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The Japanese Tea Ceremony, or Sado, has also been called The Way of Tea. It is an austere ceremony that is heavily influenced in Zen Buddhism, where the accompanying meal is in reality a prelude to the main tea ceremony. Let's take a closer look at the significance of tea in Japanese cuisine, while we take a break from our seasonal dishes that we have been introducing to our readers over the last two issues.

This month is all about tea--and you'll learn how to brew it to perfection by paying close attention to water temperature, and with the aid of a Zojirushi Water Boiler.

 
 
The Proper Way to Brew Green Tea

The informal tea, as when most of us drink green tea at home or at work, must be brewed properly to enjoy its maximum flavor and aroma. Most mistakes are made with the temperature of the water; too hot and the tea becomes bitter. Don't blame the tea leaves for a bad experience.

It may be obvious, but start with good clean water. Don't brew the tea for more than 2 minutes or so, as this will contribute greatly to the bitterness. The amount of tea leaves is also a factor; 1 teaspoon of leaves to a cup of tea is a good rule of thumb. And finally, make sure the water is the right temperature for the type of tea you are brewing. Unlike black teas, green tea does not require boiling water to brew. Here are some brewing temperatures for various green teas.

 
 
  Gyokuro 140°F
Brew high quality green tea delicately at a lower temperature. Fill tea pot with hot water & let stand for 2 min. to 3 min.
     
  Bancha / Hojicha 195°F - 208°F
Brew these teas at a higher temperature to get the most flavor out of the tea. Fill tea pot with hot water & let stand for 1/2 min.

Sencha is the most popular type of tea in Japan. It was introduced in the 1600's and was originally a brown color until a new processing technique, invented almost a century later, turned the tea into the beautiful green color that it is today. Sencha is said to have an almost grassy flavor, but it is a mellow tea when brewed with a lower temperature water.

 

• Green tea leaves need room to expand to reach full flavor; tea balls are not recommended, but most tea pots come with screen infusers which are ideal. Simple strainers will also work.

• Most types of green teas can be re-infused more than once; up to 2 or 3 times. If you do brew again from the same leaves, you should drink it immediately without waiting, for best flavor.

See how to brew Hot Green Tea (Sencha)
 
 
The Tea Ceremony

Sado can be classified into two types of ceremonial tea gatherings. Chakai is a simple course in which a thin tea is served with a light meal. Chaji is much more formal, usually with a full course Kaiseki meal and followed by a higher grade of thick tea, then finished with a thinner tea. A typical Chaji might last for at least four hours.

In both ceremonies, a powdered green tea called Matcha is used, and the ritual of preparing, serving and drinking the frothy tea is a spiritual experience that aims to harmonize the participants with their natural surroundings.

Matcha has been described as a full-bodied green tea, with a vegetal, astringent first impression, followed by a lingering sweet aftertaste. These days Matcha is widely used to flavor everything from noodles to mochi to green tea ice cream. And speaking of cold green tea flavor, Matcha powder makes an ideal iced tea.

 
 

If you like iced tea, you're going to love iced Matcha tea. Simply use one of ZOJIRUSHI's handy stainless steel vacuum bottles to make your iced tea, then take it with you for a healthy pick-me-up wherever you go.

 
     
  Put 1 heaping teaspoon of Matcha tea powder into the bottle. Fill with lukewarm water so powder will dissolve easier.
  Shake vigorously until Matcha tea powder dissolves completely.
  Drop in a few ice cubes, and you're ready to go!

Matcha is the powdered green tea used in tea ceremonies that was introduced to Japan by Chinese monks. It has its origins among the samurai and aristocratic class in Japanese history, when the art of Sado was first perfected in the 16th century.

See how to brew Matcha Green Tea
 
Popular Teas You May Like
 
England is well known for being a country of tea drinkers, and with black tea, the English are the largest consumers in the world. Milk tea seems to be the most popular; the age old argument being which goes in first, the milk or the tea? The British way seems to be that the milk comes first. Chinese food is known as one of the 3 Great Cuisines of the World. And there are almost as many teas in this great country as there are foods. The Jasmine variety is known as a blooming tea. The jasmine flower, which is wrapped in tea leaves, appears to bloom in the hot water when brewing, giving the tea its unmistakable fragrance of jasmine.
See how to brew British Tea
See how to brew Blooming Tea
 
Water Boilers
Stainless Steel Vacuum Bottles
 
 
You might recall how we talked about the traditional but more casual Kaiseki style of dining that you can find at Japanese inns. The Cha-Kaiseki incorporates the Tea Ceremony into this type of Japanese haute cuisine. It is a simple meal (Ichijyu Sansai) designed to set guests up for the tea, which is the real star of the dining experience.

Our Zojirushi Shokado Bento isn't as formal as Cha-Kaiseki, but the importance of green tea to the traditional Japanese meal is not lost. Brew your tea with the right temperature of water and let it steep properly; you'll become a fan of green tea in no time. It's the perfect pairing to enhance the tastes of Japan.

 
 
 
The Magic Tea Kettle
 
There once was a monk who loved drinking tea, and loved all the tools and utensils he would use to brew his tea. One day he came across an old tea kettle that he knew could look beautiful again with just some cleaning, so the monk took it back to his temple and polished it with care.

But as soon as he filled it with water and placed it over his fire to heat it, the kettle grew the legs and head of a badger (tanuki) and jumped off of the fire. "It's hot! It's hot! I'm burning up!" yelled the badger, and immediately started running away. The monk and his assistants finally chased it down, but when they got to it, it had turned back into an ordinary tea kettle.

"I can't have a haunted tea kettle in the house," declared the monk, so he decided to sell it to a junk dealer, who was always looking for bargains to support his poor business. That night, the tea kettle came to life again as a badger, and begged the junk dealer not to put him on the fire like the monk had done. "I'm not really a tea kettle," said the badger. "I'll do tricks and entertain you if you promise to take care of me and feed me rice cakes."

The junk dealer thought about this and decided to give the badger a chance. He soon had a thriving business, charging admission to the villagers who came from everywhere to see the badger dance and do his clever acrobatic tricks.

One day, the junkman said, "Badger, you must be tired of performing all the time. I have more money now than I'll ever need. Why don't you go back to the temple and live there for the rest of your life?" The badger thought about this and agreed, but with the condition that the monk never put him on the fire again. "Just leave that to me," said the junkman.

And so the badger lived out his days as an ordinary tea kettle, on display in one of the temple rooms, and he was never placed on a fire again. He can still be seen there today, where the monk's assistants make sure there are always a few rice cakes next to him.