Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tea with Masters

A very special tasting at the Gallery this past weekend with our friend and patron, YoungJai; her lovely daughter, Helen and her former tea master from the Urasenke Center, Terazono Sensei.
Michael started with a 2008 BingDou puer cake and then a WuYi Cliff Cinnamon. The conversation became light and lively as we put away several rounds of tea. "This is great", Mr. Terazono joked, "I can relax while someone else makes tea... Very good tea"
As he bantered and sipped tea, he observed Michael closely and commented on the gracefulness of Michael's movements, "This is something tea masters share regardless of culture." Fluid, unhurried motions that bring a sense of ease and harmony to your guests. Michael decided to perform his ChiuJia GongFu Cha ritual for
Mr. Terazono
Much was said on the similarities between the two tea forms represented at this tasting.

After the last sip of Michael's GongFu Cha, YoungJai said, "I believe Terazono Sensei would like to make matcha for everyone... " This was met with a burst of excitement and Michael insisted on giving his seat to
Terazono Sensei. As he removed his tea implements out of the bag, he warned, "This is very informal but I can show you the mechanics of making the tea. For the true experience, you must come to one of my classes " We started with KoiCha, the thick grade matcha. Terazono Sensei quickly sifted the KoiCha powder.
As he prepared the whisk and teabowl, he discussed the basics of brewing matcha. He scooped a few grams of the emerald green powder into the bowl and poured in some hot water. As he whisked the tea, he discussed the texture and thickness he was looking for. The end result had consistency similar to eggnog or pancake batter. The taste was sweet and slightly vegetal, rich and mouthwatering.A sumptuous mouth-feel with a spike of energy at the finish.
Drinking etiquette was discussed, as well as the proper way to hold and pass the bowl.
A white tea napkin was passed around to wipe the edge of the bowl where each person had sipped.
When the bowl was returned to Terazono Sensei, he said, "Now, maybe Michael should try and make matcha."

The teacher is also the student.. Michael gets some pointers on whisking matcha.

It was interesting to see the two masters standing together. One getting a lesson from the other. Michael's unruly hair and his disheveled "James Dean" look was in stark contrast to
Terazono Sensei's neat and studious appearance. There was also a difference of culture and generation but none of it mattered while tea was the subject.

Enjoying a good lesson.

Someone finally consulted a timepiece and we were surprised to know that more than 4 hours had passed while we shared tea and knowledge. Time had flown by in the tea oasis we had created and it was coming to an end. We thanked our guests for the company and the lessons. There was no farewell, instead a promise to visit the world of Terazono Sensei very soon.


Unknown said...

That's awesome. I wish I could have been there.

yumcha said...

Thanks Matt!

Salsero said...

Another great post, Yumcha. Thanks. Now I know where Tim got that happy koicha grin. I guess I wll have to try making some for myself now to see what it tastes like ... without the benefit of a master, but I will muddle along somehow! Thank heavens for the internet:

kiki said...

Dear Yumcha,

My name is Maile Cannon and I'm profiling the Tea Gallery for a class at the Columbia school of journalism. I've already gone down to the shop and talked with Michael, and I wonder if you might be able to speak with me about your blog, tea, and your experiences with the gallery. Please send me an e-mail at

Many thanks,