25 Apr 2016 in Food Culture
Discover the secrets of the green tea ceremony, a symbol of the Japanese lifestyle.
Mankind has known about tea for 3,500 years and nowadays it is the most consumed drink in the world after water and ahead of coffee. Did you know that although all teas come from one and the same plant “Camelia sinensis”, it is the timing of the harvest and how it is processed which defines them – white, blue, green, red or black.
Did you know that Japanese tea is a very particular tea? Only “green”, it is characterised by its production processes which are specific for each tea. The most well-known and famous is undeniably matcha tea used in the tea ceremony. Were you aware that to obtain this unique tea, tea plants are covered for at least 20 days before harvesting to filter the sunlight, and the young shoots are then picked by hand one by one as soon as they are of good quality and have the desired firmness. Did you know that to prevent them from fermenting, the leaves are steamed immediately, and then dried and air-sorted, and dried again at 170°. Then, these leaves are ground just before distribution in order to conserve all the flavours. This tea powder is diluted in hot water with a small bamboo whisk resembling a small brush, known as a chasen on serving. Why not come and see for yourself?
Experience the tea ceremony which takes place on the edge of the Oîgaiwa River on the terrace of the HOSHINOYA Kyoto, where this delicate moment takes on another dimension during spring when the cherry trees are in bloom. A little later in May, the hotel is the starting point for excursions to the tea plantations where you can discover this world and meet the producers with the added benefit of a tea-leaf-based lunch.
The second most famous tea in Japan is Sencha, which is the ultimate Japanese green tea. Did you know that the leaves are picked and immediately steamed to prevent any oxidation of the leaves and then processed on a heated work surface to a temperature of 40-50° until they are completely dry? The operation may take 4-7 hours. Only about 100 grams of tea is obtained at the most. Consequently, you will better understand the sales price of this green gold.
Sencha tea represents 80 % of tea drunk in Japan. You can enjoy this tea during a break in your stay at the Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu in the Shizuoka Prefecture, a tea-growing region bordering the Pacific Ocean not far from Mount Fuji. To really appreciate the tea you infuse it in water at 80°, since above this temperature, it would take on bitter and tannic notes in the mouth. This fresh and delicate tea is a marvel for whoever appreciates it, but nevertheless does not attract all palates with its admittedly somewhat particular green notes. Take time to taste this pure and delicate drink, which has played a part in the Japanese lifestyle for centuries.