Welcome to readers from Finland and Liberia
Who would then deny that when I am sipping tea in my tearoom I am swallowing the whole universe with it and that this very moment of my lifting the bowl to my lips is eternity itself transcending time and space? ~ D.T. Suzuki
Sakura is the ubiquitous flowering cherry tree planted in Japanese parks, along streets and within commons and yards. During late March through May, Sakura blooms across Japan. The Hanami festival celebrates the coming of the spring season and is the time to take a stroll and view the blooming cherry trees. The cherry blossom symbolises feminine beauty, the feminine principle and love in the language of herbs. Cherry blossoms, with their short blooming times, are believed to represent the transient nature of life.
Sencha is a high quality green tea grown in Japan. It is steamed briefly and rolled, shaped and dried into the distinctive thin cylinder shapes. Since it is not roasted like Chinese green teas this tea has a more vegetal, almost grass-like taste and aroma.
There is a pure form of cherry tea that involves only cherry blossom and no green tea leaves. In this tea, Sakuraya, the petals are actually pickled in plum vinegar and salt and the product subsequently dried.
Green tea was first brought to Japan by Myoan Eisai, a Buddhist priest who developed the
Rinzai Zen school from the Chinese form of Buddhism.
Japan grows other kinds of tea and produces roasted tea but the country is best known for its green tea. The best Japanese green is said to be that from the Yame region of Fukuoka and the Uji region of Kyoto. The so-called Uji area has been producing Ujicha (Uji tea) for four hundred years and predates the prefectural system. Uji is now a combination of the border regions of Shiga, Nara, Kyoto and Mie prefectures. Soraku district in Kyoto is one of the many tea-producing districts. Shizuoka prefecture is the most productive producing fully 40% of Japan’s raw tea leaves.
Sencha sakura is quite a beautiful tea. To the eye and on the palate. The flavour is naturally sweet and extremely calming and quite deeply pleasurable. Purists baulk at the notion of tea with any flavouring but I do not have any problem drinking this tea. The aroma is wonderful and soothing. The strength is there and the quality of flavour of the leaves still strident beneath the subtle sweetness and delicate fragrance.
Sencha has a distinctive cylindrical or needle like appearance which is a result of the drying and rolling process used in the production of sencha tea.
A tea field in the Kyoto region
For an in-depth view of Japanese green tea and its cultivars visit Ricardo Caicedo's site below:
If you like travel see Singing Birds sister site GuerillaZ below.
Today I use a glass teapot modelled on the Chinese style. Now I can see the tea colour at all times including the short period of initial steeping. The tea requires only 1 - 2 minutes to steep. Ensure the water is around 80 degrees fahrenheit. The leaves can be used for another wash but with less water and a less distinct flavour.
An historic image of the tea ceremony in Japan.
I think 2014 will be the year of the tea ceremony for me; I plan to partake in Vietnam, China, in Japan and with some persistence Seoul, South Korea and Pyongyang, North Korea.
Happy tea drinking!