ART By markwilliamsmedia CULTURE FOOD Fukujuen Tea House gyokuro hokicha matcha News ocha RECOMMENDED sencha TRADITIONAL Uji

Japan: A Tale of Two Teas

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High above Tokyo station, I watch, as two women from the illustrious Fukujuen Tea Home, make tea. One is elegantly dressed in a Fukujuen kimono, while the opposite dons the black and white fashion of the West. The teas are wonderfully recent, the makers clearly love their work, and their attention to element brings house to me the importance Japan locations on this beloved drink.

But the variations between the teas, their historical past and flavour could not be wider. Sure, the story of Japanese Inexperienced Tea, really is a story of two types, two tastes… and maybe… two cities.

The history of Japanese tea, like all teas, begins in China. Within the ninth century Chinese language tea was first delivered to Japan. It was loved so much that the Emperor Saga promoted its growing and consumption inside the royal family.

This tea, grown within the foothills of Uji (Kyoto), sourced its flavour from the tea leaf. It was solely a lot later that a method to extract a powdered type of tea (generally known as matcha) was launched. In less than 50 years, matcha manufacturing had changed the leaf based mostly business in Uji, and a legend was born. Contrast this with the historical past behind the leaf-based tea manufacturing that dominates the recent inexperienced fields of Shizuoka, and you have a narrative of value telling!

Japanese Tea

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In contrast to Indian tea, which comes from the Camellia Assamica plant, each China and Japan based mostly tea use the Camellia Sinensis varietal. Yet this is where the similarities finish. Chinese language leaf-based tea is often roasted, where as Japanese favor steaming, rolling and drying their tea – creating a green tea that isn’t fermented or oxidized. This provides Japanese tea a very grassy style.

Matcha, apparently enough, comes from the identical varietal has different Japanese tea, nevertheless its leaves are shaded previous to a powder type of tea being extracted.

Japanese tea shouldn’t be only tasty, but in addition has many health advantages. Inexperienced tea incorporates antioxidants, including catechins, which assists anti-aging compounds and reduces cholesterol. It additionally helps scale back coronary heart related danger, stress and cardiovascular problems.

The relief features of inexperienced tea, are because of the L-theanine they produce within the mind. Out of all Japanese green teas, matcha has the very best nutritional value, because it uses the whole depart to make the powder.

There are several varieties of green tea in Japan:
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Matcha on left Ocha on proper

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Sencha –well-liked in Japan, produced utilizing young, much less developed leaves.

Matcha – the inexperienced powder tea related to tea ceremonies and processed from top quality, shaded tea leaves.

Gyokuro – highest quality leaf-based tea, produced from premium crops grown underneath shade. The taste is complicated, with parts of sweet, savory and bitterness.

Hōjicha – roasted tea, with a tremendous brown colour and aroma, it has a milder taste and toasty caramel-like flavor.

Genmaicha – an fascinating mix, mixing Sencha and toasted brown rice, it has a singular fashion and low caffeine. Initially utilized by clergymen to help between fasting durations, it’s a little starchy with a heat yellow hue.

Shincha – plucked before the primary flush harvest of sencha, it is among the costliest teas. Often known as Ichibancha, “first tea”, it has a better degree of nutrients which provides a stunning sweetness to the drink.

Typically the choice of Japanese tea may be overwhelming. As a tough guide, ift you like teabag / black tea fashion teas, then a pleasant Hōjicha could be your most suitable option. For many who like coffee, Genmaicha or a stronger Hōjicha is greatest.

A light-weight refreshing drink like Sencha, is the acceptable to be taken with food corresponding to a sandwich or sushi. For that Japanese Spirit, Gyokuro or Matcha provides you with the opportunity to taste premium flavours. When you can afford it, attempt a top quality Ichibancha Shincha.

Yet despite the range of Japanese tea, the story of o-cha, can, it is stated, be decreased to 2 areas – Kyoto and Shizuoka. Each have created a singular fashion, producing splendidly elegant and complicated tea. Yet their journeys attending to such fame couldn’t be extra totally different…

Uji : The land of tradition

Matcha – the tea of ceremony and culture – is the tea most people imagine once they think of Japan. Based mostly on the extreme grounding strategy of tea leaves into powder, matcha has the focus of round 30 inexperienced teas, and the complexities and diversity just like that of an excellent wine. Steeped in fable, the house of matcha to many lies within Toganoo, a mountain range that surrounds present-day Kyoto and Uji.

Beginning within the 13th century, Uji has been the historic house of tea. As we speak production houses such as the Horii Shichimeien, still create teas that date again to the primary tea bush based in the course of the Muromachi period. Initially rising quite a lot of tea, Uji moved its focus solely on the manufacturing of matcha because of the intrinsic fusion matcha had with zen (in addition to its close ties to several leading Uji monasteries).

With its wonderful soil and highly developed match-specific processing methods (such as the “Ōishita Saibai”course of that extracts the perfect powder from every leaf), Uji has created a world-renowned tea that blends style and history into one.

Shizuoka : the house of modernity

Shizuoka’s tea history could be very totally different. While matcha is grown within the region, Shizuoka’s farmers selected to focus on other tea varietals, due partially, to the shortage of Buddhist influence. Shizuoka is now one of the largest green tea production areas in Japan. About 40% of all tea plantations might be found right here, with Makinohara and Shimizu dominating the business.

Shizuoka’s inexperienced tea historical past dates to 1241, when a monk named Shoichi Kokushi planted green tea seeds after a trip to China. Nevertheless it was solely through the Edo interval that the business really expanded, due partially to its proximity to Tokyo and the necessity by Tokugawa to ensure Kyoto did not ‘dominate’ the market.

Focusing on Makinohara, however then increasing to different towns, the export potential of o-cha was significantly developed in the course of the Meiji interval. One of many major Shizuoka innovations is quite a lot of bush referred to as Sencha Yabukita. Famous for its hardiness, aroma and sweet taste, it now accounts for 94% of Sencha based mostly tea, and with a high yield in quite a lot of climates, it has develop into fashionable abroad.

Tea making – the battle continues !

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And so, here I sit, as two types of Japanese tea compete for my attention. Their variety reflected not solely of their history, but in addition of their preparation….

The primary contender is Fukujuen’s Uji matcha. A stunning Fukujuen woman joins me on the counter, dressed in the tradition of Uji. All the instruments for otemae are rigorously laid out. Their simple design, and stylish harmony, underlines the ethos of this historic, religious drink.

Quietly, without enjoyable far, the natsume (tea field) is opened. Several scoops of powdered tea are positioned into the chawan bowl, awaiting the water which bubbles gently inside a standard kettle. The water is then poured into the bowl utilizing a hishaku (ladle); the sound conjures up reminiscences of rustling leaves in the autumn wind.
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With a robust brisk whisking movement, the younger woman skillfully creates a delicate inexperienced froth and a deep, delicate tea. Her focus and focus by no means leaves the bowl. After the tea is made, the instruments are rigorously rearranged and the drink served, together with a stunning wagashi (sweet) selected to enrich the matcha flavour. The style is exquisite, as is the coating of light green which marks both chasen (whisk) and chashaku (scoop). A very Japanese expertise, and an ideal example of Uji power and concord.

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I finish my tea with delight, after which a new set of instruments come out from beneath the cabinet. The contrast could not be starker, as Japanese custom is changed with the fashionable symbols of Fukujuen’s o-cha. The clean, recent, type of white ceramic tea pots, elegant containers and cups neatly arranged in tasting order, mirror a contemporary temper.
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After which a new woman, one who initially greeted me once I arrived on the cafe, steps up to the plate. Dressed in a basic western uniform, she smiles and begins her preparation with the same dedication has her kimono-clad counterpart. But this time, her type and strategy to the tea is extra familiar to me.
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With three teas on show, she rigorously tries to elucidate the differences. Her English is restricted, and my Japanese non-existent, and but the tea brings us collectively, and we are capable of efficiently understand one another. We even share a joke about language and tradition – smiling and laughing… the true signal of a efficiently “tea assembly”.
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Gyokuro, Hōjicha and Sencha tea is made for my enjoyment. Because the water from the heated kettle boils, her meticulous tea making precision jogs my memory of my house in England. The water is then transferred right into a white kyūsu (teapot), the leaves added, and the drink rigorously poured into pre-heated cups. Every fashion of green tea highlights to me the fantastic sophistication of Japanese O-cha. The whole experience is superb, allowing me to really witness first hand, the various types of Japanese tea.

To anybody interested, I highly advocate exploring the world of Japanese tea. And, the most effective news is, you don’t have to go to Uji or Shizuoka to do it. Just head right down to your local supermarket, the place a number of sorts await you. You will not remorse it. Like a superb wine, as your information of the drink grows, so too will your appreciation of the talents that go into the style and preparation of tea. And one of the best factor is… in contrast to wine, it’s not so costly and truly wholesome for you!

Fukujuen Tea Home

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It will be impolite of me to not mention and thank Fukujuen Teas for giving me the opportunity to sample their products.
Fukujuen has a rich historical past. Based in 1790 as a tea service provider in (Uji) Kyoto, it has an extended affiliation with tea. It at present has a powerful three flooring flagship retailer in Kyoto, as well as a number of smaller outlets. It also boasts one of the best factories / laboratories in Kyoto.

In Tokyo, it shaped an alliance with French delicacies and created a restaurant with an exquisite blend of east and west. Fantastic food and great tea may be found here, and the Fukujuen philosophy, specializing in tradition, ingenuity and creating new types to match future wants, makes Fukujuen Tokyo a must visit.

Fukujuen Tokyo Official Website

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