Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer Update

Hello Tea Folks!
The Tea Gallery is closed until the August 14th while we take our summer vacation. That also means we won't be shipping goods until after the 14th. Sorry for the inconvenience. Just so you're not too upset with us, we'll be offering Free Shipping for the rest of the month. At least we hope that helps.

I leave you with some sencha pics from our last tea session before our break:
Kagoshima Master Blend

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Breakfast at Yumcha's: Sencha

All Photos by Wrongfu Cha

Now that our Sencha's are in, I haven't stopped brewing potfuls of our selection and I've also been cooking with it. I couldn't wait to have company over and share a couple of my favorite tea dishes. I love to make the traditional Japanese dish, ochazuke. It's a rustic rice bowl that is usually topped with cooked salmon and half submerged in a refreshing sencha broth. The used tea leaves then get mixed into a chilled, sesame tofu dish and they can be served together.Summer is the perfect time for a breakfast like this; light, refreshing and it won't weigh you down.
Brandon of WrongfuCha came over for a weekend of teas and eats and documented the antics. You can see the rest of his photos on
WrongfuCha's Flicker page.

I used the SaeMidori for this dish but the OkuMidori or Kagoshima Master Blend would also taste great. The only one I wouldn't use is the Premium Grade Tenryu because the flavors are so soft and delicate. While the rest are bold and hearty enough to hold up to strong taste of salmon, I would just pair the Tenryu with a simple wagashi and nothing heavier than that.

Ochazuke is great for a late weekend brunch. In the morning I have time to cook up some short grain, Japanese sticky rice. The flavors are few and simple so the ingredients have to be stellar. I use premium grade, new crop rice that will be plump and sweet. I chose wild Alaskan King salmon that I salted and pan seared. (Incidentally, Mr. Yumcha and I did visit a friend in Alaska one summer and got to go fishing for Halibut and Coho Salmon. The goal had been to catch a King but the opportunity never presented itself. We did bring back a hundred pounds of cleaned, filleted fish to New York.) I don't see the salmon as a main component. It adds a beautiful color contrast and complements the sweet but savory sencha. One 8oz fillet can generously serve three. Place pieces of salmon over the mound of rice. I like to garnish with white sesame seeds and finely sliced scallion.
Once you have your bowls assembled, you're ready to make tea. With my alcohol burner I can make the tea right at the table where we dine. (It's a small Brooklyn apartment so our little tea table also doubles as a dining table.) Prepare the sencha as you would for a regular tea session. Find tea tips at: Brewing Sencha.

Once you're ready to pour out the tea, divide the infusion between the bowls. I made three servings and ended up using two steeps amongst them. I like to let the tea- broth fill the bowl half-way. I know others who like it more or less soupier. Some may think this is a hot dish but if you brew the tea correctly, this shouldn't be the case. It also cools quickly and you have a nice meal that actually cools you down. The taste is sweet and mild with a nice umami kick. Mr. Yumcha added salt to deepen the flavors but Brandon and I found the salted salmon was enough to season the tea and rice.

While my brunch companions ate, I quickly moved on to the next part of the meal: my chilled tofu dish with sencha leaves. Prepare the ingredients and assemble the dish before hand so all that's necessary is to toss in the spent sencha leaves and mix until evenly incorporated. This way I can finish it at the table, right after I've prepared the ochazuke. A few more seconds and I have a second dish that's ready to eat.
While the rice is cooking for the ochazuke, get out the ingredients and prepare the second dish. I like to use soft tofu because I prefer the texture over the firm or silken varieties. Leave it out in a shallow bowl with a heavy plate on top so some of the moisture is squeezed out. Using a fork, I simply mash up the block of tofu until it has a scrambled egg appearance and there no large chunks.
Add a spoonful of grated, fresh ginger; an ounce of toasted wild, Korean sesame oil; some sesame seeds and salt to taste. You can adjust these ingredients, depending on your tastes. It's why I haven't used specific measurements. I like to play around and use what's available in my kitchen. It should be well seasoned with the sencha adding a spinach like flavor, while the tofu is a nice creamy foil for the nutty sesame and umami notes.

Judging by the empty bowls after our Sunday brunch, I think my meal went well. All thanks to sencha.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

An Afternoon Lift: Rising Orchid

Lightly Roasted, Spring Harvest 2010, Superior Grade Iron Bodhisattva - Single Estate Oolong.

A couple more spring harvest teas were delivered while I was on vacation. The one Winnie and I were most excited about was the TiKwanYin that deserves it's own special name: Rising Orchid. It describes very well the haunting aroma of old-fashioned orchids that saturates the air. It's times like these I almost feel guilty that I can go on vacation and drink tea for a living.
For this tea, Winnie prepared the Mandarin's gaiwan sans saucer.
The mythic illustrations of dragon and phoenix on the sides fit our mood; anticipation of an ethereal experience. Once the leaves were poured into the heated gaiwan, the soft aroma stirred from it's sleep.

Winnie used 4 grams of tea and used boiling water to quickly rinse the leaves. Now the famous fragrance was climbing out of the cup and filling the air between us. The first sip was was sweet and perfumed with more florals. Already, a garden was blooming in my mouth. The finish was clean and minty. More flowers and fruit appeared with each exhalation.

The palest spring green color suspended in water.
The color never deepened more than this, even though the flavor intensified with subsequent steeps. The ghost of the tea's fragrance waited at the bottom of the cup.

Winnie decided to heat up one of her teapots and transfer the tea leaves from the gaiwan. She does this often, auditioning the tea in the gaiwan before deeming it worthy of a teapot.

After three steeps, the leaves were not fully open. We could expect a few more steeps once they were in the teapot.

We tasted three more steeps in the teapot.

The elegant bouquet of flowers was starting to fade by the last cup.

After the last steep, Winnie cleaned out her teapot and gently but thoroughly dried the pot with a tea towel. The slightly rough texture of the cloth also buffs and removes dried tea stains. This is how Winnie communes with her teapots. Only after she felt the pot was "happy" did she put it down and we moved on to the next tea.