Monday, 7 July 2014

Kasuga Ryokan, Hiroshima

Fortune Cookie


Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. 
(Samuel Beckett)


The thing about Hiroshima is that it is simply a very easy-going place. It's a city that is soft around the edges compared to say Tokyo or Kyoto.

A wedding photo-shoot in the Edo period Shukkei-en garden

Most of Japan is genteel and very friendly ...

until you keep your shoes on indoors that is. Emaciated old women on crutches will suddenly run a hundred metres shouting No! No! No! - if you-have forgotten to remove your bipedal covers. So one minute you are relaxed and then in full receipt of an impassioned scalding the next.

The Japanese-have extra-sensory perception when house slippers are involved. Both men and women know if you have left your shoes on or not. They are able to see you through brick, concrete with a special kind of vision. Do not attempt to flout the house slipper tradition.

You will be apprehended.

Gosh after that it was time for a cup of tea.

And so to Kasuga Ryokan.

Kasuga Ryokan is in the Ote-machi district of Hiroshima. Ote-machi is a working district that is in the centre of the city a pleasant fifteen minute tram ride away from Japan Railways Hiroshima.

I stayed in ryokan while I travelled around Japan because they provide Sencha or Gen mai cha green tea in the rooms as part of a beautiful polished wood tea set. Other teas often feature as part of any meals you take in the ryokan. To have tea machines, cups, trays and green tea provided was just ideal. 

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Gen Mai Cha taken at the low table in my six tatami mat room at Kasuga Ryokan.


After all meals in a ryokan, the name for a traditional Japanese inn, Hoji-cha is served. The smoky, roasted tea is lower in caffeine and a tasty way to finish off a Japanese meal.

See the post below for more on Hoji-cha

See also Ricardo Caicedo's blog My Japanese Green Tea for more on Japanese tea culture.

Happy Tea drinking!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Bibibidang, Busan, Korea

Singing Bird comes to you today from South Korea

A warm welcome to new readers from Japan, South Korea and Hungary.

Haeundae Beach, Busan

Fortune Cookie

KISS; keep it simple stupid


Its location overlooking the Sea of ​​Japan.

An interior that leaves the tea to do the talking.

If you like this blog see its twin  GuerillaZ  the travel blog  at the end of this link:

Polite, diligent and accommodating female staff. I think it was difficult for them with an English speaker there. But they were attentive and kind.

I tried two teas: one green, one yellow.

These teas were grown in Hadong County, south-western South Korea. The area is well known in Korea for its production of high quality green tea.

The yellow tea was called Hwangcha. I asked for the "new tips" from the first ten days of April. More expensive of course. The first taste was wheat-like somehow. The taste trailed off to something more mellow and quite satisfying. The liquid had a deep colour not unlike oolong.

The yellow tea on the left.

The green tea Nokcha was of a different order altogether The leaves were sencha-like needles but finer and shorter The taste was extraordinary It is, to date, the best tea I have tasted; Grassy, ​​perfumed, and made the birdsong sound sweeter. Steeping time, a gongfu brewing of 10 seconds. After 90 seconds it became so astringent it was close to undrinkable. Of course you can use the leaves several times.

The yellow tea made in the chocolate-coloured pot.

Only one sweet remaining.

e green tea

In the Lift down to the Street. I Sighed a Contented Sigh. The two Ladies in the Lift with me said, Bibibidang.

Worth the hour long bus ride and 30 minute walk through Korea's second city.

If you have any problems finding it ask in the Chinatown Tourist Information Office mentioning the tea room name and location on Dalmiji hill.

Singing Bird comes to you soon from Hiroshima, Japan.

Happy Tea Drinking!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Bubble Tea


Bubble Tea

Fortune Cookie

你 main 减仓

Thou shalt lighten up

Bubble tea hits London.

I saw two boba or bubble tea shops in Chinatown. One, not this one, had a long queue outside.

Traditionally bubble tea is a beverage made from a mixture of Taiwanese black tea, milk, condensed milk or honey and tapioca pearls. It was brought together as a commercial drink in the 1980s but original concoction was a cold tea and tapioca pudding blended by a woman who specialised in dessert making in Taiwan. It was know then as fen yuan 芬元.

The pearls can be a trouble to cook before they are added to the syrup mixture. They stick together in a glutinous mass so be prepared to stir and supervise. The rest of the drink is relatively straightforward. See below. This is a tea you can chew, have hot, cold or chilled.

Feel free to adjust this basic bubble tea recipe according to your own tea and flavoring preferences adding: mint, fruit syrup, green tea, rainbow pearls, evaporated milk.

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,          3 Ounces Tapioca pearls
,          Sugar Syrup
,          1 CUP brewed Tea (Chinese Tea or Lychee Black Tea IS good) 
,          1 CUP Milk (or to Taste)
,          Ice Cubes
,          Tapioca Pearls
,          Tapioca pearls Part 1
,          4 Parts (or More) Water
,          Sugar Syrup
,          2 Parts white Sugar
,          Brown Sugar Part 1
,          3 Parts Water

Prepare the sugar syrup for the tapioca pearls (see below).

Prepare the tapioca pearls (see below)

Allow the tea to cool to room temperature. Add the milk.

To make the Tapioca pearls: .. - Making - - When the Tapioca pearls, Which Are the Chief Ingredient in Asian Bubble teas, Please Note That the pearls - - When cooked Expand Considerably Please Ensure That you use a large Pot As a Rule, the more pearls cooked, the more water should be used: that is, the water to pearl ratio must be higher. 

Boil the Water. Add the pearls to the boiling Water and Boil for 30 Minutes. Stir to make sure the pearls Occasionally Are not sticking to Each Other or to the Pot. Turn off Heat and let the pearls in the Steep Water for Another 30 Minutes with the lid of the cooking pot on.

. Drain the tapioca pearls and rinse with cold water to cool them down Place them in sugar syrup ... (Sugar and water solution - see below) Make sure that the pearls are covered Stir the pearls well They are now ready to enjoy.

To make the Sugar Syrup : .... in a Saucepan, Bring the Water to Boil Add the Sugars Reduce Heat and Heat until the Sugar Crystals Are Dissolved Remove from Heat. 

Add the sugar syrup, milk and tea mix, and the ice cubes to a cocktail shaker and shake well. 

Pour the shaken mixture into the glass with the tapioca pearls. Serve with a thick straw.

Boba tea is fun and really quite nice on the palate. 

Happy tea drinking!

Monday, 3 March 2014

In a Cup of Tea

In a Cup of Tea

Fortune Cookie

Not clothes 从是 free basis Fundamental authenticity.

Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty ~ Henry David Thoreau

"In a Cup of Tea";

Kobayashi's  Award-Winning film  IS MADE up of F Kwaidon . ghost Our Stories . Won The film a Cannes Special Prize in the 1960s This IS the film Trailer: -

The tea story lies at the end.

"In a Cup of Tea" IS Adapted from  Lafcado  Hearn's Kotto: Being Japanese Curios, with Sundry Cobwebs (1902).

A Writer who IS Anticipating a visit from the publisher, Keeps Seeing Faces in a CUP of tea. He IS writing a Story
about a Samurai's squire who begins to see a face in his cup of tea. We only meet the writer at the story's end.

The film won the Palm D'or Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1965.

The cup of spilled tea haunts the squire.

The squire sees the soul in his cup of tea. Eventually he drinks the tea with the image in it.

The soul about to be swallowed.

The meaning of the stories are left unexplained and is for the audience to determine. That the stories come from Japanese folk tales suggest a way to read such a story. All four stories are about the spirit world and the need to have a respect for the dead, the need to monitor personal behaviour and respect. 

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Musing on tea

Tea in 19 th  Century Culture

The affinity of Female Sympathy with tea-Making HAS distinct class associations That Oscar Wilde, Amongst OTHERS, Sought to exploit in order to Undermine the power of the tea Sign. - When William Thackeray Nature Praised for Making the tea Plant, calling it a 'Confidante 'for women, he has specific social scenes in mind.
The luxury back then was not in having tea - it was widely available by the 1890s and was a social inevitability, as evidenced by such columns as "Over the Tea Cups" - but in the exaggerated artistic inutility of tea drinking that that suggests how serious IS the maintenance of exclusivity. Check  Terence Eagleton's ViewPoint in  The Ideology of the Aesthetic , the View That Aspects of tea Culture IS Commodified Art. Artifacts Become Commodities WHEN "They exist for Nothing and nobody in Particular, and CAN Consequently BE Rationalised, Ideologically Speaking , as existing Entirely and gloriously for Themselves "(Eagleton, 9). THUS Art for Art's Sake depends upon Commodification. THESE tea Ceremonies Are Art forms in That They Are "conveniently Sequestered from all Other social Practices, to Become an Isolated enclave WITHIN Which the dominant social order can find an idealised refuge from it's own actual values ​​of competitiveness, exploitation, and material possessiveness "(Eagleton, 9).

Of course this a very grumpy viewpoint and mean-spirited. It does not affect this writer's enjoyment of tea.

In The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde ridicules THESE values ​​Whilst Affirming Their propriety as Aestheticized Elite behaviors, the values ​​Confirming That, ironically, Underlie the "wide Dominion of Great Britain" in the Age of New Imperialism.

But do these behaviours persist in the tea bars and rooms of the contemporary era?

Or has the dominance of coffee everywhere removed these tea values?

One critic I read somewhere suggests that tea is both a feminine and effeminate pastime for elitists to demonstrate their mastery of taste. A way for women in particular to display their hands and arms in delicate movements of grace and precision. The same could be said of men as they prepare the tray as "tea master".

This is tea as seen by Nikita Khrushchev but it is a viewpoint.

I do remember talking about drinking green tea to people who drank only black tea from teabags. They looked at me as if I had dropped down from another planet.

Certainly I Will Continue to pour Some Water, at 80 Degrees F, ONTO Some  Bac Thai  this evening this.

Happy Tea Drinking!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Nine Teas

9 Teas

Fortune Cookie


The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.

Welcome to readers from Finland and the United Arab Emirates

I thought of the happiness drinking tea has brought me lately and it surprised me.

At the shambolic surface of my desk I decided to do an inventory on the teas I had in my tea chest and cupboard.

This is what I found.

In the garage I have a good Sencha, a Genmaicha, three flowering tea balls and another tea I can't remember what. I drank all the Rose Congou and Chun Mee while I was travelling through Indochina last year.

I am just in the process of finishing a batch of Sencha Sakura, and a tiny 50g box of Happy Valley Darjeeling.

That leaves nine teas. Five are Chinese, two Vietnamese, one Japanese and one of indeterminate origin.

Taiwanese Oolong                        Gunpowder tea from Zheijiang province      Earl Grey Blue Royal

Fujian oolong. I must be perverse because I can never entirely get along with oolong. Woody and smokey more than a little is too much for me. Two cups works fine.

Gunpowder tea from Zheijang

Deep and rich this is smooth and strident green tea using whole leaves.

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Earl Grey Tea (black tea said to come from China with added oil from the bergamot green orange from Italy). Whether the present day leaves still come from China is moot. Think Kenya, Uganda, India.

The taste is sweet, subtle but the fragrance always fades after three or more weeks. Drink quickly.

Bac Thai (yellow tea)                              Hojicha                          Vietnamese Lotus Tea

                  Bac Thai from Thai Nguyen

It's a nice tea with a rich liquorice smell. The black leaves produce a lemon yellow tea. 

Bac Thai steeped. A rather beautiful thing. 

Hojicha (Japanese roasted tea)

A tea easy on the eye. spiky roasted tea which is rich and nutty. Wonderful on the nose but very mild on the palate. A tea to generate smiles. Made from low grade tea known as Bancha.

Lotus tea (tra sen) from Lamdong

A super tea with floral notes. A subtle tea that carries a bouquet that inspires happy feelings. The smoothest tea I have had in the last 12 months.

                 ? Mystery Tea ?           Yunnan Green Tea            Russian Caravan Tea                

Unknown Tea Leaves

Unknown tea steeped: the aroma is faintly of lemon with a malt undertone. It is a mild black tea. 

I have no idea what this tea is or even where I got it from. It may have been a gift from a year ago when someone bought me six teas.

One day I will discover what this tea is.

Yunnanese Black Tea

Mild and lightly smoky.

Russian Caravan Tea

Russian caravan tea is a blend of oolong, keemun and lapsang souchong all produced from Camellia Sinensis the Chinese tea plant.

This tea is not easily found. It is malty and a big favourite at the Cardews Tea Emporium in Oxford. I can see why. A comforting blend.

Happy Tea Drinking!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Tea @ the Covent Garden Hotel

Welcome to readers from Israel and Romania

Fine tea at the Covent Garden Hotel

Christmas Lights at Seven Dials

Fortune Cookie

Rivers need springs

Satodoru 斯需 main 彈簧

The opportunity came again to drink fine tea. It got me to thinking about the origins, places, 

people and processes behind a simple order for a pot of tea.

Fine tea complete with mince pie.

A second flush muscatel Darjeeling

Darjeeling is high up in the hills of West Bengal. These are essentially the mammoth hills just below the Himalayas.

Traditionally, Darjeeling teas are classified as a type of black tea. However, the

modern Darjeeling style employs a hard wither (35-40% remaining leaf weight

after withering), which in turn causes an incomplete oxidation for many of the best

teas of this designation, which technically makes them a form of oolong. They

certainly present as an Oolong in their light, golden colour. Many Darjeeling teas

also appear to be a blend of teas oxidised to levels of green, oolong, and black.

The first flush  IS Harvested in mid-March spring Following Rains, and HAS a gentle,

very light colour, aroma, and mild astringency.

Between tea in  IS Harvested Between the two "flush" Periods.

Second flush  IS Harvested in June and Produces an Amber, full bodied, Muscatel-

flavoured cup.

Monsoon  or  Rains  tea IS Harvested in the Monsoon (or rainy Season) Between

second flush and autumnal, is less withered, consequently more oxidised, and

usually sold at lower prices. It is rarely exported, and often used in masala chai.

Autumnal flush  IS Harvested in the Autumn after the rainy Season, and HAS a

somewhat less delicate flavour, less spicy tones, but fuller body and darker


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Then again I could choose a silver needle white tip from the Fujian province of China.

Baihao Yinzhen  white silver needle is also known as White Hair Silver Needle, is a white tea produced in Fujian province in China. 

Amongst  white teas , this IS the most expensive and the most Variety Prized, as only 

top buds (leaf shoots) are used to produce the tea. Genuine Silver Needles are made 

fromcultivars of the  Da Bai  (Large White) tea tree Family. This tea HAS Fine Downy 

hairs which catch the light. It is commonly included among the China classic teas.

Choosing between the two teas very difficult. 

This is a beautiful hotel that serves ten fine teas and a range of herbal teas. All loose leaf of course.

And while you are in Covent Garden you could buy some fine cheese

Or high quality coffee

Happy tea drinking wherever you are

Cheerio for now