Matcha – But Not Traditionally

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Matcha is an interesting and somewhat different type of tea that you may encounter. Derived from Japan, matcha is green tea powder.  Traditionally it has been used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony for years, and continues to be to this day.

In present times the popularity of this tea with the rest of the world has skyrocketed, with matcha being well-distributed amongst many other world-famous teas in both tea houses and markets. However, its current popularity can be seen most clearly at its origin in Japan, which has spawned an entire selection of matcha-related and flavoured products. Matcha has been put into all sorts of things, the least of which is featured below:

Macaroons

Pound Cake

Pancakes

Ice-cream

KitKats

Matcha is very interesting, as you can mix it into just about anything to give the food a different flavour, and not to mention a health boost. If you’ve already discovered the wonders of combining matcha with food, why not tell us what you made, and what you thought of it?

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The Rarest and the Finest

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Few teas reach the level of rarity as Japan’s Gyokuro (玉露 “pearl dew”), which makes up less than 1% of all tea produced within the country. It’s rarity, however, is bolstered by its price; it also earns its name by being one of the most expensive teas in the world. Three regions currently produce gyokuro: Joyoshi, Okabe (Shizuoka), and Yame (Kyushu).

Gyokuro is derived from the yabukita tea leaf only when the leaf buds are at their youngest, right at the beginning of the spring harvest. It’s processing is both involved and intensive, but as it is revered as one of Japan’s best green teas, its preparation is well-worth the labour. After picking, the leaves are to be lightly steamed in order to prevent oxidation. After performing an initial roll on the result and air-drying the leaves, they are rolled again in order to produce the raw tea known as aracha. The finest grades of aracha are then selected to become gyokuro, and are rolled and dried a large number of times in order to produce gyokuro’s needle-like shape. At the end of this extensive process, it is given at least a week to mature.

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Conducting a Japanese Tea Ceremony, Part 1

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The Japanese conduct their tea ceremony in a variety of different ways depending on the time and season. The two main occupations are known as Furo, for use in the summer, and Ro, for use in the winter – however, these two can vary, and location / personal preference can bring in an even greater number of factors when it comes to the ceremony itself.

Firstly, it is helpful to note that Japanese tea rooms tend to look nothing like the table-and-chair tea rooms that we are so used to; Japanese people sit on the floor much more often than we in Western society do. As such, there are no chairs and tables present in a Japanese tea room; it is merely a square with a dip in the middle for which to prepare tea.

There are preparations one must make several weeks before your tea ceremony is to begin. First, you must invite your guests. It is only polite to give your guests several weeks’ notice so that they may prepare and adequately adjust their lives to allow the visit; failure to give adequate notice could result in your guests not being able to show up at all.

It must be ensured that tearoom and the garden outside are clean and tidy before commencement of the ceremony; it is wise to ensure this is done more than a few days before it begins. Tatami mats and sliding door Shoji paper should both be replaced as well.

A meeting should be held with the Hantou and Shokyaku, which are some very special guests to your tea ceremony. This is to help decide important things about the tea ceremony and to explain what sort of tea ceremony you intend to hold.

Finally, one day before the ceremony begins, you should begin to prepare the Kaiseki meal. Whether you begin the day before or early in the morning of the ceremony is up to you; mostly it depends on how large and/or complicated you intend the meal to be. Newcomers to Japanese cuisine will find it easier to keep it small and simple during their first ceremonies.

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