It is October 29th 2016 and we are standing in a wonderful tea store in the centre of Paris. While the Montmartre is mostly known for the white basilica Sacré-Cœur watching over Paris from the peak of the mountain or for all the artists that live here, we are here in the tea store of Valérie Stalport, which by now has become well-known not only in Paris.
When we arrive at a quarter before four in order to have enough time for talking to Valérie and Eric while setting up the “tea bar“ and the projection of the “KIRISHIMA – a first step to decode a tea“ video, which will be projected onto a wall, Valérie’s store is already bursting with people!
Inconceivably, people are already waiting for us and for the presentation of new organic teas from Kirishima. Today’s centre of attention is the Miumori Kirishima Matcha, which is boasting with sweetness and a fantastic umami. These qualities are quickly able to enchant the matcha and green tea enthusiasts from Paris, who surely know many other types of matcha and who probably do not accept new qualities as swiftly as they have accepted the Miumori.
Of course we have also brought the perfectly suited utensils for preparing the Miumori Kirishima Matcha. Is there a matcha bowl more suited than the ones made by Narieda Shinichiro, who lives and works at the foot of the Kirishima mountain range?
Apart from the Miumori Kirishima Matcha, which is today’s feature, we are also preparing other teas for our guests which were harvested in Shutaro and Kenji Hayashi’s organic tea garden in Kirishima. We are also presenting high-end teas like the Tennen Gyokuro made from the tea bush variety Oku Yutaka, which is marked by an extraordinarily strong umami, as well as “simpler teas“, which are processed very carefully, just as we are used to by teas from the Kirishima tea garden. They probably should be classified as “higher class of every day teas, suited for the sophisticated tea drinker”.
The new Miumori Kirishima Sencha can also be counted into this group. This tea was made from leaves, which biggest share was harvested from zairai bushes, which were planted over 100 years ago by the great-great-grandfather of Shutaro and Kenji. Another tea we offer today, which could be called a classic by now, is the Kirishima Tokujou Sencha. This tea is definitely already a higher quality sencha and fans of Japanese teas will recognize it by its sweet and fresh smell, which stems from the shaded leaves of the Asatsuyu tea bush variety.
The evening we are able to spend with Valérie and Eric is very inspiring and we conceive many new ideas on the topic of green teas. This is also connected to the things we have planned for the next day. All of our ideas once again revolve around the history of matcha, which – many people will know this – does not start as a Japanese invention. After all, matcha was already prepared with a bamboo whisk in a matcha bowl during the Song dynasty in China, way before matcha was brought to Japan.
From the origin of matcha we shift to its changes in the course of time. While complicated rules and proceedings regarding the preparations, clothing, architecture and the selection of the guests where the focus during the golden age of matcha in Japan [topics: tea ceremony, Cha-no-yu, Chadô, Sen-no Rikyû, Takeno Jôô], today there are matcha bars in New York, Paris and Berlin, where matcha is naturally enjoyed in a freer fashion. Matcha in mixed drinks as also an interesting topic. While this might seem like a modern phenomenon, in the China of the Song dynasty tea was not prepared as a pure drink, but mixed with spices or milk. So mixing matcha with other ingredients is an idea that was already present 1000 years ago. We do not know of matcha smoothies with vegetables or fruits during that period, but who knows?
We use these thoughts as an opportunity to consider the history of matcha, the culture and places in which it is drunk, as well as the way and style how it is drunk and to finally ask “how will this develop during course of time and which styles will be added?” We start this topic with a small series of photographies, which we take on the next take. More pictures and explanations will follow in the next weeks and months – not only online, but also in the form of post cards and posters at the many places where there is Miumori Kirishima Matcha.
Does matcha taste differently, depending on the recognition of the Eiffel Tower in the far top of the background? Or does matcha taste differently, depending on the knowledge that the matcha bowl was made by Narieda Shinichiro? Does one drink matcha in a “traditional” tea room, a matcha bar, in the office or at the pool? Does one get the water for the matcha’s preparation from a certain spring at a mountain? Are gilded matcha bowl worth more than the broken and fixed old matcha bowl, which was thrown away by the daughter of our Japanese host mother? And when will there finally be matcha kiosks in the underground stations?