Today, I’d like to talk about Japanese tea “NIHON-CHA” and Japanese confectionery “WAGASHI”.
When it comes to Japanese tea, most of the case it means green tea and such prefectures as Shizuoka, Kagoshima and Kyoto are famous.
However, let me introduce green tea from Matsue of Shimane prefecture this time.
Matsue is the capital of Shimane prefecture located 800 km away from Tokyo, recently also known as a mother city of Kei Nishikori, a young promising pro-tennis player who has been world- ranked at 5th.
This city was once governed by IZUMO-MATSUE domain by MATSUDAIRA family and the 7th lord of this domain HARUSATO MATSUDAIRA was renowned master of tea in mid-EDO period under the name of FUMAI MATSUDAIRA. The tea room he built is now registered as Japan’s important cultural property.
As he became active as a great tea master at that time, WAGASHI also developed as it is indispensable for Japanese tea ceremony.
In MATSUE city, there is my favorite tea shop where you can buy not only tea leaves but also tea goods and you can even experience “OTEMAE” (tea ceremony performance) in the shop.
Before talking further about this shop, let’s review the major 3 types of Japanese green tea: MAT-CHA, SEN-CHA and BAN-CHA (also known as HŌJI-CHA)
Powdered green tea mainly used for Japanese traditional tea ceremony (SADŌ) which is drunk being whisked by CHASEN (a bamboo whisk)
This is the Japanese tea called “green tea” in general, drunk in the same manner as English tea by putting some leaves and pouring hot water in a tea pot and then serving it into each tea cup.
In SEN-CHA, there is a type of higher quality called “GYOKURO” with refined and mild flavor.
Japanese roasted green tea with less bitter and fragrant aroma. This is not expensive so can be drunk with everyday meals.
Now, the MAT-CHAs that you can buy in this shop are as follows:
Rich aroma and mild taste are the characteristics of these MAT-CHAs.
The SEN-CHAs that you can buy in this shop are as follows:
They are both containing MAT-CHA powder. Very sweet and strong SEN-CHA with less bitterness, so I guess you either love it or hate it.
My favorite is GYOKUSHIN. Compared to MAGATAMA, it is not too sweet but doesn’t have typical clear and sharp bitterness of green tea at the same time, so in my opinion, this is a good match with less sweet WAGASHI like HIGASHI (dried confectionary) mentioned below.
The GYOKUROs that you can buy in this shop are GYOKURO-MIROKU and so-called “Prize-received- GYOKURO”.
For GYOKURO, in order to bring out its original refined rich and sweet taste, it is better to drink with 50°C–60°C (122°F–140°F) hot water instead of 65°C–75°C (149°F–167°F) for SEN-CHA.
Now, let’s see some types of WAGASHI eaten with green tea: “NAMAGASHI” and “HIGASHI”.
NAMAGASHI is a general term of fleshly made Japanese confectionary served with any types of Japanese tea.
Of them, “JYŌ-NAMAGASHI” is made from sweet beans paste, beautifully and artistically designed in detail using seasonal and natural motifs such as leaves and flowers to reflect the four seasons in Japan.
Japanese tea ceremony, SADŌ put a great importance on the sense of seasons, so JYŌ-NAMAGASHI is a must item for SADŌ,
Expressing each season by confectionary can be done only by a great craftsmanship with years of training.
Then, there is “WASANBON” which is a kind of sugar candy.
Put the ingredients into a wooden mold then remove from the mold, lovely flower or animal-shaped candy can be made.
Once you put a piece of WASANBON in your month, it smoothly dissolves in no time.
Exquisite collaboration with the bitterness of green tea you will feel!
As you can see, Japanese green tea and WAGASHI create a good combination, which is an inseparable marriage.