Sunday, August 06, 2017


 Tosa Han (Tosa Province) is the feudal era name of the region comprising present-day Kouchi Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku. It covers a good portion of the southern and western ends of the island; facing out to the Pacific Ocean, but also with considerable mountain and valley area in the interior. It is not well-known, even in Japan, as a tea growing region; but I was surprised to learn that even during the Edo Period (1600-1868,) under the rule of the Yamauchi Clan; tea was produced and sent as an export item of the province to Osaka as part of the growing merchant economy of the time.

Much of Tosa Tea is grown in the Niyodogawa River Valley, in western Kouchi, and I have carried tea from this region, grown in Tsuno,  before. Lately, I haven't been able to acquire enough due to low production.

This tea, however, is grown on the eastern side of the Prefecture in an area called Nyugauchi, east of the city of Aki, at the upper basin of the Ioki River. This mountainous region has the prerequisites for good tea growing in Japan; river valleys that have appropriate climate changes from morning to evening, good rainfall, and rich soil.

The tea comes from Maruya Cafe, whose parent company distributes local products of the area such as Tea, Yuzu Fruit, and other items. The company CEO's mother in-law is the grower of the tea.
At age 89, she is still a young and healthy tea farmer!

Fortunately, a friend living in Kouchi Prefecture came to visit the U.S. recently, and brought me some of this fine Tosa Shincha (new harvest tea) to sample. It is of the Yabukita varietal, and like most Japanese teas is steam processed. There are Tosa tea producers are using pan-firing (kamairi) processing as well.
1st infusion, 90 sec @ 175F (80C) 

What surprised me most about this tea were two points: the variety of flavors produced in the individual infusions, and the number of infusions produced. This is also due to the fact that I have yet to become fully acquainted with this tea and its personality. More practice will probably lead to more consistency in flavor, but may also lead to new discoveries.

All infusions were done with the same 3 gram sample and 60 ml (4 oz) water. The first infusion brought out the marine air notes, both in aroma and taste, that I associate with Tosa Tea. This is one of the things I like best of teas from this region. My first cup, at 175 F (80 C) for 90 seconds had a pleasant taste and aroma, but was too light and will need more time in the next tasting.

2nd infusion, 60 sec @ 180F (82C) 
The second infusion, at 180 F (82 C) for 60 seconds brought out too much astringency, and a slightly rough taste. Less time and less heat were needed to bring about something more ideal. But the bell cannot be un-rung when brewing tea, and you just have to move forward.

Here's where I was pleasantly surprised. Many Japanese teas usually start showing an optimum flavor profile in the 2nd infusion, after the leaves have opened up. In this tea, after opening in the 1st, and releasing some shibumi (astringency) in the 2nd, produced some fine mellow notes in the 3rd and 4th infusions, and even in the 5th, although much more subtle. Each infusion showed slightly different characteristics of sweetness, umami, grassiness, but the marine component had dissipated quickly after the 3rd. 

The tea continued to produce some flavor even in a 6th and 7th infusion, albeit very subtle, and was no more astringency. The almost tasted like warm versions of mizudashi (cold-water infused) tea that has little to no astringency, but still some hints of the original hot tea flavor.

All on all, this was a very pleasant tasting experience, and I look forward to further experimenting with this tea, hot and cold, to get to know it better. I also look forward to trying to get my hands on Tosa-cha next year to share with my Charaku Tea family.

3rd infusion, 30 sec @ 185F (85C)

4th infusion, 15 sec @ 190F (88C)
5th infusion, 12 sec @ 180F (82C)

6th infusion, 12 sec @ 180F (82C)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


In Japan, we drink hot tea ingot weather to cool down. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but trust me, science proves it ( as do the millions of tea drinkers in South, SE, and East Asia.)
But temperatures in the Seattle area hit 95 F (35 C) this past weekend, and I was doing some traveling where it was not convenient to stop and make tea. It was time for some Mizudashi-cha.

Mizudashi (cold-infused, literally "cold-extracted") is so easy to make. It's just tea and cold water. Depending on the tea, I usually use 10 to 15 grams of tea (about 1 to 2 heaping tablespoons) and 1 liter (about 4 cups) of cold water. Combine these in a glass jar, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Strain thoroughly (but don't squeeze the tea leaves) and enjoy. You can get an additional infusion out of this, and when I want to make a large batch I just repeat the process and mix the infusions to make 2 liters worth of mizudashi-cha.

This works well with almost any Sencha, Gyokuro, or Kukicha (Stem Tea.) One of my favorite teas to use in the method is Karigane, the stems of Gyokuro. It has that slight Gyokuro sweetness to it, as well as the mild woodsiness of stem teas.

So, hot tea or cold tea, we have you covered this summer! Charaku Fine Japanese Tea.


SHINCHA (New Harvest Tea) is in! Website updates are still underway, but teas are now ready to order at
Due to cold weather in Japan this past winter and spring, the new tea harvest was extremely late this year. However, we secured our orders as soon as teas were available and are now excited to share this year's tea with you. New tea offerings this year include more Organic Sencha and Gyokuro offerings from Kirishima in Kagoshima Prefecture. This area has been expanding organic farming methods in recent years, and some good organic teas are now being produced there. We look forward to continue offering you the finest variety of Japanese teas as we begin the new tea year!

Saturday, June 03, 2017


Summer greetings from Charaku Fine Japanese Tea. 2017 Shincha (New Harvest Tea) is due in next week! 
Due to cold weather in Japan, the new tea harvest was extremely late this year. However, we secured our orders as soon as teas were available and expect the 2017 shincha to arrive next week.  In the meantime, our remaining inventory of 2016 teas are currently available at 20% to 30% off! These are our steepest discounts ever, so it's a good time to stock up. All of our Genmaicha, Houjicha, and Kukicha are 30% off, and remaining Sencha and Gyokuro are 20% off while supplies last. Remember that Charaku teas are always small-packed and nitrogen-flushed for maximum freshness and longevity, so 2016 teas are still good well into 2018. 
New tea offerings to look forward to are more organic Sencha and Gyokuro from Kirishima in Kagoshima Prefecture. This area has been expanding organic farming methods in recent years, and some good organic teas are now being produced there.
Visit to see our selection of teas, tea accessories, and tea ware. If you would like to combine shipping on orders of 2016 and 2017 teas, just let me know in the comments section and I'll hold current sale order and refund any shipping difference of combined orders.
We are also discounting items by 15% to 20% of the listed prices on our WaSabiDou site,, in preparation of a showroom move this summer. There are lots of antique & contemporary crafts, including: ceramic tea wares, Japanese art and craft books, wood-block prints, folk toys, and more. Please visit and ask any questions.                
    Thank you so much for your past support and I look forward to continue providing you the finest variety of Japanese teas as we enter the New Tea Year!


Sunday, December 18, 2016


 People buying a gift of tea for a tea lover often ask me what to put into our Gift Boxes. The box holds four x 50 gram packs of our Charaku Fine Japanese Tea. I usually ask if the recipient is a new tea drinker, or someone with specific tastes. 

A variety pack for a beginner could be: 1 Sencha, 1 Genmaicha, 1 Kukicha or Kariganecha, & 1 Gyokuro. 

Someone more experienced may like a variety pack based on processing styles: 1 Asamushi (light-steamed) Sencha, such as our Organic Asamushi Sencha from Oita Prefecture; 1 Chuumushi (regular-steamed) Sencha, like our Sencha from Uji (Kyoto) or Chiran (Kagoshima); 1 Fukamushi (deep-steamed) Sencha, like our Chashi Meijin Fukamushicha from Shizuoka; and 1 Tamaryoku Kamairi (pan-fired) Sencha, such as our Organic Tamaryokucha from Miyazaki. 

Another way to go is 4 Sencha from different appellations in Japan' for example: Uji, Kagoshima, Oita, Saga Prefectures.

We have about 10 Sencha, all at sale prices, from which to choose at

Thursday, December 08, 2016


Winter greetings! 
On-line Sale is on now! And, this Saturday & Sunday, December 10 & 11, I'll be having an Open House Sale in my Seattle showroom. 
Everything on-line and in the showroom is sale-priced, up to 15% off. This includes both the Charaku and WaSabiDou websites.

All teas, tea ware, and tea accessories are sale-priced on the Charaku Fine Japanese Tea website. All items on the WaSabiDou Antiques and Folk Crafts site will be discounted up to 15% prior to invoicing. Please inquire for sale prices.
It also includes over 100 pieces of Idaho potter George Gledhill's work on this albumWe have LOTS of pottery, books, prints, textiles, folk toys, and furniture in inventory. Teas stay fresh well into 2018, so it's also a great chance to stock up or gift! 

If you are in the Seattle area, please visit the showroom for a look and a cup of tea. We'll also be having an estate sale of some household items, which includes some vintage Japanese things.

After 14 years, this may be my last, or one of the last, Open House Sales. As many of you know, I split my time between Seattle and Mount Vernon, 
an hour north in the Skagit Valley. In order to provide closer, and constant, care for my 89-year-old mother; we have relocated her to our primary 
town of Mount Vernon and now plan to sell the house in Seattle. After that, we'll be solely on-line, with occasional classes or events in the Seattle area.
We'll miss this spot to display beautiful crafts and to share tea!

Saturday & Sunday, December 10 &11, 2016
10:00AM to 4:00PM 

127 NW 136th Street
Seattle, WA 98177

Please call me at 206-660-4189 if you make an on-line purchase, or would like an item held, during the Open House so it won't be sold.

Warmest wishes to you and yours for the season!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Meditative Soundscapes: Kaoru Kakizakai and Gary Stroutsos to perform at Seattle Asian Art Museum, June 5, 2016

Meditative Soundscapes: Internationally-reknowned Flute Performers and Educators Kaoru Kakizakai and Gary Stroutsos 
perform a first-time musical collaboration on Japanese Shakuhachi and Native American Flutes at the historic Seattle Asian Art Museum. 

DATE: Sunday, June 5, 2016.
TIME: 2:00pm

Volunteer Park
1400 E. Prospect Street
Seattle, WA 98112 

$15.00 (Seniors $10.00) at the Door, or via Brown Paper Tickets.

The Meditative Soundscapes project is the product of a first-time musical collaboration between two world-class flute players, Kaoru Kakizakai of Saitama Prefecture, Japan, and Gary Stroutsos of Seattle, WA, USA.  It is a collaboration based on both form and expression; an exploration of the similarities and differences between two end-blown vertical flutes, the shakuhachi of Japan and the southwest desert rim flute indigenous to ancient Native American cultures of the southwestern US.  Though separated by time, distance and differences in culture, the construction and tonal quality of these flutes suggest that they may have served similar ends in evoking powerful emotional, and perhaps even spiritual, experiences for both player and listener.  We invite you to explore for yourself.

Kaoru Kakizakai of Saitama Prefecture, Japan, has been playing the shakuhachi for over 35 years. Having trained under the master Katsuya Yokoyama, he has now become one of his most successful and respected proteges. Kakizakai completed formal musical training at the NHK Traditional Music Conservatory. He has won numerous awards and accolades in Japan, and has performed shakuhachi concerts around the globe. He also has a world-wide following of students through the International Shakuhachi Training Center (Kokusai Shakuhachi Kenshukan) in Tokyo, and on-line. He is currently a lecturer at the Tokyo College of Music, Instructor at the NHK Culture Center, and President and Full-Time Instructor of the Kokusai Shakuhachi Kenshukan. 
Additional Bio info at

Gary Stroutsos performs world flute music drawn from many traditional cultures. Evoking a spirit of place and the voices of the land, his work includes internationally-acclaimed recordings at sacred sites, using the unique acoustics and history of each great space as the starting point for musical exploration. Stroutsos is best know for his significant contributions to the preservation of Native American music through sound and video recordings for tribal projects of the Salish-Kootenai, Lakota, Navajo, and Mandan-Hidatsa. His soundtrack work for the Ken Burns documentary, "Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery," led to a command performance at the White House for former President Clinton. He is also well-known for his meditative and modern performances on the ancient Chinese Xiao and Dizi flutes, seldom heard outside of China or outside of traditional Chinese music. 
Additional Bio info at

For further information, please contact:

Gary Stroutsos

Patrick Johnson
Seattle Shakuhachi Study Group

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Last month, I held two tea tasting classes at a wonderful tea shop, Floating Leaves Tea, in Seattle.
The owner, Shiuwen Tai, is the local expert on Taiwanese Oolong and also carries a variety of Taiwan, China, and Japan teas; as well as fine tea ware. It really is a tea oasis in the heart of Seattle's Ballard neighborhood (which is where I grew up - her son goes to the same elementary as I did!)
The response from this great group of tea folks was good, and there has been continued emend for more classes. So, I'm doing two more classes on Sunday, September 27th. Space is limited, so contact Shiuwen at Floating Leaves to reserve a spot,, 206-276-9542.

Our last classes allowed tasting of 10 different teas, a discussion on tea ware, and a special treat of wagashi (seasonal, handmade Japanese sweets) by Tokara, a Seattle Japanese sweet shop that is just one of a handful of professional wagashi shops outside of Japan, The sweets were in the theme of Obon, the time of remembering ancestors, which occurs in August. It also tied in the reference to those remembered in the great tsunami of 2011.

Our next classes will offer a wide variety of teas and sweets by Tokara.
Here are some images of teas and sweets enjoyed at the August classes. Enjoy!

Wagashi named "Uzumaki" (whirlpool) by Tokara.)
Sweet plate and Tea Bowl by George Gledhill.

Charaku Gokase Organic Tamaryokucha, Miyazaki.
Tokoname Tea Pot, Mashiko Katakuchi (spouted bowl,)
Vintage tasting cups from Igeta Tea Shop, Sendai.

Charaku Premium Organic Matcha,
Vintage Soma-yaki Sugar Bowl used as Chaire (Tea Canister,) Fukushima.

Charaku Asahina Karigane (stems of Gyokuro,) Shizuoka.
Tokoname Tea Pot, Thai Porcelain tasting cup.

Wagashi called "Great Wave" by Tokara.
Sweet plate by Mika Sullivan,
Tea Bowl by Sachiko Furuya.