While the official start of summer doesn't happen for a couple more weeks, with the warmer weather as of late in the PNW, summer might have gotten a head start. In any case, we have plenty to share in the way of new teas, a brief spotlight on a cool new company in the Greater Seattle area, and some tea festival updates. So, let's get started...
Introducing: The Green Tea That Isn't
It’s a green tea but it certainly doesn’t appear that way! After a hiatus of several years, we are happy to announce the return of Houjicha (pron: ho-jee-cha) to our menu. We bring this to you direct from our tea friends in Kagoshima, Japan from whom we source our elegant Kabuse Cha and deep-steamed sencha. With that, let’s learn a little more about this somewhat unique tea.
Houjicha is made from Bancha which is a Japanese green tea made from leaves harvested in summer and early fall instead of early spring like our Premium Sencha. After de-enzyming and preparing the Bancha, the leaves are then roasted at a temperature of over 350F degrees, resulting in a chestnut-brown colored tea leaf. Unlike other Japanese green teas, houjicha is not grassy or vegetal in smell or taste. Instead, the roasted leaves yield a wonderful toasty, caramel-like aroma and taste that pairs exceptionally well with savory dishes. By itself, there is hardly a more warming and comforting tea experience to be enjoyed. Some liken the taste to warm hazelnuts drizzled with honey. (Okay, stop drooling!)
Because of the way this tea is made, much of the caffeine content is reduced making for a low-caffeine tea experience you can enjoy virtually any time of the day or evening. And because of the low caffeine, houjicha is often served to children in its origination, Japan. We are excited to have a version of this lovely tea back on our menu and look forward to putting a warm glow on the faces of those who give it a try.
Introducing: Sencha Komaki
Grown on the pristine BioFarm of Komaki Ryokuhoen at the foot of Mt. Kinpou near Kagoshima, Japan, our new Sencha Komaki is a deep-steamed (fukamushi) organic sencha tea comprised of three exquisite cultivars of the Camelia Sinensis(tea) plant. Yutaka Midori, Asanoka and Saki Midori are gracefully blended together to create this rich, vibrant and enticing green tea. The aroma is reminiscent of the sea breeze and has sweet vegetal characteristics.
The Yutaka Midori cultivar is one grown mainly in and around Kagoshima. Its name translates to mean "abundant green" and it reveals a wonderful balance of sweetness and mild astringency on its own. Asanoka is a cultivar developed specifically in Kagoshima and produces a taste full of umami with natural sweetness. Saki Midori presents a bright green color, with a fresh vegetal aroma and very mild taste. The levels of nitrogen and amino acids in the processed tea of this cultivar are higher than other more common Japanese tea cultivars.
Shortly after picking, the leaf of Sencha Komaki is heated in traditional Japanese fashion using steam to prevent oxidation (to de-enzyme). Rather than applying a light (Asamushi) or medium (Chumushi) length steam, the deeper steaming (fukamushi) of this leaf for over a minute yields a liquor that is particularly creamy, deeply rich with sweet vegetal notes and light astringency. Furthermore, because of the deep steaming process, the leaf becomes broken and quite tender thus requiring only a very brief and delicate steeping process of just 30 seconds using water of no more than 175F degrees.
Tea Update: Sencha Kanoya
In 2019, we introduced Sencha Kanoya to our community of tea lovers and it's enjoyed a wonderful reception ever since. We are down to our last remaining packets until more is received from Japan. Since parcels are taking a bit longer than usual for air travel, we may find ourselves in short or no supply until later this summer. Fortunately, the Sencha Komaki that we introduced above will serve as a wonderful alternative for the time being. If you’re a fan of the Kanoya, you’ll need to act fast while supplies last.
New Recipe: Mo' Rockin' Mint
We've just finished blending up some minty-fresh Mo' Rockin' Mint green tea blend using our new recipe and ingredient sources. The result is a slightly more robust presence of gunpowder tea and the incorporation of peppermint leaf now sourced from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. These changes have also allowed us to reduce the price of this tea fairly substantially (to the tune of about 25%!). We hope you’ll now find more reasons to liven up your day with this minty blend. And, with summer weather in the mix, this tea makes for a particularly bright and refreshing iced tea.
Introducing: The Botanical Company
We're sincerely pleased to introduce to you a relatively new Seattle-based botanical collective, The Botanical Company. With a professional background in floral arts and horticulture, these lovely folks create gift baskets and other deliverables filled with some of the freshest and most beautiful ingredients, plants, herbs and gourmet items from around the Pacific Northwest. As tea lovers themselves, it was only fitting that tea has become part of the experience for their numerous personal and business subscribers.
Modern Steep is thrilled to be part of The Botanical Company family as they deliver fresh inventory from local farms, artisans and PNW businesses to homes and businesses in the Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma area. We certainly appreciate the hard work and creativity they put into every package they send out as well as their commitment to helping local food banks through their donation program. Check out the good work going on at The Botanical Company! (Hint: don't forget about Father's Day coming up!)
Tea Festival Updates
As the impact of COVID-19 continues to loom large in various capacities around the world, we are sad to announce the cancellation of the upcoming TeaFestPDX(Portland) and the Northwest Tea Festival (Seattle). Both organizations are planning to host alternate online programs as will be announced on their respective social media platforms and websites.
Special Event in the Works
We are currently planning a “live” online tea event in a fun and unique collaborative effort between us and another amazing tea company based in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. We look forward to announcing more details as event planning progresses. Planned for August, the event will feature a couple of brief virtual classes, tea tastings, a hosted Q & A session and more. To make the experience more personal for viewers, a “sampler box” will be available for advance purchase so that participants can taste along with us during the session. And, we will be offering online specials during the event for all attendees!
We can’t wait to share more about this fun opportunity to gather together with tea colleagues and you! Watch for details in our July newsletter.
For now, we wish you a great start to summer and, most of all, good health and peace going forward. We know that life for many will be different in many ways for a while at least, and remind you to take time for yourself and those you love. Enjoying a cup of tea is a great way to settle into much needed time for personal reflection. And, sharing tea with others can be a beautiful way to commune together over something healthful and delicious