Feb 25, 2012

The hunger for knowledge

One of the things that is a little frustrating to me is that I do not speak Japanese, nor do I read.  I have a number of books in my collection about Chanoyu that are written in Japanese and I hunger to read and get the information from them. All that knowledge and I can't get to it.

But I have not yet learned Japanese and so the frustration I am feeling is of my own making. If it was really important to me to read these books, I'd be learning Japanese and hauling out my dictionary to help me understand what is written in them.  

So many times we get frustrated with life, and rail against all the things stopping us from getting what we want. When in reality, like my frustration with reading and learning more about Chanoyu, it is a frustration of my own making.  I have been studying tea for 30 years and I could be very fluent in Japanese and reading and translating these texts if I had been studying the language for 30 years as well.  Sensei says, "If it is really important to you, you will know what to do and how to get what you want."

For those of you, like me, who do not speak or read Japanese, I have compiled a reading list to get you started in English.  Want to know more?  I suppose you could learn to speak and read Japanese.

Feb 12, 2012

SweetPersimmon.com has new products

I have just updated my store SweetPersimmon.com with Chanoyu utensils and new handbags.  Many old handbags are now on sale.  Natsume, chashakku, chasen, hishaku are now availble at the store.

As promised, Aoi Tea Company matcha is now for sale, too.  This is a quality matcha that is good enough to be used as koicha.  It is smooth, creamy and tasty.  $32 for a 30gr can.  Chamei (poetic name) for this tea is kiri same (misty rain).  Very appropriate for the Pacific Northwest, don't you think?

Feb 10, 2012

Newly designed Issoan Tea Site now Live

Great news!  The Issoan Tea Site is back up again.  It is newly re-designed to make navigation much easier. (And updating much easier for me).  Eventually, this blog will be incorporated into the site.  I still have to figure out how to tranfer the archives here to get them to show up over there.  Until then, you can read it here where all the archives are, or you can read new posts starting in February 2012 at Issoantea.com.   I'll let you know when the transfer takes place.

Feb 6, 2012

Michael Kenna in Hokkaido

I took the photo above rather in tribute to Michael Kenna. He is one of my favorite photographers.  He first came to my attention about 15 years ago, and I have been following his career ever since.  He works exclusively in Black and White film.  His photos are a meditation just to look at and remind me strongly of black and white sumie paintings.

I actually got to meet him in Seattle and he signed my first edition of his book, Japan. It came in a beautiful black silk slipcase with an embossed kanji for Nihon on the outside.  Inside the book cover is rising sun red with a simple white JAPAN on the outside.  As part of the exhibition, you were given a clipboard and paper and encouraged to write haiku as you went around the gallery to view the photos.

He has done much more work since then, in France, San Francisco, England and all of them very much in the same style.  I have several of his calendars that I turn over and over again.  You can see more if his work here.  And if you are so moved to purchase and support this artist, his publisher is Naraeli Press where you can purchase a calendar for this year.

He has returned over and over again to Japan, especially in winter and has published other books based on the Japanese landscape, most recently Hokkaiko.   Also here is an interview with Michael Kenna talking about filming in Hokkaido in the winter.  Enjoy

Feb 4, 2012

Matcha Tea Tasting with Aoi Tea Company

Last week I had an opportunity to attend a matcha tea tasting with the Aoi Tea company.

It was educational to see how they taste and grade matcha.   To begin with, we looked at the tencha leaves.  The tea plants for matcha are grown under shade, and the tender leaves are harvested, immediately steamed and dried. Then the leaf part from in between the veins are used.This is tencha, before the leaves are ground.

I don't know if you can see here, but there is a definite difference in the color of the leaves.  The pile on the left is a darker richer color green and is judged higher quality, the pile on the right is lighter and yellower and js judged lower quality.

The leaves are put into identical brewing vessels and filled with hot water, in this case about 150F.   

The resulting brew is compared in color, aroma and taste.  The brew on the left is the lower quality leaves and the color was weaker, the taste more bitter.  The brew on the right, the higher quality leaves color was slightly darker, the taste much more complex and milder.  There was quite a difference in the fragrance of the leaves after brewing as well.

The tea is stored as tencha and when an order comes in, the tea will be freshly ground.  Matcha comes in 30 or 40 gram cans.  It can take an hour or more to grind enough tea for a can. Please store your matcha in the freezer or refrigerator.  Unopened the matcha will most likely be good up to a year. Once you open the can, it will last up to 30 days if stored in the refrigerator.   Opened cans of matcha will last maybe a week or so before they become oxidized.  If you are buying expensive matcha, store it in the refrigerator or freezer otherwise you are wasting your money.  Oxidized matcha that you don't want to drink can be used for cooking or baking.

Fortunately, I don't have to worry about storage.  At my house, a can of matcha once opened rarely lasts more than two weeks.

The Aoi Tea Company matcha will soon be for sale on the SweetPersimmon.com website.