The Green Teaist Newsletter    

                                                                                                                        July 2011

         Volume 2, Issue 13    



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Welcome to this issue of our newsletter.

Shizuoka Tea Estates 


Shizuoka Prefecture, an area similar in size to the state of New Hampshire, is the largest area of the country devoted to growing various green tea cultivars.   As such, it supplies almost half of all of the green tea production in Japan.  Mt. Fuji, the famous symbol of Japan, is located in Shizuoka which is about an hour and half motor trip from Tokyo.  The recent Fukushima nuclear incident occurred about 250 miles away and its effect on the agricultural production of Shizuoka is being closely monitored by the government.  Thus far, except for isolated situations, the green tea production of Shizuoka has complied with all health requirements.


Green Tea production in Shizuoka began in 1241 with Buddhist monks returning from China with the predecessor cultivars of the green teas grown today.  The processing of green tea leaves is similar to the manner in which green teas are processed in Kyoto, Fukuoka and Kagoshima, other prominent green tea growing regions in Japan.  One of the unique attributes of green teas from Shizuoka is "fukamushicha," which is a process in which the green tea leaves are steamed for a longer period of time than usual, resulting in a more robust vegetal flavor.


The Green Teaist was privileged to be invited to the Ishikawa-en Tea Company earlier this year and the various processing methods were explained.  In addition, it was possible to visit all part of the tea processing areas to observe how the teas are brought in from the tea gardens, lightly steamed and dried, then re-steamed or roasted, sorted, packed and stored in temperature and humidity-controlled facilities before being shipped to wholesalers and retail tea companies.  One of the processes is a proprietary one which has provided one of the most popular green teas produced by Ishikawa-en.  It is similar to Hojicha, the roasted green teas from Kyoto, but with a more pronounced vegetal quality and fragrance redolent of a moss garden.   





Green tea gardens in rolling hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Green tea gardens in rolling hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean.


Fresh green tea leaves budding and unfurling.






Toraya at Gotenba   



Gotenba, a famous resort city near the foothills of Mt. Fuji, is about a two hours trip by car from Tokyo.  It is quite near Hakone which is the most famous resort in Japan, similar to the Swiss Alps, but with a large number of natural hot water springs, famous lodgings and spas.  The Green Teaist, at the invitation of the Toraya Confectionery Company, was able to visit Gotenba earlier this month.


Toraya has its principal plant for producing yokan in Gotenba.  Yokan is the traditional sweet paired with green teas.  It is a totally natural product produced by combining finely-milled azuki (red beans grown specifically for this purpose), kanten (agar agar) which is the clear, natural gelatin derived from red seaweed found in Japan and finely refined sugar from Okinawa.  Variations include the addition of yuzu, (the wonderful citrus found only in Japan), kuri (chestnuts in the fall), matcha (powdered green tea) and several other traditional flavorings in addition to the original azuki flavor.


Toraya produces many other types of wagashi or traditional Japanese sweets in addition to its trademark yokan.  However, Toraya, for almost 500 years, is synonymous with the finest yokan that Japan produces.  For over five centuries to the present time, Toraya yokan is served in the Imperial Household.  With many beautiful tea salons and retail shops throughout Japan, Toraya's contribution to the culinary traditions of Japan cannot be overestimated.  For several decades, its salon and shop in Paris, by the fashionable Place Vendôme and Place de la Concorde, has been acclaimed by the French as serving the finest variété de patisseries traditionnelles japonaises.



Main Toraya yokan production facility with separate Research and Development facility.


Entrance to Toraya Gardens and residence of former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi.


Baked azuki pastry and citrus kanten.



Toraya tea salon and shop in Gotenba City.






Toraya display case in Gotenba City showing various types of yokan.








Toraya Salon de Thé in Paris.






Lake Forest Art Fair 2011     


click above to review full details




Please mark your calendars for the Deer Path Art League's 57th Annual Art Fair on the Square in beautiful Lake Forest, Illinois. The event will be held Labor Day weekend, Sunday and Monday, September 4 and 5, 2011. Please come by and enjoy some iced green tea at the TGT booth located on the corner of market square. The TGT salon will also be open, serving both hot and iced teas. We are looking forward to seeing you there!    


The Green Teaist Book Store 

Book Review 






(The Green Teaist offers the most extensive collection of books on teas around the world, their history, provenance, practices and customs, with emphasis on the green teas of Japan. You may wish to browse the more than 30 titles at TGT Lake Forest and a more limited collection at TGT Beverly Hills. We review each book in our expanding collection and, perhaps, interest you in increasing your understanding of teas.)


Liquid Jade: The Story of Tea from East to West, Beatrice Hohenegger, 320 pp, St. Martin's Press: 2006, $24.95


Liquid Jade, "The Story of Tea from East to West," is the companion project completed by Beatrice Hohenegger, who assisted in curating the UCLA Fowler Museum exhibit in the fall of 2009, on the history of tea.  The catalog of the exhibit, "Steeped in History, The Art  of Tea,"  was reviewed by Sam Ritchey of TGT in the April 12, 2011, issue of The Green Tea Newsletter.  Read together, they provide a fascinating glimpse into where tea came from and where it is going.


The book is remarkable in focusing on some of the harsh realities of the history of tea, from the colonization of China and India by the British, through the American revolution, to the mistreatment of laborers working on the tea plantations and the gradual acceptance of fair trade programs.  The book has an excellent overview of the early Chinese and Japanese use of tea in a religious and cultural context. However, Ms. Hohenegger is at her finest in describing the interaction of east and west through a myriad of political and economic clashes which became part of the rise and fall of the European colonists, culminating in the Boston Tea Party.


The Story of Tea provides a wonderful overview of the way in which tea helped to shape the modern world.  The book is fast-paced and, although well-documented, is not overly academic.  The author also provides useful background on the proper steeping and serving of teas. It is recommended to anyone who wishes to delve a little bit more into the history of the most widely consumed beverage, next to water, in the world.  Once started down this path, the study of tea is endless and most enjoyable.






   Hoken S. Seki