In the last few months, some things I obsessed about as a child kept returning to my mind. It was delightful having those thoughts floating around me all the time; they’d keep me me company as I go about my day.

Tentatively, nonchalantly, and one after another, I let myself do those things again. They make me happy. Aside from feeling a gush of contentment, I am pleasantly surprised, because everything is easy this time.

The perk of restarting something you did as a young person is that you don’t have to start from scratch. You’ve been there. You’ve already done a lot of the homework. You can feel what it’s like to do the thing. You can smell the experience from where you are sitting right this very moment.

So what are the interests that I’ve gone back to? Tea ritual. Pottery making. Antiquing. Poetry. Kyoto. This is not a complete list. Some things are better kept private, I think.

In case you’re wondering; I was a child with an old Japanese lady vibe. My childhood friend M used to recount, at various parties, her first visit to my parents’ home (when we were twelve).

“Upon arrival, I was shown to a table and then served what I later learned to be a full-course meal. No Mom or Dad in sight. I asked her who cooked and she said she did. What the?”

I’m sure the food tasted undeveloped and awkward, but I was really into entertaining (as in Martha Stewart) then.

What were you into when you were a child? What did you like to do as a teenager? Is there something you gave up a long time ago that still makes you feel poignant? What kind of person are you?

 

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two items you need to get

To start enjoying matcha at home, we only need to get two items: a bamboo whisk “茶せん chasen” and matcha, that green powder. Everything else, you probably have already. I’ll show you my matcha setup in the next section.

Guess what. The matcha I made at home (with a bamboo whisk I found on Amazon and matcha powder I bought at a local supermarket) tasted better than matchas served at temples in Kamakura. Fantastic.

 

1. Chasen (a bamboo whisk)

My friend T and I were talking about random things.
Me: You know, I lied to you about something. I’m sorry.
T: (Dismayed look)

Me: Remember when you asked me if it was okay to use a wire whisk to make matcha? I said, “Yes, a wire whisk is fine.” That’s not true. It tastes better when it’s made with a bamboo whisk. Wire whisk matcha and bamboo whisk matcha are just different drinks. I didn’t want to sound like a snob, so I lied. I’m sorry.

T: LOL. Don’t worry, I’m a tea snob myself.

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2. Matcha (powdered green tea leaves)

I go to different supermarkets and buy whatever matcha they have on the shelf, usually one or two kinds at a time. No, I don’t do taste tests. This is my daily ritual. I consume diligently until I finish a packet, making notes here and there on how I feel about each tea.

An unopened packet of matcha powder lasts for a long time. But once it’s open, the vibrant color and the intense fragrance go fast, in a matter of days, then weeks. For this reason, I like to buy matcha powders in small quantities. So please don’t be too precious with your matcha powder. Enjoy with a calm gusto. Share with friends and family.

These are my favorite affordable matcha. Both come in resealable pouches.

“Itoen Oi Ocha Uji Matcha”
Mild, smooth, with very little bitterness. It has the faintly slippery, creamy texture of more expensive matcha powders, which is what you would expect from a more traditional experience.

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“Moheji Uji Matcha”
Slight bitterness depending on the water temperature (very high temp –> more bitterness). I’ll tell you about it in detail once I’ve replaced my broken thermometer. It has a light texture and refreshing aftertaste. I like it.

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items you probably have at home

□ cold water (I like to use filtered water)
hot water

a bowl (Standard matcha bowls are 12cm to 12.5cm in diameter. The one in the photos is a rice bowl [d = 12cm]. A cafe au lait bowl, a soup bowl, or a fruit bowl would be lovely too.

□ a spoon (I just realized that I like to use a metal spoon because I like to lick matcha powder off a spoon. You really can taste the uniqueness of a tea that way. And it feels so wrong to lick a bamboo spoon.)

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something on which to rest and air dry your bamboo whisk (so it’ll retain its shape and dry properly. Shall we call it a chasen rest? Let me show you the four options I have here in my home. From left to right, an empty glass jar of:

– Dijon mustard

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– anchovy

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– paprika,

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– and an egg stand.

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Today’s setup.

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a cup, bowl, or container in which to soak your bamboo whisk before use, and to clean it after (As shown in the photo, I use a 500ml measuring cup, which usually doesn’t leave my kitchen. I make matcha in the kitchen, then bring only the bowl and the plate of sweets to the table. I get better lighting out here in my office-living room for photographs.)

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sweets (As a rule, a bowl of matcha is served with a piece of sweets. But you do you. I’ll show you what I like in the next section.) 

a scale (I happen to like weighing my matcha powder for each bowl, but of course traditionally and historically people have always eyeballed.)

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a thermometer (Mine broke a while ago. I’ve been making excellent matcha without one.)
□ a sifter/strainer/sieve (Lumps are evil. You can use a sifter, or dissolve matcha powder in a little bit of tempered/cold water beforehand. I usually opt for the latter.)

 

sweets to accompany your tea

“Akita Morokoshi 秋田諸越”
Akita = Akita Prefecture, Morokoshi = China (archaic)

Those pressed cookies (or should we call them candies, your thoughts?) are made of adzuki bean powder and sugar. They came from China to Japan during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907, when we called China “Morokoshi” = Land of Tang) and found their way to Akita, where they are now made, thus the name Akita Morokoshi. There are a couple of other stories, but this is the one I like the best.

I usually buy two kinds of Morokoshi and serve one piece of each on a little plate. The “pressed and dried” type has an ethereal, more delicate texture. The other one “pressed, dried, then broiled” is quite hard and delicious. I love the crunch!

 

how to prep your new “chasen” bamboo whisk

0. Take the new chasen out of the package.
1. Wash it under running water. Fill a container with cold water and soak it for a minute. Discard water.
2. Fill the container with hot water and gently rinse and shake the chasen, changing water several times.
3. Shake the chasen to remove excess water and let it dry on a chasen rest. (See the “items you probably have at home” section).

My chasen resting on an empty jar of Dijon mustard.

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simple and less cringy way to make matcha at home

What do I mean by less cringy?

Suppose you’re French. You’re in Japan. You see us Japanese people make fake French dishes. You shudder a little. Oui?

You’re Italian. You’re in Japan. You see us cooking soy-sauce Italian. You cringe inside. Si?

You’re Chinese. You’re in my kitchen. You see me combine condiments from Guangzhou and Beijing in one bowl. You are mortified. 对?

I am Japanese. I went to YouTube to watch folks in different parts of the world doing all sorts of things with their matcha kit. Yes, I cringed a little.

We humans are making each other cringe like this, all the time. We feel that way because we care about our food and our culture. We have a need to be understood. We want people to know who we are, what matters to us, and why we do what we do. Which I think is kind of beautiful.

Here’s how I make my everyday bowl of matcha. Nothing fancy, but utterly delicious. And deeply satisfying.

 

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For myself (or for someone who likes less matcha powder + lots more water)

Matcha powder 1.0g
Water 200g/ml
Or as much or as little as you like.

Flow option 1
soak chasen bamboo whisk in cold water (this is why)

have sweets ready

boil water

put matcha powder in serving bowl

add a little bit of cold water

whisk to dissolve

pour hot water and whisk (matcha is done but don’t stop there)

rinse chasen in a container of cold water, shake off excess water, and place on chasen rest (it takes 10 seconds max, and you’ll never have to worry about removing petrified matcha bits off those little tines)

serve matcha with sweets

 

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Flow option 2
soak chasen bamboo whisk in cold water (this is why)

have sweets ready

boil water

put matcha powder in serving bowl

temper water

add a little bit of tempered water to matcha powder

whisk to dissolve

pour the rest of hot water and whisk (matcha is done but don’t stop there)

rinse chasen in a container of cold water, shake off excess water, and place on chasen rest (it takes 10 seconds max, and you’ll never have to worry about removing petrified matcha bits off those little tines)

serve matcha with sweets

 

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For my guest (or for when I want to enjoy a more traditional bowl of matcha)

Matcha powder 2.0g
Hot water 100g/ml
Or as much or as little as you like.

Flow
soak chasen bamboo whisk in cold water (this is why)

have sweets ready

boil water

sift matcha powder into serving bowl

temper water

add a little bit of tempered water to matcha powder

whisk to dissolve

pour the rest of hot water and whisk (matcha is done but don’t stop there)

rinse the chasen in a container of cold water, shake off excess water, and place on chasen rest (it takes 10 seconds max, and you’ll never have to worry about removing petrified matcha bits off those little tines)

serve matcha with sweets

 

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More later.

 

本日のスペシャル

最近の1日1新:Spotify(サービス開始後すぐに使っていた懐かしい Spotify に再会。楽しんでます)
1日1冊:Jeffery Radner「Cured」、Augustine「Confessions」 This new English translation of Confessions by Sarah Ruden is amazing.

 

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