Saturday Morning Tea

Saemidori Sencha Dry Leaf 08-09-14

Good morning, dear tea friends! It’s great to be back and share a cup of tea with you. My vacation to Michigan was restful and restorative, very welcome after the challenging times of this past spring. As I gaze out my window, I see the lush green world of high summer. Rich, ripe vegetables are being harvested.  Flower gardens are vibrant with hot color. My morning tea reflects this colorful time of year with its own bright green color. A spring harvested first flush Sencha from Kagoshima prefecture in Japan, it’s called Sencha Saemidori Superior.

Saemidori refers to the specific cultivar (tea plant variety) this tea comes from. Developed and created in the 1960s from two other cultivars, it gained recognition in 1990 when it was added to the official Japanese tea cultivar list.

Saemidori Sencha Steep 08-09-14

When this tea was processed, it was deep steamed to stop the oxidation of the leaf and keep it green. That deep steaming helps the leaf to retain an intense green color, a dark lustrous green dry leaf and a rich kelly green wet leaf.

I steeped the leaf for 3 minutes in 175F water in my new glass teapot.

Saemidori Sencha Wet Leaf 08-09-14

The wet leaf smells like freshly steamed spinach.

Saemidori Sencha Teapot 08-09-14

While this tea has a beautiful leaf, what I think is most distinctive about it is its intense spring green tea liquor. My photo doesn’t do it justice. It’s even greener than that. Some customers ask for a green tea that is a true green color when steeped. Most green teas steep up more of a yellow or brown color than green. The deep steaming helps to retain a true green color in the liquor, too. What do you think?

The aroma in my cup is of fresh steamed vegetables, like broccoli, and sweet seagrass.

Saemidori Sencha Tea Mug 08-09-14

The flavor is fresh and sweet and smooth as silk with only a hint of tang that doesn’t linger. The notes of vegetables and seagrass are there but much more subtle than the notes in its aroma. As I drink this tea, my body feels lighter and more alive as if its “greenness” is permeating every cell. For those of you looking for a green tea for health, this is a great selection, I think.

Thanks for stopping by to share a cuppa with me. Have a great tea-filled couple of weeks!

I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer. My bank of wild grass is majestic and full of music. It is a fire that solitude presses against my lips.

~Violette Leduc, Mad in Pursuit

 

 

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Saturday Morning Tea

Iccha Kariban Dry Leaf 10-19-13

Good morning, dear tea friends! Another week has come and gone and we’re savoring some glorious fall weather here in New England. This morning’s tea is a Japanese green tea called Iccha Kariban. Its name loosely translates to “flower fragrance”.

Iccha Kariban Steep 10-19-13

Grown in the Kagoshima prefecture, located on the southwest tip of the island of Kyushu in Japan, this tea is the result of experimenting with select cultivars to create a unique batch of tea. It has been likened to a Taiwanese Pouchong.

Iccha Kariban Wet Leaf 10-19-13

I steeped the leaf for 3 minutes in 175F water. The wet leaf looks like steamed greens, which I have found is unique to Japanese greens.

A gentle floral fragrance drifted up from my glass teapot as I poured my first cup.

Iccha Kariban Teapot 10-19-13

The cup is smooth and light with flavor very much like a floral Pouchong or a lightly oxidized Oolong, like a Jade or Spring Dragon. That said, its flavor is much more vegetal with a little brothiness, distinguishing it as a Japanese green tea.

Iccha Kariban Teamug 10-19-13

I talk to many folks who would like to try a green tea for its health benefits, however, they’re not a fan of its vegetal, grassy taste. This would be a great tea to try as the pronounced floral quality places the vegetal taste more in the background than being one of the primary flavor notes.

I think the Tea Masters have done a lovely job of coming up with a unique Japanese green tea! Have a wonderful week.

“Human life is inherently creative. It’s why we all have different résumés. … It’s why human culture is so interesting and diverse and dynamic.”

~Ken Robinson

Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! This morning I am pleased to present to you a Japanese green tea that was harvested this year. I’m so glad to see the producers able to sell their tea confidently again after the terrible disaster that gripped their nation in March 2011. This tea is called 88th Night Shincha.

Shincha translates literally to “new tea”. It is the first flush in the springtime. This particular tea was harvested on the 88th day after the spring equinox, which I’ve read is February 4th in Japan. I’ve also read that it’s a traditional saying in Japan that if you drink of the leaves of the 88th day tea, you will enjoy a year of good health. Wonderful news as my allergies are really acting up this week!

If you’d like to read more about tea production in Japan, you can go back to my posts here and here. In October 2010, I spent a whole month exploring Japanese teas.

I steeped the leaves for 2 minutes in 170F water. I find that Japanese green teas are very sensitive to the temperature of the water. Do you? As you can see, the dry leaf looks like grass clipping while the wet leaf reminds me of steamed spinach. Speaking of steaming, this tea was lightly steamed in the first step of production. The steaming halts the oxidation process so the tea remains green.

The tea liquor is the most amazing spring green color. I don’t think my camera fully portrayed the loveliness of the color. A strong vegetal, seagrass aroma drifted from my glass teapot as I poured my first cup.

My first sip filled my mouth with sweetness and an incredibly pronounced vegetal taste of the sea. As I sipped, I detected a light floral quality underneath all of that vegetalness. I enjoyed this tea much better when it cooled.

As I prepared my tea this morning, a cool breeze gusted in the window. We had some rain move in overnight which also swept in some cooler temperatures. Fall is definitely at our doorstep here in New England.

As always, thanks for sharing a cuppa with me!

“There is this mysterious energy that wants us to keep growing.”

~Michelle Cassou, Artist

Saturday Morning Tea

After a damp, cool week, today dawned bright and clear and dry. A perfect weekend to be outside, soaking in the brilliant colors of autumn.

In the second week of my series on Japanese tea culture, today’s tea is a Japanese green tea called Fukamushi Cha, meaning “deep steamed tea”.

Almost all Japanese green tea is steamed for 30-45 seconds in the first step of processing. This halts oxidation of the leaf and sets the distinctive, brilliant green color of the Japanese green tea leaf as well as giving it its pronounced vegetal flavor.

Fukamushi Cha undergoes a deeper, or longer steaming time.

Just look at that gorgeous green leaf.

Tea drinking in Japan can be traced back to the 8th century when the Emperor Kammu dispatched several diplomatic missions to China to learn about and better understand their culture.

As in China, tea drinking was only practiced in Japan among monks, the nobility and the imperial court for many years.

It wasn’t until the 12th century when Myoan Esai, a Japanese Buddhist priest, encouraged all Japanese citizens to drink tea for their health, writing the first Japanese book on tea entitled Kissa Yojoki which translates to “Tea Drinking Good for the Health”.

I steeped my Fukamushi Cha for 3 minutes in a lower temperature water, 160 degrees F. The aroma is feather light and vegetal.

The pale spring-green tea liquor is very sweet with a light pungency which refreshes my palate. A pronounced vegetal flavor embraces the sweetness.

Over time, tea became elevated to a fine art in Japan, culminating with the development of the Japanese tea ceremony known as Chanoyu. I had the privilege of attending a tea ceremony 3 years ago and wrote about it here.

This weekend will be a fall cleaning, staying at home kind of weekend for me. Perhaps I’ll even find some time to spend in my studio!

Please join me next week when I will be sharing my review of a Japanese gyokuro tea.

“Make a delicious bowl of tea; lay the charcoal so that it heats the water; arrange the flowers as they are in the field; in summer suggest coolness, in winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration.”

~Sen Rikyu, Zen tea master (1522-1591)

Saturday Morning Tea

GyokuroKamDry101009

After several days of rain, the trees are glowing with vibrant washes of gold, russet, ruby and magenta. The wind sighs through the branches, releasing a cascade of leaves that float and dance across the lawn. Autumn has truly embraced us here in New England.

2 years ago I reviewed a tea called Japanese Gyokuro Kamakura, a green tea. You can read that review here. This year’s harvest of Gyokuro is splendid and I am pleased to review it once again.

GyokuroKamTeaptInsde101009

Its deep emerald leaves match the saturation of the reflected autumn palette. The cut of the leaf reminds me of freshly mown grass.

In the purging process in preparation for my imminent move, I found this little beauty tucked away at the back of my kitchen cabinet. It is called a Yokode Kyusu, or commonly known as a Sencha teapot, with the handle being on the side of the teapot. The Japanese word for teapot is kyusu.

GyokuroKamTeapot101009

The strainer, located inside of the teapot at the base of the spout, allows me to steep the leaves directly in the water. I steeped for 3 minutes with 170 degree F water.

GyokuroKamSteep101009

This is the tea that I will recommend to folks looking for a truly green colored tea. Most steeped green tea is not pure green but varying shades of brownish or yellowish green. China Pi Lo Chun even has a pinkish tinge to its liquor.

GyokuroKamPour101009

The first word that comes to mind as I inhale its aroma and take my first sip is fresh.

So very clean and fresh. Delightful! Quite vegetal, with a whisper of asparagus, but oh! so very smooth. No astringency or tang in the finish. As it cools, the smooth quality becomes even more pronounced.

GyokuroKamTeamug101009

I am enjoying my tea in a Japanese pottery mug I purchased at the Wabi Sabi gift store in downtown Taos, NM. I immediately knew it was my kind of place because as I entered, wide eyed and entranced by all of the teaware surrounding me, I was pleasantly asked by the store clerk if I would like a cup of Sencha tea.

Oh, yes, please.

GyokuroKamTeamug2101009

I am happy and excited to report that after 5 months of waiting, the closing on my condo has finally taken place this past week! This has definitely been a lesson in perseverance and patience and hanging in there for what you truly want. So, starting this weekend, a transformation will begin to take place as I pick up my paintbrush (and roller) and paint Morning Sunshine (Benjamin Moore) throughout my new living room and kitchen space.

The first step in this new chapter of my life…

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” ~Lao-tzu

Saturday Morning Tea

JapaneseKuomiDry061309

Green, green, green. After a week of cool, rainy spring days, the world outside is resplendent in a cloak of velvety green shades.

Do you find that the weather influences your choice of tea? I do. Darker, more full-bodied teas when it’s chilly and lighter, more delicate teas for those warm, light filled days.

The green world is definitely affecting my choice of tea this morning, a Japanese Sencha called “Koumi”. Grown in the Uji region of Kyoto prefecture in Japan, its dark green, glossy leaves have been lightly steamed during processing to halt oxidation.

JapaneseKuomiSteep061309

In the mid 1300s, Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu promoted the cultivation and production of high quality green tea in Uji. The Tsuen Tea Shop, located by the Uji bridge, is reputed to be the oldest tea shop in all of Japan, with the first “Tsuen” serving tea to weary travelers in 1160.

TsuenTeaShop

I steeped the tea leaves for 2 1/2 minutes in 160 degree F water. It’s amazing how green the leaves are, especially after steeping.

JapaneseKuomiWet061309

The steeped liquor is a beautiful spring green with an aroma of freshly steamed asparagus.

JapaneseKuomiTeabowl061309

The flavor is delicate and smooth with light corn notes. I’ve read that one of the health benefits of green tea is the ability of the polyphenols to inhibit plaque and bacterial growth in your mouth. With its clean, refreshing taste and mouth feel, I can certainly believe that.

In contrast to last weekend, this weekend will be a lazy, hazy one spent puttering around the abode. Its time to take stock of all of the art projects I’ve got started and set some priorities for finishing them!

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world

where it was always June.

~L.M. Montgomery

Saturday Morning Tea

The weekend is showing promise of perfect mid-summer weather – nice and warm with lower humidity and sunny skies. Now that things are caught up from vacation both at work and at home, I’m looking forward to a couple of days with no responsibilities, filled with working on my art projects. I started my May journal page but set it aside for vacation. Now it’s time to turn my focus back to it and complete what I started. There are so many things that I would like to do and sometimes I get so overwhelmed with trying to balance it all, especially with a full-time day job. How do you find balance in your life?

Ok, time for my cup of tea. This morning I’m sipping a Japanese Sencha called Supersencha Kamakura. The dry leaf looks like grass clippings, flat, smooth and very green. Green tea has a long history in Japan, having been introduced in the 9th century by a Buddhist monk returning from his travels in China. You can read more about it here. The most well known type of Japanese green tea is Matcha, the powdered green tea used for the Tea Ceremony, Chanoyu (translation: hot water for tea). I had the honor of attending a tea ceremony last fall in Boston and I wrote about it here.

After the leaves are plucked, they are steamed to stop the oxidation and then rubbed and dried. The rubbing breaks down the cell walls and releases the volatile oils which gives the tea its wonderful flavor.

The liquor has an interesting yellow green color and sweet, vegetal aroma. Japanese green tea can be very vegetal tasting, moreso than Chinese green tea. This tea is quite vegetal but also sweet which smooths out the pungency. There is also a slight nutty note which lingers on my tongue. Years ago I received this tea bowl as a gift from a friend and it is perfect for my Japanese green tea. I imagine majestic mountains watching over the tea fields below.

Time for another cup. Have a glorious weekend!