Why Japanese Tea?
Every year, we buy a small selection of Japanese tea for what has become a permanent part of our retail collection, Sourced Japan. We eagerly anticipate the coming of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and place our order with our suppliers as soon as the finished tea is ready for sale.
So, why Japanese tea? We get asked this question a lot, and to be honest, we ask ourselves the same from time to time.
The short answer is that we feel Japanese tea offers great value.
Japanese teas are healthful, delicious and diverse, with a spectrum ranging from fresh and sweet through to roasted and even aged. We particularly love that Japanese teas pair sublimely with many gourmet dishes and everyday foods. And when you factor in multiple infusions from the same leaves, the tea is also relatively inexpensive.
Tea and food pairing is a real delight for us, and in this category, Japanese teas excel in spades: Sweet-savoury and vegetal tasting teas such as sencha and gyokuro are a harmonious match for continental cheeses and charcuterie smallgoods, white poultry and light seafood. Fresh orchard fruits like citrus, apples, pears are a wonderful complement to the fruity notes in all higher grade green teas, but particularly matcha. Lastly, roasted nuts, baked root vegetables, caramelised onion and strong, bitey cheeses are well suited to aged, rice-blended or roasted green teas, as well as Japanese black teas. These are just a few things we have experimented with, though the possibilities could go even further.
We love that Japanese teas are accommodating of different brewing styles, offering you room for experimentation. For example, you can cold brew the leaves, or simply pile on ice cubes to bring out intense sweetness. Boiling or tepid water will quickly bring out more astringency and umami, and you can even mix stem-based teas like kukicha with room-temperature mineral water for a surprisingly fruity brew. We also enjoy experimenting with pour over for a ‘snapshot’ of the leaves, which has worked nicely with deep steamed sencha, or fukamushi, to bring out a buttery texture and subtle nutty taste.
Lastly, Japanese tea, particularly steamed green teas, are rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, L-theanine, and other soluble compounds and trace minerals that are beneficial to our well-being. For example, studies have found that L-theanine naturally occurring in the leaf stimulates alpha-brainwave activity, imubing a sense of ‘mindful alertness’. The antioxidants in steamed green teas, particularly shaded teas like matcha, are said to promote cardiovascular health and shield cells against free radical damage.
When it was time to review our collection, culling certain aspects and growing others, Jasmin and I did not hesitate to say ‘yes’ to bringing back Sourced Japan for a new season. This year, we’ve ordered them factory-packed to seal in even more freshness. We are also going to tour the collection via tea pairing and tasting events with local businesses in Sydney.
We hope that you will enjoy the new season of Sourced Japan. We’d love to hear which is your favourite, and how you enjoy preparing it.