Ippodo held their first tea workshop in October of last year and I had the privilege of attending. Participants were invited to learn how to prepare matcha, which is very popular in Japan, and Gyokuro, an extremely select grade of Japanese tea. We were also promised delicious treats to compliment our teas.
I wrote about Ippodo when I visited them in Tokyo and NYC this past summer.
Ippodo shares a space with Kajitsu, recently named one of New York's Best New Restaurants for 2013 by Travel + Leisure Magazine.
Incredibly attentive and knowledgeable staff...
Preparing Gyokuro Kanro with chilled water. We used 10g (2 tbsp) of leaves, 3oz (80ml) of water and steeped it in a pot that holds approximately 120cc of water (4.1oz) for...
15 minutes! GASP! 15 minutes is a long time. This amount of leaves can make up to 3 pots of tea.
Gyokuro is grown in the shade for about three weeks before harvest. This is part of the magic that gives it its exquisite sweetness. The more the tea leaves are exposed to sunlight the sharper they become in flavor (i.e. Sencha and Bancha) and astringency. Astringency is reduced by shading, resulting in a sweeter, less astringent taste.
Another difference between shaded and non-shaded green teas is the size of their tea leaves (as demonstrated by our instructor). Bancha and Yanagi tea leaves are larger in size because they are the mature tea leaves; Gyokuro and Matcha are smaller in size and are younger.
This particular Gyokuro was without a doubt mind-blowing! The liquor was a golden pale yellow. When I poured my tea out of the pot it was thick and almost syrup like in consistency. The taste! Oh the taste. It was rich, savory (almost like a meaty broth), rich in umami flavor. This is definitely one of those teas you share with friends.
Yanagi had a more delicate taste and more subtle notes in aroma.
The Sencha has a stronger fragrance and aroma, much more complex.
Gyokuro teatime paired with Yokan sweet made in house upstairs at Kajitsu. It is very important to balance out the correct amount of sweet when pairing with Japanese teas. We were told the chef was particular in the amount of sugar used in preparing this Yokan for our tasting.
It all comes together perfectly. Well balanced in every way, pleasing all the senses.
Sifting the matcha powder is such a crucial step...
and make sure not to over whisk. Ten strokes for ten seconds is plenty. It is important to move the whisk in a back and forth motion. If you whisk too hard or too long, the tea will become overly bitter.
They had these sweets flown in from Japan for the matcha pairing.
They sell so many lovely tea accessories that it's difficult to choose just one!
Ippodo Tea, New York
125 East 39th Street, New York 10016
11 AM to 7 PM (closed on Sundays)
Till we meet again for tea!