Elizabeth Andoh: A Taste of Culture – Japanese GREEN TEA

Drinking green tea, ryokucha 緑茶, is an integral part of daily life in Japan, enjoyed throughout the day. It can run the gamut from ritualized and formal occasions such as chakai ceremonial tea to the most casual moments and settings when thirst is quenched with bottles of green tea dispensed from vending machines found everywhere.

Temperatures yesterday suddenly began to soar to heatwave levels (35C/95F) throughout Japan: summer is on its way. Its time for mizudashi ryokucha 水だし緑茶 cold-brewed green tea, To make a simple, restorative and refreshing beverage:

Use 1 tablespoon (2 grams) green tea for every 200 ml, (about 3/4 [American]cup) tap water. Allow the mixture to steep, undisturbed, in a glass bottle (or other non-reactive container) for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. If refrigerating the tea, let it steep for several hours. A high concentration of amino acids (aka umami seibun) in green tea leaves enables a sweetly mellow beverage to be made with tap water (temperature as low as 15C/60F).

The bitterness and astringency in green tea derives from catechins (bioactive polyphenols) in the leaves; these are released into the water at much higher temperatures (above 80C/175F). Some release of catechins can be beneficial — natural antioxidants that help prevent cell damage — so one option to make a cold beverage high in antioxidants is to brew green tea with moderately hot water (70c/160F) and then chill the resulting distillate.

Although there are special built-in filter pots for cold-brewing tea, all you really need is patience (for the swollen-from-steeping tea leaves to settle to the bottom of the bottle) … and a steady hand when pouring (avoid jerky movements that might stir up the leaves).

Keep brewed tea in the refrigerator to enjoy at any time. Pour over ice if you prefer a super-frosty drink (though too much will dilute the bracing quality of mizudashi tea).


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Elizabeth Andoh A Taste of Culture Culinary Arts Program Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158-0095, Japan


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