ZOJIRUSHI
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Known as Hachijyuu-Hachiya, literally “eighty-eighth night”, this important day for the Japanese tea farmers signifies the best green tea harvest of the year. Spring season green tea, known as “shincha”, is highly regarded for its excellent quality and flavor. The 88th day from the start of spring, usually falling on May 2nd, signals a time when frost is officially gone for the year and is treated as a day of good fortune for tea harvested on this day.
This month Zojirushi is celebrating the spring tea season with desserts specially matched to pair with the best of Japanese green tea. Try making these traditional sweets and find out how good they taste with a cup of hot (or chilled) green tea!
East meets West with this delightful pancake sandwich filled with adzuki bean paste. Of all the fillings you might have used to make a pancake dessert, would you have thought of adzuki bean paste? Try this and you’ll never look back.
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Doesn’t this sound so healthy and yummy? Japanese sweet potato (satsuma-imo) has a yellow flesh, in contrast to the orange and less starchy American types, but either can be used. After steaming the potato and processing into a sweet paste, just refrigerate into a cool dessert.
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This is a very traditional Japanese dessert, usually filled with Adzuki bean paste, but can also be stuffed with white kidney bean, chestnut, or matcha. There are popular vacation resorts in Japan that sell steam cakes made with the steam from their hot springs.
See this recipe
Tea farmers work year ‘round to bring the finest tea leaves to your teacup, and green tea farmers may have the hardest jobs of all.
 
Spring to early summer is the busiest time of year for the farmers when all the harvesting happens. Everyone looks forward to the new crop (shincha), but timing is crucial to picking tea. Too early, and there will be fewer leaves to harvest; if picked two or three days late, the quality is compromised. Leaves are selected for the ideal size—not too large or too small. Sprouts are carefully monitored after they first appear on the trees because the leaves can become too large to harvest in a matter of days, which means the farmers must act quickly to pick as much as possible during this window. Hand picking is a trained skill, and said to produce a mellower and smoother flavored tea than leaves that are trimmed off by machine. Not surprisingly, traditionally hand picked Gyokuro, Sencha and Matcha are regarded as the best of the best of Japan’s green tea.
Prior to the actual harvest is a fertilization process in February and a pruning of the trees in March. Then 20 to 30 days before harvest, the trees for Gyokuro and Matcha are shaded from direct sunlight with special curtains, which gives these leaves a milder, sweeter flavor by blocking the production of bitter tannins. Sencha, on the other hand, is not shaded so that the direct sunlight can give it the desired bitterness and golden green color.
 
Summer is when a second pruning occurs, which serves two purposes. Some trees are pruned deep, which gives them time to stop growing and regenerate for the following season. Most are pruned back just enough to yield a second havest, or nibancha. There are even regions in Japan that can produce a third harvest (sanbancha), and a fourth (yonbancha). Nibancha harvested in June and July will generally be less mellow in taste compared to ichibancha, but can still be premium grade, and is therefore an important source of income for the tea farms.
Summer is also the rainy season in Japan, which brings the constant vigil against insects and diseases. Unhealthy trees will not produce a good crop, so guarding the tea trees against the enemy is critical.
 
Autumn is the peak time for the trees to grow—farmers work hard to enrich the soil with proper nutrients, testing the ph levels and aerating so it can breathe. Fertilization also takes place, which benefits the ichibancha harvest most, as it absorbs the most nutrients. Gyokuro and Matcha get three times the fertilizer of the other teas like Sencha, which creates the characteristic deep taste. Much care and nurturing goes into the soil to ensure the health of the trees.
October pruning produces leaves that are collected to make fall bancha (Houjicha), a type of tea that is processed by roasting, which creates the toasted, nutty flavor that many people love. Houjicha is pan-roasted and very low in caffeine, making it a favorite for children—and on a hot day, nothing beats ice cold Houjicha!
 
Winter is a time of protecting the tea trees from the cold by covering the soil around them with straw and dried grass to keep it warm. It also serves to keep moisture in the soil. Young trees especially, need to be protected from frost damage so they’re handled with great care. Tea trees become dormant during the long, cold winter months and go into a sort of hibernation—storing nutrition until the spring when they can sprout with full force! It’s no wonder farmers aren’t the only ones that look forward to the spring harvest. All the tea trees do too!
To truly appreciate tea, you’ll need to understand the constant care that tea farmers use, to bring their crop from their fields to your cup. Read this month’s article called The Four Seasons of Tea and you’ll want to make sure your tea is brewed properly, to get the full benefits of those precious tea leaves!
Japanese tea must be brewed at the correct temperature to get the most flavor out of the leaves; and the temperature varies depending on the type of tea leaves used. Always start with clean fresh water of course, and it helps to have a water boiler that can maintain the proper temperature for you at all times. You'll get the best tasting tea every time, and at any time.
  175˚F
Brew About 1 min.
160˚F
Brew About 2 min.
175˚F
Brew About 2 min.
 
   
  208˚F
Brew About 30 sec.
208˚F
Brew About 30 sec.
208˚F
Brew About 30 sec.
   
Sencha   Gyokuro   Matcha   Houjicha
  Bring tea with you in a Vacuum Mug:
Our Stainless Steel Vacuum Mug keeps your hot drinks hot and lets you enjoy teatime or coffee breaks anywhere you need it. Whether on the go or actively outdoors, an insulated vacuum mug keeps you mobile while it refreshes. Some of our mugs include tea strainers for a quick brew and go combination. If you really love your tea, you'll want to get one of these.
 
   
       
  Sencha   Matcha      
Here in time to give you a fresh look for spring!
These sleek mugs can change their looks and function by adding a screw-top lid in matching or contrasting colors.
 
 
Thank you readers, for all your support! Next month we’re going to re-introduce you all to our most popular rice cooker recipes. Don’t forget, your rice cooker can do so much more than just rice—and we’re going to show you how. Tell your friends and get them on our subscriber list!