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Sugar cookies for matcha tea

Apologies in advance if I should post on a different board, but I spent a few weeks in Tokyo this summer and ate and purchased some of the rakugan dry sweets that you eat before drinking matcha. Now back in the US (New York), I have plenty of ways to get great matcha and wonderful bean curd/cream/jelly-type Japanese sweets, but I've been unable to find a source for just those simple sugar cookies. Does anyone know of an online site or online Japanese retailer (like Ippodo for tea) that sells them?

Thanks,
John

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  1. No to hijack your thread, but tell me about Ippodo...how's the tea? I'm a tea fanatic, and presently get tea from Ito En in NYC. The only online Japanese tea supplier I've been happy with was sencha.com (Australian, I think).

    11 Replies
    1. re: comestible

      I just ordered from Ippodo and will report back. I have not been thrilled with Ito En's offerings lately.

      The best Japanese green tea I have had recently was shipped from Paris by Mariage Freres (Sencha Honyama and Sencha Uji), but it just seems wrong to have Japanese tea shipped from Europe. Still, Mariage Freres is either getting higher quality stuff and/or doing quicker turnover for freshness than other vendors.

      I have high hopes for Ippodo. I ordered three kinds of sencha: Nichi-getsu, Unro and Matsu-no-midori, which, according to the website, have increasing levels of bitterness.

      1. re: omotosando

        Sorry for the tardy reply - I am far from a connoisseur but I thought Ippodo was quite good - omotosando and others may be better informed, however.

      2. re: comestible

        Tea arrived 7 days after order. Industrial-looking packaging. Came with a separately packaged plastic spoon for measuring. So far tried the Nichi-getsu and the Matsu-no-midori. Decent every day tea, nothing spectacular. I thought the Matsu-no-midori was better than the Nichi-getsu, although it was less expensive. I think it is back to Mariage Freres for my next order.

        1. re: omotosando

          Well, I can only say I am surprised that MF offers such good Japanese tea. As a business they seem to weigh in heavily on the flavored/blended European-style black teas, which would make me wonder about their sourcing for Japanese tea. The sencha I bought from MF (at some retail location, I can't remember exactly where in Europe) was ordinary, but then I couldn't afford the fancier grades, which I assume you are talking about.

          The best sencha I've had by mail-order was from Gray & Seddon -- in great variety -- but that was years ago, and their site is changing...I wonder if they are under new ownership, which could mean all bets are off.

          1. re: comestible

            The two senchas I bought from Mariage Freres were 39 E and 40 E for 100 grams (or about $52 and $53). Probably more expensive than it needed to be because of the weak dollar, but basically we are talking about high-priced tea, which may have accounted for the quality. MF does have a lot of gimmicky flavored teas (which are fairly cheap), but they also have quite a few expensive single estate teas. My only concern is what kind of turnover they have on the expensive teas since I'm sure the majority of their business is the less expensive blends, but the Japanese teas I ordered tasted fresh.

            I was disappointed in Ippodo given its reputation as a traditional Kyoto teahouse. I'm thinking they may not be offering the best tea for export because they don't think the English-speaking market will bear the tariff. The cheesy packaging really surprised me given the Japanese penchant for beautiful packaging on better goods - made me think that this what I ordered was probably just generic everyday tea, not anything even pretending to be superior.

            P.S. I checked out the Gray & Seddon website and they don't seem to be in active business at all anymore and there is no Japanese tea showing on their website.

            1. re: omotosando

              Just FYI, here are a couple of Japanese tea businesses that my tea-guzzling friends have found worthy. I have no personal experience with them yet:

              http://www.maiko.ne.jp/english/

              http://www.hibiki-an.com/

              There are so many variations in any tea. Good senchas can be deep-green, smooth and rich, or yellow and bright, or ocean-briny -- what style do you prefer?

              I'll give Mariage Freres a try, since you speak of them highly.

              One last word on Ito En - NY. Even where their tea is not the best, I have to give them credit for keeping their wares tightly sealed and refrigerated. I don't know any retail shop that does that, and it's especially important with fresh green teas.

              1. re: comestible

                Hmmn, I have tried hibiki-an, but not maiko.ne - once I run out of the Ippodo tea, I think I will try maiko.ne next. They seem to offer a high grade sencha.

                In the past, I've gotten some stellar teas from Ito-En, but not lately. Rishi used to have some great offerings as well, but lately they have significantly narrowed their selection of Japanese teas and seem to be going more for blended teas than single estate teas. I guess they have to go for what the market will bear and I don't think there is a huge demand in the U.S. for high grade tea, unfortunately.

                I like the deep green sencha, not the yellow and bright.

                1. re: omotosando

                  Your tea cup is wonderful. Here are two we bought from a Japanese potter in..... Cuenca, Spain.
                  Somehow the photo got lost ----

                  1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                    My teacup is from www.YuzuMura.com by a Japanese potter named Yoshiaki Senda. http://www.yuzumura.com/c-7-senda-yos... I ordered a few of his pieces, but it seems like most of them are now sold out. I think his work is stellar. The owner of YuzuMura has a nice food blog as well http://blog.jagaimo.com/

                    1. re: omotosando

                      Thanks for both websites. The pottery is gorgeous (pricey too, but one frequently goes with the other) and most original. We have begun using some of our Japanese ware for everyday, just for us. As a "Diamond Deb" (Caroline1's term, if you read her here) it's now or never. Western MA is a h**l of a place to adore Asian food; basically, if you don't cook it, you don't have it. Handling the pottery helps. The YuzuMura guy's blog is also extremely interesting. Wednesday I go to my gurus at The Apple Store; maybe I can lower the teacup jpeg to 2 whatever-they-are's and attach it here. The potter in Cuenca is a long way from home; maybe his pottery is his way of staying connected. Good luck on finding acceptable tea.

                      1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                        Hah! there's more than one way to skin a cat ---- I was able to upload the photo to my avatar spot, and here are the teacups. They're porcelain.

      3. Jjernigan, I have no idea where to get rakugan in the U.S. or online, but I have linked to a very nice picture of them!

        http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_2jujDOgMP7E...

        I'm hungry now.

        P.S. Actually, it looks like you might be able to order them here.
        http://baikodo031.shop10.makeshop.jp/
        I don't know if they ship to the U.S.

        1. They may not be exactly what you're looking for, but Takashimaya NY carries simple butter cookies that might be suitable to precede the matcha tea. (Maybe not, because they're more buttery and full of flavor, but still might work.) Besides, it's always a pleasure to go prowling around the Teabox at Takashimaya, whatever you might find there.

          2 Replies
          1. re: BerkshireTsarina

            IMHO butter is just wrong for matcha.

            1. re: omotosando

              Trying again --- i LIKE Takashimaya, in Kyoto and in NYC. II n the past enjoyed their contemporary (but still Japanese) Teabox Cafe. They have tea on their website:
              http://www.takashimaya-ny.com/teabox_...
              The price seems lower than what you quote above (although I'm hardly one to know all the fine points of comparison). At any rate, easy enough for you to click the link if it's helpful.

          2. Here's a chowhound link talking about wagashi:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/605984
            Includes a link for a US source.

            12 Replies
            1. re: BerkshireTsarina

              Great, thanks for the replies all.

              1. re: jjernigan13

                someone mentioned the ocean-brine-y green tea. i hadn't had it before until recently someone in the office brought it in. it's pretty rich and savory. definitely not for everyone. i was grossed out by the description but i loved it and my brother and his wife HATED it. i think they were weirded out that it was almost salty. if you're still interested you can get it at www.ultimatemunch.com

                1. re: cpark

                  As I posed on another thread, unfortunately www.ultimatemuch.com does not appear to be a working website actually set up for e-commerce. I also contacted them at the email address provided for contact and received no response. Unfortunately, I guess there is not big business in selling premium Japanese tea to the U.S. public and I believe this to be a defunct website.

                  The more I drink the Ippodo tea, the more mediocre I realize it is. I've taken to triple-brewing to try to wring some actual taste.

                  1. re: omotosando

                    I tried ultimatemunch yesterday and couldn't bring up anything but a DOS-type directory listing. Today, though, it seems to be working. You might give it another try. There is a page for ordering Japanese teas.

                    Funny, the kyusu they have for sale is exactly the one I have. Except I bought mine in a Japantown, San Francisco hardware store for about $13, and their is about $50 !

                    1. re: comestible

                      I finally got the website to work, although only on Internet Explorer, not with Firefox. I think I'm going to order some tea.

                      If you are looking for kyusu, I absolutely love everything I have bought from Rishi http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/tokoname/ One year I purchased so many, I got an email informing me I was one of their top 10 customers in the U.S.! My absolute favorite is the Seiyu Shiboridashi, which I use every single day. http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/seiyu-...

                      1. re: comestible

                        My Ultimate Munch tea has arrived. I ordered two -- the AONOTUKASA and the MANYOUNOUTA MIDORI.

                        I am now sipping the Aonotukasa. This must be the "salty" tea discussed above. Maybe I over-brewed and this is really a 30 second tea maximum brew tea, but I hate it! It is really salty. Green tea is one of my favorite things in the world and I just loathe this one.

                        I will try once more brewing for only a few seconds and see if it is any better. Other than than, I hope I like the MANYOUNOUTA MIDORI because the AONOTUKASA looks like it is headed for the compost pile.

                        1. re: omotosando

                          I am sorry for your bad experience...I hope the Manyounouta Midori turns out better. I have no experience with Ultimate Munch.

                          I found myself on the upper east side Thursday so bought some small 2-oz. packages of tea from Ito En. One I tried this morning I found quite good, the deep green Hoshino Hatsutsumi Sencha; it was also expensive ($9/oz?) Organic Benifuki was in a lighter style but had some intriguing flavor notes ($5.50). I also bought but didn't yet taste, the usual deep-green one I've had before, Chiran Kanayamidori ($5.50).

                          I will definitely look into Mariage Freres, on your recommendation. I want to try some teas that surpass Ito En's. Lately though, I've been pretty happy with the CK above and the Megami (same price) for that price level.

                          1. re: comestible

                            Well, I retried the Aonotukasa and it is going in the trash. I rarely trash teas, but I actively dislike this one. All the time, people tell me they hate green tea, which I never really understood since I love it, but now I think I understand the concept.

                            Tried the Manyounouta Midori this morning. Not as loathsome as the Aonotukasa, but still "salty." Could they possibly be putting MSG in these teas?

                            I just don't get it. The website advertised these as the finest teas Japan had to offer, not usually available to U.S. consumers. I have had tea in some exclusive Japanese restaurants here and in Japan and the teas in those establishments did not taste like the Ultimate Munch teas.

                            On another thread, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4892..., someone stated that the finest tea importer in the United States is Tea Gschwendner: http://www.teamerchants.com/Catalog/D...
                            That may be the one online place I have not ordered from, so I have just placed an order for Kabusecha Sencha ($19.20 for 50 grams - 1.76 oz) and
                            Shincha Shimoyama ($37.73 for 50 grams). Last year, I ordered expensive Shincha from one of the Japanese websites (forgot which one) and it so wasn't worth the money, so we shall see about this pricey Shincha (which wasn't even Tea Gschwendner's most expensive one).

                            At your suggestion, I searched for Hoshino Hatsutsumi Sencha on the Ito En website. At first, I didn't find it (it is not listed among the loose teas). However, on further searching, I see that it is offered under the "gift set" selection -- i.e., they only sell it in a fancy box for $38. (I was afraid they were keeping if off the website altogether, keeping the best stuff off the web and available only for walk-in customers). The Benifuki is available by the ounce without the fancy box, but the flavor notes suggested it is for those who enjoy Chinese tea, which I generally don't. Decided to give the Hoshino Hatsutsumi Sencha a whirl and just ordered the fancy box (if nothing else, I will have a fancy box).

                            As I have posted on other threads, ordering from Mariage Freres is a hassle. The website is a nightmare and 50% of the time, UPS hits you with huge fees which are allegedly for navigating your package through customs (even though I do not believe there is any import duty on tea). If you order from Mariage Freres, I have found the smaller your order is, the more likely it is to sail through without fees from UPS.

                            1. re: omotosando

                              Oh, I'd confused you with the OP, and I thought you lived in New York City, which is why I suggested the Ito En teas. It seems to me they DO have unusual teas from time to time that may not be the same as on their web site. When I go in there, I'm usually told, "Oh, we just got this in," or "Here's something rare from this small grower." So what you ordered from the site may be different from what I'm getting.

                              I'm not a total fan of Ito En. After all, they are a huge corporation hawking bottled tea and such. And I've bought some of their tea at the NY store that is mediocre or not fresh enough. It's just that it's the best I've found in NYC so far, for retail Japanese tea.

                              1. re: comestible

                                The Hoshino Hatsutsumi Sencha arrived from Ito En in the fancy box. Great box. Nice tea, but I still give the edge to Mariage Freres. Still awaiting my order from Tea Gschwendner. The search for the perfect cup of Japanese green continues.

                                1. re: omotosando

                                  Continuing to drink the Hoshino Hatsutsumi Sencha, I am not enjoying it and I don't think it is a great tea. I think that is my last order from Ito-En.
                                  The tea I recently ordered from Gschwendner is definitely better.

                                  I just discovered a San Francisco vendor called White Crane Tea
                                  http://www.whitecranetea.com/:
                                  Looks wonderful and that is where I will place my next order, although I did break down a few days ago and ordered some more sencha from Mariage Freres despite the hassle of it all.

                                2. re: comestible

                                  Stopped by the Ito En store today and walked out with Shizuoka Hand Rolled Shincha for $33 an ounce (ouch). The tea is entirely hand-rolled, which the salesperson said is a dying art. Just brewed up a pot. It is really lovely and the leaves in the pot look totally different than a mechanically rolled tea.