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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Practice makes Perfect

Todays Matcha

Earlier this month I wrote a post comparing the two chasen I currently have, an 80 prong vs a 100 prong chasen.  I would like to announce that after practicing at least once a week with the 80 prong chasen I can now produce matcha nearly as well as I could with the 100 prong.  Sadly the photo above is focused mostly on the bowl, but you can see that the mint green sheen in the depths of the bowl has next to no color variation, a sing of a nice thick froth on top of the matcha.

While it is much more improved, it is still not perfect, it still has some bubbles that are larger than I would like.  Though this is definitely minor compared to the issues I have been having previously.

So just like with all things, spend some time doing it each week, whether its working with a gaiwan, or getting down brewing techniques for a certain tea.  One thing that often daunts new tea drinkers, and leads them down a path I feel is far too distracting from the tea itself.  That is so many people stick to thermometers and timers, which while you will get the same results time after time, you loose the life a tea can have by spontaneously altering results ever so slightly.  Not to mention, when you do screw up a tea on one infusion, its a true brewing test to try and figure out how to make the rest of the infusions taste right.

It takes some time to get it at first, but now when brewing Japanese greens I know when its at the temperature I want by feeling the outside of the cup, or if its a cup whose thermal properties I do not know yet, touch the water itself.  Then I use my built in senses to judge how long it has been brewing.  Its common to make quite a few mistakes at first, but again practice makes perfect.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fun with Cast Iron

World Market Kettle Find I got this kettle nearly a year ago, and have used it on and off, in part because I was not completely convinced as to whether or not it had some sort of protective lining on the inside. There definitely was no sort of ceramic lining like a lot of iron teapots had.  What really scared me though is that this did come with an infuser basket and a little trivit/ base to use with a tea candle to keep it warm.  Why this scares me is after some use the inside has started to rust ever so slightly, making me firmly believe that this is indeed unlined.

So deciding to pull it out for a day of use to compare it with my typical Kettle a Lins Ceramic kettle, the first thing I notice is how unbelievably fast this gets to a boil in comparison. Granted that even half full my Lins kettle holds likely 4 times as much water, and the clay does not transfer heat as well as the iron.

The real test though is the taste test comparison with the tea.  Fist item up for a test is a matcha, and I am quite liking the effects.  Either I finally hit the sweet spot with this matcha today, or the added iron really made an effect. I am finally getting that bitter dark chocolate and cream note that I have come to like so much in Matcha. Ikuyo-no-mukashi Matcha

Monday, April 2, 2012

Thoughts on Chasen 80 vs 100 prongs

I must admit to a bit of a bloated ego when I placed my last order for Japanese tea.  I was ordering matcha, and having just gotten some new teabowls, I decided it was time to replace my more worn, and cracking chasen. I had a decision to make, 100 prong or 80 prong.  My previous chasen was 100 prong, and while quite big it was very easy to use.  The 80 prong chasen was labeled for those who have more expeience making matcha.

Thinking to myself, I have had no problems whisking thoroughly, effectively, and producing a nice thick layer of froth with my 100 prong chasen, I should be able to easily adapt to an 80 prong chasen.  I was quite wrong.

Somehow the more compact 80 prong chasen behaves a lot more like a spoon than a whisk, while it definitely is whisking, you get a lot more liquid motion similar to what you would expect if you were vigorously shaking around a spoon or something else with limited holes.  With 100 prongs I always felt it was more like slicing up the liquid to generate turbulence and hence get the nice froth.

With the less turbulent motion you do get a froth, but having had wrist problems having problems with tendinitis and carpel tunnel, and all the fencing I did for a few years with the heaviest weapon did not help the condition of my wrist either, I feel I can not sustain the intense whisking long enough to get the desired foam on top of the matcha.  I have been working on it, part of it is just building up the stamina, I am honestly not used to moving my wrist in that motion for that length of time.   Where as the larger 100 prong is easier to hold, it often whisks quite completely in 30-45 seconds.  I have a hunch that the 80 prong chasen would need at least a full minute.

But the 80 prong chasen is not horrible, in fact I prefer it to the 100 prong chasen which I feel is huge and bloated, the 80 prong is a much more manageable size, and despite being exposed to some rather dry air for about a month now has yet to crack. (My 100 prong chasen had started to crack within a week of purchase).  Although I have no proof that the smaller bamboo handle is directly related to that last fact, it could just have been the actual bamboo selected.

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