Blog Updated (1st March 2012)

New Layout March 2012

New Layout March 2012

We have updated our blog with a new theme/layout as of today (1st of March 2012).

Please let us know if you spot any errors etc. when using the new layout. In the right column you should be able to link to all of our “recent” posts and archives along with links to Facebook and Twitter. There should also be an RSS feed and a link to our store in the right column, too.

We hope you like the new simple tidy layout! Hopefully we’ll have some time to do some blogging now. It’s been a while! :)

Japanese Oolong Tea 2011

This summer we have been involved in a number of interesting tastings at the Yuuki-Cha HQ, none more interesting or diverse than a sampling of a selection of Japanese oolong teas received just this week. This year our creative minded grower in Miyazaki has made quite a fine selection of whole leaf oolongs including 5 new “Oolong-Blacks”.

Pictured below is one of the “Oolong-Blacks” in action. This particular one is made from fairly coarse summer harvest leaves and is more towards black. Produces a first steep with a sweetness that reminds us of sweet potato!? Later infusions are light and refreshing with some subtle fruity notes. Enjoyable through multiple steeps, especially when steeping it in a small Gyokko kyusu:

"Oolong-Black" brewing in a Gyokko Masterpiece.

"Oolong-Black" brewing in a Gyokko Masterpiece.

First infusion liquor color and steeped leaves.

First infusion liquor color and steeped leaves.

Steeped leaves in small-sized Gyokko Kyusu showing off the trademark Gyokko Yohen-style technique.

Steeped leaves in small-sized Gyokko Kyusu showing off the trademark Gyokko Yohen-style technique.

We hope to add a couple of these 2011 Oolongs to our Japanese Oolong Tea category fairly soon!

Rare Koicha Meets Gifted Chawan!

This week a sample of a super rare handpicked organic Uji koicha matcha made from the precious Asahi varietal touched down at the Yuuki-Cha HQ!

Only around 400g of this precious matcha is up for grabs from the grower, so it might not see the light of day at Yuuki-Cha this year, but we’ll have to wait and see about that…

When a precious matcha like this comes to hand it’s time to pick out a super-duper chawan! The lucky chawan that was chosen for this special occasion was gifted to us some months ago by a wonderful chap named Don Goddard who is a potter based in Quebec, Canada.

A beautiful chawan!

A beautiful Don Goddard chawan.

The kodai/koudai (the foot)!

The kodai/koudai (the foot).

The inside of the chawan.

The inside of the chawan.

The bright Asahi matcha powder ready for action!

4 scoops (yes 4!) of the Asahi matcha powder ready for action!

Matcha prepared thick (koicha) with no froth!

Matcha prepared thick (koicha) with no froth!

Asahi is often referred to as “The Queen of Tencha” and that is certainly a worthy title! The taste is so pure, clean, and elegant. On the other hand, Gokou, another varietal (available HERE) is known as “The King of  Tencha” and tastes thick, rich, and creamy. An enlightening contrast!

Uji Report 2011 Part 3

This is the final part of our 3 part series of reports from our grower’s organic tencha plantation in Uji!

For this report we have put together a film strip of the six most important weeks of growth of Gokou and Samidori (AKA Tenkei Hana & Tenkei Tori). The same branch for both breeds was monitored for the six weeks!

First up, we have the filmstrip of the precious Gokou growth. In Uji Report 2011 Part 2 we told you that this year’s harvest of Gokou might be slightly less than normal. However, it turned out that the yield was actually slightly more than usual and the taste of Gokou is expected to be excellent! The filmstrip of Gokou growth 2011:

The Gokou filmstrip of growth 2011

The Gokou filmstrip of growth 2011

Next, the Samidori filmstrip of growth! From week five (14th May 2011) you can see that the main branch wilted while the new growth was determined to remain upright. This wilting was caused by a number of days of excessive rainfall during that week. Tea bushes growing in well-drained soil can recover from this fairly rapidly, so by week six (20th May 2011) you can see that the branch is back in its upright position and has revitalized itself once again! This year’s Samidori will surely be revitalizing to say the least! The filmstrip of Samidori growth 2011:

The Samidori filmstrip of growth 2011

The Samidori filmstrip of growth 2011

By week six the tea gardens are under full shade of 95-97% and are just about ready for handpicking. The following two images are very good representations of what a genuine oishita-chaen (covered tea garden) looks like under full shade.

Here is the Gokou tea garden:

Organic Gokou Oishita-Chaen under full shade 2011!

Organic Gokou Oishita-Chaen under full shade 2011!

Here is the Samidori tea garden:

Organic Samidori Oishita-Chaen under full shade 2011!

Organic Samidori Oishita-Chaen under full shade 2011!

If you have read all three of our Uji blog reports from 2011 you would have probably realized by now that genuine high quality matcha is shade cultivated in stages over a prolonged period of time (e.g. 6+ weeks, not just 2-3 weeks at 90% shade). It’s cultivated under what is known as Tana (almost always black sheeting these days, very rarely straw etc.). Tana is coverage suspended above the tea bushes (not coverage directly on top of the tea bushes). Lastly, genuine high quality matcha is always handpicked (not machine harvested or scissor cut).

If it’s genuine high quality matcha you desire that conforms to all of the above outlined high standards and you want to know, and actually care about, where and how your matcha was cultivated, and most importantly want to support a genuine product, Tenkei Hana & Tenkei Tori are as genuine and as honest as they come!

Uji Report 2011 Part 2

Week 3 & 4 at the organic tencha gardens of Uji! (For week 1 & 2 please see Uji Report 2011 Part 1).

From week three you can start to see the precious young leaves of gokou tea bushes sprouting out. It is also the time of year when both beneficial and pest insects start to become active around the organic tea gardens. A close up of the gokou tea bush (below) you can see spider webs. There are literally hundreds of spiders living in organic tea gardens and also many ladybirds, lacewings and frogs busying around at this time of year. These are all beneficial insects which help keep deadly pest insects like thrips under control which can be detrimental to tea bush growth. Living in harmony with insects, birds, and living creatures is a traditional farming principle in Japan and is really special to see especially when considering most Japanese tea gardens these days, especially shaded tea gardens, now rely heavily upon chemical pesticides to wipe out insects.

Here’s week three and four growth of gokou tea bushes 2011. Our grower told us gokou tea bushes will produce a slightly smaller yield this year:

Gokou - Week 3 & 4 Growth

Gokou - Week 3 & 4 Growth

Week 3 & 4 in the samidori tea garden you can see how vibrant and lustrous the growth has already become compared to the more methodically growing gokou tea bushes:

Samidori - Week 3 & 4 Growth

Samidori - Week 3 & 4 Growth

Week 4 shading of both tea gardens is considered to be stage 3 which is around 90% shading. A thicker black sheet is now pulled over the tea bushes as opposed to the thinner sheet we showed in the Uji Report 2011 Part 1. Correctly shading tea bushes for tencha requires incredible expertise and is not something any regular tea grower can do. One of the most difficult aspects of the shading process is to maintain steady growth and at the same time grow the leaves big enough without them hardening. They must remain thin and tender, yet big enough to produce tencha from the mesophyll part of the leaf. Here’s week four at the gokou and samidori tea gardens under around 90% shading:

6th May 2011 - Organic Gokou Tea Garden in Uji

6th May 2011 - Organic Gokou Tea Garden in Uji

6th May 2011 - Organic Samidori Tea Garden in Uji

6th May 2011 - Organic Samidori Tea Garden in Uji

Since 13th May handpicking of leaves begun at the plantation and continues all through May as an when each breed is ready. Our grower in Uji has a number of small organic gardens at his tencha plantation, the most precious and prized of them all is the asahi varietal which grows at a really tiny plantation. We hope to reserve a small amount of tencha from this plantation in the not too distant future:

6th May 2011 - Organic Asahi Tea Garden in Uji

6th May 2011 - Organic Asahi Tea Garden in Uji