Zen and the Art of Green Tea

The heart of Tea and the essence of Zen are one So reads the poster depicting a serene shaven-headed Zen monk practicing the tea ceremony at Shoden Eigen-in temple in the Gion district of Kyoto. Just streets away is the tourist chaos that is Hanami-koji street, with its shouting traffic police, speeding taxis and endlessly chattering tourists clad in rental kimono, scurrying to the next must-see d...

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What's Genmaicha?

"Irasshaimase! Welcome to our restaurant". It's a familiar cry to anyone who visits Japan. The formal greeting at most food establishments here is commonly followed by a welcoming beverage, sometimes water, but most often a cup of tea. Green tea is a very common beverage in the East where green tea benefits have been recognized for longevity and health for centuries, but for us in the West it is s...

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A Green Tea Primer: Introducing Matcha, Bancha, Hoji-cha, ...

The expensive powdered form used in the tea ceremony, and added as a flavoring to everything from ice cream to parfaits to Kit Kat bars, is matcha, sometimes termed hiki-cha. However, the common tea of choice for daily drinking is bancha, a coarse tea, invariably drunk hot, and often served free of change in restaurants. It is drunk to quench thirst, is inexpensive, and is made from larger, older ...

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Hakutsuru Sake Company: The Triumph of the Phoenix of Nada

The Beginning 274 years ago, a humble lumber merchant in the Nada district of Hyogo, not far from the port city of Kobe, made an important career decision. He decided to brew sake. His name was Jihei Kano. Two and a half centuries later on a beautiful sunny Spring morning FGL met with his direct descendant, Mr. Kenji Kano, current CEO of Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Company, Ltd at the company's headqua...

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Mitobe Shuzo Part 2: From Paddy To Brewery To The Glass

At the brewery, Mitobe Shuzo boss Toshinobu Mitobe explains his decision to cultivate rice themselves, and why he still chooses to use other rice varieties to make his quality small-batch sakes. “Growing our own rice means we can focus on quality over quantity, and since each rice paddy has its own unique characteristics – how much sunlight it receives, the temperature gap between the morning an n...

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Japan's Festival of the Dead: Obon

Obon is a Buddhist event celebrated in Japan but it has its roots in India. They say that at this time of year the spirits of the deceased come back to the ‘real world’ to receive thanks from the living. Could explain the increase of ghost stories in the summer!!! The tradition was brought to Japan via China in the 7th century but it wasn’t widely celebrated by the general populace until the Edo P...

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Nara Sake: The Original Sake. It's true! Ask the Brewer Mo...

I have long known that Nara Prefecture, which borders Osaka and Kyoto in western Japan, has been known as the birthplace of sake. But I got majorly schooled during a recent visit there.

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Sake Origins: Hiroshima. Senzaburo Miura and 'The Birthpla...

Ginjo sake, with all four of its sub-classes, is but seven percent of all sake brewed. Legally, it is defined by nothing more significant than how much the rice was milled before brewing. But technically, it calls for longer-term, lower-temperature fermentation.

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A Himeji Namazake With The Subtlety Of Cinder-blocks. It's...

John Gauntner, from, the archives, on excellent sake from Himeji city in Hyogo Prefecture: A while ago, I was privileged enough to attend a tasting of all sake made by Honda Shoten, brewers of Tatsuriki sake in Hyogo. For these guys, it is all about the rice, as well it should be. 

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Favorite Tipples. Koro Sake And Pilsner Urquell Beer. Sepa...

I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, it’s usually Pilsner Urquell. OK, that’s not true. It is usually from one of Japan’s quite passable large brewing companies. But without a doubt, my favorite beer in the world is Pilsner Urquell. And that tells you a lot about my preferences.

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Lees, Dregs, By-product: It's all Sake Kasu. Tasty and Hea...

Should you frequent sake retailers with anything resembling a good selection of sake, you will often find for sale bags of sake kasu: beige chunks and chips of something resembling cheese or tofu. Sometimes, the unmistakable fragrance of sake wafts up from the clear plastic bag as it sits on the counter.

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Ocha Green Tea: An Introduction to the 'Efficacious Leaves...

For many, tea conjures up images of Typhoo and Lipton, a British stiff upper lip and a Boston punch-up that got nicely euphemized into a ‘party’. But Japan’s love affair with tea, the green variety, ocha that is, dates back to its introduction from China, although no one can really agree when that was. Some suggest the Nara period (710 AD to 794 AD), while another source credits the introduction t...

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