Japanese Matcha and Ceremony

What is Matcha?Oku Midori Matcha

Matcha literally translates to mean ‘ground tea’. Eighty percent of matcha produced in Japan come from Uji, Japan. Typically, around six weeks before harvest, the Tencha leaves are covered to reduce the amount of light to the plants. Doing this decreases the amount of photosynthesis in the plant and increases chlorophyll, giving Matcha its signature green color. This process also adds amino acids giving the tea its intense umami flavor profile. The newest and youngest parts of the plant are harvested, the leaves at the tip of the new shoots, and are then sorted into grades. These Tencha leaves are then destemmed, deveined, and then ground slowly and gently to produce Matcha powder.

How to Prepare Matcha and the Matcha Ceremony

 Tea has been a large part of Japanese society for centuries. Tea ceremonies originate from the days of the samurai’s and was meant for the elites. The current Matcha ceremony has been unchanged for 450 years. The ceremony was originally practiced solely by men however as demand increased it was taught to females. Today it is commonly studied as a hobby.

The tea ceremony has four principles:

Peace and harmony– All participants must have an open mind.

Respect– This must be given to the visitors host, utensils, and bowl. Many of the items used are expensive and it is said a bowl can be exchanged for a castle.

Purity– The space, utensils, and persons should be purified before and after the ceremony. The host will use a silk cloth throughout the ceremony and the color is significant: green/purple masculine, orange for feminine.

Tranquility– Harmony, small sounds, being quiet lets the participants hear smaller sounds.

The ceremony has many steps. The front part of the bowl faces the person and the artists name is on the bottom left. The bowl is turned clockwise twice before drinking or passing to someone. The ceremony is not considered a social event and is like meditation. There is no speaking during the ceremony so to show appreciation for the tea or ceremony the participant will slurp while finishing the bowl. When finished, the drinker will purify the bowl by rubbing the bowls lid with their finger and will wipe their finger on a cloth. After serving the tea a discussion can take place, but politics and religion are off limits.

A casual ceremony will last 45 minutes where a more formal can take place for 2-3 hours. Tea ceremonies take place at a tea house and can take place during the changes of the seasons or special occasions. Participants should not wear jewelry as it could scratch or damage the bowls. Watches are also discouraged, participants should not be worried about time.

The ceremony is an exercise of enjoying the moment. Each ceremony is a once in a life time opportunity; It will never be repeated.

At Short and Stout Tea Lounge, we have many of the necessary tools to experience a similar experience at home. Matcha bowls, whisks, rests, and spoons are found in our accessories. We are also making it easier to experience Matcha in your favorite drink. Ask to upgrade any tea at the lounge with a shot of Matcha, giving you the health benefits of this experience with your favorite taste.

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Japanese Tea Part 3: Gyokuro Green Tea

Gyokuro: IntroductionJapanese Gyokuro Green Tea

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

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.

Umami?

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!

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Introduction to Japanese Tea: Part 2

Japanese Sencha Cup and Pot

Sencha Overview

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!

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Albany Tea Festival

We are proud to announce the 2nd Annual Albany Tea Festival at Overit Media located at 435 New Scotland Av on Friday, June 3rd from 5:30pm to 9:00pm.

Capital Region’s Tea Professionals will be all in one place for this unique event. Six speakers are scheduled to discuss a range of tea related topics including tea/herb basic, culture, world tea traveling and future trends of tea. Tea and tea related vendors will be offering their products.

If you are a tea lover, this is the place to be. Join us for this free event and stay up-to-date with the most consumed beverage after water!  Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/581272638713014/

 

Albany Tea Festival

Albany Tea Festival

Albany Tea Fest Speakers

Albany Tea Fest Speakers

 

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Tea Journey to Northern Thailand: Part 2 of 6

Chiang Rai: First Day in Thailand’s Tea Growing Region

When things are meant to happen, they happen. I had my doubts that my tea journey and garden experience was not going to meet my expectations. When I heard that the owner of our first tea garden was going to pick us up at the airport, I figured that it was a good sign. I was even more excited to hear that they would be picking tea at the farm on that day.

When we met the owners at the airport, we were greeted with the largest smiles, you know the ones that is so joyful

Hand picking of tea leaves

Hand picking of tea leaves

that their eyes closed. They spoke good English and we discussed our respective role in the tea industry. The two sisters described how their four gardens of 100 acres each, 2 shops and 260 employees started with humble beginnings. Their father started with just a small plot of land and the factory was not much more than him in a barn. Each processes was completed by his personal experience and formal training in Taiwan for hand tea processing.  After decades of farming, their father grew the business to a much larger enterprise that utilizes temperature and moisture controlled rooms as well as large pieces of equipment. The business also celebrates accolades including: USDA Certified Organic, certified Thailand Biodynamic, and One Town One Product Champion.

The factory tour was intriguing. Yes, we’ve read all about the processing steps, but it was another to be in the factory

Solar withering of tea leaves

Solar withering of tea leaves

amongst the workers practicing their craft. We had an opportunity to closely observe the process of making Oolong, the most popular type of tea produced in Thailand. The pickers pulled two leaves and a bud between the tip and knuckle of their pointer finger and their thumb. They would slide the picking to their palm to repeat the process twenty times in 10 seconds before dumping their stock into their basket. After their picking they have an hour to lay their tea out for quality inspection and solar wilting. Then the leaves went through seven steps of wilting and tumbling. The tumbling in bamboo chambers causes the leaves to “wake up” and wilting occurs again after letting it stand in humidity controlled rooms. The tea is let to sit longer to continue its withering. This is the process to ensure that the water component in tea leaves get out as much as possible.  Next is another two step process of firing and massaging. Each task is repeated 36 times. The roaster is set at 570 degrees. Final step is the Drying and sorting of leaves of similar size

Tea Roasting and Massaging

Tea Roasting and Massaging

to ensure uniform infusion.

The tea factory includes a packing room for loose and bagged tea. They chop their finished product to make fannings for biodegradable pyramid tea bags. Lesser quality tea producers will use the tea dust left behind the sorting process or finely chop the machine cut fresh leaves before further processing. These shortcuts produce poorer tasting teas.

In all, the owners picked us up at the airport, fed us lunch, gave a wonderful tour and a broad sampling. When we offered to pay, they sternly refused and said that their customers in the tea business are like family.
And the journey continues…

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Pu-erh a Perfect Flavor for Fall

Since the change in seasons, my tea preference has changed. I am now navigating to something more rich, robust and yet less bite. Pu-erh has been my drink of choice for the past few weeks.

Simply put, Pu-erh (Pooh-Air) is an aged black tea. When we think of black tea we typically think of bitter and harsh. The aging process affects tea just like a couple of days affects stew. That is all the sharp flavors mellow into a nice smooth wholesome broth. The same holds true for aged Pu-erh.

Digging deeper into the history and process there are two types of Pu-erh. The most traditional Raw Pu-erh uses tea from the Yunnan Province in Southern China. The un-aged tea is very bitter so the aging process was born out of necessity for drinkability and storage. Raw Pu-erh is packed in compressed disks called cakes and aged a minimum of 15 years. These leaves hold up to several infusions and is often used in Gong Fu which is a Chinese method of preparing tea utilizing many infusions.

Ripe Pu-erh is a product of the modern age. This tea is typically found in loose form and produced by using moisture controlled rooms to speed up the aging process. Ripe Pu-erh can reach drinkability in 5 years. The downside is that Ripe Pu-erh tends to be generic in flavor where Raw will have more variability from cake to cake.

So whether you knew about Pu-erh or not hopefully you’ve learned something about this very important tea category.

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3 Tea Talks Scheduled at the Guilderland Public Library

Guilderland Public Library Tea Talks

 

 

We have teamed up with the Guilderland Public Library to give you our better than ever tea talks. Register for the events here: Guilderland Public Library Calendar

Introduction to Tea – November 12th

What is tea, anyway? Most people don’t know that white, green, oolong and black tea all come from the same tea plant, just what happen after it is plucked makes tea those different kind of styles. In this informative session we will discuss topics on tea basics including: what is tea, history of tea, how to brew tea and of course a tea tasting.

Herbal Teas and Tisanes – December 17th

Steeping an herb in boiling water makes tisanes, not tea. Tea only comes from the tea plant. In this session we will discuss topics regarding flavorful, easy to make and healthy tisanes. Of course the talk wouldn’t be complete without a tasting.

Health Benefits of Tea and Tisanes – January 28th

A lot of people drink tea because it tastes great and others drink it because it is healthy. Fortunately, both are right and the most healthiest tea is the one you drink the most. In this session we will discuss the health considerations of tea and tisanes. Brewing techniques will be discussed and tea samples will be provided.

 

Short and Stout Tea
Specialty Tea Shop and Lounge
1736a Western Av.
Albany, NY 12203

At Short and Stout, It’s Time for Tea!

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Albany Tea Festival Review

Friday, June Fifth of 2015 became the first ever tea celebration in the greater Albany area.  There were about 15 vendors including well known Divintea and the Whistling Kettle, plus tea educators, herbalists and honey and maple vendors. The crowd started early and was consistent throughout the evening. Overit Media did a fantastic job in utilizing their space to make everyone comfortable.

Tea Educational Seminars

For as many people flowing through the tables buying and drinking tea there was a contingency of about 20 people that stayed parked in the tea seminar area. Topics ranged in a variety including ginseng, herbals, kombucha, cold brewing tea and a fun tea trivia session. Each pro did a fantastic job captivating the audience with their specialty.

Tea Tabling 2

Liz moving people to the Tea Seminars

Tea Lounge

Tea Lounging

Tea Seminars

Tea Seminars

Tea Tabling

Tea Tabling

Many of the organizers got together at the end and determined that the timing of the year is perfect for the event and with the success of the first there has to be another. Look forward to June 2016!

 

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3 Things you Need to Know about the Albany Tea Festival

We are proud to announce that tea providers and educators throughout the region will be coming together in one room for the Albany Tea Festival.

1. This will be taking place on Friday June 5th from 5:30 to 9:00 at Overit 435 New Scotland Av. old St. Theresa Church.

2. There will be 5 guest speakers that will be discussing a variety of tea related topics.

3. There will be over 15 tea vendors present demonstrating their particular expertise in the tea trade.

We hope that you can come and make this “first ever” and annual event. Albany Tea Festival

 

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