So you end up going to Kyoto and Osaka, but most of all, let’s not forget: Tokyo. Tokyo is overwhelmingly big, and super busy, so I was more than happy to find a really nice guide to show me the place. A really pretty, young lady, a chef, that recently completed a 7 -gasp- year tea study in Kyoto, passed, and is now a CEO of a major company. I’d talked to her through e-mail, but it’s always exciting to meet someone face-to-face. Thankfully, we have an instant click. She asks: "Hi, good evening, would you like some wine?" As soon as she asks me this, I get a burning desire for wine, all the 'behaving' and the constant drinking of tea is getting to me. I need to let loose. A tiny bit. So, my answer is of course a massive: "YES". After a really nice evening, we agree to go for dinner the next evening.
barber, clothing store or restaurant?
The next morning I leave early and enjoy my day strolling around Tokyo. It’s a wonderful city. By evening, I walk (without an effort(props to me))to the place me and the guide decided to meet at. We go through a tiny door opening, which is a strange thing to me in itself, because in Holland we make a massive show out of signs and lights in front of every store, explaining by way of drawings what the store serves for. In Tokyo, there are signs, mind you, but if you cannot read Japanese, you won’t be able to tell the difference between a barber, clothing store or a restaurant. This is why you need friends ;)
Resuming, we go inside and the considerate employees greet us, bow and say something. It’s cute and exotic. I bow too. We order cold, thin noodles. We get tempura, seaweed that gets roasted in front of your eyes, sake and Japanese potato mash (tasty, really stick mash). The cold noodles get served with a bowl of warm soy sauce, so you can warm them up per mouthful. This is special ‘summer food’. Especially when it’s really warm outside, these noodles taste refreshing. I put some spring onion in my soy sauce. It tastes exquisite. Something so simple, yet so complex in flavour. This is special.
tea by candle light
We sit comfortably on straw mats and eat. At the end of the meal, the chef asks me if I would like some Kuchika. I reply that I have no idea, and she laughs. It's time to discover what this is exactly. We order two cups of Kuchika, and while I’m expecting just two cups of an exotic tea, it turns out to be much more than that. What comes to our table is a tea light candle, and a tiny bowl on top of it. In the bowl, there’s a lot of stems. They’re from the tea plants. In the bush, these stems form a structure, intertwining the leaves together. It’s like I’ve just witnessed a miracle, I have never ever thought about what happens to the stems after the leaves are plucked! You can drink it! But not without roasting it a bit first. We’re allowed to do this by ourselves. The room fills with extraordinary fragrances, mostly nutty, with an inkling of sweet tones. The stems transform from bright green to darker green, some even becoming light brown.
useless product full of flavour
Then it’s done. Just takes a few minutes. A sweet Japanese lady walks towards us. She pours my cup for me, I take a sip and am surprised. How can this be? The stems of the leaves, a worthless something, in my eyes.. Up until now. How can this taste .. nice? It’s full of flavour, almost creamy, an explosively delicious mouth sensation, sophisticated almost. I take another sip, a taste not comparable to anything.. It has hints of green tea, but with subtle nutty, spicy aroma’s. I realise I haven’t said anything to my companion, and she, being a chef, totally understand this feeling. I needed some time to treasure this memory. Treasure it in my heart.These flavours. This experience.
This blog is about No.070 – Kukicha