All tagged Japanese tea

My tasting notes: Machiko VS Fukumidori

Machiko is known to have the distinctive aroma of sakura, cherry blossoms, and fukumidori was described to me as bitter but in a good way, which is not a priority for me when choosing green tea from Japan (umami is at the top of the list usually). Apparently, Japanese tea drinkers seem to enjoy bitterness in their green tea and I was curious to see what that was like. Read on to discover my tasting notes and thoughts.

Japan. Tea in Kyoto

Kyoto is one of those places where I get what I can only describe as a fizzy feeling of excitement, sheer happiness bubbling up for no apparent reason. It’s the texture of the linen door curtains I gently move to the side with my hand, the brightest pop of yellow of the beautifully fan-shaped gingko leaves, all the shades of fire coloring the Japanese maples, the sound of water trickling into a stone basin, the soft rustling of a paper-paneled sliding door, the perfume-y smell of the cedar wood soaking tub, tatami mats under my feet. Four years had gone by since last time. This time, tea was at the top of my list. Here’s what happened.

A Japanese dessert and snack tasting with tea pairing in San Francisco

Have you ever heard the quote “where there’s tea, there’s hope”? I took the liberty of rewriting that into “where there’s excellent tea, there’s the tea squirrel” because wherever you can find top notch tea, you can be sure that place is on my radar and you might find me there to enjoy it. So naturally I had to visit Oyatsuya, a pop-up Japanese dessert and snack tasting with tea pairings in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco.

Ochazuke: a delicious Japanese tea soup

You can’t see me but I’m doing a little happy dance over here, because my trip to Japan is fast approaching!! I’ve never been to Japan in the wintertime and I’m super excited to visit again one of my favorite countries in the world. Cold weather means hot tea and comforting dishes and I will definitely be on the lookout for the best ochazuke, a Japanese tea and rice soup, basically the epitome of comfort food (but healthy). Usually, genmaicha and hojicha are the teas of choice but sencha and matcha can also be used. Today I’m testing out a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine.

Poached eggs with matcha salt

The original recipe for matcha poached eggs is attributed to the author of the cookbook The Breakaway Cook and founder of Breakaway Matcha, Eric Gower. I came across it after falling down an internet rabbit hole and being the curious squirrel that I am, I had to try it out and see what all the hype is about.

Comparing 2 single-cultivar matcha

Why do we love matcha so much? Personally, I love its color, sweetness, cocoa butter notes, hints of freshly cut grass (even better if there’s some umami taste), rich persistent foam and creamy mouthfeel. Honestly, I’ve been wanting to take it to the next level of tea geekness for a while. Unexpectedly, I found an intriguing method for matcha evaluation on the Kettl Tea blog (*). When I managed to find and get my hands on 2 single-cultivar matcha, the stars aligned. I had to compare them in a systematic way. The idea of “decoding” matcha is pretty exciting and I ended up learning more than I had ever expected to.

The marine layer tea cocktail

I am a huge fan of craft cocktails and I probably don’t have to tell you that I’m always on the lookout for tea-infused craft cocktails wherever I go. Recently, I’ve realized that 99% of the already scarce tea cocktails available on the local imbibing scene feature Earl Grey. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good Earl Grey tea cocktail, but I believe it’s high time bartenders tried something new. To make up for the lack of other teas in the craft cocktail world, I have a beautiful recipe for you. When I don’t go out, I love playing bartender at home. Let’s be honest, sipping a fancy, creative drink crafted with homemade and locally sourced ingredients and served with great attention to detail is still a fancy affair, even if you are in your pajamas and slippers.

Hojicha mochi muffins with hojicha tahini drizzle

Remember the mochi muffins? I while ago I had shared the recipe for matcha mochi muffins and - to date - it is still one of my most popular posts here on the blog. If you are not familiar with the mochi muffins (which I refuse to believe if you live in the Bay Area), let me tell you what the hype is about. This time around, I’m flavoring the mochi muffins with hojicha, roasted Japanese green tea, which I think pairs really well with the other ingredients.

A Tea Renaissance is Underway in the San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco might be known for its vibrant craft coffee scene, but did you know that a tea renaissance is underway in the Bay Area?Forget unexciting, mass-produced tea bags. Tea is worth geeking out over - as a tea blogger, I’m guilty of that. Think high-quality loose-leaf tea, so good it doesn’t need milk, sugar or flavorings. That’s the beverage with a growing following, people who care about origin, tea leaves to water ratio, temperature and quality of water, steep time and traditional preparation methods, like gong fu cha, the Chinese way of brewing tea with skill. It’s a niche, but it has seen some exciting developments lately. What makes San Francisco and the Bay Area the place to be for tea lovers? Why is the tea scene here so unique? I gathered the thoughts and perspective of some local tea professionals to help me answer these questions.

Matcha mochi muffins

Mochi muffins have become so popular in the Bay Area that I challenge you to find a cafe or tea house where you cannot get them. Their rise to stardom has been a quiet one, yet strong and steady. I keep seeing them everywhere. They’ve been in the news, they are on the menu at Asha Teahouse, Boba Guys serves them … need I say more? Despite being very curious, I had never tried them before (don’t ask me why). So I made them and suddenly realized what the hype is all about.

Matcha affogato

Affogato reminds me of Italy. A scoop of ice cream is "drowned" in a shot of espresso. A little guilty pleasure. Here I am deliberately switching espresso for matcha because the craft coffee movement is believed to be the predecessor of today’s high-quality tea industry, at least here in the United States. Thank you, craft coffee! I owe you one!The popularity of affogato lies in the combination of opposite flavors (bitter espresso VS sweet gelato) and different temperatures (hot espresso VS cold gelato). Opposites attract, we know that. Think of the many successful flavor combinations which rely on this principle, like sweet and salty (salted caramel, peanut butter and jelly, maple and bacon). It works. 

My tasting notes: Matcha Kan-no-shiro

I am sitting on a tatami mat. My legs start tingling but I barely notice it. My surroundings are so beautiful I can hardly perceive anything else. Outside the open screen windows there is a perfectly landscaped garden with stone lanterns and small stone bridges over a pond inhabited by black, orange and white koi. On the low table in front of me, a bowl of frothy matcha and a sweet rice treat. I am in Kyoto and I am never going to leave. Join me for a matcha tea tasting.

My tasting notes: Gyokuro

Whenever I enjoy tea, I need beautiful things around me. Flowers, for example. I've recently gathered my tasting notes for Gyokuro, also known as "jade dew" from Japan. When I think of Japanese art, the first thing that comes to mind are irises painted on a golden screen. Irises convey elegance and serenity. Now that we've set the mood, let's taste some tea!