Saturday Morning Tea

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Good morning, dear tea friends! It may be autumn outside, with dried up leaves rattling against my house like old bones, but inside I have springtime in my cup. My morning cuppa is a beautiful selection from Japan, called Organic Gyokuro.

Produced in the spring from the first plucking of the tea bush, Gyokuro is one of Japan’s most treasured teas.

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What distinguishes a Gyokuro tea from other Japanese green teas is that as soon as the bushes start to flush with new growth, they are shaded. The first shading method, called tana, is when a black netting is thrown over trellises that have been built up around the rows of tea bushes. The second method, called jikagise, is when each bush is individually wrapped in cloth.

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The bushes will grow in the shade for approximately 3 weeks.  The shading increases the chlorophyll production which in turn affects the balance of caffeine, flavanols and sugar in the leaf.  The absence of photosynthesis also increases the theanine component in the leaf.  Theanine is an amino acid that gives tea its vegetal taste.  With the increase of theanine, Gyokuro tea is quite vegetal.

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I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in just under 180F water.

The dry leaves have a fresh, nutty aroma, however, when submerged in water, the leaves impart a sweet, vegetal fragrance.

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The infusion is the color of light yellow jade, sparkling in the sunlight streaming through my windows. The cup is rich and brothy with a strong umami flavor, complemented by a smooth sweetness. Truly a Japanese tea lover’s delight!

Enjoy your weekend and your tea!

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”

~Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

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Saturday Morning Tea

Produced in the spring from the first plucking of the tea bush, Gyokuro is Japan’s most treasured tea.

On this blustery fall morning, I watch the leaves dance and twirl outside my window as I sip from a cup of Gyokuro Kenjyo tea. Kenjyo translates to “present to noble man”.

What distinguishes a Gyokuro tea from other Japanese green teas is that as soon as the bushes start to flush with new growth, they are shaded. The first shading method, called tana, is when a black netting is thrown over trellises that have been built up around the rows of tea bushes. The second method, called jikagise, is when each bush is individually wrapped in cloth.

The bushes will grow in the shade for approximately 3 weeks.  The shading increases the chlorophyll production which in turn affects the balance of caffeine, flavanols and sugar in the leaf.  The absence of photosynthesis also increases the theanine component in the leaf.  Theanine is an amino acid that gives tea its vegetal taste.  With the increase of theanine, Gyokuro tea is quite vegetal.

I steeped my Gyokuro Kenjyo for 3 minutes in 170 degree F water. Look at that brilliant green leaf. It reminds me of cooked spinach.

The aroma is of spring asparagus, very vegetal.

As I take my first sip, a rich sweetness fills my mouth, not at all what I was expecting after smelling the aroma. The vegetal flavor is definitely there but the sweetness smooths all its pungent edges. So sweet!

Because there is only a small amount of tea styles grown in Japan, most tea is blended and sold without any tea farm or garden designation. The tea is sold as the brand of a tea shop or tea company.

Yearly competitions are held to seek the best Gyokuro producer. The hard work and intricate care that goes into producing this amazing tea makes it truly an art form.

“Making art is a rite of initiation.  People change their souls.”

~Julia Cameron, Writer

Saturday Morning Tea

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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