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Kyūsu Workshop at macha-macha

Long time no post! Shortly after I made my last entry here, my husband and I began to prepare for our move from Vancouver to Germany. There was a lot of spending time with friends and family we loved, bureaucracy, and giving away of almost everything we owned. We landed in Berlin with our dog and cat in early October, and again had a lot of paperwork and other details to sort out. Things are slowly beginning to wind down and settle, so it was the perfect time for me to attend a workshop on traditional Japanese teapots (kyūsu) this past weekend at a great Berlin tea shop called macha-macha.

The workshop was sponsored by the Japanese Tea Instructor Association, which means it was free for participants. It’s a great way to spread knowledge to those interested in Japanese tea culture, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to have participated! Yumi Tanabe of macha-macha led the workshop, and was friendly and very knowledgeable on the topic of kyūsu.

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We started with two small teacups, a spoon for transferring the dried tea to the pot, and a kyūsu. The kyūsu was very smooth to the touch and had a nice comfortable weight when handled. Yumi explained that teapots of this size could be used for the types of tea we drink everyday, whereas tinier kyūsu can be used for more expensive teas that require longer infusion times. We learned that there are even some kyūsu that don’t have handles, because they are meant for higher quality tea that require lower water temperatures, so the teapot can still be handled without burning one’s hands.

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Yumi-san shows how to properly pour tea from a kyūsu when serving guests

Yumi told us about the factors that can affect tea flavour when brewing: temperature, amount of water, amount of tea, and steeping time. She recommended we experiment with what we like best, but in general we especially need to keep an eye on water temperature (too hot can bring bitter flavours in green tea to the forefront), and steeping time. One thing I found interesting was that when Yumi brewed her tea, she steeped her first pot for 30 seconds, but subsequent steepings could be poured out immediately after water had been added to the pot. She explained that once the tea leaves were opened it wasn’t necessary to wait for the water to unfurl the leaves before pouring the tea. Seeing how beautifully green her tea looked as she poured her second steeping was enough to convince me!

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Genmaicha

We prepared genmaicha (or what many of my friends call ‘popcorn tea’ 😄) for our brewing practice during the workshop. The toasty flavour was a perfect choice for the cold, blustery day. We each placed two heaping spoonfuls of the tea into our pots. Yumi had given us water heated to a good temperature for genmaicha (I forgot to note exactly what temperature, but I believe it was between 80-90C), and we started by filling our small teacups up with the water and then transferring that to the teapot. This also helps warm the teacups to prepare for the tea. We timed 30 seconds, and then poured the tea into the cups. An important note was that when pouring tea from the pot into two or more cups, it is best to switch between the cups while pouring. This helps to disperse the flavour equally among the cups, and is so simple and yet something I’ve never considered before! I really enjoyed the balanced flavour in both cups of tea I tried after pouring this way.

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Casual pouring method

Yumi taught us a few different ways of pouring from a kyūsu. One can be seen in the picture of Yumi pouring her tea a few photos above, where she is holding the handle with her right hand and gently holding the lid in place with her left palm open flat and fingers together. I think this pouring method looks very elegant, and accordingly this is the polite way of pouring for guests. In the photo directly above, I’m demonstrating another more casual way of pouring that can be used when preparing tea for yourself at home.

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As the workshop concluded we were able to practice brewing and pouring tea while enjoying some delicious matcha chocolate made by Nazuna. I had a great time chatting with other participants, learning more about tea, and enjoying the relaxing space before going home. Thanks to Yumi-san and macha-macha for the fantastic workshop! I’m looking forward to going back next month for their Meditation & Tea event, and if any Berlin locals are interested in attending the Facebook link with ticket info can be found here.

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My Second Mom

Lynda (left), at afternoon tea with some of her good friends

Tomorrow we’re celebrating the life of my mother-in-law, Lynda. She passed away last week, and I wanted to write a short something to share a few memories about my wonderful second mom.

It feels natural to write some of my memories here, since a lot of our bonding happened over tea. The first time my then-boyfriend brought me to her house, one of the first things she did was offer to make me a cup of chamomile. I was really nervous and wanted to make a good first impression, so chatting over a calming cup of tea proved to be perfect. From that first meeting, she welcomed me with open arms and treated me like family. Her open-heartedness is one of the many qualities I already miss very keenly.

From then on, it became a tradition to meet at her house for tea whenever I visited the town where she lived. We’d hug, and then she would insist that I sit down while she made me a cup of tea. No matter how tired she was, she said it was her pleasure to make it for me, so she’d order me to the couch while she prepared our cups. It became a tradition for me to bring her a new tea to try as a visiting gift, so we often drank it together or fell back to a mutual favourite, chamomile. We’d sip tea, chat, and look at her beautiful flowers (she was an expert orchid raiser, which is a pretty difficult task if you’ve ever tried). The last time I visited her at her house, the scent of jasmine flooded my nose as I opened her door to leave. So many fragrances from tea and flowers will now be always connected to her memory in my mind. I’m relieved; they say that scent is the strongest sense tied to memory, and there are so many things about her that I don’t want to forget.

On our last family trip together, I had a quiet moment together with her. She wasn’t feeling so well at this point, and I offered to steep her some tea. She agreed, and I put a lot of care and worry into making that cup as delicious as possible. It probably sounds silly – it’s just a drink. But it became one way of expressing love for each other.

After I married her amazing son, our feeling of being family was solidified. I called her mom one day soon after, and enjoyed the flash of happiness in her eyes and her answering smile. So here are a few things I love about my second mom: her kindness, empathy, love of animals, her never-ending advocacy for my punky appearance, her deep understanding of who I am underneath that appearance, her listening skills, generosity, excitement at cooking vegan food for me and my husband (she even made us an entirely vegan Christmas dinner for us a couple of years ago!), her sense of humour, her thoughtfulness (she mailed me some gloves once – via Express post – when she heard I had lost mine), her smile, and so much more. Mom, thank you for everything.

 

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Matcha Beer Garden

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Beer and matcha lovers, take note: two of your favorites together at last! The following article translated from Mynavi News may be of interest to some of you.

Green beer!? The beer garden with 10 different types of matcha beer is now open for business.

Summer is the time of year when we thirst for beer. There are a number of beer gardens where you can drink delicious beer, but surely only one where you can taste green beer. ‘Green Tea Restaurant 1899 Ochanomizu’ in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo opens a matcha beer garden during the summer months from June-September, complete with all drinks, food and sweets being made from tea.

The matcha beer garden is entering its third summer season this year, after being hugely successful last summer – around 7,200 glasses of matcha beer were served. Visually matcha beer delivers a strong impact, but customers have said that the beer has a mild and delicious flavour, and that it is ‘healthy even though it’s beer.’

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In addition to light and dark regular beers, the beer garden serves 10 types of all you can drink beverages such as matcha beer, hojicha dark beer, and matcha wine. Since they will still also have their regular beers on tap, it might be nice to try a regular beer with a tea flavored one to compare.

This year, two new flavors of original tea beer are being introduced: Japanese black tea beer and Japanese dark black tea beer. The natural sweetness and splendid aroma of black tea mixes harmoniously with the bitterness of beer to create a new and exciting blend of flavors. As it is also primarily a tea restaurant, the food and sweets are also made using tea. Sencha potatoes and matcha cake are just a couple of examples of the extensive tea-based menu.

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Green Tea Restaurant 1899 Ochanomizu is located on the first floor of the Ryumeikan main building, 3-4 Kanda Surugadai in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. The first seating begins from 5-6pm, and the second seating from 7:30-8pm. The all you can drink service has a limit of 2 hours, and costs 3,500‎¥ (*approximately $40 Canadian as of this translation.)”

I certainly wouldn’t complain if my meal and drinks were all matcha flavored, so I’m adding this to my list of future places to visit. I really miss the amount of restaurants in Japan with all you can drink/all you can eat deals, too. Have any of you gone to this matcha beer garden, or plan to this summer? You can find the original article here if you’d like to see the original Japanese version.

Next week I’ll be making a post about matcha and tea shops in New York City, so stay tuned and thanks for reading!

 

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Matcha Shops in NYC

I’m very fortunate to be heading to New York City tomorrow, and so (of course) I’ve been researching the best places to grab some tea and matcha while I’m there. While looking around for info I stumbled upon this great video by Milkbox, who filmed a matcha tour of NYC! It was fun to get to see all the matcha stuff she tried, and gave me some inspiration for places to check out. Here’s the video – additionally if you’re into goth lolita or kawaii stuff she would be a great person to follow.

So far my only concrete tea-related plan in while I’m in NYC is to attend a Shincha preparing workshop at Ippodo, which I’m really excited about. I have a list of places I’ll be visiting now thanks to Milkbox, but if anyone has any other recommendations for places to check out, please leave a comment!

Next week I’ll have another article translation to post (hint: if you like both matcha and beer you won’t want to miss it!), and in two weeks I’ll be posting an extensive report of my own on NYC matcha/tea places. Thanks for reading 🙂  ❤

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Drinking the Last Sip: An Expression of Appreciation

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My first koicha (“thick tea”) at Ippodo tea room, Kyoto. 

Michiko Osawa runs a relaxed matcha classroom in Yokohama, and also maintains an excellent blog that delves into the deeper enjoyment that participating in a tea ceremony can bring. Her other objective is to bring that enjoyment into our daily lives, thus bringing the special experience of a traditional tea ceremony to our regular kitchen table.

Showing respect to the host who made your tea is an important part of the tea ceremony, and Michiko talks about a small but important detail that we might easily overlook: what to do with those last few remaining drops in our tea bowl.

“Have you ever been bothered by the bottom of your tea bowl after you finish drinking matcha? When someone has prepared matcha for you, it is courteous to drink the tea without delay and while it is still fresh and delicious. One other point: drinking your matcha to the very last drop is an expression of appreciation toward the person who made it for you.

As people aren’t machines, there may be times when the matcha has not been well mixed and dissolved. But once you realize this, you can still slurp in the last sip with some force and completely finish the tea. If you do this, the act of finishing your matcha is beautiful.

If you don’t finish your matcha to the last drop, your tea bowl may end up looking like this: 

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One last point: When there is some thick matcha left on the bottom of the bowl, the problem may sometimes be due to the person preparing, and other times may be due to the guest drinking in a carefree way.

Without worrying about who is to blame, it would be nice to drink our matcha to the last drop.”

This was interesting to read, because in many cultures slurping the last drop of liquid from a glass or bowl is considered rude, and it’s important to know that (at least in Japanese culture) it’s seen as a sign of respect and appreciation. If someone is going through the trouble of making me a delicious bowl of tea, I want to enjoy it to the fullest! So let’s slurp away, fellow matcha fans 😀

The original article is here, and you can find many other excellent Japanese articles by Michiko at her blog, O-Matcha Happylife. Thanks for reading!

Recipes · Uncategorized

(Vegan!) Matcha Cheesecake

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I’ve come across a number of matcha cheesecake recipes online, but this is the first I’ve seen with a layer of red beans between the filling and the crust! For those of you who haven’t encountered sweet adzuki beans in desserts yet, they’re used regularly in Japanese sweets – and I actually might love them more than chocolate 😮  Their rich and satisfying taste aside, adzuki beans are high in iron, protein, potassium, and a ton of other nutrients that are excellent for you. All the more excuse to try out this delicious plant-based matcha cheesecake!

Today’s recipe comes from Peaceful Cuisineand you can find the original Japanese recipe here. The author of Peaceful Cuisine, Ryoya Takashima, has a number of other creative and delicious looking recipes (with some recent ones in a great bilingual video format) involving matcha on his site that can be found with a quick search.

Recipe notes:

The original recipe is intended to be made in a traditional cheesecake shape, but I made mini cheesecakes. The ingredients came out to equal 12 mini cheesecakes exactly.

★For readers not familiar with recipes using weight, please note that some of the measurements are in grams so you’ll need a kitchen scale. The equivalent in cups has been listed when possible.

★Due to differences in the amount of water that cashews absorb while soaking, try to make sure that the total weight of the cashews (after soaking) and the water for the filling weigh 340g. This ensures that the filling will have the same texture every time you make it.

★I substituted maple syrup for agave, since I’m a stereotypical Canadian and that’s what I had on hand 😀

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Vegan Matcha & Sweet Adzuki Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crust:
Almonds  120g
Agave     30g
Shredded coconut  30g
Salt    ¼ teaspoon (or to taste)

Adzuki layer:
Adzuki beans  50g (½ cup)
Water 400g (2 cups)
Salt     a pinch
Beet (or any other type of granulated) sugar   35g

Filling:
Cashews   150g
Water   190g
Agave or maple syrup  110g
Coconut oil  100g
Matcha  1.5 to 2 tablespoons, depending on your preference

Directions:

1. Soak the almonds in water for at least 8 hours, then place them in a colander for about a half hour to allow water to drain. Place the almonds in a food processor and mix until they resemble a powder-like consistency, then add the rest of the ingredients for the crust and mix again until well combined. Place the mix into a cake pan (or cupcake liner in a muffin pan, if using) and press down to compact it into a crust.

2. Make the bean paste. Add the adzuki beans, water, and salt to a pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling lower the heat and let simmer. When the water has reduced to the point where it’s just barely covering the beans, add the sugar a little at a time and stir after each addition.  Continue to let the mixture boil down until it becomes a soft paste, stirring constantly as it becomes less watery to avoid burning.

3. Soak the cashews in some water for about an hour. Then, add all of the ingredients for the filling to a blender and blend until the mixture is completely smooth.

4. Spread the bean paste on top of the crust and distribute it evenly. Pour the matcha filling on top of the paste, cover the pan and place in the freezer. It will be ready to eat within 2-3 hours!

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I could have made the bean layer on the mini cake above a bit more even, but otherwise they turned out delicious and I highly recommend this recipe! If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment, and don’t forget to check out Peaceful Cuisine for more fantastic recipes.