Aged matcha

One of the great advantages of drinking matcha, as opposed to leaf tea of all sorts, is that it is faster, much faster.  From start to finish, you’re done in at most half an hour, and quicker if you want to.  I knew today was going to be a busy day of meetings and what not, and that I won’t get a chance to drink a real cup of tea until maybe 8 or even 9 pm, so I pre-caffeinated myself with some matcha.  It also served as an opportunity to use my rarely used chawans, which, in today’s case, is an akaraku I bought maybe a year or so ago.

It is always an experience opening the tomobako (wooden box), with the brocade that comes with a piece and in this case, the artist’s signature as well as the name of the bowl, which is called “Tokiwa” or eternity.  But, before I can get to the bowl, the Safety & Security brigade have to examine the box first

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Now that we know it’s safe, I can take it out for pictures.

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I love raku ware. They have a soft, supple tactile feel and a lightness to them that are the direct opposite of what you’d expect when you just look at them — big, sturdy looking things that are often quite heavy-set. They sound like wood, rather than ceramic, when you tap on them, and I can’t quite find the same feeling with any other kind of ceramics, Hagi included. Kuroraku bowls are serious, whereas akaraku, at least in my own untrained opinion, seems more cheerful.

So it is really rather sad that I don’t have good matcha to go with it today. The only thing I have at the moment is more than a year old, which, as you can imagine, is not an optimal age for matcha. The tea, while it still retained much of the flavour, lost the high, fragrant notes and the sweetness that makes matcha so good. It also gained a bit of an unpleasant side-taste to it that I don’t particularly enjoy. This is a problem with me and all types of green tea — I can never, ever drink them fast enough so that they don’t go bad. I drink green tea so sparingly that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to finish anything in a season. While a can of matcha only costs maybe $20 or $30, a bag of top notch longjing will set me back $100 or more, easily, for a 3oz bag. That’s mostly why I have stopped buying green tea entirely — it’s simply not worth that much to me, especially since half of it inevitably goes wasted.

It’s always fun to play with matcha ware though. I should really do this more often.

Tenmoku chawan

Haven’t posted any teaware porn for a while, so here goes

I love this bowl.  The only flaw is that the brown colour on the exterior is probably a tad bit too much.  These bowls are great for matcha, because their dark colour provides a sharp relief for the lightness of the tea.  The Japanese then adopted it wholesale and kept using them, while Chinese moved on from these to lighter coloured bowls because taste in tea changed over time.  They won’t be any good making tea that is brewed, because the colours won’t show properly, but when whisked, that’s a totally different story.

A new toy

Yes, many new toys these days, this one’s slightly different though

A chawan, a kuroraku hira chawan, specifically, but a chawan nonetheless.

I don’t drink much matcha, but I plan to play with it a bit in the coming days. This stuff isn’t so good for me in the winter, that’s for sure, but in hot summer days, a nice cool cup of matcha can actually be quite nice.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to decipher the artist’s seal

My first instinct is that this is a really stylized version of the word “raku” or “le” in Chinese. I tried thinking up what else it could be, but can’t. It’s a funny shaped raku, for sure…. or is it matsuraku (in which case this is upside down)? I can’t tell. Does anybody have any idea where one can go find better info on such things? Japanese books are fine…