of those people. You just gotta dive into the water, and explore! Be open minded, and although you may not like it at first, give it a few more tries. It’s like when you first hear a song on the radio, and you think to yourself, “Ehh.. this isn’t that great.” Then all of a sudden, once you hear it the second or third time it’s your new favorite song.
I know one of the biggest problems I had when starting out was the bitter taste from steeping too long, especially with green teas. Once I figured out the tricks of the trade, which takes some trial runs, tea became a lot more enjoyable to the point where it is now a passion of mine!

Don’t forget to follow Janna on Twitter.


Featured Tea Blogger: Deb of Tea and Travel

Who are you?

I’m Deb, I love traveling and I love tea – I’ve been living in Toronto for the last six months. Before being here I was living in Sydney, Australia and the UK (after growing up in New Zealand). Professionally I’ve worked as a PA in the publishing and retail sectors. Personally I would love to make a living from writing and publishing about topics I care about.

What Blogs do you run?

Tea and Travel, I write about tea and tea related travel destinations, do tea reviews and interviews with tea bloggers, tea store owners, tea-ware designers, the Way of Tea practitioners etc. I also really love tea photography and share great photos that I come across.

How did you get into tea?

Back in 2004 Brad, my husband, had a colleague who drank loads of loose leaf green tea at work, then he got into it, then I got into it, and the rest is history.  There are so many things I love about tea, there is so much history, so much to learn and discover – and there are some fantastic people in the tea community that are always willing to share, have a chat and share their knowledge and experience. Tea people are awesome.

Whats your favorite tea?

I love so many and am willing to try anything new but, I’m a big oolong fan, Tieguanyin / Iron Goddess of Mercy is a real favourite; but I also love roobios and a really good quality chamomile.

What’s your preferred method of steeping? (gaiwan, sorapot, etc.)

At the moment I steep in a white, porcelain teapot.  The Sorapot is amazing, a little out of my price range at the moment but I think it’s beautiful (and I’m hoping to interview Joey, the designer soon!)

I have a real fondness for glass teapots; I know they don’t have the same history as some of the old style clay pots, or Japanese side handled pots but I enjoy watching the leaves change and unfurl with each steeping. For me it’s a bit like watching fish in an aquarium.

I also have two tea mugs from ittala that made the trip from Australia to Canada (we only came her with two suitcases, so they had to be special to make the cut!) they are by my favorite European designer Klaus Haapaniemi

What advice do you have for people just coming into tea?

Give everything a try!  You can go into a tea store and buy 50g of loose leaf tea for a few dollars and just experiment; also trust yourself, everyone has different tastes so if you find something you like just explore it further – you never know where things will take you.  Also, there are some great resources online and some great in-store tea experiences to explore.  Tea is a big category but don’t feel intimidated, just pick somewhere to start and then just keep going!

Green or Black? Why?

Green, I think. I really love Japanese green teas like genmaicha/brown rice tea and matcha; although I usually have my matcha as a latte with soy milk (& sometimes a little honey) it’s like desert tea.

How many cups or pots daily?

Usually a few pots in the evening, after work; more on the weekends.

Tea enjoyed better with friends or solo?

Both, I love hanging out in the evenings with Brad, sharing a pot of something new – but then having tea during the day, at work is a little calm amidst the chaos.

Share with us some randomness?
I studied Plant Science at University and worked in a lab, pre-grad for a few months for a Summer. The project I helped on was published in the journal Phytochemistry (back in 2001) and while I absolutely loved the experience, it did teach me that wasn’t the path I wanted to take in life – for me, tea is much more enjoyable, and real, expression of my love for plants and plant science (as well as history, travel, social history and writing).



Featured Tea Company: Imperial Tea Court

Q- What’s the history behind the company, how did you get your start?
A- The original Imperial Tea Court opened in San Francisco Chinatown in 1993. It was started by Grace and Roy Fong. Grace is a native of Beijing while Roy is from Hong Kong and was previously working as a tea wholesaler. They opened Imperial Tea Court to bring the finest Chinese teas and tea ware as well as their experience of traditional Chinese tea houses and tea culture to North American tea lovers.

Q- Where are you located?
A- While the original Chinatown tea house has closed, there are two Imperial Tea Courts in the Bay Area, one in the San Francisco Ferry Building and another in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, adjacent to Chez Panisse. In addition, the spirit and fine teas of Imperial Tea Court are available to a global audience on the Imperial Tea web site.

Q- From what countries do you get your tea?
A- Imperial Tea Court is focused on the finest green, oolong, and puerh teas from China. These teas are personally selected by Roy Fong on buying trips to China. Unlike most Chinese tea vendors in the U.S., we do not rely on middlemen. Because of customer interest we also offer a few top-quality Japanese and Indian teas. In addition, Roy is preparing newly acquired ranch land in Northern California as a tea farm. We look forward to offering customers some unique California-grown teas when the plants are mature in a few years.

Q- What do the customers mean to your company?
A- It’s all about the customers! Our greatest pleasure is opening the eyes of Western tea lovers who may not know about the extraordinary history of tea culture in China and the exquisitely rare and delicious historic teas of China.

Q- What are some of the difficulties with selling tea?
A- One of the biggest challenges is overcoming the common view of tea as a quick, cheap beverage. It’s a tribute to the tea plant that even the processing remnants that are used in commercial teabags have a pleasant, refreshing taste. Imagine how much more potential there is in fine tea leaves carefully picked and processed by trained professionals. Cognoscenti in China pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars per pound for the rare teas that we offer in our tea houses.

Q- This is a three-parter. What tea does everyone order? What tea would you suggest for tea newbies? What is your most unique tea?
A- Our two most popular teas are our Organic Everyday Green, a delicious and affordable green tea with the additional health benefit that it’s certified organic, and Roy Fong’s signature Monkey-Picked Tie Guan Yin, a richly flavorful oolong tea that Roy personally processes with traditional firing techniques. For newbies we recommend the Monkey-Picked Tie Guan Yin. Packed with flavor and aroma with both floral and roasted notes, this tea appeals to a wide range of palates and is truly an awakening, for people used to teabags, about what they’ve been missing in terms of fine tea. Our most unique tea is unquestionably our incredibly rare Imperial Tribute Harvest Purple-Tip Puerh, which was produced entirely from the first leaf-buds of a grove of ancient wild puerh tea trees deep in the tropical forest of China’s Yunnan Province. The leaves are so full of nutrients that they’re actually a reddish purple color, rather than green, and the tea tastes sweet and fruity with no bitterness. This tea is delicious to drink now but will continue to improve with age over many decades, similar to Bordeaux wine.

Q- What makes your tea company unique?
A- What truly sets us apart is Roy Fong’s 25 years of experience in Chinese tea markets, his deep contacts with Chinese tea producers that give him access to teas that simply aren’t available to the average buyer, and our commitment to offer some of the world’s finest traditional Chinese teas to our customers.

Q- In three words, can your sum up the culture of your company?
A- Our tagline says it all: “Experience the tradition.”

Q- What is the company’s mission?
A- Our mission is to share some of the world’s rarest and finest tea with our customers and spread the appreciation of Chinese tea culture around the globe.

Be sure to check Imperial Tea Court on Facebook and Twitter.


This Week in Tea: Volume VII

Our apologies go out for being so lacking in the posts this week. Between Jordan preparing for midterms in school, and my own general life complications, we were unable to put out posts Monday and Wednesday. This week has the potential to be another busy week, but we will attempt to put something up on the proper days. As always, thanks for reading and following our work, your support is greatly appreciated.

This week, Harvard Health Publications released a study about the benefits of drinking green tea.

All the Tea in China, a new book written by Sarah Rose is the subject of review over at Tea-Guy.com (not to be confused with Tea Guy Speaks).

Darya Pino, a San Francisco blogger, discusses her transition from coffee addiction, to tea drinking at [dp].

William of the Leaf reviews a traditional Anxi Tie Guan Yin.

Over at A Felicific Life, Nada is roasting oolongs.

Asiatic Fox shares the hopes of wellness with Ginseng Tea

Over at Floating Leaves Tea, blogger Shiuwen Tai shares a recipe that brings shrimp and Baozhong tea together.

Rich, from Sharing My Cup of Tea list some uses for old tea.

Lastly a big congratulations goes out to Hobbes of Half Dipper for the new addition to the family.

For links to these stories and more please visit our Delicious bookmarks.


Featured Tea Company: Chicago Tea Garden

Q- Chicago Tea Garden, how did it come to be?
A- In 2005 I was fortunate enough to join a trip through my university to China. We spent 40 days roaming around China, the last 10 days I spent by myself starting from Hangzhou and ending in Beijing. Tea was everywhere, men were playing mahjong on street side sipping from gaiwans, tiny shops on nearly every corner served tea gongfu style. I happened upon a small tea shop south of the forbidden city in Beijing where a woman taught me the gongfu tea ceremony, she did not speak English and I did not speak mandrin – tea bridged the language barrier. Later, in 2008 I backpacked most of Southeast Asia, I started in Fiji and traveled to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal and India. Each country had tea and their own culture surrounding it. When I came back to the states, I wanted nothing more than to spread the culture and history behind great tea.

Q- Where do your teas come from?
A- Many of our teas come direct from small farmers in Japan and China, the pu-erhs were purchased by David Lee Hoffman and were aged in his man-made tea caves in California.

Q- What do the customers mean to your company?
A- Without my customers, Chicago Tea Garden wouldn’t exist. I have made many friends through my business, and I treat my customers as if they were my good friends. So to answer the question, my customers are my friends.

Q- What makes Chicago Tea Garden unique?
A- We are able to sell many unique teas that some larger companies cannot sell due to availability. We buy in small quantities, many times — we are buying all that a farmer has to offer. Larger companies have a greater demand – so they must buy in huge quantities, top quality tea is not always available in such quantities. We hope that we find our business to be scalable by adding more teas to the selection.

Q-  In three words, can your sum up the culture of your company?
A- peace, love, tea

Q- This is a three-parter. What tea does every one order? What tea would you suggest for tea newbies? What is your most unique tea?
A- Surprisingly enough, there is not one tea that everyone orders, it varies from order to order and some teas peak as reviews are written online, or if a tea becomes popular on Steepster. For a tea newbie, I suggest our Golden Bi Luo. It is a yunnan black tea and it has been good at changing people’s minds about black tea when they are used to bagged black tea. For starters with pu-erh I recommend our Camel’s Breath pu-erh tuocha or our Wild Orange pu-erh. In general though — all of our pu-erhs can be a considered beginner pu-erhs. I don’t consider myself a pu-erh expert. I think that I would have to live several lifetimes in order to become a pu-erh expert and to offer a selection competitive to a store like Yunnan Sourcing. Our most unique tea of the moment is our Kamairi Cha, it is a pan-fired green tea from Japan hand-made by a man well-known in Japan for producing this type of tea. This is the first time his tea has been sold in America. (Can’t forget the New Zealand Oolong too!)

Q- What is the mission of Chicago Tea Garden?
A- To provide the best quality teas we can find at an affordable price while respecting and supporting the farmer.

Don’t forget to Like them on Facebook or Follow on Twitter.


Featured Company: Kyoto Obubu Tea Plantations

Q- How did Obubu Tea Farms come to be? What’s your History?
A- Kyoto Obubu Tea Plantations was established in 2004 by Akihiro Kita (our president/farmer) and Yasuharu Matsumoto (our VP/sales manager), but the story goes back much further. Akihiro, or Akky, was a college student in the early 90s searching for his calling. He took a part-time job working in the fields of a tea farmer in Wazuka one summer, and tasted farm fresh tea for the first time. This was raw tea, or aracha—tea leaves before they have been sorted and blended by middlemen. This was tea that only farmers get the chance to drink with all parts of the leaf including the leaf stems and leaf hairs. Akky fell in love and made tea farming his life’s work.

A decade later, Akky was ready to begin selling his own tea, and decided that tea lovers should also have the opportunity to drink the tea that he fell in love with. At the same time, Japan was beginning to realize that long-term trends in aging, population decline, and urbanization meant that the agriculture industry, which was kept largely in the hands of independent, small farmers by Japanese land laws, was disappearing. Farmers were getting older, and their children were moving to the cities for less physical lifestyles.

In Wazuka where Akky had learned to farm, the town was predicting that the already elderly population would reduce by more than half by 2030. In Wazuka, where tea had been grown for 800 years, a question was on everyone’s minds: Would there be anyone left to farm tea?

Kyoto Obubu Tea Plantations was formed in this context to not only begin marketing farm fresh tea to tea lovers in Japan, but to “make farming fun”—our mission statement—raising consumer awareness of farmers, and hopefully inspire a new generation of tea farmers.

At the same time, Yasuharu, or “Matsu”, felt that Japanese tea should not be limited to Japan, but could be a major contributor to global tea culture. He initiated annual tea tasting tours around the world, and in 2009 he met Ian Chun, a freelance marketer who had just moved to the U.S. after a decade in Japan. Akky, Matsu and Ian collaborated to create Obubu’s English website and began efforts to bring more foreigners to the tea fields through private and group tours, and internships.

Q- Where are you located?
A- Kyoto Obubu Tea Plantations is located in the town of Wazuka in southernmost part of Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. Tea grown in the Kyoto region of Japan is known as Ujicha, for the city of Uji made famous by the Tale of Genji. Wazuka valley itself is famous for producing the highest quality of Uji sencha, but does not produce gyokuro tea very well. The town is about 1.5 hours by train and bus from Kyoto, and about 30 minutes by train and bus from the ancient city of Nara. The difference that hour makes from city to countryside is dramatic!

Q- How does Japanese tea culture differ from other tea cultures? How does your company share Japanese culture with the world?
A- While tea in Japanese culture is a fascinating topic that I would love to go into, I’m going to assume you are asking about the culture of Japanese tea. The most obvious difference from a Western point of view is that you might have dozens of different teas in a shop, or even bottled teas in a supermarket, and they would all be unsweetened, unblended (with fruit and other flavors) green tea. People in Japan appreciate differences in the taste of green teas that are too subtle for most Western tea drinkers. So, when you get into premium quality green teas where even Japanese have a difficult time discerning the subtle differences…

The other interesting thing about Japanese tea is that it also includes a lot of non-tea leaf teas: different kinds of wheat teas, cherry blossom tea, corn tea…yes, corn tea (okay, maybe corn tea is a novelty adopted from Korea).

Our company’s secondary mission is to spread the culture of Japanese tea around the world. We started doing this by traveling to Europe and America to give tea tastings during the winter off-season, and partnered with Matcha Latte Media early this year to launch ObubuTea to finally sell our tea directly to tea lovers. Ian at Matcha Latte Media is furiously translating the content that we have on our website, and often questions us about knowledge that we take for granted here in Japan.

Q- What make Obubu Tea Farms unique?
A- First and foremost, Kyoto Obubu Tea Plantations is unique because we sell tea farm fresh—at a state before it gets lost in the leaves of other farms at brokers and blenders. For experienced Japanese green tea drinkers, the difference will be obvious—the tea is stronger when steeped for shorter times. For inexperienced drinkers, rest assured knowing that you are not getting sencha with low quality leaves blended in to increase volume. Because each sencha tea comes from a different field, you will also be able to compare the result of different growing techniques—shaded vs unshaded vs fields of Yabukita plants vs mixed variety fields.

However, what is most important to us is the fact that we are attempting to speak and interact with the tea loving public directly. To this end, we also encourage people to support us by subscribing to our Tea Club. In Japan, club members are encouraged to think of themselves as tea field owners, with their monthly subscription paying for a return of tea sent every two months. As “owners” the club members are also encouraged to come and visit their tea fields, and we hold many events every year to teach and raise awareness of tea farming. Outside of Japan, of course, we try to avoid the legal ramifications of marketing club membership as tea field ownership, but the basic concept is the same.

Q- What difficulties do you face when if comes to selling tea?
A- Businesswise, avoiding large-scale distribution is challenging. There are two reasons for avoiding large-scale distribution: 1) in order to maintain a more direct relationship with customers and 2) the delicacy of the tea leaves means that stock should be refrigerated if not frozen until sale. Premium quality tea has not reached a level yet where large retailers are willing to have a refrigerated area for teas.

Not blending our teas also means we (well, mostly Akky as he is the farmer) need to work hard to ensure consistency and quality in each year’s crops. Brokers and other middlemen blend their teas in Japan in order to both create a unique taste to their senchas but also to maintain consistency. The practice shelters consumers and forces farmers to bear the risk of bad weather, plant disease, insects, etc. It sounds cruel of course, but this is standard practice throughout the world in all industries, and in the end, is good business practice for everyone on the whole. Still, we encourage you to always support local farmers (and their workers) by buying local when possible.

Q- What tea does everybody seem to order?
A- We’ve been pushing our Genmaicha pretty hard lately, and have had great response. We don’t use bancha but rather our Sencha of the Autumn Moon which means our Genmaicha is just a little bit of a luxury. Our most expensive tea, Kabuse Sencha, would be the next best selling—those in the know want the best!

The next thing we’re going to put on the market is matcha tea powder for baking. We have a Premium version of the kitchen grade matcha, but it’s still quite expensive. Our new version will be using a different, more rough, grinding process which will allow us to produce in greater volume while retaining a reasonable level of quality for baking purposes. There aren’t enough matcha roll cakes at bakeries here in the U.S.!

Q- What is the Mission behind your company?
A- 1) To make farming fun by creating connections between consumers and producers
2) To contribute to the spread of tea culture by introducing Japanese tea and providing advice to other farmers around the world

Kyoto Obubu Tea Plantations has been kind enough to give our readers a special 10% discount on their products by entering the code: Tyros10 in the coupon field when you check out.

Also be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter.