There are many unique drinks in Japan including Ramune, a lemonade with a marble as a cork, strangely named sport drink, Pokari Sweat, strong distilled alcoholic beverage called shochu and so on. Coca-Cola alone has 850 different flavours in Japan. However, the two most traditional and famous Japanese beverages are green tea and sake. And I love both.
Recently I bought two green teas, Sencha and Gyokuro, from a Japanese online shop, Yuuki-Cha. Sencha is an everyday green tea most common in Japan. Almost like English Breakfast in Britain. While Gyokuro is the most premium Japanese green tea. Its name means jade dew, which refers to the pale green colour of the brewed tea. Gyokuro tea leaves are shaded from the sunlight for at least 20 days before harvesting, which gives the tea its sweet flavour. It’s believed that the technique was developed at the end of the Sengoku period in the 16th century. The green teas have arrived in colourful packages and I was very keen to try them.
In order to enjoy the exquisite taste of Gyokuro properly, I previously bought a beautiful tea set consisting of a hohin teapot, a yuzamashi (a water cooler) and two small teacups. The tea set was made in the famous town of Tokoname in Aichi prefecture.
Gyokuro goes very well with wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets. As it happened my daughter was in Central London a few days ago so she stopped by Minamoto Kitchoan, a traditional Japanese confectionery. There she bought two delightful cakes: Mame Daifuku, a small round mochi stuffed with red bean paste and azuki beans mixed into it, and Oribenishiki, chestnut paste and sweet red bean paste wrapped in softly-cooked steamed bun, which I was hoping to consume with the Gyokuro green tea.
Unfortunately, an accident happened. I was reaching for something on the upper shelf and dropped a pack of tea on the kitchen counter exactly where the hohin teapot was sitting, knocking it down to the floor causing complete breakage of the gentle ceramic. For the first few minutes I was really upset. I bought the teapot not too long ago and only used it a few times. It was not the cheapest of things and it took a few weeks to arrive from Japan. Then I thought of the ubiquitous Japanese phrase, shōganai (しょうがない), it can’t be helped. I can always order a new teapot, which will be even better. With that in mind I made Sencha tea instead and enjoyed the Japanese cakes with my daughter.
The cakes were really scrumptious! I liked the chewy but still soft mochi in daifuku and the texture of the bean paste and a few whole beans, which created a very unusual combination especially for a Western palate. Oribenishiki is one of my favourite traditional Japanese cake. I love the soft bun called manju and the mixture of the chestnut and bean pastes. It just melts in your mouth. The Sencha tea was also very good: not very intense but rather soft and mellow with a bit of sweetness and the clean aftertaste. It had a nice green colour and was very refreshing.
I will try to buy a replacement for my teapot as soon as possible and will report here on the Gyokuro tea from Yuuki-Cha.