Stone Basin

Stone Basin
at Ryo An Jin

Saturday, May 26, 2007

3 Days Before Last Day

Uji At Koyama En
Koyama En is one of the most highly regarded tea companies in Japan, specializing in matcha. They are not only award winning, they don't have enough supply to meet demand in Japan alone. We were told to sell more ice cream grade matcha. Sebastian and I looked at each other and thought, OK, who should we sell to, the local gelato shop? NO, we want good matcha! Alas, who appreciates good matcha in America? Better not embarrass ourselves.

Sebastian arrived from Bhutan, looking quite rested. The next day found ourselves thick in the pouring Uji rain, as we met Soren at the Manpukuji temple, founded by Chinese Zen monks who escaped the regime change in China and brought whole leaf teas to Japan with them in the Ching Dynasty. This started the consumption of tea in the lower classes in Japan, and later on, sencha was discovered.

Koyama En was started by two brothers, and now mainly run by two of the sons of one of the Mr. Koyamas. The older uncle is an expert in the stone milling of the matcha, and as a result, stays on, happily it seems, to consult and monitor whether the mills are cut correctly, modifications needed, etc. It was quite a long, meticulous and generous sharing of his expertise which neither the translator nor myself, for sure, was able to understand much. However, seeing a room full of 320 such mills processing about 40gms each hour was amazing, though their demand exceeds supply at this point. Matcha is at least a 600 year plus tradition but seeing it all mechanized and efficient (you know those Japanese....) was strangely moving. I know this doesn't sound like much of a post, but since Koyama En was kind enough to allow me to photograph and obtain information generally not available to the public, you will all have to wait until I get permission to post further information about their inner workings.....

The Hoji Cha Ice Cream was worth the entire trip to Japan, and I had some knock out food there. Maybe we'll stop selling tea and focus on tea i su ku-ri-mu....

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