Saturday, September 4, 2010

Japan Goes Black

My favorite monastery courtyard and tower, in Sorrento, Italy. The
pillars are all taken from defunct monasteries. Now, that's recycling!

The trees are already starting to lose their leaves. Two of them down the road have lost at least half. The farmer has gotten a third cutting of hay and his corn is beginning to move towards harvest color. It didn't get very big, due to the dryness. Fall is definately let us know it's lurking.

For the past week the blue jays and crows have been incredibly noisy, for what seems like hours. Their constant raucous cries have really gotten annoying. I haven't heard much from any song birds. I guess now that the young are raised, they may be off to more fertile climates. Or they are getting ready to leave. I saw one of those huge flocks birds make when they begin to head South. It always amazes me when they can wheel in near-formation. They are amazing creatures.

After a week of very high temperatures, today is quite different. Instead of being over 90, it may not even reach 70. The wind is blowing and the sky is gray instead of what has seemed like an oppressive blue. An ideal time for....You guessed it, TEA. And do I have tea. Yesterday I received 3 different lots. Two I had purchased and one was a gift of samples from the Boston Tea Company. The big problem now will be which to choose. I think I am going to go with a Japanese black tea.

I would bet you thought I made a mistake - Japan doesn't make black tea. Well, apparently they do. A new-to-me company in California, Far West Trading Company carries it under their T Bar brand. It is called Kocha. Cha is tea in Japanese, so ko must be black, as in kohl, which is used as eye liner. The company is located in Graton, CA, in Sonoma County, which is more famous for wine.

But on to the tea itself. The dry leaves are very black, tiny and with a lot of dust. I don't know if this is travel fatigue or just the way it is. They have an intense, sweet nutty smell, perhaps closest to hazelnut. There is also a strong scent of cooked squash. Both these aromas lasted all the way through the first and second cups. The directions say to brew for 1-3 minutes, with water just under the boil. Well, I decided to do all three, pouring out a cup at each minute mark.

The first was pretty bland and quite bitter. The second tasted more of squash than nuts, with a bitter edge. The third, brewed for 3 minutes was, for me, the best. The bitterness had disappeared and the nuttiness and squash seemed to have found their places, with the nuttiness most forward. There was also an understorey of clean earthiness, almost an old woody quality.
While this was very interesting, I don't think it will ever be a favorite, but I would probably serve it with a Chinese meal - I don't know how to cook Japanese, except for sukiyaki, with which this would go well.


Steph said...

Wow - what an interesting tea to try!

Anonymous said...

I work with a company called Tipu's Chai that makes an authentic Indian chai, from a recipe passed down through the family originating in Gujarat, India. They use organic and fair trade ingredients to create a truly bold and comforting chai.
I'm wondering if you'd be interested in receiving some samples for a possible review? If so, please just let me know where to send them. Thanks for your time!

Marlena said...

Travis, I would love to sample them - we've had friends from Gujarat and Hyderabad and I would love to do a comparison of their chais. Please contact me at mfamalfitano at yahoo dot com and I'll gladly send you my street address. Thank you so much