Sunday, March 7, 2010


Gyokuro, Sencha, Genmaicha, Matcha, and Kukicha. Again. Gyokuro, Sencha, Genmaicha, Matcha, and Kukicha. The Tea Drinker repeatedly took me through these steps today. He urged me to study, memorize, steep, taste, and savor the flavors of Japanese green teas. He begged me to put down my habitual cup of caffeine-loaded black loose leaf tea, and open my eyes to the wonders of the world. I fretted. What would the toned down version of me look like? Calm and serene ? Impossible. I promised to drag myself out of this rut to drink more Oolongs, White tea, even the Herbal variety, but venture more into green tea? The Tea Drinker was putting his foot down, and told me, “Today, you begin a new adventure: Japanese Green Teas. Get your passport ready”.

Japanese Green Tea 101:
Tea drinking was brought to Japan from China around the 9th century, and was destined to be forever immersed in this culture. The highest quality Japanese green teas tend to come from the Yame region of Fukuoka Prefecture and the Uji region of Kyoto. Japanese teas, like all teas, are made from the lovely coveted camellia sinensis plant. Green teas are unique in that they are “un-oxidized” or undergo minimal oxidation. In Japan, tea leaves are steamed, as opposed to being tossed in a hot pan(the process in China). Steaming the leaves produces teas that are fresh and delicate. They tend to be bright green in color, complex in flavor with aromas of fresh cut grass and toasted nuts. Overall, green tea is low to moderate caffeine(sigh), very full of antioxidants, and receives the most recognition for its health benefits. I guess I could use the extra health boost.

Before steeping, be sure to have the water temperature just right, as you do not want to scald those poor little teas leaves. Yes, Master Tea Drinker.

Sencha- A common tea in Japan, and very popular worldwide. Made from leaves that are exposed to direct sunlight, harvested, steamed then rolled. The resulting tea has a natural sweetness, and is packed with fresh herbal flavors. Try the Kawane -it brews a beautiful dark forest green liqueur, has vibrant aromas of fresh cut grass, nuts, and Nori seaweed. It will bring spring right to your front door.

Asahina Gyokuro- A premium Sencha using only new shoots of the leaves that are cultivated in the shade before harvest. “Gyokuro” refers to the color of the infusion(“jewel dew”). This tea is of the highest quality. The leaves are almost aqua-green in color with intriguing aromas: a hint of citrus and fresh cut grass, with a mild flowery note. On the palate it's smooth with a natural sweetness. Flavors of toasted hazelnut or Nori seaweed comes to mind. I was so wrapped up in the sensory overload of this tea that my most cherished black tea almost became a distant memory.

Genmaicha- Enter: Sencha or Bancha green tea combined with popped corn and roasted rice. This tea was historically consumed by the less fortunate of Japan. However, today its enjoyed by all facets of society, and considered to be quite chic. “Popcorn” tea is just not for Friday night anymore. Treat yourself anytime of the day. It’s slightly grassy and nutty, like me.

Next week: Matcha, the powdered green tea essential in Japanese tea ceremonies and Kukicha, a tea made from twigs, stalks and stems. Hmm.. I may have to brew a strong cup of Keemun to get me through this next chapter.

Venture out in life. Do I see a trip to Japan in my near future? Hai!

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