The Four Types of Kyusu: Part I

We’ve written before about the kyusu before – a small, traditional Japanese teapot perfectly designed for brewing up sencha, konacha, gyokuro, and many other types of green tea. Kyusu have been around for centuries, having evolved from the Chinese Yixing teapot when Buddhist monks first brought tea into the country during the early Heian Period (794-1185 C.E.). As Japanese tea is hugely diverse in style and steeping requirements, the form of the kyusu has changed and adapted over time into several different subtypes: yokode kyusu, ushirode kyusu, uwade kyusu, or houhin. Although there may be some variation in the appearance of the kyusu depending on artisan or manufacturer, the word kyusu itself is still an umbrella term for any Japanese teapot of these four basic shapes. In this post, we’ll explore two of the most frequently seen kyusu in Japan: yokode and houhin.

Yokode no Kyusu

The simplicity of the Japanese Tea Ceremony has inspired other accessories.

Japanese Yokode Kyusu

Yokode kyusu are the most common type of kyusu used in Japanese tea preparation. Its name reflects its appearance – “yokode” (横手の急須), meaning “on the side”, refers to the large, conical handle protruding from the right-hand side of the pot. This design allows the tea to be poured quickly and easily from a kneeling position, and is especially efficient when pouring small amounts into multiple cups. Yokode kyusu are suitable for most types of Japanese green teas, especially sencha. In fact, it was the rising popularity of sencha in the mid-Edo period (1603-1868 C.E.), that brought about a need for teaware specifically for brewing leaf, rather than powdered tea. Inspired by the leaf teas currently popular with Chinese Ming dynasty officials, early yokode kyusu were likely modeled after China’s purple clay Yixing teapots.

Houhin

Japanese Teapot with No Handles

Houhin ‘Treasure Chest’ Kyusu

Houhin (宝瓶), meaning “treasure chest”, is a small kyusu with a wide spout and no handle. It is usually used for steeping gyokuro and high-grade sencha, like shincha, as its shape and size allow for very quick, highly controlled steeping and pour times. Although these kyusu do not have handles, the low temperature at which these teas are steeped means that the pourer does not have to worry about burning their hands. Like yokode kyusu, houhin usage began in earnest during the mid-Edo period, as tea merchant and monk Baisao began to promote and popularize sencha and other whole leaf tea traditions. The houhin vessels we see today are likely a modified offshoot of the Chinese gaiwan. This is the type of kyusu that we here at Dominion Tea prefer to use when steeping our gyokuro, konacha, and shincha, as the fine filter and rapid pour allow us to brew these teas perfectly every time.

In our next post, we’ll take a look at the two other types of Japanese kyusu: atode and uwade kyusu.

By: Jennifer Coate

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Shincha – 1st Flush Sencha

Shincha -- a first flush sencha.

First Flush Shincha

Within the world of Japanese teas, sencha and shincha are two terms that can easily be confused, especially by English speakers. But while sencha is a broad category of popular Japanese green tea, shincha refers to a specific harvest of sencha that is highly prized among tea connoisseurs.

Sencha, with its vast array of varieties, has long held sway over the Japanese tea market, accounting for more than 80 percent of the country’s overall tea consumption. Production styles vary tremendously depending on region and desired quality. Highest-graded sencha is typically harvested and processed from late April to mid-May. Like all Japanese teas, sencha is steamed shortly after picking to dehydrate the leaves and forestall oxidation, giving it a characteristic vegetal and grassy freshness.

When cultivating sencha, Japanese tea growers divide the growing year into four harvests – referred to in the industry as flushes – named for their order in the year: ichibancha, nibancha, sanbancha, and yonbancha. The first flush, ichibancha, is what produces shincha. Delicate buds and top leaves, harvested by hand and briefly steamed, are plucked when they are still small. By plucking these leaves early, growers capture the intense expression of the all the rich nutrients and flavors that have been cultivating in the soil during the plant’s winter dormancy.

Bright green infused liquor from shincha.

Shincha Fresh from a Kyusu

Shincha leaves are small, tender, and vibrant, with a scent that is both freshly herbaceous and faintly mineral in character. When infused, shincha leaf steeps into a smooth paste yielding a bright green-gold liquor. The flavor, as compared to standard sencha, is notably bolder, livelier, and complex. A strong oceanic minerality overlays undernotes of fresh vegetation, with a faintly bitter finish that gradually gives way to a lingering stonefruit sweetness. The mouthfeel is full and sharp, slightly less astringent than sencha but still decidedly pronounced.

Like other Japanese green teas, shincha is perfect for brewing in traditional kyusu, but is just as delightful steeped in a pot or an infuser. Steep three grams of tea at a low temperature, between 160°-185° Fahrenheit, for two to three minutes. Shincha can also be enjoyed for multiple short steepings.

By Jennifer Coate

 

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New Teas for New Habits

With the new year right around the corner, we thought we would share some teas to help you form new habits. Whether it is expanding your horizons by trying new things, reducing your caffeine intake or adding a cup of green tea to your daily routine, here are some of our picks to help you get off on the right foot.

Reducing Caffeine

Generally tea has half the caffeine of coffee and one third the caffeine of soda. So replacing those beverages with tea is an easy answer for reducing caffeine. Not only that but the caffeine in tea is less jolting too! If you are looking to replace coffee, check out this post on 3 teas for coffee drinkers. However, if you are like us and tea is your go-to constantly, then we have to talk tisanes (French term meaning tea like drink without tea). One of our favorite tisanes is Honeybush. This cousin of Rooibos is slightly sweet and woody. It is naturally caffeine free and a great substitute in the evening just before bed.

Adding Green Tea

It is almost daily that we are asked about the health benefits of green tea. They are numerous, but to get them you must drink at least one cup daily. For some, this may be somewhat daunting, especially if milk and sugar are part of your tea routine. Green tea should not be drunk with milk or sugar. There are a few green teas that make it easier to transition to this tea type. Hundred Year Tea is one of these since it is blended with other ingredients that give it a slight spiciness and help to tone down the grassy flavor of tea. The other is Liu An Gua Pian, also known as Melon Seed Tea. This green tea from Anhui, China is subtly sweet and much less grassy in flavor than most green teas, making it a good introduction to this type of tea.

Trying New Things

Expanding one’s horizons is often a fun resolution and gives you a reason to expand your tea drinking habits. This leads us tea drinkers into the world of Puerh Tea. Admittedly the flavor profiles on these fermented teas range from peat moss to collard greens, which may not be appealing to all. However, this category of tea surprises many and opens up a wide range of highly crafted and cared for teas, whose history is thousands of years old. A good place to start is sampling a few of the teas in a flight of tea at our shop or picking up a sample size of Golden Fortune Puerh or Puerh Leaf Satemwa.

There are many teas out there that can be incorporated into your new habits for the new year. So join us in exploring them all!

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Burmese Tea Leaf Salad – Part 2

Plated Burmese Tea Leaf Salad

Burmese Tea Leaf Salad – Plated for presentation but not yet mixed together.

So, if you are just joining us, you may want to read Part 1 of this blog post describing how to pickle your green tea leaves. For those of you who already read and now want to eat, we have a few more steps to finalize this salad. This salad is traditionally served with the tea leaves acting as the equivalent of lettuce, which I will prepare below. However, the pickled leaves remind me more of a dressing and do nicely as a garnish on romaine lettuce. So feel free to Americanize.

Ingredients (To serve 4)

Fried Rice Noodles (look in the Asian isle of the grocery store)
8 gloves of Garlic
1/2 cup Peanuts
1/4 cup Sesame seeds
1 can of Lentils (color is your choice)
Oil for frying
2 whole Tomatoes

Equipment

Paper towels and four plates. Cast iron frying pan or a pan with high sides to fry in. You will also need a ladle to pull out the lentils and a slotted spoon for the garlic.

Steps to Prepare the Other Ingredients

Start by gathering up all your ingredients as the frying times are going to be short and you cannot walk away from the pan. Setup the paper towels on two of the plates, double the paper towels on one of the plates for the lentils. This will give you a place to put the ingredients to cool before plating them with the tea leaves. Remove the skin and slice the garlic cloves. Cut the tomatoes into wedges to get you at least 4 wedges per serving. Empty the lentils out of the can into a strainer and rise under cool water. Pat dry with paper towels. Put the pan on the stove top and allow to heat. Add the sesame seeds and allow to toast for no longer than about 1 minute. If they start to turn brown on you remove from the heat so they do not burn. Pour the sesame seeds out on one of the plates with no paper towels. Next, put the peanuts into the pan and toast them for about 2 minutes. You need to stir the peanuts to prevent burning. You will smell the peanuts, which is an indicator to remove from the heat as they will burn quickly after this point. Pour the peanuts out on a plate without the paper towels to cool. Now add oil to the pan, depending on your oil type it will ripple immediately and will not require any more time before putting in the garlic. The garlic will cause bubbling, so do be careful. You can lower the heat and stir the garlic with a slotted spoon. It will take the garlic about 5 minutes to start to turn brown. Once brown, remove from the oil and put on one of the plates with paper towels to remove the oil off the garlic. Next, put in the lentils, leave them in the oil until they are crunchy, which will take around 5-7 minutes. Keep stirring and you will feel as they dry out and harden. Remove them from the oil. Unfortunately, the lentils are so small they fall through the slots in the spoon. So you will need to remove them with a ladle.

Steps to Plate the Burmese Tea Leaf Salad

Measure out roughly 1/2 cup of the tea leaves into the middle of each of the 4 plates. Arrange the dry ingredients (rice noodles, fried lentils, sesame seeds & peanuts) in piles around the outside of the leaves and divide the piles with the tomato wedges. Sprinkle the garlic on the top of the tea leaves. It is up to the individual to decide how they would like to mix the ingredients together. Don’t skip the fried garlic and lentils as they add a wonderful textural contrast to the tea leaves.

Enjoy!

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Sweet Tea Recipe – An American Classic

Sweet Tea // Ice Tea

Popular throughout the American south, Sweet Tea can be a great way to beat the summer heat. Photo by liz west (Flickr) – CC BY 2.0 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/641462022/

Sweet tea has been around since the 1800’s in the United States. It has had many variations in a wide variety of cookbooks. Generally speaking it is tea, sugar and lemon. It is the ratio’s of those ingredients that provide this variety and allow this drink to become a family recipe. The big headache with sweet tea is getting the sugar to dissolve in the cold tea. The recipe below takes care of this by using a tea infused simple syrup.

Sweet Tea (1/2 gallon)

4 cups of water

4 tablespoons of loose tea (Originally this was green tea since that was what was available in the 1800s, but now it is usually black. English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast make a great base.)trailer movie J. Cole: 4 Your Eyez Only 2017

1 lemon

1 cup of simple syrup

4-5 cups of ice

Start by making the simple syrup from the recipe below. You can use the same tea you are using for the base of the sweet tea or change it up to add a hint of something else. Moroccan Mint or Earl Grey with Lavender make interesting twists to the flavor of sweet tea. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the tea. Allow to steep for 5 minutes if a black tea and 3 minutes for a green tea. While the tea is steeping. Take out a 1/2 gallon pitcher and fill half-way up with ice. If you have a larger pitcher, just add 4 mounded cups of ice. Then pour in the simple syrup over the ice. If your simple syrup just came off the stove, it will melt some of the ice. Add more ice to get your ice back up to half way up your pitcher. When your timer goes off, put a strainer on the top of the pitcher to catch the loose tea and pour the hot tea into the pitcher over the ice. You are using the ice partly as water and partly to cool this down quickly to ice tea.

You can slice the lemon and add it to the pitcher. It will cloud the tea, but I find that it cuts the sweetness nicely. (Sorry I love my tea straight up.)  Or you put the lemon in the glass and pour the tea over it.

The ratio of simple of syrup to tea used above is borrowed from older recipes, but what you generally find is that it is a personal preference so feel free to adjust accordingly.

Tea Infused Simple Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup of sugar

1 tsp of tea

Simple syrup for sweet tea simmering on the stove.

Preparing simple syrup for sweet tea.

On the stove top, put 1 cup of sugar into 1 cup of water in a sauce pan and hit over medium-high to high heat to get to boil. It is recommended that your stir, it will not take long for the sugar to dissolve into the warming water. As soon as bubbles start to appear, put in the tea and set a timer for 5 minutes. It is easiest if you stir for the next 5 minutes, you will want the water at a low rolling boil. Once it is there drop the temperature so you do not turn your simple syrup into a caramel sauce. At the end of the 5 minutes, remove from the heat and strain out the tea. Simple syrup can be made in larger batches and kept in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, so feel free to make a large batch so you have them at your disposal anytime (It works nicely in tea infused cocktails).

 

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