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Sunday, December 26, 2010

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas

Yame Gyo white out three

My love affair with White Hagi ware continues, the hohin pictured was a Christmas gift, and now makes Gyokuro a much more affordable proposition in terms of consumption. But I will say I had a wonderful tea session today, sitting cross legged on the kitchen floor in front of a large window looking out upon a snow covered landscape, while drinking from hagi that matched the view perfectly.

Yame Gyo White out too

It actually had me wondering, while I love enjoying tea outside, or at least near a window with a view of the outside, it almost presents a new possibility in terms of setting the mood. I mean how great would it be to have teaware that not only matches the mood but also the seasons.

Although the more I consider this the more I am concerned that there may be problems with certain seasons, at least in terms of color schemes. But as I said in my post about time of year and tea cups, I feel the shape and size is rather important, and now I am wondering about whether seasons and colors out side should play a part also.

Realizing it would be rather expensive to get teaware in just about every single color, I think it would be easier to set the mood by bringing the colors in with other items, much in the manner often talked about on Tea Masters blog, and Chadao (Europe).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tis the Holidays

The holidays for someone of my age, as a graduate student, tends to mean leaving the place you live year round, and heading to your parents house for a couple of weeks. This for most of my fellow students tends to be much easier, simply bring clothes and perhaps a few books, and you are all set to spend the holidays somewhere else. But I have realized how potentially problematic it is to be a tea addict, and almost borderline obsessive about using the right teaware for the teas being used.

So prior to my drive to my parents house a few days ago I had to make the tough decisions as to what I imagined myself drinking, and what teaware I would need, and worry about how to package those items so they could survive the trip nicely. I am most certainly glad I am no longer flying which makes the packing thing a huge issue as breakage is a major concern.

So those of you that have been following this blog will not be completely surprised in my decision to stick to Japanese teas and hagi products, which while I love them, I decided mostly on bringing them because they all came with wooden artist signed boxes which make transportation much easier as the box would bear most of the burden of stress as opposed to a cloth or bubble wrapped gaiwan which a bit of misplaced weight might very well cause a chip or a more serious failure in the gaiwan.

But that being said it still feels somewhat limiting as I am without quite a few of my teaware tools that I am quite reliant on such as my lins kettle. Not to mention that I am now making tea in what is very well the busiest room of my parents house meaning distractions can happen at just about any time, some good some annoying when I am just trying to spend my time with tea. But I continue to greatly enjoy the Japanese greens and hope to getting into exploring some great gyokuro-s and a few sencha-s that I brought along.

So I'd like to take this time to wish all my readers a happy holiday season, and my posts might be a bit more scarce. (In fact as I read this I notice its been about 10 days since my last post!) But that is what finals do to your sense of time, completely obliterate it.

Happy Holidays!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Time of year and teacups

Ocha 7132 Asamushi

I have been playing a lot with cup shapes and sizes, and I have started to note a pattern with times of year, broken down by type of tea.

Japanese Teas

I have several different shaped teacups for Japanese tea, in two main categories. These being:

Wan - a cup that is a bit more a kin to a small bowl, or a smaller cup of similar shape to certain Chawans.

Yunomi - the what I like to call more traditional shaped Japanese teacup typically holding 6 to 9 ounces in a tall cylindrical shape. Such as the White cup pictured at the top.

But the general trend works in the fashion that the hotter it is outside the smaller the cup I want, with the largest surface area possible exposed to the air. I have often resorted to using multiple cups for myself in one sencha session in this fashion.

When the temperature outside is neither hot nor cold usually falling in the temperature range of 50-75 degrees outside, I resort to standard shaped wans. These seem to offer a bit of a stepping stone with a larger exposed surface area, but a larger volume also. But the fact that the temperature is in the in between stage they cool off at about the right rate.

Yunomi are my go to winter cups, simply because they in my mind act a bit like a chimney. All the water is stacked right on top of each other, and especially when made thick enough to have less heat loss through the sides of the cup, all the heat from the water on the bottom gets directed up to the water above it, therefore basically heating itself, as the surface area exposed to the outside is minimal but it has a relatively large volume.

Chinese Teas

For the longest time with Chinese teas I always used very small cups, where I might make the slight change of using a 1 oz cup instead of a half ounce in the winter. But now I realized I want my tea to be warm for a longer amount of time, and I can deal with giving it a little while longer to cool. As when using those small cups the last cup was always cold, unless I would drink the last three cups back to back to back in less than a minute, as while the fair cup keeps a significant amount of tea warm for awhile, when the fair cup has half an ounce there is no real heat retention.

So now I am exploring the option of using larger cups for basically a whole steep of Chinese tea at a time, and I have been meeting seriously mixed results. It almost seems like mediocre teas tend to taste best in larger cups, while the better quality teas should be kept to smaller cups.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Go Go Gyokuro

So I did it, I broke open my first gyokuro of the season, and now begins the journey that I feel many seasonal gyokuro drinkers undergo. That is getting the brewing parameters fine tuned, as with many teas that require a higher leaf to water ratio getting things exact can be rather difficult when it is not done regularly. Gyokuro also seems to have an additional difficulty of getting the temperature right, as with that much leaf, I feel gyokuro is extra sensitive to even slight changes in temperature.

Fitting the bill that gyokuro is a winter tea, I opened it up on the first day we had snow here in this part of Western Michigan. As I am writing this we have quite a bit more snow falling, and I am starting to get excited for the holidays. Though after having a few sessions of Gyokuro a few questions have been arising.

I love in the middle of winter holding onto a nice hot cup of tea, and enjoying it thoroughly. But Gyokuro is brewed in such small amounts and at such low temps, that the entire warming effects are lost on me. The only reasons I feel why it is considered more of a winter tea is its robust umami like flavor, and the fact that Gyokuro should be aged for at least half a year, likely more for it to be in its prime.

Either way I am excited that it is gyokuro season, and I hope all of you are enjoying the start of winter and the holiday season.

Friday, December 3, 2010

When is it not a good time for Japanese greens?

Kaoru Organic Matcha

For someone who used to be so adamant in their lack of appeal for Japanese greens I have surely done quite an about face. Although this seems to have many different components. That being either my tastes have radically changed, or the water where I live now even after being filtered is often unsuitable for my previous long time favorite of Wuyi Yancha, although seems to often result in wonderful tasting Sencha. That and the fact that I have moved beyond just having tea, to experiencing tea. This is not saying that wuyi or other teas can not be experienced. But for my own personal enjoyment, I love tactility and use of my hagi cups, and using kyusu's or hohins.

But then again I noticed this even with Wuyi two summers ago, but when I really enjoy a tea, and am acting like I can not possible get enough, it seems I fall out of certain seasonally expected norms, the most regarded are Greener and lighter teas in the summer and Darker, and bolder teas in the winter. Well I must say that basically for the last year, I have had a Japanese green tea on average probably more than twice a week.

Kuradashi Sencha

So I am honestly not sure if there is ever not a good time for Japanese greens, although I am all for drinking the tea you feel like when you feel like it, so as long as my body keeps asking for Japanese greens, I will keep on drinking them.

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