Monday, December 27, 2010

Tōji: Winter Solstice

image of full moon seen through pine trees

Clear, cold winter night
Bright lantern hangs from a branch
Full moon through the pines

November and December have been busy months for us. We missed having our monthly demonstrations, but with Holidays, birthdays, teaching and a Chaji it was good that we postponed them until January.

It is so easy to get swept up in life’s busy pace -- holiday parties, wrapping gifts, grocery shopping -- that it is difficult to remember what is important. No matter how busy, this time of year invites reflection as well as celebration, to take a moment to remember the year behind us. For us, this year has been rich and full of experience. In the spring, Harvey-Sensei was able to further his studies with Hirose-Sensei in Tokyo. Horiai Center enjoyed a summertime visit from our friend/teacher/colleague Matsui-Sensei and her good friend Naito-san. We were their tour guides on California’s beautiful North Coast; with us they shared many things, including tea ceremonies, cooking and kimono dressing. In the autumn we began monthly Tea Ceremony demonstrations at the Ink People Center for the Arts.

Now here we are in winter, pausing quietly for just a moment -- feeling Nature pause with us -- as we enter the New Year with anticipation of what can be, with hearts full of gratitude.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shop Local

When we first began to study Chanoyu we had no Japanese utensils to practice with. We weren't going to let our lack of dogu keep us from learning the Tea Ceremony, though. We resolved to practice using household objects to substitute for dogu: a stock pot in place of the kama, a soup ladle for the hishaku, a spoon for chashaku and so forth. We arranged them on our living room floor and practiced until our knees ached. We learned our temae, but perhaps more importantly, we learned that to study Chanoyu we needed only a few simple tools and a willing spirit. It was in this spirit that Harvey-sensei gave us a homework assignment: "Find a Western (non-Japanese) object that will function as dogu for usucha-temae and bring it to practice."

::  ::  ::

Throughout its history, Japan experienced tides of influence, mostly from China and Korea. In between periods of openness and acceptance of foreign culture, Japan would isolate itself and its own culture would develop with minimal outside influence, sometimes for a generation or more. While picking and choosing bits of foreign culture that best suited them, the Japanese became masters of cultural synthesis.

During a period of openness, during China's Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), precious objets d'art were imported in quantity from China and Korea. Shoguns and wealthy collectors amassed these objects, but without discrimination. In the 14th century, during Japan's medieval period, collectors became aware of the need to evaluate their art collections and establish authenticity and provenance. The shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408) himself acted as an appraiser. He and later shoguns employed doboshu, culture ministers or "commissioners for Chinese goods," to appraise artwares -- much like on today's TV show, "Antiques Roadshow." Doboshu were often artists in their own right, and they furthered the thriving art market in the trade of Chinese and Korean wares. Tea gatherings during this time were of the aristocratic and formal shoin style, held in reception halls and featured imported wares elaborately displayed in a cabinet or on shelves or a daisu (a large stand).

In the decades that followed, artistic sensibilities turned from shoin style formality toward the informality of the soan or "grass hut" style of Tea. This trend was the foundation of the wabicha (rustic tea) sensibility. Soan chanoyu and wabicha were further developed and promoted by Sen no Rikyu (1512-91), Grand Tea Master to two of Japan's most powerful warlords, Oda Nobunaga (1534-82) and Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-98). Rikyu himself was a powerful and influential man, so much so that, it is widely believed, Hideyoshi eventually found disfavor with him and ordered his Tea Master to commit seppuku.

Daisu tea, said Rikyu, was "the basis of the chanoyu," that one must appreciate shoin style tea in order to appreciate wabicha. Regardless of this sentiment, Rikyu favored the use of domestic wares over imported Chinese objects in the soan chanoyu: rustic vases from native kilns, scrolls by Japanese artists, raku bowls inspired by local roof-tile makers. In promoting soan chanoyu he gave voice to Japanese craftsmen and artists, the medieval Japanese version of "shop local."

 ::  ::  ::

Our homework assignment resonates with this development of wabicha. It directs our attention away from imported Japanese wares to examine everyday objects and consider their utility in the chanoyu.

Laura brought an American dish for okashi

Here we use a bowl made by Humboldt County potter Mark Young. Laura also brought an Amish saffron container to use for a chaire and a container purchased at a second-hand store and made by an unknown pottery artist to use as a kensui.

My $1 Dollar Store hanaire with lily chabana looked
quite graceful until the flower opened up.

Further Reading

Chado, The Japanese Way fo Tea. Soshitsu Sen, Weatherhill/Tankosha, 1979.

Japanese Arts and the Tea Ceremony (Heibonsha Survey of Japanese Art, Vol. 15). T. Hayashiya, M. Nakamura and S. Hayashiya, Weatherhill/Heibonsha, New York/Tokyo, 1980.

Wind in the Pines, Classic Writings of the Way of Tea as a Buddhist Path. Dennis Hirota, Asian Humanities Press/Jain Publishing Co., 1995.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

November Chaji

November is a fine month for tea gatherings. It is the month of robiraki, opening the ro or sunken hearth, and of kuchikiri, opening of the new tea. Robiraki marks the beginning of the tea year; November is a solemn month.

November is also, it seems, a fine month for birthdays. So it's even better when we can combine the two. Harvey Sensei's birthday was the perfect opportunity for us to hold a chaji and wish him a wonderful and long life.

This chaji was a challenge -- our Sensei would not be with us, behind the scenes, to coach and direct us. We planned, prepared and performed to the best of our abilities. Our timing was not perfect (a little late here, a little hurried there) and there were a few overlooked details, but the tea was served with the truest of affection.

Game plan

We had a small army -- actually a platoon plus one -- cleaning, cooking, mending, orgainizing, arranging. Perhaps it's because we're inexperienced, but hosting a chaji does not seem like a solo act. We found it difficult with six people -- how is it that only one or two people can host a chaji? With more experience we might be able to answer that question.

:: :: :: 

Candle, kogo and chabana


KakemonoKan za matsu kaze o kiku, “Sit quietly and listen to the pine wind.”
Hanaire (flower container): a gift from Matsui Midori to Harvey on the occasion of our visit to her home
Chabana: early-blooming rhododendrons, chrysanthemum, blueberry foliage
Mizusahshi: porcelain with bamboo designs
Chashaku: Iori no Tomo, "Friend of the Tea Room"
Chaire: high-shouldered style, not named
Kogo: celadon porcelain with crane designs
Omochawan: black raku, a wedding gift from Hirose Sensei
Chamei: koicha and usucha given to us by Matsui-san
Okashi: "Long Life" yam-and-walnut manju, homemade by Annie
Natsume: red lacquer with origami crane design
Chawan:  porcelain, with "Hercules" constellation design, a birthday gift from Jeff Nelson
Higashi: seasonal, provided by Laura from Asakichi


Harvey, Tony and John


Holly, Laura, Annie, Kristin, Pia, Shana. Kristin made koicha; Laura made usucha.

Tenshin meal 

In the box: Gohan (rice) with sprinkle of red shiso; Asian pear slaw (salad, top left, recipe follows), tobiko (garnish, center), squid salad (bottom right); yakimono of marinated duck breast; konomono of takuan (top), kombu (middle), cucumbers (bottom). 

Misoshiru was served with a piece of butternut squash cut into hexagons (tortoiseshell shapes), garnished with hot Chinese mustard. 

Hassun was ginko nuts skewered on pine needles and locally-smoked albacore. 

Hashiarai was hot water with umeboshi. 

:: :: ::

Asian Pear Slaw

The salads in the tenshin were a huge hit. The squid salad came from our local Co-op, sold pre-packaged in the freezer section. I think we can come close to recreating it with a little experimentation (squid, ginger, sesame, broccoli rabe, green onion, seaweed of some variety, a pinch of red pepper, vinegar and sugar).

The Asian Pear Slaw recipe is from Gourmet magazine, Dec. 2000 edition. Gourmet is no longer in print, but recipes are still online. 

Gourmet | December 2000
Active time: 40 min Start to finish: 1 hr
Yield: Makes 6 servings
2 celery ribs
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
2 firm Asian pears, cut into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks
2 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh hot red chile, or to taste

Peel strings from celery with a Y-shaped vegetable peeler and cut celery into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks.
Whisk together juice, vinegar, and ginger and stir in celery and remaining ingredients with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gamelan Sekar Sequoia Performs in Arcata

Did you miss Gamelan Sekar Sequoia at November's Arts Alive! in Eureka? Fear not! Fill your ears with Gamelan goodness at Global Village, 973 H St., Arcata (one block off the Plaza), Friday, Dec. 17 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. FREE!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gamelan Classes

Sharon of Gamelan Sekar Sequoia just sent us an update that she will be starting a new session of classes beginning in January:

The next beginning Gamelan class will be a session of eight Sundays, starting January 23. The class is from 9:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m., and meets in the gamelan room at my house at 11th & D in Arcata. $5 per week. No previous musical training is necessary. The level of challenge can be easily adjusted to suit the individual. Young adults welcome. We focus on classical repertoire in the Solonese style, using traditional instruments imported from Central Java. For further information, please contact Sharon by e-mail at or by phone at 707-502-7904.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gamelan Performance During Eureka Arts Alive!

Eureka's monthly arts night, Arts Alive!, is a remarkable showcase for the area's diverse artistic talents. In May, we stumbled upon a performance by Gamelan Sekar Sequoia (pictured above), a community-based gamelan ensemble. If you're unfamiliar with this traditional Indonesian music, search take a listen: it's percussive, melodic and magical. Live gamelan music is a special treat. 

Gamelan Sekar Sequoia will treat your ears with a free live performance during Arts Alive! Saturday, Nov. 6, 6-9 p.m. at Indah Bali, 440 F St., Eureka.

For more information about Arts Alive! call 707-442-9054.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ao Arashi

Guests attempt to stay dry before the day's first gathering
There was that unmistakable patter: A moderate, steady rain that showed no inclination to lighten up. It was here for the day, so too bad for you if you weren't prepared. I wasn't entirely unprepared, but didn't have my foul weather gear with me either so I layered up and trundled on to the Daichakai.

This was my first time attending the Hakone Daichakai, a large multi-school tea gathering celebrating its tenth year in 2010. Attendees came from as far away as Washington state and Kyoto, Japan, and hailed from all the major tea schools -- Omotesenke, Urasenke and Mushanokojisenke. A  special treat this year was a delegation from the Yabunouchi school, a small non-Sen familiy tea school claiming to being the oldest of all tea schools, led by the school's future grand tea master. The gathering is held at Hakone Estate and Gardens in Saratoga, a beautiful Japanese strolling garden prominently featuring a koi pond and Moon Bridge. The bridge, as well as the entry gate and several houses are of traditional Japanese construction. Perhaps the crown jewel is Shogetsu, a three-mat tea hut brought piece by piece from Japan, situated at the top of the hill overlooking the garden.


 Tea was served by the various schools at seven venues throughout the garden -- the Cultural Exchange Center (CEC), three venues at the Lower House, the Wisteria Pavilion, the Upper House and Shogetsu. The largest venue, CEC, can accommodate about 80 people; Shogetsu can barely hold five. My seatings were at CEC for a demonstration by the Yabunouchi school, and at the Wisteria Pavilion and the Upper House to share usucha with practitioners of the Urasenke tradition.

The Yabunouchi temae was familiar in most regards, but there were striking differences in chasentoshi (tea whisk inspection) and the folding of the fukusa. Movements by host and guest were grand and exaggerated, perhaps derived from the school's roots in the Shoin style of tea (practiced in large halls by the aristocracy, as compared to the more intimate wabicha style).

Yabunouchi Demonstration
After enjoying the Yabunouchi demonstration I participated in two usucha servings at the Wisteria Pavilion on the pond and at the Upper House overlooking the garden. The pond setting was small and rustic, yet elegant. The pavilion is constructed of unfinished wood and is open to the weather, but tea was made at a beautiful black lacquer tenchaban (table). We enjoyed the sound of rain falling on the pond and the view of the garden up the hill to the Upper House.

Tea at the large Upper House, with an elevated perspective of the pond and garden, was less intimate but equally enjoyable. The room was arranged gyakugatte (reversed) so that guests would get the best view of utensils and procedure. Teishu was nervous, but remained composed and performed the temae with grace. All guests were treated to haiken of a particularly handsome natsume that had been signed by Tantansai (1893-1964), Urasenke's 14th generation Grand Tea Master, and purchased by the sensei at a Bay Area antique store.

Wisteria Pavilion Tenchaban
Teishu readies natsume and chashaku
for haiken at the Upper House
Rain continued all day, but spirits were never dampened. Guests commented that the rain made the garden more beautiful by washing away dust and heightening the color of trees and moss. I was glad to see Hakone Garden in this way -- it reminded me of gardens I had seen in Japan under similar conditions.

I stopped in the gift shop at the end of the day, after absorbing as much rain and garden views as I could, expecting only to purchase a souvenir. While browsing, I overheard a conversation between three other tea guests. Two women asked a man how he came to the tea ceremony; he explained his love of Japanese culture and the tea ceremony. After they parted, I made a point of telling him how much I enjoyed listening to his tea philosophy. We chatted about how much we both enjoyed tea ceremony and the daichakai. He remarked about how a the weather that day had inspired him to reflect on ao arashi (green storm) -- a familiar name for matcha and the best description of the day.

See more photos at my Picasa album and here

Friday, October 22, 2010

More from Tea Practice

 Chabana is marigolds, grasses and cilantro seed pods.

For sweets, we removed sticks from kurumi dango (bite-sized walnut-and-white-bean-paste-filled mochi) and placed them on bamboo leaves. Pia thought they looked like little snails, so we cut the bamboo leaf to make antennae. Very seasonal: Since the rains have begun we have lots of tiny snails in the garden.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October Tea Ceremony Demonstration

Blueberry (foliage), grasses, California poppy, yarrow and acuba
This month's Chado demonstration was Sunday, Oct. 10. We had expectations of low- to no turnout, but we thought that if no one showed up we could make a bowl of tea for ourselves then pack up and go home. To our delight we had six people attend (best attendance yet!), including a friend and two Chinese tourists who were passing by.

Harvey-sensei talked about guest etiquette, and how to receive and appreciate a bowl of tea. Our guests had many questions, which he enjoyed answering.

In order to enjoy the upcoming holiday season we are putting off our our next tea gathering until January. We will post the date and time when confirmed. 

Holly prepping in the mizuya

Ready for guests

Thursday, October 7, 2010

This week's chabana

This week's flower arrangement brought to you by Laura: River lily arranged with grasses and columbine foliage.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Chabana of the week

Kristin arranged this week's chabana: huckleberry, penstemon and Japanese maple with red samara (the winged seeds of the maple tree).

Everything has shomen

At a recent Tea practice, I lent Pia my keiko-gi. I thought it would be good practice for her, but when she had trouble putting her fukusa through the loop at the waistband we discovered she'd put it on inside out and the waistband loops were on the inside. Sensei took that opportunity to point out that everything has shomen -- a front, or face -- including keiko-gi.

Two bowls for usucha (thin tea) with decoration
that makes shomen easy to recognize.

Shomen is not an entirely foreign concept for Westerners but we might not see that everything has shomen. Tea bowls often have a decoration or glaze that makes recognizing shomen easy, however a tea bowl without a conspicuous "front" also has shomen. For example, the glaze and shape of a black raku bowl appear uniform to the untrained eye, and one might think that one side is as good as any other. Even though it appears to be uniform this type of bowl does indeed have shomen. The host will examine a bowl closely to determine shomen, and will present it toward the guest. This is out of respect for both utensil and guest.

A 16th century black Raku-ware chawan
(Tokyo National Museum)

Guests also honor the host and utensil by acknowledging shomen. When drinking tea, a guest will rotate the bowl so shomen faces away, then turn it back to appreciate the bowl and shomen. When returning the bowl to the host, the bowl is turned yet again so that shomen faces the host.

Making tea in a bowl without obvious shomen can be a challenge for the host. Without a mark or decoration, the host must be well-practiced -- and have trust and confidence in her practice, as well -- so that when she presents her guest with their bowl of tea, her guests may appreciate the shomen of the beautiful chawan.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September Tea

Laura demonstrates ryakubondate temai at September's demo and talk.
A small group joined us at our monthly gathering for a bowl of matcha. Laura and Holly demonstrated ryakubondate temai, and Harvey presented a slideshow about the history of Tea and its introduction to Japan. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More links about kimono and obi

I've been collecting websites about kimono and obi for some time now, and the list continues to grow.

This links to a dynamic feed of bookmarks that will expand as we find more and more information. You may check here frequently, or subscribe wth an RSS reader:

Send links to me if you find something helpful about wearing kimono and obi.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tea talk and demo

You are invited to learn about Chanoyu, the Japanese Tea Ceremony, and Chado, the Way of Tea. Our monthly gatherings feature a discussion and demonstration of Chanoyu.

Sunday Oct 12, noon
Ink People Center for the Arts
517 3d St., Suite 40
(3rd floor, elevator available)
Old Town, Eureka
Wear comfortable clothing, be fragrance-free and wear minimal jewelry. Everyone is welcome, but this event is not recommended for small children. Free will donation requested. Please join us!

For additional information, contact us at

Thursday, September 9, 2010

If at first you don't succeed...

... untie the obi and start over.

Holly, David and Pia enjoy tea after struggling with kimono

To gain more practice in wearing kimono, sensei has us practicing temai once a month in kimono. It felt like we were sent back in time to when we were two-year-olds learning to tie shoelaces and button our own coats. After much fumbling and frustration we managed to get ourselves respectably dressed.

Wearing kimono demands much mindfulness of we Westerners. They are unfamiliar so we must move carefully and thoughtfully. Standing up, sitting down and walking gracefully are especially challenging. On the upside, kimono restricts or, rather, shapes movement and helps us to have better posture when sitting and bowing, and helps us understand why certain motions in temai are the way they are (for example, why the natsume is set down in a certain way).

Next month, we will be even better.

:: :: ::

Online reference for wearing kimono and tying obi

Rebecca Cragg of Camellia Teas demonstrates how to tie Nagoya obi (YouTube)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Amy & Aiko Uyeki Senryu Poetry Reading

Shizue Harada’s poignant poems, (pen name Sanae) along with artwork created by her granddaughter Amy Uyeki, are the subject of a poetry reading of Sanae, Senryu Poet: Her Life in 5-7-5, read by Amy and editor Aiko Uyeki, Sanae’s daughter.

Following the poetry reading, the Uyekis will conduct a workshop exploring senryu and haiga, which combines poetry with artwork.

Wed., Sept. 15, 2010
Time: 6-8 p.m.
Price: Free
Where: Library Fishbowl (Room 209), Humboldt State University Campus
(download a campus map [pdf])

For more details, contact Kumi Watanabe-Schock email (707) 826-5656

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chabako, California-Style

Last winter, Harvey-Sensei taught us Unohana Chabako or "picnic tea," as it is sometimes called. It is a temai meant to be enjoyed outdoors. We were able to enjoy chabako on several occasions this year. In the spring we enjoyed chabako at a Tango-no-sekku (Boy's Day) garden party. In July, Harvey presented chabako to his friends at their annual group camp-out:

Photo by Lauraven Dodd
In August, we took our friends Midori-sensei and Noriko-san to Redwood National Park and enjoyed tea in the redwood forest:

Preparing for chabako
Harvey-san makes tea, Noriko-san takes video
The view from our picnic area. What finer kakemono is there?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Poetry reading and booksigning

If you missed the Senryu poetry reading and workshop earlier this month, you have another opportunity to listen to readings from Sanae, Senryu Poet, Her Life in 5-7-5, the poetry of Shizue Harada. And, of course, purchase a copy and have it signed!

Friday, Aug. 27, 7:00 p.m.
Northtown Books
957 H St., Arcata

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chanoyu demonstration success

Horai Center friends welcomed five very nice people to our first Chanoyu demonstration on Aug. 15 at the Ink People Center for the Arts. We are already planning our next presentation.

Harvey demonstrated Ryuakubondate temai* without narration (above), then narrated and answered questions as Laura and Kristin demonstrated the temai again. It was wonderful to be able to share usucha* with interesting people.

Bonus: We got to practice putting on kimono! We need a lot more practice.

* Links to a brief yet expanding glossary of terms used on this site.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Chanoyu Demonstration

Horai Center will be providing a demonstration and discussion of Chanoyu (Japanese Tea ceremony) at the Ink People Center for the Arts, 517 3rd St., Eureka, Calif. We recommend guests wear comfortable clothing, be fragrance-free and wear minimal jewelry. Everyone is welcome, but this demonstration is not recommended for small children.
DatesSunday Aug. 15
Timenoon-2 p.m.
VenueInk People Center for the Arts 
CostFree-will donation

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Senryu Poetry Reading and Workshop

Shizue Harada’s poignant poems, (pen name Sanae) along with artwork created by her granddaughter Amy Uyeki, are the subject of a poetry reading of Sanae, Senryu Poet: Her Life in 5-7-5, read by Amy and editor Aiko Uyeki, Sanae’s daughter.

Kumi Watanabe Schock will serve as translator.

Following the poetry reading, the Uyekis will conduct a workshop exploring the poetry medium of senryu and introducing the ancient art of haiga, which combines poetry with artwork.

The Nikkei (descendants of Japan) community are encouraged to participate. Both events are open to the public and free of charge. Another reading/workshop is being planned for this fall at the HSU Multicultural Center, Arcata.

Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
24 Fellowship Way, Bayside
Tuesday, Aug. 3, 6:30 p.m.

Event listing from the North Coast Journal website

Books are available at Northtown Books in Arcata or online at

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

So where do you get your Matcha? Part II

We first posted this question nearly a year ago ("So where do you get your Matcha?", Aug. 22, 2009, and "Matcha source update," Oct. 5, 2009). Recently, we purchased Matcha from, of all places, and we were pleasantly surprised.

We conducted a taste test of these teas:

DoMatcha Green Tea, Organic Matcha
1.06-oz. (approx. 30 g) $25.97
Cost per gram: 87¢

The Tao of Tea, Liquid Jade Powdered Matcha Green Tea
Loose Leaf,* 3-oz. (approx 90 g) $18.46
Cost per gram: 21¢
(*The product description states "loose leaf" but it was indeed powdered matcha)

Tea's Tea Matcha Ceremonial Green Tea
20 g Units (Pack of 2, 40 g total) $24.00
Cost per gram: 60¢

There were five tasters whose experience with Matcha ranged from expert to novice. Our yardstick was Ippodo Aoyama-no-shiro Matcha which we purchased for everyday practice while in Japan. It is a mid-grade tea, but still was of a higher quality than the teas under examination. (In Japan, this tea cost about $5.00 for 40 grams, 13¢ per gram. We haven't been able to find it in the U.S. Yet.)

We rated these teas using a rubric based on dry and wet color, aroma, flavor and "whiskability" (how well the dry powdered tea could be whisked to a drinkable consistency in a chawan). DoMatcha barely sneaked into first place with Tea's Tea close behind. Both teas were very drinkable and had fine color and aroma but were not what we consider of the highest quality. The flavor was one-dimensional and didn't develop the desirable aftertaste we like in a ceremonial-grade tea. We found the Tea's Tea to be the best value for everyday practice. (Interesting side note: The dry Tea's Tea dry Matcha had an interesting alkaliney-chocolatey aroma, but it was absent when the tea was whisked in hot water.)

On the other hand, the Tao of Tea was entirely unacceptable -- old, stale, bitter. It was straw-colored (not the vibrant emerald-green we associate with Matcha) and it is no exaggeration to describe the aroma and flavor as "foul," "nasty" and "gaggy." (I shudder to think that an unsuspecting tea novice would drink this evil brew and forever be repelled by the mere thought of Matcha.) customer product reviews were not glowing, but they didn't come close to describing this unbelievably awful tea. We were given a full refund, no questions asked.

:: :: ::

Apologies to Canadian tea brethren: does not offer grocery products in Canada (this was brought to my attention by a reader's comment on a previous post -- thank you Hitsch). I'm sure there are more Canadian tea associations than this, but perhaps this is a place to begin:

Montreal Association of Chado Urasenke Tanokai, Inc.
(514) 393-134.

 Suggestions and comments welcome.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thinking inside the box

Strawberry blossom
Eaten by an oppossum
Tea is awesome!

-- Kristin, Pia and John's haiku written during chaji, June 6, 2010

We held a Chaji this June to celebrate Pia's 33rd and Kristin's 33-1/3 birthdays. John joined them as a guest. Even though the weather was gray, muggy and drizzly, the mood was lighthearted and playful.

Annie made the omogashi and was teishu (host). Shana was our kimono dresser. Laura was hanto (assistant) and helped me in the kitchen along with Dan and Dhar. We served tenshin (a light lunch) before koicha. Photos are forthcoming. Some recipes are below.

June Tenshin Menu

In the shokado box:
Vegetable "Sashimi" of carrots and daikon
Zucchini Dengaku
Homemade takuan (bran-pickled daikon) and chard pickled in miso
Miso soup with cucumber, garnished with a sprig of cilantro and a dab of mustard

Sake -- Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo, Kurasawa Junmai Dai Ginjo

Hashiarai of pine nuts

Hassun -- Artichoke heart boats with fresh-grated daikon; seasoned water chestnuts wrapped with nori

Omogashi -- "Ie Ichigo" ("One Meeting Strawberry"), mochi-wrapped strawberry with an.

Koicha -- We used a very good quality usucha from Wada-en for koicha. Unorthodox, but delicious.

Higashi -- an-filled cakes bought by Kristin at Ginkaku-ji in Kyoto

Usucha -- Ippodo "Ao Arashi"

:: :: ::

Vegetable Sashimi

This dish was inspired by a recipe for "Tomato 'Sashimi'" from The World in a Bowl of Tea by Bettina Vitelli.

For the "sashimi," slice several young carrots and a 2" length of daikon into 2" x 3/8" pieces -- about 1 to 1-1/2 cups. Microwave (or steam) briefly until just barely tender -- for a minute or less. Allow to cool to room temperature.

For the dressing, combine
juice of one lime
1/4 tsp each of salt and sugar
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
Toss dressing with cooled vegetables. Arrange and serve like classic sashimi, with ken, tsuma and karami. Ken is fine strips, or chiffonade, of daikon, cucumber or seaweed which is placed under the sashimi. Tsuma is an aromatic garnish such as shiso or perilla. Karami is a pungent garnish, such as wasabi, mustard or ginger.

Our presentation was arranged on a chiffonade of young chard leaves with a dollop of wasabi. We added a sprinkle of chopped mint leaves and finished with a drizzle of dressing.

:: :: ::

Zucchini Dengaku

Dengaku is a favorite grilled dish, made by grilling skewered vegetables or tofu. Sauces vary with the season. This recipe is modified from from "Nasu no Oden" from The Heart of Zen Cuisine by Soei Yoneda.

Select several young zucchini squash and slice in half lengthwise. Brush with oil and grill until tender, basting with yakitori sauce while grilling. Slice diagonally into bite-size pieces. Spread miso topping on each piece and serve while still warm.

Miso topping
4 level Tbsp sweet white miso
1-1/2 Tbsp sake
1 tsp sugar
:: :: ::

Vegetables Pickled in Miso

Any vegetable can be used, but I chose the still-tender flower spikes and stalks from our bolting chard.

Mix together
1 scant cup miso, any kind
1 Tbsp sake
Cover vegetables with miso paste. Vegetables such as carrot, radish, broccoli stems or cucumbers should pickle 1-5 days. Chard blossoms were ready overnight.

:: :: ::

Pine Nut Hashiarai
1 c hot water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground toasted pine nuts
Steep and strain. Garnish with 3 or 5 whole toasted pine nuts.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Save the date for a possible Horai fundraiser!

On August 1st, the Ink People Center for the Arts (Horai's foster organization) is holding a fundraiser, and we can get in on the action! The Ink People is still in temporary quarters after their offices were damaged by January's big quake. Their quake-rattled offices are not slated to be repaired any time soon and they may soon need to find more permanent offices. Naturally this is all a huge strain on their budget.

I'm thinking we can make bowls of tea for donations. It will be great to get us out there and visible to the public, plus it will endear us to the Ink People and maybe even raise a little cash for both worthy causes! This event is also intended to promote the Ink People to the public at large and showcase the work they do with DreamMaker programs such as Horai.

Mark your calendar! Put on your thinking caps! Let's get the ideas flowing!!

Here's the scoop from Tanya at the Ink People:

Hello All DreamMaker Programs

I am writing to you to request your assistance and involvement in The Ink Peoples next Fundraiser.
On August 1st we will be throwing "The Golden Road Art & Music Fair."

Shoshanna at Redwood Raks has offered her space for free.
Dave Ferney at Arcata Play House has offered their space for free.
Thus (Thankfully) the event will take place at The Old Creamery Building.

My plan thus far.... is to run the event from noon until midnight.
I have a letter in to the owners of the building requesting the use of the parking lots off L Street & 9th Street for an outdoor street fair.
If they deny us the use of the parking lots, we will simply apply to have 9th Street closed between L & N street (not the least expensive way of doing it, but still doable.)

The daytime part of the event (noon to 8pm) would be outdoors and in the Arcata Play House.
It would include....
*music on an outdoor stage
*and other art forms (dance, spoken word, circus arts) in the Play House
*Up to 60 vendors, mostly arts & crafts and some food
*A large kid zone with crafts, puppet shows, dress up zone, face painting, circus arts workshops, etc...
All to be concluded by a fire show (if management allows) and drum circle

The Ink people would stand to make money off of the vendors fees and their own vending table of goods.

The night time part (8pm to midnight) would include:
* a sliding scale $5 to $10 fee to get into Redwood Raks to see live music by: 2 bands
(The Miracle Show would headline... not sure who would open yet but I have many offers)
* a table with t-shirts and cards
* a beer bar (for sale!!!)
* a food table (w/food for sale???)
* and a photo both
* with a Jerry Garcia/ Janis Joplin Look-a-like contest (Prizes ????)

What I need from you is your assistance on any level that you feel comfortable:
Entertaining & Sharing what your DreamMaker Program does
Planning & Organizing
Calling possible sponsors to raise funds to keep the day time part of the event free to the public
Helping to Manage the event
Volunteering at the event for any amount of time that you can offer as security, set up, clean up, booth, back stage, bar, food etc...
Your Talents- circus, music, handyman, accounting... I will take you all!!!!!
What Ever You Have To Offer!!!!!!

Thanks so much
You know where to find me.
Tanya "T" Nordberg
Programs Manager
The Ink People Center for the Arts
517 3rd Street Suite 36 Eureka, CA 95501

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One chance

Shortly before she left the U.S. to return to her home in China, Shuai Chen, an HSU student and practitioner of the Chinese tea ceremony, invited us to her house to enjoy an afternoon of tea and conversation. It was a luxuriously sunny Sunday last September, and her presentation was as lovely and fluid as the delicious tea we sipped.

I began this entry right after our gathering, but set it aside to deal with the many other things life was tossing at me. I wish I had finished writing this post when the memories were fresh, but now what I have to share is an incomplete accounting of imperfect memories. And so here is the lesson of ichigo ichie -- one chance, one meeting.

I remember that Pia and Kristin couldn't make the rendezvous so it was just me and Laura. Shuai wore a beautiful Chinese dress -- the kind with the "Mandarin" collar and knotted buttons on the side. We listened to traditional Chinese music and she excitedly showed us a new travel tea mug. We met a roommate who, although charming, seemed to sidetrack our conversation. She showed us Chinese tea ceremony magazines (one article in particular featured photos of a prototype of the Japanese ceremony). I think I might have taken her some dorayaki (a Japanese confection). We talked about how sweets are served with Japanese tea, but not with Chinese tea. I don't recall the variety of tea we drank -- was it oolong or pu-ehr? -- and I had completely forgotten about a darling little clay frog figurine Shuai had on her tea tray until I opened up the draft for this post and found links I had saved to (below).

I found the Web site while searching for a travel tea mug like Shuai's, and, of course, found plenty of other tempting things like a little clay frog quite similar to Shuai's. Intending to visit the site again, I saved the links. But here I am, nine months later, still without a travel tea mug or clay frog and trying to piece together bits of memories of that lovely day. I'd like to say "lesson learned," but that's not entirely accurate. Let's just say lesson received.

:: :: ::

Friday, June 4, 2010

Kaiseki -- The Ultimate Locavore Cuisine

Kaiseki a light meal served during a Japanese Tea gatheringLocavore one who dines upon food grown or produced close to home

Laura has been studying Chado for several years but had not yet enjoyed a formal Tea gathering, or Chaji. She, along with friends Pia, John and Tony, joined us for a chaji in February in honor of her 50th birthday.

I've had no training other than working at the shoulder of my Sensei and Sempai, but I have an deep love and respect for what I believe is the epitome of locavore cuisine: Kaiseki. In cha-kaiseki -- kaiseki for the Tea ceremony -- the ingredients must be seasonal to reflect the theme the host has chosen for the Tea gathering. By extension, seasonal ingredients are fresh and grown locally or, at the least, regionally in California or the Pacific Northwest. (How on earth could something shipped halfway 'round the world be fresh?) Naturally, the best ingredients would be plucked from the garden that very morning.

Themes for Tea gatherings vary. Traditional Japanese holidays are common themes (such as New Year or Children's Day), but so is the observation of the turning of the seasons or simply honoring a guest. Take the spring equinox, for example. In late March, the weather might still be chilly, but we begin to anticipate the coming of warmer weather. Days lengthen. Migrating birds return home. Spring flowers are beginning to bloom. After the winter dearth of fresh vegetables, baby-fresh greens are coming to the market. The host selects spring-heralding flowers to decorate the Tea room, and utensils and a scroll will be chosen to also reflect this light and celebratory mood. Winter is finished, we celebrate spring!

It follows, then, that the menu for a Tea gathering must also be in harmony with the theme, and so it was for Laura's birthday chaji. In February, we were still in the grip of winter but getting the first hints of spring and deciding on what to serve at the Chaji was a challenge. Humboldt County's forgiving climate gives us an embarrassing abundance of ingredients to choose from. We can have greens from the garden or ocean-fresh salmon pretty much year 'round. Failing that, several natural food stores offer regionally-grown produce, plus Farmer's Markets operate from May through November. Locavores have much to choose from, with the exception of grains (which some Hum Co farmers are now beginning to grow).

As far as we know, rice has yet to be cultivated on the Arcata Bottoms; that was an ingredient that needed an exception to the "local" rule. Same for the edamame, hijiki, sesame, tofu pouches and others, but many key ingredients were grown close to home. And close to our heart.

Laura's February Birthday Kaiseki

Chaji 2/20/10

Food Adventures

Gohan -- plain white rice, cooked with a pinch of salt and a slice of kombu (kelp)

Misoshiru -- kombu dashi and a mix of red and white miso pastes (about 70%/30%), with simmered home-grown daikon topped with a dab of Sweet Mama Janisse's Sticky Love Sauce (a sweet mustard sauce manufactured in Humboldt County)

Muukozuke -- mixed sea greens with ginger and lemon zest
Sake #1 -- Momokawa Organic Ginjo Junmai (from Oregon)

Wanmori -- tofu pouches stuffed with seasoned portabello mushroom slice, hijiki and edamame, and tied with konbu; bamboo shoots, carrot, young broccoli and lemon zest garnish in a lightly thickened vegetarian broth

Yakimono -- tofu negi dengaku (tofu from Arcata's Tofu Shop grilled with Westbrae Soy miso dengaku sauce made with a generous amount of sauteed spring onions)Azukebachi -- 1) simmered California-grown spinach seasoned with sesame dressing; 2) braised carrot and home-grown daikon with a creamy tofu dressing

Sake #2 -- Momokawa "Diamond"

Hashiarai -- seasoned lightly with umeboshi (pickled plum), lemon zest and a fresh plum blossom

Hassun -- 1) California asparagus seasoned with sesame; 2) "fans" of nori seasoned with miso sauce and lightly toasted

Omogashi -- daifuku (mochi and anko) freshly home-made by Annie (see "Microwave Mochi")

Further reading

The Heart of Zen Cuisine, A 600-Year Tradition of Vegetarian Cooking. Soei Yoneda, Kodansha International, Tokyo and New York, 1982. Originally published as Good Food from a Japanese Temple. Yoneda was the Abbess of Sanko-in Temple of Kyoto.

Kaiseki: Zen Tastes in Japanese Cooking. Kaichi Tsuji, Tankosha Press, Kyoto, 1972. Lovingly illustrated with original woodcuts and beautiful full-color photographs. Detailed notes seasonal foods, serving ware and preparation and arrangement of food.

Untangling My Chopsticks, A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto. Victoria Abbot Riccardi, Broadway Books/Random House, New York, 2003. "As Victoria Riccardi goes in search of culinary enlightenment in this intimate and beautifully crafted memoir about living, cooking, and falling in love with Kyoto, the reader is seduced and transported by the scenes and flavors she paints with words. Riccardi writes with a sensuous eye for detail that brings alive the extraordinary beauty of Japan and the sumptuous pleasures of its table." --Lora Brody, author of Growing Up on the Chocolate Diet

The World in a Bowl of Tea, Healthy, Seasonal Foods Inspired by the Japanese Way of Tea. Bettina Vitelli, Harper Collins, New York, 1997.

North Coast Journal, selected articles about the Humboldt County local food movement and local grain farmers

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's May! Time to harvest tea

May is tea harvest time in Japan. In February, tea plants are clipped into their classic hedge-like shapes. As the weather warms up, tea plants put on up to four inches of new growth which is picked in May. Most tea is picked by machine, but the highest grade teas are picked and processed by hand.

Tea plantation, Saiyama Hills near Tokyo

Wada-san, proprietor of Wada-en tea plantation in Saiyama, explains the tea harvesting process.

More information about where to experience green tea harvesting in Japan: (Usual disclaimers apply.)