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Monday, March 19, 2012

It's march right?

Okitsugawa Miyabi

I understand weather is consistent in the only regard that it is incredibly inconsistent.  I also know that Weather drinking is seasonal, but the fact that in the midwest for the past week and for the foreseeable future in the Midwest it is on the border between tea being enjoyable, and "So hot, I am surprised the kettle isn't boiling before I turn on the heat."

The only upside is its now lots of wonderful sunlight, and light late enough in the day I can easily forget how late in the day it can be when I get around to have tea.  But that is good, as the high powered high roast oolongs can still be consumed later in the day as the weather starts to cool.

What amazes me the most is usually when the weather is like this I am overwhelmed with new harvest teas, and here we are over a month before Shincha usually gets released.  All I know is if Japan had the same weather as we are having in the Midwest,  they would likely already be picking shincha.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

This may sound crazy...

Regular readers of this blog know that sometimes when getting work done I enjoy brewing tea "Grandpa style."  Having a decent bit of work to be done this spring break, I have been craving to brew Grandpa style, the problem though, the only leafy teas I have on hand are sencha.  Sencha by nature as usually slightly more delicate than Chinese and Korean greens, often even in the top/ middle of the bags includes a higher portion of small leaf bits, Sencha has long since been considered by me as a tea that should just not be used for Grandpa style.

Though I did have a friend in the past tell me he has successfully brewed sencha Grandpa style, although gave no detailed instructions as how to accomplish this task.  I have found a process that seems to work, and it breaks ever so slightly from normal Grandpa Style brewing.  First off, I still only think this should only be attempted with Asamushi Sencha, the lighter steamed the better.

Step one with water that has just boiled, and given a chance to go just off boil, fill the bowl just enough to cover the leaves, and let it sit for a while ( bowl should be at room temp and not preheated).  You should wait for that too cool slightly, which will usually happen once the sencha leaves  expand and soak up the water so it looks more like wet grass clippings on the very bottom of the bowl. (30seconds - 1 minute)

Grandpa Style Sencha step 1

Step Two as is more typical with Grandpa style, add water from the kettle to fill the bowl/ Chawan 1/3rd of the way.  This and the last step are to establish a solid root, but also to not stew the leaves but expose them to enough water and heat that when the chawan is filled to 2/3rds or 70% of the way the sencha leaves will settle to the bottom, allowing you to drink from the top with ease.  You will want to allow the leaves to sit in this 1/3rd bowl full of water till there is very little steam rising and the bowl is warm but not hot to the touch.

Grandpa Style Sencha Step 2

Step Three feel free to top off the bowl, and when it cools to drinking temperature drink, down to the 1/3rd full.  Repeat until you are tired of the tea, or you feel it has lost all flavor.

Grandpa Style Sencha Complete

A picture showing that I am enjoying Matcha Maddess this march, in a lovely new Chawan.

Ikuyo-no-mukashi in Seong Il Teabowl

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Matcha Madness

In honor of March Madness, I am going to be having fun with Matcha this march.  Granted this has no bracket, and I certainly hope no one places bets on the matcha I will be drinking.  In fact I will not even be doing head to heads so I won't really be comparing.  But as I caved and purchased two brand new tea bowls/ Chawan in the past week I felt the need to order some matcha and a new chasen to make sure I had something to use in the chawan.

This morning though was the first morning I have given a decent bit of thought to start a morning ritual involving a bowl of matcha.  It really is not a bad idea, and know quite a few people that fit Matcha into their morning routines.  If I could consistently be awake and functioning upon waking up, I think I would definitely fit matcha into my morning ritual.  Though sadly I am one of those people that gets up and fights tooth and nail to not fall back asleep, even when sitting up and trying to nibble on some breakfast.

Just in case any of my readers are having trouble with Matcha,  I have noticed a few key things that are absolutely critical when preparing matcha.  While you do not need to buy a special matcha sifter, it is incredibly important to sift your matcha.  What I actually use is a metal tea infuser that I think came with a enameled tetsubin I got early in my tea drinking days.  It is a basket that has a somewhat fine metal mesh everywhere except for its rim. To sift I use my Chashaku to scoop the required amount, then use it to push it through the mesh to sift it.  Speaking of Chashaku, they are not necessary but the basic ones are somewhat inexpensive and do not actually ware out like Chasen, the only time I have heard of a Chashaku being ruined is when someone left it sitting in water ( the bambo when wet unbent itself). The other key item, which doesn't need to be a special yazumashi, but rather just any cup/ item that is hot water safe that can be used as an effective cooling vessel.  While I have never actually tested out the kettles that heat water directly to preset temperatures, I personally feel that usually water below the oft quoted 180 is needed for Matcha ( though not much).

In fact, while the whisking may be somewhat unusual to begin with, the hardest thing to get right when preparing matcha is water temperature.  Keeping in mind that these are similar to gyokuro leaves, so if the water is too hot you can get that horrible taste you often find in gyokuro leaves.  If the water is too cool ( i. e gyokuro temperature)  it is incredibly hard to get the proper amount of froth when whisking the tea.

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