Japanese Thirst Quenchers Posted by Ginny on Feb 6, 2009 in Uncategorized
Sometimes when I throw a get together with friends and aquaintances, I have guests who arrive earlier than the others. To kill the time and be hospitable as well, I often place a bowl full of senbei (せんべい) with some tea. Senbei (せんべい) crackers can really make your throat dry, so it’s good to serve some tea to go with it. Here are two teas that I serve depending on the guest:
The first tea is called bancha (番茶). Bancha (番茶) is cheaper than most teas and easily available in Japan. It’s leaves are considered of low grade, so it’s sort like a ‘disposable tea.’ ‘Disposable’ meaning that you can drink and serve it all you want without having to worry about not finnishing it. Also, the term ‘leaves’ is misleading when it comes to bancha (番茶). Bancha (番茶) is mostly made out of the twigs of plants, although some leaves are used as well. The interesting thing about bancha (番茶) is that you shouldn’t let the leaves boil in hot water for more than 5 minutes. Anything longer than 5 mintues tends to give the tea an adverse, metallic taste, which is really unpleasant to the drinker. For some reason drinking bancha (番茶) reminds me of being on a farm. Maybe it’s because it has a strong straw (no, not manure, it’s not that kind of a farm smell) smell to it!
The next tea is what I would serve more distinguised guests or people who would know the difference between low and high quality teas. This tea is called gyokuro (玉露). Gyokuro (玉露) is expensive because it’s a high quality tea made from rare leaves. Also, gyokuro (玉露) takes a longer time to prepare than bancha (番茶) teas. Gyokuro (玉露) is made from water that has been heated with low heat. You might keep your guests waiting, so it’s best to prepare the gyokuro (玉露) ahead of time if you plan on serving it. I like gyokuro (玉露) because it’s sweeter than most teas. The sweetness is due to the careful preparation process gyokuro (玉露) leaves undergo by tea leaf makers. It’s a delicate process and complicated as well; which is why it’s so expensive. Sometimes I have the tendency to forget and leave things on the stove, (to the point where I almost burn the house down) and if you’re the same way, gyokuro (玉露) may be too much to handle. It may be better to start off with bancha (番茶) tea and ease your way up from there.
Ok, everyone that’s it for today. Hope you enjoy some tea as well.
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