During our recent trip to Japan we experienced a delicious and flavorful desert. Japanese Shaved Iced is made up of light ice like snow flakes and slightly sweetened milk. Our first flavor combination is topped with matcha and red bean. Of course you can substitute in any of our wide range of waffle toppings.
Genmaicha tea is also known as ‘rice’ or ‘popcorn’ tea and literally translates to mean ‘brown rice tea’. This tea is made up of green tea, roasted rice, and often has Matcha as well. Brown rice is first toasted and then combined with the green tea leaves to make Genmaicha. During the toasting process, some of the rice kernels pop making them look like popcorn, as their nickname suggests. Known for its unique flavor which is nutty and sweet, Genmaicha can be found in both a yellowish color and green color, which is effected by the addition of matcha to the blend.
Myths and Stories of Genmaicha’s History
While the true history of Genmaicha is unknown, there are many stories that claim to be the true origins. The first story states that Genmaicha can be traced back to the 15th century. A feudal lord or samurai was enjoying his favorite green tea one day. His servant, pouring him his tea accidentally spilled rice into his cup. Angry and offended the man beheaded his servant. Following his reaction, he tasted the tea with the rice and found the flavor to be very good. Feeling remorse for his impulsive action, the man requested this tea everyday afterwards to honor the servant and named the tea Genmaicha after his servant, Genmai. A second origin claims that as tea was considered a luxury, not everyone could afford to have a cup daily. To make the tea last longer, housewives added toasted rice to the leaves to make the supply last longer and make it more affordable. A third explanation claims that a folk custom of roasting leftover kagami-mochi, or mirror rice cake, from the New Year celebrations and putting it into tea. Whichever the true story, today Genmaicha comes in different ways always including the signature brown rice.
Short and Stout carries Uji Genmaicha in the lounge and online. It is a great tea that when looking for something unique and different is worth giving a try!
Gyokuro is a Japanese green tea that translates to mean “Jade Dew”, reflecting the brewed tea’s pale green color. It is of the most expensive tea in Japan and is considered to be of the highest grade. Unlike Sencha, Gyokuro is shaded from the sun before it is harvested. Normally shaded for three weeks, this process increases the theanine and chlorophyll in the tea giving it its signature sweet flavor. The leaves for Gyokuro are a dark green color after harvested. Once brewed the tea has a sweet, soft marine- like and nutty flavor that tickles the fifth taste bud, umami!
Gyokuro’s history begins in the Edo period, in 1835. Yamamoto Kahei the Sixth, traveled to the Uji region of Japan to study their tea processes. While there, he loved the taste of the teas he consumed. After returning home, he attempted to recreate the process and was unable to replicate the sweet taste and process. Unsuccessful in recreating the tea, he did however create a different kind of tea known as tamanotsuyu. In 1841, Eguchi Shigejuro was able to recreate the process by covering the leaves and completed the process of making Gyokuro as we know it today.
We have all learned about sweet, salty, sour and bitter, but there is a new kid on the block. Umami as a flavor distinct from all the others and was adopted scientifically in 1985. This flavor is described as richness in flavor. This adds another whole dimension to tea since American’s typically think tea is just bitter! The very best Gyokuro that we tried has so much umami and tasted so creamy that we thought we were drinking a latte. In addition to drinking Gyokuro for its health benefits and taste, many consume the leaves after steeping either as a salad with soy sauce and lemon juice or adding them to meals like stir fry!
Gyokuro is available at Short and Stout Tea Lounge everyday as well as for purchase in our online store. Give this delicacy a try and let us know what you think!
Japanese Sencha is the most popular tea in Japan. This tea is grown in direct sunlight, unlike other common Japanese green teas like gyokuro or tencha which produces matcha. Sencha is harvested early which is also called the first flush. After harvest, Japanese teas are steamed to prevent oxidation. Oxidation is a process that browns the tea and affects the taste. Some teas require oxidation but for Sencha it is important to prevent. Unlike Chinese tea, Japanese tea is steamed to avoid oxidation where Chinese teas are pan fried. After steaming, the tea leaves begin to take their shape. They are rolled and dried into their recognizable needle shape.
What’s it like?
As for Sencha’s characteristics, Sencha has a grassy smell and is often reminiscent of the ocean. Sencha tastes sweet and grassy. It has a smooth flavor that makes it a very easy to drink green tea. To brew Japanese Sencha, it is important to use water heated just before boiling. It is recommended for green teas to use 1 teaspoon per 8 oz. and steep it for three minutes. The ideal color of Sencha when brewed is a greenish gold. However, as with all teas this is just a guideline and can be adjusted based on individual taste.
Let me try it!
At Short and Stout, Japanese Sencha is available both with caffeine and decaffeinated. The Decaf Organic Sencha at Short and Stout is very similar in taste to the caffeinated version however its color is much lighter due to the decaffeinating process. Sencha is great on its own, but at Short and Stout there are other ways to taste Sencha. As a very common green tea it makes up many of the flavored green teas we carry. Popular Sweet Pear’s main ingredient is Sencha and has other flavors like pear and mango to compliment it. Buy these teas online or stop in to the lounge and taste what 80% of Japan is producing for their tea market!
In Japan, tea is produced just about everywhere. Shizuoka, Kagoshima and Uji are three of the major tea- growing regions throughout Japan. Tea came to Japan from China in the 800s to Kyoto, just north of Uji by Buddhist Monks. Japan didn’t think tea was important and it wasn’t planted in the country until 1100s after another Buddhist monk popularized the health benefits of tea drinking. Today, the tea gardens that were planted in the 1100s are still producing today. They provide a variety of green teas most famously including gyokuro, sencha, and matcha (tencha leaves). Green tea has since then been a very important part of Japanese society and culture.
Shizuoka Tea Region
The Shizuoka growing region is also known as ‘The Kingdom of Green Tea’. Producing the largest amount of tea in Japan, this region lives up to its nickname. Shizuoka is responsible for producing almost half of Japan’s tea production between 40-45%. This region is located on the central coast of Japan, 150 km away from Tokyo, with a view of Mt. Fuji from the tea fields. Tea from the Shizuoka region is often referred to as the best tea in Japan. This region is mostly made up of small, family run operations growing a wide variety of tea. However, sencha tea is the region’s most famous variety, as they are the leaders of its production.
Kagoshima Tea Region
The Kagoshima region comes in second to Shizuoka for production rate. Kagoshima is responsible for 20% of Japan’s Tea. While other regions are leaders in a specific type of green tea, Kagoshima is the region that has the most variety of green teas grown. This region is in a volcanic region. There are many active volcanos nearby often leaving ash on the tea leaves to be washed off! Originally this region was insignificant to Japan’s tea production and only after WWII did they grow. Due to this, Kagoshima was seen more for its cheap price in tea rather than its quality. However, after WWII this all changed and Kagoshima is now comparable to the quality of teas of that from Uji and Shizuoka.
Uji Tea Region
The Uji region is famous not for their size of production but rather their high quality. Only 4% of this region makes up Japan’s tea production. Known around the world for their high quality of green tea, gyokuro and matcha are two of the most famous teas from this region. Located in this region is the oldest tea house in Japan, Tsuen Tea. This tea house has been in the same location since its opening in 1160. Today, the Tseun Tea house is still open and in operation for visitors to enjoy a cup of tea overlooking the Uji river.
Sencha, matcha, gyokuro, and other Japanese teas are available at the Short and Stout Tea Lounge or our online store. Check back next time when we’ll discuss what the differences in these green teas are and what makes them so different!
In our final installment of the yerba mate series, we highlight a few of the legends surrounding yerba mate. While consuming yerba mate, stories are shared amongst friends and are a very important aspect of enjoying the drink.
In this legend, Yari, the moon, and Tupa, the powerful god of the Guaranies, travel to Earth together. On Earth, they turn into two beautiful women and walk through the forest. After a while they became tired and decided to head towards a nearby cottage. Before arriving, a jaguar jumped out to attack them. A nearby Guarani man shot an arrow through the jaguar, saving them and then offered hospitality in his hut to the two women. After spending the night Tupa and Yari left, and went up to heaven to decide how to reward the family. One night they guided the family into a deep sleep and while they slept they sowed light blue seeds in front of their house. In the morning Yari told the family that through their hospitality the gods rewarded them with the yerba mate plant to share with the region, the symbol of friendship. They also granted immortality to their daughter, so that she would never lose her goodness and innocence in her heart. She then taught them how to toast and drink the mate. After many years, the old couple passed and the daughter had fulfilled her ritual obligations and disappeared from earth. It is said that from time to time it is possible to see her amongst the Paraguayan fields, a beautiful blonde girl reflecting innocence.
The Tupi Brothers Legend
This well-known legend takes place in Paraguay and discusses the origins of the Guarani people. Ancient ancestors of the Guarani crossed a vast ocean from a distant land to settle into the Americas. Two brothers, Tupi and Guarani led their people throughout this journey and feuded. Their feud divided the tribe into two groups named after the brothers. The Tupi people were more nomadic and fierce compared to the God fearing, agricultural Guarani. The Guarani people looked forward to the arrival of the tall, fair-skinned, blue-eyed and bearded God, Pa’i Shume. When he did arrive, he unlocked the secrets and health benefits of the yerba mate plant to the Guarani people. While this ancient tradition is today recognized only as a legend, the truth behind the health benefits of the plant have survived.
The Guarani Legend
Like the legend of the Tupi Brothers, the legend of the Guarani revolves around the god Pa’i Shume. The legend begins with an old farmer and his daughter. The old farmer falls ill and decides that he will not move again with the tribe, that he would rather live alone. His daughter refuses to leave his side and stays with him even after the rest of the tribe moves on. As a reward to the daughter, the god Pa’i Shume disguises himself as a shaman and gives the old farmer the yerba mate plant and teaches him how to roast and prepare it. After drinking the mate, the man gains the strength to accompany his daughter to reunite with their tribe. The old farmer and his daughter then shared the secrets of mate to them. From then on the Guarani people have consumed mate and used its health benefits.
Our liege waffles have a permanent home on our menu boards along with our new grilled cheeses. Unlike breakfast waffles, liege waffles are native to Belgium and are made from a dough not a batter. Pearl sugar is incorporated into the dough, caramelizing on the outside giving a rich, sweet, dense and chewy flavor to this non-breakfast waffle.
The history of this waffle is conflicting but legend states that during the 18th century Prince-Bishop of Liege asked his chef to create him a treat that used pearl sugar. The chef mixed dough and the pearl sugar together, cooked it as a waffle and thus the Liege waffle was born.
At the Lounge
There are two different sizes for our waffles in both small and large and we have a list of additional toppings to choose from including house made whipped cream, maple syrup, Nutella, fruit loops, and more. Indecisive? We have four signature waffles to choose from with toppings already picked out including the monkey with Nutella, bananas, house made whipped cream and chocolate a chocolate drizzle to finish it off!
Pairing teas with food always comes down to balancing flavors. Sweet liege waffles would pair best with strong, bold and malty teas. We would recommend a Lounge favorite like Assam Black Tea or Vanilla Escape Black Tea.
Yerba Mate derives from South America and is especially popular in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Similarly, guayusa also derives from South America and is very popular in Ecuador. A common way to consume both yerba mate and guayusa is in a gourd ceremony.
The yerba mate gourd ceremony is a symbol of hospitality and friendship. These very social events bring groups together and traditionally stories and legends were shared at this event. To begin a cebador or a mate server prepares the mate for the group. The most important role of the cebador in preparing the mate is making sure that the mate is properly steeped resulting in a rich and smooth tasting brew. Each person drinks from the gourd through a straw filter called a bombilla. There is no rush to finish the gourd and when the recipient has had enough they say gracias (thank you) indicating that they are finished. The cebador refills the gourd as needed and it continues to be passed until the mate is lavado (flat). The trick to drinking the yerba mate in this way is not to move the bombilla once the mate has been prepared.
Similar to the yerba mate gourd ceremony, the guayusa ceremony brings groups together. For thousands of years, Ecuadorian families have woken up early and share the gourd, sharing stories and legends around the fire. Hunters would drink guayusa before nighttime hunting trips allowing them to focus and get closer to the environment around them, guayusa is nicknamed “The Night Watchman” for this reason. In our third and final yerba mate blog series, the legends and stories evolved from both yerba mate and guayusa will be explored!
It is fascinating to learn that regardless of the continent, tea and in this case tisane ceremonies are important rituals for cultures. In our busy lives shouldn’t we too take time to continue a ritual of tea.
Yerba Mate (yer-bah mah-tay) is made from the leaves of the Holly Tree found in the South American rainforest. Just like mint, chamomile and rooibos, yerba mate does not derive from the Camellia Sinensis plant so it is not called a tea, rather it is a tisane. Unlike other tisanes found in the shop, yerba mate is naturally caffeinated carrying as much caffeine as coffee does without its common jitters or the acidic taste.
The plant contains numerous vitamins and minerals including, Vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin, B5, B Complex, Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, 15 Amino Acids among many others. The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific society in 1964 were interested in the plants health benefits and did a complete study. The investigators concluded “it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value” and that yerba mate contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.”
Another caffeinated tisane that derives from another Holly Tree is called guayusa (gwhy-you-suh). Like its yerba mate cousin, this tisane contains many health benefits. Guayusa contains, vitamins C and D, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and all 15 essential amino acids. Full of antioxidants, guayusa has even more than antioxidant rich green tea. Commonly found in energy drinks, guayusa is a great source for a caffeine fix. Yaupon is a holly plant that was steeped in hot water and enjoyed by the Native Americans.
These tisanes are grown in similar conditions. They are cultivated under the shade of taller trees to protect their leaves from direct sunlight, meaning more trees in the rainforest. Legends and ceremonies surround these unique tisanes, which will be explored in Yerba Mate Part II.