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Teas from the Mountains - Chado August 2023

Teas from the Mountains - Chado August 2023

Sipping on the Dock of the Bay

It is appropriate to have Otis sitting on a dock this month as we are going to talk a bit about water.

Water is the most consumed beverage in the world; tea is second. However, tea would not be much without water, so we should admit that water is miles ahead of every other beverage and forget the competition.

The tea farmers and producers work hard to grow tea that tea lovers like. We are currently tasting some tea called Kabusecha and hope to have a supply for you to try soon. This tea is grown like regular Sencha, then approximately a week before harvesting, it is shaded in a similar way to Gyokuro or Matcha. Then it is steamed; some producers steam it extra hot and fast, and some do it more slowly – every step is scrutinized to perfect the tea.

We then take a small amount of that tea, drench it in water, hoping the flavor permeates the water, and we then consume the liquor.

The water plays a big part in our tea consumption; it is an important team member.

Water consists of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. I remember from school the big tennis ball-sized ball of oxygen with two sticks poking out being added to the ping pong ball-sized hydrogen atoms with only one stick each. If that is all that water is - two elements joined together, it should be pretty easy to get the right amount and the temperature correct to add the water to the tea to make it taste just right.

The water we drink has much more than oxygen and hydrogen. We live in Vancouver, and we have lots of water; it seems that every summer, we are warned about water usage, so it is not unlimited, but generally, when we turn the tap on, we get water, and it is of high quality, Vancouver publishes reports of the standards they have to meet for the water – the amount of various chemicals or minerals and what levels are allowed in the water, some of the chemicals that are allowed, in small quantities, are iron, calcium, magnesium, boron, copper and on and on. These minerals come from the limestone, etc., the water goes through before reaching the reservoirs.

All of these ‘impurities’ affect how our prepared tea tastes.

To make things simpler, we usually characterize water as it relates to tea as hard water or soft water.

 Hard Water Areas in USA

Hard water contains more minerals, like magnesium and calcium, than soft water. Hard water is so-called because it is harder for soap to lather. The harder the water, the harder it is for the tea taste to shine through the other tastes in the water.

Lots of people use bottled water for drinking. Bottled water is not necessarily soft. There are two main types of bottled water on sale: mineral and spring. Of the two, Spring water is likely softer because, as the name suggests, mineral water has more minerals that are dissolved in the water as it flows through the rocks before it is collected; spring water is collected from aquifers that typically have not made its way through as much rock as the mineral water. As well as the source of the water, it may be later filtered, distilled, purified etc. All of these processes change the mineral content of the water and, potentially, its hardness.

Water filtering equipment can be used in the home to soften water. We recommend filtered water if it is available and economical.

We have many customers in hard water areas who enjoy our teas, so hard water is not a stop sign when it comes to tea tasting.

Even here in Vancouver, where we are lucky with the water when testing a new tea, we often try it with regular municipal water and then with filtered and/or bottled water. Sometimes, the taste is about the same, but at other times, the taste of purified or bottled water is preferable. If you have a favorite tea and you are in an experimental mood (do not worry, we are not asking you to grab some litmus paper), try making your tea with the water you usually use and then make the tea in the same way with some bottled, distilled or purified water and see how it works out. Perhaps you will find that your tap water works better for you than ‘fancy’ water; like most things with tea, there are many right answers to each question posed.


A Tea from the Mountains

Mountain Sencha TenRyu Premium

This tea was awarded a Platinum award at the Nihoncha Awards 2019, a Japanese tea competition that comprised almost 500 teas.

This tea is hand-picked from the steep slopes of the Tenryu River basin in Shizuoka.

Surrounded by the clean air and rich nature of the mountains, the tea has been nurtured by fully absorbing the energy of the mountainous climate and absorbing the fresh water on the mountain slopes.

The tea is lightly steamed – Asamushi and tastes full-bodied with a moderate astringency and umami. The tea has large, attractive leaves that produce a yellowy golden liquor with a delicate aroma that conjures up thoughts of a mountain breeze.


Mountain Sencha Tea

Japan is not a big country, and the people have figured out how to utilize their land, from the flat plains to the mountainous regions, to produce food over the years.

The Japanese plant the tea in parallel rows; this not only makes sense from an agricultural perspective – having the tea in long lines with curved surfaces at the top of the plant with gaps in between helps the tea get equal amounts of sunlight and also makes maintaining and harvesting the tea easier with the farm workers walking through the rows to tend to the crop.

It also adds to the tea farm's beauty–whether the farm is on the flat land where row after row of tea stretches over the land or up in the mountains where it tends to follow the contours, it adds to the mystical and spiritual nature of tea in Japan.

 What it is All About - Heaven in the Mountains



Jūgoya is the night of the full moon of autumn in Japan, better known in North America as the Harvest Moon.

In the days before electricity, farmers could use the light provided by the moon when it was full; it is at its fullest just before the fall equinox and is why it is referred to as harvest moon in some cultures.

 Jūgoya Shrine

In Japan, there are festivals to mark the beauty of this full moon. Like most festivals in Japan, these are typically celebrated with special foods. In the case of this festival, the food of choice is usually 'tsukimi dango' or 'dumplings for moon viewing,' a dumpling made from glutinous rice flour. Other foods celebrated are taro, potatoes, chestnuts and a variety of others harvested at this time of year. Often, families will build shrines comprising dango, fruit and pampas grass facing the moon as part of the festivities.

As mentioned, it is not just in Japan that the Harvest Moon is celebrated; Neil Young wrote a beautiful song called Harvest Moon. we do not think he had Jugoya in mind, but it’s a good excuse to play it.