On: From Kyoto with Love

by Donnie Hayden © 2014, all rights reserved

kissable

kissable

Cherry Blossoms

Cheery Cherry Tree

I am no expert just opinionated based on my limited observation, but I believe there are no better symbols for love and matters of the heart than the cherry blossoms and tea ceremonies.

Both take care and the proper time to make the ordinary into the extraordinary.

In Japan, cheery trees are spread out across the country and bloom in their own time and at different times from late February and March.

To your left is a is a picture of the cheery cherry tree outside where we are staying

Like love, both the cheery cherry blossoms and tea require patience in order to appreciate their beauty and all that they have to offer.

It is the measure of our details applied, the care and focus and patience which squeeze out every drop of tea or matters of the heart which make the experience from ordinary to the extraordinary. After all, is this not what extraordinary is, just adding extra to the ordinary!

This is what I believe and what I observed in this ceremony and what I will continue to believe about all of life!

carpe tea-um (seize every drop of tea)! 🙂

Cheery Cherry Blossoms

Cheery Cherry Blossoms

The tea ceremonies are also, time sensitive. Precise measurement of tea, water temperature and many other details are necessary to extract the full measure of its flavor and properties to perfect the whole experience.

Tea-licious

Tea-licious

Everything is important

Everything is important

While in the United States, we may be in such a rush that we’ve little time to prepare or even enjoy our teas and coffees, but this is not how tea is approached in Japan.

Whoever coined the Land of the Rising Sun, or thought of Japan as a country of extremes or opposites, I would like to suggest that it is a people and a culture that does so much with so little. To perhaps state this differently, they strive to maximize what they have with as little wasted as possible – time and resources.

Color and taste and texture

Color and taste and texture

Japan is an island country formed by volcanoes and in their cooling; Japan is full of mountains almost everywhere. It is my understanding that Japan is 70% mountains which leaves 30% for land and its people to live on. So in this, it is not quantity that matters most, but quality and to acquire quality, it takes time.

Instead of extremes, I have come to think of Japan as a country with a culture of contrasts. This is beautifully illustrated by tea or tea ceremonies. To understand this more fully, we westerners need to understand taste.

The sensation of taste can be categorized into four basic tastes: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness. A fifth, umami, must also be included. Umami uːˈmɑːmi, a savory taste, is a  loanword from the Japaneseうま味 Umami can be translated “pleasant savory taste”. This particular writing was chosen by Professor Kikunae Ikeda from umai うまい “delicious” and mi 味 “taste”. The kanji 旨味 are used for a more general sense of a food as delicious. People taste umami through receptors for glutamate, commonly found in its salt form as the food additive, monosodium glutamate (MSG).For that reason, scientists consider umami to be distinct from saltiness.

But taste also requires our sense of smell, sight, sound and touch. Actually, all of our senses, if focused like a magnifying glass focuses light and produce fire, will not only enhance the enjoyment, but will aide in digestion.

With this in mind, we enter a tea house of tea and tea ceremonies, in Kyoto Japan. There is tea, good tea, great tea and the best of the best tea. Our recent experience was with the best of the best.

Extra fine, delicate and fragile green tea with something sweet for contrast
Color and texture and beauty
Everything has a reason and a purpose.

Our particular tea was a fine fresh cut tea. Its color was an intense and vibrant rich green. Sufficient quantity is placed into the tea pot. Hot water is poured into an empty cup and allowed to cool for about a minute. This is around 85 degrees Fahrenheit and then it is poured into the tea pot for about 20 seconds. Then it is poured into your cup with a strainer and the last drop has much of the flavor!! Too much heat for too long can burn and ruin this fragile tea.

The tea is to be drunk slowly and along with the contrast of something delicate and sweet that you cut with a wooden knife and with a bite on the knife, you raise this to your lips and eat slowly. This continues until you have consumed your tea and sweet or until you have had sufficient.

The other type of green tea is crushed to a fine powder and is actually ingested. It is believed to have many health benefits as antioxidants and something that I am highly interested in, its possible ability to reduce and regulate blood pressure.

Because of its somewhat bitter taste, this tea is also served with contrasting sweetness made with the tea itself baked inside little cookies or some other soft and chewy sweet.

Green tea cookies Green tea soft and chewy sweets

Green tea cookies with candy pink cherry blossom designs

Soft and chewy tea infused sweets

Soft and chewy tea infused sweets

But everything done is all to enhance the flavor of the tea.

It’s all about the Tea

It’s all about the Tea

Tea of this quality and experience can be quite expensive. But the experience is not common, but rare, so cost is not that great when compared to the infrequency of the experience. Like love, or fine wine, it is all about the quality of the experience, not the cost or the time required perfecting it. But at the end, there is a cost. For three people our bill was about $60. In the United States, I have no doubt that this would have been around a hundred or one hundred and twenty dollars. And our experience included the time it took to savor every bite, taste every sip, mouth every delight and enjoy every moment, plus, the wonderful clear, detailed and informative instruction by our server, the view of the garden and even the warm singing toilet in the bathroom! 🙂

And the company I was in and the conversation was exceptional too!

But someone must pay for this. And they receive the following wooden kanji tile.

Kanji tile to the one that pays

Kanji tile to the one that pays

The tile, the kanji and the texture of the table upon which it sat was a work of art in and of itself and contributed to the whole experience.

Susan and I were invited here by son Chris and we certainly thank him for this precious gift and for the memory! We will return here before we leave Japan to attend a special class on how to do this at home and purchase tea to ship home to The Gathering Place, so we can share with you that come to visit.

Yesterday, Susan and I spent precious time with our dear friends here, Ted and Shohei that we have not seen for eight years. Shohei is from Japan and Ted is from Australia. But to use a word Ted is often using and seems quite fond of and rather than my usual word as ‘wonderful’ or something like it, I will use here what just seems so apropos. I am quoting Ted in context of this whole experience, “It’s just lovely!”

To conclude this post as it began, it’s all about love. It’s about quality. It’s about you! It’s, “from Kyoto with love!” 🙂

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Categories: Australia, Desserts, Food, Inspiration, Japan, Japanese cuisine, Japanese culture, Love, Tea, The Gathering Place, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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