June 23, 2016

Book Review + Recipe: 'New Tastes in Green Tea', by Mutsuko Tokunaga

New Tastes in Green Tea © 2004, 2010 by Mutsuko Tokunaga. Photos by Kenji Shinohara

Matcha might not be the new chocolate but I have not disliked any matcha drinks, dishes, or desserts I have consumed. I have reviewed a couple of matcha cookbooks and what distinguishes Mutsuko Tokunaga's New Tastes in Green Tea from the other titles is the attention to Japanese green tea culture and matcha's place within it. The book is divided into four sections and two of these provide extensive detail about types of Japanese green teas, how to prepare them including tea utensils, and the cultivation and processing of green tea in Japan. The book is not limited to Japanese green tea, however. Ms. Tokunaga  provides a short history of tea and how different teas are processed. You will find recipes for contemporary sencha, gyokuro, and matcha drinks as well as blending herbs, black teas, and flowers with green teas. In a separate section are the recipes for dishes and desserts. There are five matcha spreads, many savories, and several cakes and sweets.

The flow of the book could be improved if drink and food recipes were consolidated in one section. I appreciate the compactness of the book but it does not stand out among other more traditionally sized cookbooks on my shelf. New Tastes in Green Tea contains numerous photographs but in the world of tea and cooking bigger might be better. It is worth noting that I have a 2016 paperback edition and it's likely that the 2004 hardcover edition is more substantial in terms of overall size and photo presentation. Overall, New Tastes in Green Tea is well written with a balanced mix of science and prose and well-placed and illustrative photographs.

New Tastes in Green Tea © 2004, 2010 by Mutsuko Tokunaga. Photos by Kenji Shinohara

I am sharing one of the matcha drink recipes from New Tastes in Green Tea with you today. The drink is Matcha Coconut, pictured bottom left. It is prepared with matcha, milk (I used whole cow's milk), coconut milk, and sugar. You could probably use the milk and sweetener of your choice. The finished drink was delicious though it was not photogenic because the coconut milk separated. Next time I will use coconut cream to achieve a smoother consistency. I could taste the earthy green notes of the matcha which were balanced by the cream flavor and texture of the two milks. The amount of sweetener called for was just enough to round out all the other ingredients.

Matcha Coconut Drink
serves 1

1 tsp matcha + 2 tsp hot water
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp sugar
a little aloe or any cut fruit

1. Mix the match and hot water, and stir briskly until the paste becomes smooth.

2. Add the milk, coconut milk, and sugar, adjusting the proportions according to taste.

3. Serve garnished with diced aloe of your favorite fruit.

Recipe courtesy of New Tastes in Green Tea © 2004, 2010 by Mutsuko Tokunaga.

The next recipe I will share on the blog is the Matcha Yogurt Sour, pictured bottom right. One of the ingredients is condensed milk. Don't miss the recipe! Subscribe to Notes on Tea.

P.S. For more recipes check out my review of The Healthy Matcha Cookbook and The Matcha Miracle.

June 16, 2016

Favorite Tea Ware - Linda Gaylard, The Tea Stylist

As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from the bombilla to the whisk (aka chasen). Everyone has their favorites! This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community as well as people who enjoy drinking tea. Today's guest is well known in the world of tea. I am excited to present Linda Gaylard's favorite teaware. Linda is a Certified Tea Sommelier, author of The Tea Book and the blog The Tea Stylist, and a former wardrobe stylist.

I have hundreds of pieces of tea ware, so it was a fun exercise for me to chose just five. I have prep vessels for different types and styles of tea for tasting as well as sentimental pieces and items that I use during tea sessions and classes. Some I use only as props for photoshoots. I’m always looking for new places to display them as I’m quickly running out of storage space.

Small glass teapot
This little glass teapot is the work horse of my collection. It may be fragile, but it has been used thousands of times since I purchased it 7 years ago. It has no chips or cracks, which one worries about with something that seems so fragile. Holding only 12 oz it’s just the right size to fill two teacups, so it's good for sharing between 2 people. I like the fact also that I can admire the colour of the tea's liquor through the glass.

Handleless cup with saucer
I don't know the provenance of this set as it was bought at rummage sale, but from what I've been able to discover, it may be close to 200 years old and quite likely from a pottery in England. This style of set was made from mid-1700's to the early part of the 1800's. Cups from this period were made to resemble the first porcelain cups that arrived with tea from China. They were adapted as larger cups with deep saucers that were often used to cool the tea. Every time I use this set I imagine the stories around its decades/centuries of use.

Porcelain kyusu
Handmade by Quebec ceramic artist Reynald Sauve, this exquisite kyusu has a perfect pour and well calculated balance and its tiny strainer holes block any leaves from entering the cup. I use it for Japanese Sencha green tea. Its little sister is a sweet factory made kyusu with an ingenious tubular strainer that circles the interiors walls of the pot, catching the leaves while the tea is being poured. Perfect size for tiny cups of Japanese Gyokuro.

Blue and white rice grain gaiwan
This may be a run of the mill gaiwan that I purchased in Los Angeles Chinatown, but it has a nice light feel and refinement that makes it easy to handle when pouring. I also like its "rice grain" pattern which gives it a transparent quality.

Japanese flower cup
This sweet little cup has travelled many places with me. It’s been to Europe, China and South Korea as well as throughout Canada and the US. It was given to me as a set of 5 from my son’s girlfriend. There are only 2 left – a blue one and a brown one which I travel with (shown). It is just the right size for holding on a plane or train. It is so nice to drink from a porcelain cup rather than a paper cup. I wrap it in a linen cloth to keep it from getting damaged.

The idea of teaware used only for props in photo shoots seems so luxurious. I am in the market for a kyusu so it is useful to read about features that work well. Thank you Linda for sharing some of your favorite tea vessels with us. And all the best for World Tea Expo 2016. All photos and stories courtesy of Linda Gaylard.

Enjoyed this Favorite Tea Ware post? 
Don't miss the next installment. 

June 09, 2016

My World Tea Expo 2016 Itinerary

Image: WTE White Paper cover via WTE 
Since I will not attend World Tea Expo 2016, this is an imaginary itinerary, but I hope you will indulge me and read the entire post. I very much wanted to attend this year's expo but the timing was incompatible with my household needs. Next year, I hope! In the meantime, I have been following preparations for the expo via social media and reading about the plans that other tea bloggers are making. What really inspired me to write this post was Linda Gaylard's picks which she posted on her blog, The Tea Stylist. The World Tea Expo will be held June 13 - 17, 2016 in the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Pre-conference, I would spend the entire day on Tuesday, June 14th at the World Origin Tasting Tour. Here's an excerpt from the description:
World Origin Tasting Tour is currently scheduled to stop at China, India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Nepal, Japan and Taiwan. Once we (ahem) land at each destination, an expert tour guide will lead us on a journey through the country showcasing the beauty of the origin our beloved beverage comes from. At each destination, we will explore the country's tea culture, unique manufacturing processes, and taste teas authentic to that origin giving you a solid understanding of the flavors and profiles of each. But don’t get too immersed as we will be back on the plane many times visiting the major origins throughout the day.
During the conference itself, I would attend the following sessions:

Wednesday, June 15th
Evolution of Tea in the FoodService Industry, From A Global Perspective with Kathy YL Chan OR North America: The New Cutting Edge of Specialty Tea with Kevin Gascoyne

Re-Evaluating Tea Education with Michael, Coffey, Kevin Gascoyne, Austin Hodge, Jo Johnson, Darlene Meyers-Perry, and James Norwood Pratt

The Quintessential Tea - China Green with Donna Fellman and Lydia Kung, PhD OR Not Your Granny's 'Afternoon Tea' with Shabnam Weber

Thursday, June 16th
Cupping & Grading Oolong with Thomas Shu OR Working With the Media: Learn from Top Tea Editors with Dan Bolton, Vanessa L. Faced, Gail Gastelu, Linda Gaylord, Lorna Reeves, and Jan Weigel

Climate-Smart Tea Systems with Selena Ahmed, Kevin Gascoyne, and Mike Harney (in my other life, I'm an environmental planner)

Utilizing Social Media with Nicole Martin

Friday, June 17th
Taste & Tea Chemistry with Selena Ahmed and Donna Fellman (Selena is an ethnobotanist and one of three women who found Shoots & Roots Bitters)

Tea Vessels = A Way to Steep Up Sales with Darlene Meyers-Perry (do you read the Favorite Tea Ware series here on this blog?)

*But I am torn between Tea Vessels AND Marriages Made in Tea & Cheese Heaven with Robert Wemischner

The expo will also host special events such as the Ceremonial Oolong Service and Japanese Tea Ceremony both on Wednesday 16th. The following day there will be a Cooking with Matcha Demo. It wouldn't be an expo without exhibitors. It would be great to see the Teforia machine live at booth #318. You can read my notes on an online demo here. My Joseph Wesley Tea stash is low; I wouldn't mind buying tea in person at booth #833. I am taking a tea sommelier course from the International Tea Education Institute. Say hello to Sylvana if you stop at booth #830. There are many more booths I'd visit.

These are my picks. I will be following #WorldTeaExpo and #WTE2016 next week so share a lot if you attend!

June 07, 2016

Tea Review - Plum Deluxe Tea Blends

Tea blends with an orthodox, loose leaf base, are often aesthetically pleasing. Case in point are the two tea blends I sampled from Plum Deluxe. The Royale Black Tea is the company's signature offering made with Assam, Ceylon, Malva flowers, and safflower. The Royale Green Tea is also made with Malva and safflowers but contains two types of Chinese green teas, gunpowder and "Sleeping Dragon". I am familiar with the former but not with the latter. Gunpowder was one of the first Chinese green teas I drank. You may recognize it as the base tea in Moroccan mint tea. Internet research on "Sleeping Giant" yielded the following information: this tea is from Fujian and its liquor is not grassy, rather it is fruity and smokey.

I prepared both teas in a tasting cup set using 2 grams of tea and steeping each for 3 minutes in the appropriate water temperature (175 for the green and 212F for the black).

The dry leaves of the green blend were loosely rolled and smelled earthy. The infused leaves also smelled earthy. The liquor was a light honey color and slightly cloudy. The liquor was slightly bitter and had an underlying mushroom essence. Since I steeped this green tea according to a cupping protocol, I may have extracted smells and tastes that are atypical of what you would experience if you used a teapot or gaiwan method. When I prepared the tea using the vendor instructions of 1.5 teaspoons in 16 ounces of 180F water for 2-3 minutes, I found that the liquor had lost most if not all of the flavors I previously noted. Instead the liquor was too light The recommended leaf to water ratio is not optimal. It would make sense to try 1.5 teaspoons in 6-8 ounces of water.

The Royale Black tea is my favorite of the two blends. It tastes like a classic breakfast blend. The dry leaves were mostly dark in color and smelled of malt and fruit. The infused leaves smelled malty. The liquor was red copper and clear. The liquor tasted brisk and dry but was smooth and slightly sweet. I did not and would not add milk. As I did with the green tea blend, I also prepared the black blend according to Plum Deluxe's instructions of 1.5 teaspoons in 16 ounces of boring water for 3-4 minutes. The liquor produced from the recommended leaf:water ratio was lighter in color but also in taste and smell. I did not observe any sweet or fruity notes. It was slightly brisk.

I've become fascinated with the dry and infused state of tea leaves. What do you think of these teas' leaves in their infused state? Check out my Instagram feed for a photo of the infused green leaves which was taken after following the vendor's brewing protocol.

Tea samples provided by Plum Deluxe.

May 26, 2016

Four Types of Sencha Tea Leaves

It has been almost two years since I first drank orthodox, loose leaf Unro and Hosen senchas. You can read my review of these two Ippodo Tea senchas here. At the beginning of the year I reviewed Ippodo's new line of teabags. One of the teas is a sencha. I also have been drinking bagged green teas from Aiya one of which is a matcha infused sencha. I have not formally reviewed the Aiya teas on the blog but I will say that because it is blended with matcha it has a creamier taste than the Ippodo bagged sencha. Today I am sharing photos of the leaves of these four different types of sencha. All four will be shown in their dry state while only the senchas that were packaged in teabags will be shown in their infused states. You can see the infused states of the Ippodo Tea Hosen and Unro senchas here.

Sencha infused with matcha: dry leaves, 1.80 grams (top); infused leaves in 175F water for 90s (bottom)

Ippodo Tea
Sencha: dry leaves, 2.14 grams (top); infused leaves in 175F water for 90 seconds (bottom)

Ippodo Tea
Sencha: Unro (top); Hosen (bottom)

Aren't the differences striking? Hosen and Unro are grades of sencha with Hosen being "upper mid-grade". Based on the price of a 100g bag of Unro, it is a significantly lower grade of sencha. The Ippodo teabags are filled with mecha. The Ippodo Tea website defines mecha as tea buds. A Wikipedia entry describes mecha as a tea made from rolled buds and the tips of early leaves. Aiya says that its sencha teabags contain early spring tea combined with "stone-ground" matcha.

Whatever your cup of sencha, enjoy!
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