Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Non Craftual Fetish

(you will find the Japanese section in the link relevant to this blog  post)

Ok, so most of us know what green tea is. Nestea sells it, Arizona has a green tea, and there are others brands out there as well. Personally, I don't like those teas. Never have. But many people do and that's ok with me, but IMO they are nothing like true green tea.

 I first came across Matcha in Japan on my honeymoon in 2008. There was this amazing samurai garden right in the middle of Tokyo. And in the middle of the garden? There was a beautiful tea house, surrounded by water:

A traditional teahouse! We had to wait in line for awhile to get in, but they performed the tea ceremony for us and it was absolutely amazing! Very, very worth the wait! I was enchanted from the moment we got there. My first taste of the tea was a bit of a shock. It has a sort of grassy flavor. I wasn't sure I liked it... But then, suddenly... I did like it, a lot! I wanted more when we were done! Of course, many people were waiting for their turn, so we couldn't have more, but it was lovely just the same and one of my favorite memories of all time. They even served it with a delicious little cake. I never did learn what the cake was called, though.

I wanted to get a picture of the woman presenting the tea and cake, but that would have been rude. When they bow, you are supposed to be bowing back, not snapping pictures, but I wanted to. And then I forgot to get a close up of the tea and cake in my excitement. I did sort of end up getting a shot of the ceremony taken while they presented to someone else. But to me it wasn't a very good shot.

You can kind of see her bowing but you can't see her actually presenting the tray or anything. I couldn't get the angle and we were supposed to be leaving. I tried though.

Before we left Japan, I tried to buy the same tea in a shop elsewhere, but my Japanese is not very good and I didn't know what the tea I wanted was called. I did get green tea, but I ended up with Sencha instead of Matcha. I wasn't disappointed though. Sencha was an amazing experience that my husband and I got to enjoy once we came home. It's not the same as matcha, but it still has the pleasant grassy flavor. What's more? It smells soo good.

But my honeymoon was over 2 years ago. What made me want to write about green tea today? Well, I'll tell you! My husband and I have been spending time over at his sister's house because his parents were in town. Yesterday we ended up going to the mall of Georgia with them where we discovered a tea store. And what kind of tea did they have there? Why, they had green tea of course! And I bought myself a lovely green tea set!!

 The lid and then inside the box..
The set includes a can of nice matcha, a whisk (Chasen), and a pretty matcha bowl (chawan). Almost everything a gal needs to make the perfect cup of green tea at home! (with the exception of a spoon called a Chashaku and a tea sifter or matcha furui) But I have a perfectly good sifter here at home and I've ordered myself a pretty bamboo Chashaku from Beryll King Tea

This isn't the traditional style of a chashaku, but I don't care, I like it better. But for the curious, here is a picture of a traditional one:

I ordered the spoon before I realized I already had something I could have used. But I'm ok with it. The new spoon wasn't expensive and it sure is perty.

This is a close up of my Chasen.. It's nothing fancy,  having been made in China rather than Japan the quality is not as good as it could be but that's ok. In China, they tend to make their whisks with a file, whereas in Japan they tend to use superior bamboo that they use a sharp knife to carve.  The Japanese whisks are known to last longer than the ones made in China. Some day I will get one, but I'm good with what I have for now.

Here is a closeup of my new matcha. I just love the vibrant green color, and the smell is magical. You know I had to make some right away!

Now in making green tea, the temperature of the water should really be between 165 and 170 degrees F. There are a few ways to make sure the water is the right temperature, but IMO the easiest is to get one of these kettles. You can find them here. I adore this tea kettle! Not only does it allow you to set the exact temperature that you want, but it will also keep your water at that temperature for as long as there's water in it. It also has a sensor so that if the pot is empty, it automatically turns off, which is really nice.

The matcha I made was soo good and reminded me of our honeymoon so much that I made my husband a cup as well so he could enjoy the tasty memories. We were both pretty impressed that I was able to make it taste that good, after all, making green tea is an art form, and I'm nowhere near mastering it.

Here is a close up of the Sencha that we bought in Japan. Honestly, it's a bit stale by now. But it still tastes ok to me (albeit not as good as when it was fresh), better than the stuff you get from a lot of places on this side of the world though. But I won't order myself any more until I finish this batch. 

Here's my entire green tea spread. The new Matcha set on the left, Sencha there in the middle, and the tea pot and two cups we bought in Japan on the right. I'm off to make myself yet another cup of matcha. I think this will be my sixth one today. *Homer voice* MMmmmmMMmmmmm Matcha!!

If you haven't tried traditional green tea yet, you should definitely give it a try! You may discover that you've found a new healthy addiction (well, maybe not healthy for your bank account, if you get into the very expensive teas, lol). 

Here's some fun stuff:

~ Here are some videos on how green tea is made.
~ Here's a video I've found that does a pretty darned good job of explaining how to make matcha
~ This site has a tutorial on making green tea. Along with some other interesting things. Click on the links on the side of the page to learn more interesting things about green tea.
~ A Japanese woman doing a traditional tea ceremony (complete with a translation)
~ My favorite online green tea store. Check out their Matcha starter kit. It gives you discounts on each    product when you buy them together. It's where I'll be buying my next batch of tea from, and it's probably my favorite site altogether about green tea. Very educational, which is why it's actually been linked a coupled of times on here.
~ Matcha Hearts Recipe  these look really good, I'm going to try them!

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