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This blog will continue to talk about Taka's other worldly interests.
Cooking, Running, Local foods, Exploring the island.


Green tea infused sake and avocado sashimi

My favorite green tea and avocado combo is premium green tea infused sake and avocado sashimi.  Avocado is rich and creamy, and texture reminds me of toro, or fatty tuna and uni, or sea urchin.

Mauna Kea Premium green tea is cold infused at room temperature for 5 hours in Kikusui junmai ginjo sake.  1 tablespoon (0.25oz) of green tea to 1/2 cup of this sake is a bit more than what I would use for brewing in hot water.

I first got the idea of infusing green tea in alcohol from chemical analysis done at University of Hawaii, Hilo (UH Hilo).  They extracted and measured EGCg, Theanine and caffeine contents of green tea with boiling water, but what struck me was that their baseline concentrations of EGCg, Theanine and caffeine were extracted with methanol for 1/2 hour.

MK premium Green extraction
Theanine %Caffeine %EGCg %
Boiling water0.45%0.35%0.83%

High level of EGCg makes alcohol extraction bitter?

Methanol extraction showed high level of EGCg even at low temperature.  EGCg is known for bitter taste so does this make it taste bitter?  Much like tincture alcohol extracts and preserves essential chemical components in healing herbs and makes it more readily available for the body to assimilate.  Does green tea also benefit from alcoholic extraction?

Sake is not as strong as vodka or pure ethanol, but perhaps more enjoyable and it can be a unique culinary experience.

How does it taste?  

When I tried this first time after 2 hours of infusion, I was truly delighted.  Subtle taste of theanine and amino acid sweetness and richness was enhanced by 15% alcohol of sake.  Not bitter.  It reminds me of rich forest soil, earthy and calming.  

Quality of sake is also very important for this culinary experience.  There are many characteristics in sake that makes some sake more compatible with tea infusion than others.  While some enjoy spicy and dry, others sweet and fruity.  I suggest you try green tea infusion in different sake to find what best suits your taste.  

I also tried infusion for one full day.  It gives slightly more bitterness, but this bitterness actually helps create contrast with sweet kikusui junmai ginjo at the time I was sipping.  Sweetness of Kikusui junmai ginjo definitely tame the bitterness of catechins and added different spectrum to green tea experience.

You can also enjoy second infusion after initial short infusion much like brewing tea in water.  Leaves tend to open slowly in cold infusion.  My next one will be infusing in hot sake.  

Okinawan Longevity and Green Tea

Green tea in the traditional Okinawan lifestyle, not only provides essential antioxidants but also a healthy catalyst for socializing with family and friends.

While many Americans drink green tea to increase antioxidant intake, Okinawans typically incorporate it into a meal or into the ritual of receiving visitors.  Without conscious effort, culture and habit give health.  When you incorporate green tea into your day as an enjoyable routine, your health and well being can also be improved without trying.

In the Okinawan diet, green tea is not the only source of antioxidants.  "The Blue Zones" by Dan Buettner mentions that turmeric, mugwort, bitter melon and seasonal fresh vegetables are also commonly consumed and give an additional boost of antioxidants.  The traditional diet is mostly vegetarian with frequent use of soy and occasional use of pork.

Book "The Blue Zones" by Dan Buettner gives a glimpse of Okinawan centenarians lifestyle.

Okinawan secrets of longevity also extend to spiritual well-being and interdependence within the community.  Family and friends are very important parts of the longevity equation.  Friends have clear purpose and give much meaning to life.  Friends and family enjoy each other's company and the safety net developed by the social support network.  Okinawans know that there is always someone to help in times of financial and emotional need.  This sense of security is the backbone of well being.

During my visit to Okinawa I also encountered modern culture contradictory to this reputation for health.  While Okinawans are famous for healthy foods, lifestyle and long life, most young Okinawans rarely practice the traditional diet and lifestyle.  Due to the prevalence of American culture due to military presence in Okinawa, Okinawans now have the shortest life expectancy in all of Japan, due to fast foods.

This article is not a comparison between Okinawan and American culture to see which is healthier.  Rather finding how you can bring a healthy lifestyle into your daily life, where it matters the most.  Learn more at:  http://www.bluezones.com/live-longer/education/expeditions/okinawa-japan/

Baked Lilikoi Mochi

from our 6th Annual Open Farm Day  10/11/14

Adapted from Unbearably Good!  Mochi Lovers' Cookbook by Teresa Devirgilio Lam

We had a great turn out this year and I don't know if it was because of the good company, happy children, or the snacks.  Assuming it was all 3, try baking this Lilikoi Mochi as the final addition to your next great party!  It seems like a lot of lilikoi but I assure you - your guests will be pleased!

5 c. Mochiko (sweet rice flour)
3 c. Brown sugar
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 can Coconut milk
2 c. Fresh strained lilikoi juice (passion fruit)
Kinako powder (roasted ground soybeans)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Mix mochiko, sugar, baking soda, milk, and juice of ripe lilikoi in a large mixing bowl.  Stir batter until smooth.  Pour into a greased 10 x 15 1/2 inch pan.  Bake for 45 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool.  Cut into small pieces with a plastic knife.  Dip cut edges in kinako powder to serve.

Easy and delicious.  Enjoy with good company and good tea.  Cheers!

Tea and Pesticides part 3: how to avoid heavily sprayed tea

1. The relationship between wild grown tea plants and pests
2. How modern tea farming amplify the pest and disease problems,
3. What pesticides they use to treat the problems,
4. As a consumer how to avoid heavily sprayed tea

There are several ways you can easily reduce your pesticide exposure
  1. Buy spring tea - Spring teas are generally less contaminated because colder winter and early spring seasons have less pest activity and disease occurrence.  Many farmers manage with no spray at all.  Major tea pests for spring tips are aphids.  
  2. Taste the difference - Heavy fertilizer application tends to allow plants to grow out of proportion and can attract more pests and disease.  Learn to taste the fertilizer.  Any professionally trained tea educator should know this.  
  3. Growing environment - Learn about farm environment.  Higher altitude has different pests and disease.  Tea typically prefers cool, moist environment.  If tea is grown in dry hot area, they tend to experience more scales, mites and beetles.  If too wet with not enough air circulation, fungal disease may be more prevalent.  
  4. Know your farmer - Learn where your tea comes from and how it is treated.  If you can directly talk to them, it is easier to get an idea if the farmer cares about their crops.
  5. Visit the farm - If tea farmers don't mind, and many organic farmers are actually proud to show off their extensive care for their crops, visit the farm and observe the plants.  Especially pay close attention to minor occurrence of pests and disease, which never go out of proportion, beneficial insects and many other wildlife present in the field.
  6. Buy organic tea - Organic doesn't mean no pesticides, but instead of using toxic chemicals, pesticides derived from natural sources, ex. garlic or chili oil, may be used.

Because farmers are people, there are some not so honest farmers out there too.  Be careful when talking about sensitive issues like pesticides and organic.  Many farmers who want to sell their tea conveniently forget to mention what they use, or outright lie.  If you want to hear the truth, don't put words into their mouths and don't tell them what you want to hear.  If you tell them that you are looking for organic tea without pesticides, dishonest farmers and merchants will tell you just that.  

Look for proof.  Organic certification, or any 3rd party certification.  Better yet, learn about what it takes to grow tea without pesticides.

If you want to be absolutely certain, be more knowledgeable than the farmers about pesticides and share alternative approaches.  Organize cooperative buying programs to help farmers get their share, and attend pesticide workshops.  You may see your farmer friends there and learn a thing or two.

2014 Tea Visit to Kagoshima, Japan

Overlooking the city of Kagoshima and Sakurajima volcano 
Tea has been a dominant beverage in Japan for centuries although recent years they have experienced major shift in styles of tea consumption.  I had an opportunity to visit famous tea regions in Kyushu and Okinawa to learn their way of tea production, quality control and tea as part of food culture.

Japanese are known for their politeness and perfectionism with a touch of wabi sabi (imperfect impermanent beauty) and zen in many aspects of their culture.  Maintenance of their tea fields is no exception.  Everywhere I go, tea fields are precisely manicured and the flush can be machine harvested to exactly 2 leaves and a bud.  

Large fields are very common and designed for easy harvester access.  Transport systems and processing facilities to work together in timely manner to keep the tea leaf fresh and in optimal condition.

Fukamushi (deeply steamed) Sencha 

Green tea made in Kagoshima is mostly fukamushi or deep steamed for lower astringency and a more thick green liquor and they are now developing a new style of tea making for use in the cold brew.  Cold Brew tea is especially well received in hot summer months.  I was surprised to see regions which traditionally produce lightly steamed tea are now producing fukamushi too.  

Although fukamushi is becoming more the prevalent style of sencha now, excessive fertilizer use which enhances the thick flavor can be unappealing to some people.  Mountain teas are traditionally light in flavor with a residual distinct aroma.  Some Japanese tea experts also emphasize reduced use of fertilizer (chemical or organic) to retain good aroma in green tea.  Although fertilizers increase yield and flavor their use often results is loss of aroma.  

Tea buyers sample and bid on teas at a Kagoshima tea auction.


Teas entered at the Kagoshima tea auction are all tested for volcanic ash, radiation and pesticides and records are kept for future reference.  

Due to the proximity of the Sakurajima volcano, the presence of volcanic ash is very common.  It's only a matter of which direction the wind blows and processing factories are required to wash their leaves prior to processing.  

Is it safe?  This is ultimately for the consumers to decide.  Kagoshima has not seen any tea affected by radiation unlike Shizuoka and Sayama.  The Japanese government prohibits the use of dangerous pesticides.  Perhaps the question we should be asking is "Is Japanese green tea beneficial to our health and well being?" 

Challenges in Japanese Tea Industry

Efficiency in Japan's tea production has lowered their production cost and increased their yield dramatically.  At the same time, efficiency and perfectionism in farming encourages farmers to spray frequently to avoid crop pests and disease.

A challenge of todays fast lifestyle is that younger generations are drifting away from tradition, and this lowers traditional tea consumption in favor of bottled RTD (Ready-To-Drink) teas.  Now people who do not want to pay for a cup of traditional tea but may still pay for convenient tea.   

While some Japanese tea cafes are reviving old traditions and adding new dimensions to the Japanese tea culture, a major shift is still needed to change the way Japanese see tea culture.  A lifestyle change may even be necessary to re-discover slow foods, bringing a re-invention of the traditional tea time.

Tea and Pesticides part 2: What pests and disease? Which pesticides are used?

1. The relationship between wild grown tea plants and pests
2. How modern tea farming amplify the pest and disease problems,
3. What pesticides they use to treat the problems,
4. As a consumer how to avoid heavily sprayed tea
5. Organic and wild harvest tea

3. What pests and pesticides?

The following is a list of typical pests and recommended pesticides in major tea producing area in Japan.  This is just to show tea has lots of pest problems.  Some minor pests are not even mentioned here to keep it simple.  The pesticides are used to prevent pest damage from happening.

The types of pesticides used may be replaced with pheromone traps, BT, bordeaux mixture, and organic pesticides that are derived from natural source and has less environmental impact, but typically result in higher cost.  Some lab testing claim that the pesticides recommended below have less human and environmental health impact from pesticide residue.  Some developing countries may not have regulations restricting use of more toxic chemicals.

To identify pests and disease, please see UH CTAHR disease ID page
Insect pests (http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/IP-28.pdf)
Disease (http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/PD-33.pdf)

Most pests and disease require specific pesticides.  More than one pesticide is used to avoid pests acquiring pesticide resistance.

MonthPests / DiseasePreventative Pesticide uses
FeburaryBlight (disease)Copper dihydroxide x1
MarchSpider mite, Leaf roller* (insect pests)
Beetle (insect pests)
Etoxazole x1
1st Flush Aphid (insect pests)Pirimiphosmethyl x1
April (after 1st flush harvest)Spider mite (insect pests)
Leaf roller (insect pests)
Scale* (insect pests)
Milbemectin x2
Tebufenozide x2
May (before 2nd flush harvest)Leaf hopper, Leaf roller, Thrips,  (insect pests)
beetle*  (insect pests)
Anthracnose (disease)
Neonicotinoid x1
Tefluthrin  x1
Tebuconazole x1
May (after 2nd flush harvest)Leaf hopper, Leaf roller, Thrips (insect pests)Bifenthrin x2
June (before 3rd flush harvest)Leaf hopper, Thrips (insect pests)
Anthracnose (disease)
Acephate x2
Fluazinam x1
July (before 3rd flush harvest)Leaf hopper, Thrips, leaf roller (insect pests)
Anthracnose (disease)
Acetamiprid x1
Fenbuconazole x2
August (before 3rd flush harvest)Leaf roller, Looper,  (insect pests)
Leaf hopper, Thrips (insect pests)
Methoxyfenozide x2
Chlorfenapyr x2
SeptemberLeaf hopper, Thrips, Broad mite, Rust mite,  (insect pests)
Leaf roller, Moth larvae, Looper,  (insect pests)
Scale (insect pests)
Tolfenpyrad x1
Emamectin benzoate x1
October (after fall harvest)Leaf Roller, Spider mite, (insect pests)
Blight (disease)
Profenofos x1
Copper dihydroxide
November-DecemberBeetle (insect pests)
Gray mold (disease)
Fenitrothion x1
Fluazinam x1
*sprayed as necessary.