I met my husband’s chado (Japanese tea ceremony) sensei on Saturday for the first time. His last sensei I saw several times a year since she lived in Lexington and headed the demos they all did until she moved back to Japan last Summer. Since then, my husband and two of his friends have been driving up to Champaign, Illinois, to meet with their current sensei once a month. However, this month, their sensei decided to come to them, instead. There isn’t much in my husband’s apartment in Cincinnati, so they chose to meet there to make sure they had enough space.
I thought this was the perfect opportunity to talk about tea. There are so many different varieties. Black, green, red, yellow, assam, chai, etc. I grew up drinking just regular black tea, iced. Then as I got older, Granny introduced me to hot tea with milk and sugar. I drank it that way for several years, before gradually taking out the milk and sugar. These days the only tea I drink with milk and sugar is chai, but mostly it’s the milk, not the sugar in the chai.
My preferences for tea these days are green, genmai cha (roasted brown rice tea), and chai. I tried red tea for the first time last year after reading about it being naturally caffeine free, as well as helping the body absorb iron, which I needed. I still haven’t gotten used to it. I’m sure if I try another brand I might like it more, but I think I’ll stick with my usual suspects. Why? Because green tea is anti-inflammatory, an anti-oxidant, it can help with liver detoxification, and is thermogenic which may help with increasing metabolism.
The tea on the left is some flowering tea that my cousin gave us when we visited her in Chicago back in May. Part of the allure of flowering tea is being able to see the flower open up. I had my eyes on glass tea pots for a while, then decided against it since it wasn’t really necessary to have. Well, the flowering tea made it necessary. Right? Besides, it came with an insert to brew a whole pot of loose leaf tea. That would make it useful for my loose leaf teas. The tea and the pot were made by Primula. It just so happens that my cousin gave us the green tea with jasmine. It’s been a nice little treat in the morning on those days when I can take my time.
During my husband’s class on Saturday, he called me away from writing for a few to partake in the koicha, thick tea, that was made. I enjoy the usucha, thin tea, that they make, but this was my first time trying koicha. If nothing else, I’ve learned to be a little more adventurous about trying new things. If you’ve never had matcha, it is bitter. I’ve seen many people screw up their faces at demos when they try it for the first time. At a demo back in January, they made some for the servers at the function and one of the woman was very vocal about the matcha needing sugar. There is a confectionary, or wagashi, that is served with the matcha. There are different types of wagashi – jellied, baked, sugar, and rice cake. The wagashi typically cuts down the bitterness of the matcha for many people. The sugar wagashi pictured on the right was used at a demo in May. Normally, my husband and his friends use a baked type at demos. For the class, though, my husband stayed up late the night before making yokan, a jellied confection made with azuki, red, beans. Back to the koicha. Sensei gave me a little background on koicha while I sat with them. Koicha is typically made for the entire group in one chawan, tea bowl, rather than each person gets a serving in a bowl of their own like usucha. The similarity he used to explain how and when koicha is used was communion. There is a certain reverence to a tea ceremony where koicha is being served. I knew taking my first sip that I should expect it to be bitter. What I discovered was not only was it bitter, but it finished sweet.
On that note, I think it’s time for tea.