Few months ago I attended a Bontemae class at Matcha House Europe, in the barrio of Gracia in Barcelona. Bontemae is a “simplified” version of chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony, but it is still very complex, deep and difficult to perform. It is based on the same principles of the full ceremony only that it is performed in a tray on a table instead of on the tatami at the teahouse.
Our teacher was Nuria, a Japanese Spanish teacher that has been studying chanoyu for more than 20 years in Japan at the Urasenke school. We were five people around the table from which just three of us were students. Together we shared an amazing two-hour class, watching carefully, learning, practising and contemplating the grace of each movement she performed. We learnt how to clean the utensils, how to whisk the matcha, fold the “chakin” (the silk cloth) among other things, and we practised the whole routine at least couples of times. We ate our “okashi” and enjoyed every minute of the class.
One of the things I appreciate the most about the Japanese Tea Ceremony is the level of detail, the simplicity and the complexity of what seems obvious and simple; the acknowledgement of space, surroundings and the ceremony or ritual itself. The respect for everything and for everybody, the feeling of full awareness and what this all mean to you in a personal way.
I treasure every tea ceremony or class I have attended, each one has been unique and has taught me different things. I love the opportunity it provides to connect to the simplicity and the beauty of things, to share just by being there and the way it makes everything so special. It always leaves me a feeling of fulfilment and peace.
I want to finish this post with the phrase Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会), a concept that I love that is also connected to ‘the way of tea’ that has been translated as “one time, one meeting” or “one encounter; one opportunity”. Meaning, roughly, that every moment is unique and it cannot be repeated the same way…. That always remind how important it is to enjoy life in every way possible.
Thank you Matcha House and Nuria for this opportunity, I hope we can enjoy another class very soon!
In this edition of tea and cake I have a very special guest, Lorena Franzoni, an Argentine graphic designer and artist that lives in Barcelona and with whom I always like to share ideas and projects and, of course, many cups of tea. This time I invited her to bring her ceramic pieces to have “tea and cake” at home using them as the main theme. I chose a refreshing Darjeeling First Flush and, to accompany it, whole wheat and regular madeleines, mini croissants, mini “napolitanas” and strawberries.
Her pieces are handmade and they respond to her own creative process, stories and needs. I particularly like the organic touch and feel of the pieces and how its variety of sizes, textures, shapes and colours complement each other so gracefully.
In the pictures you can see small bowls, a beautiful cake stand and two little horses. The horses are actually part of a bigger piece called “Brillante”, a lamp that is also a character that during the day delivers flowers and by night lightens up the dark. The piece was recently showcased at the collective expo called “Los Tripulantes” in Barcelona.
We had tea and a nice chat about her present and future projects. She is currently working on a children’s cup for her nephew and a set of plates for her home. I am sure it will be to die for!
What a pleasure to have tea with such a great company and these beautiful pieces! Thank you Lore for being on this edition of Tea and Cake, a real delight!
To know more about Lorena’s design work please visit:
She makes all her ceramic pieces at El Taller de Lusesita: https://www.facebook.com/pages/El-taller-de-lusesita/571797292930333?fref=photo
“Minimaps are small travel guides to share a little bit of your world and enjoy someone else’s. The project is collectively created by travelers, walkers, nomads, hedonists, nihilists, epicures, readers, photographers and illustrators from all around the planet, who want to share with others what they love and know best: their favorite bookshops in Buenos Aires, the things that surprised them when they got lost in Lisbon, the best places to eat ramen in Portland, the best spots for selfies in the selfie capital of the world, etc.”
I have had the pleasure to be the editor of the Minimap dedicated to “Tea in Barcelona” in collaboration with the wonderful illustrator Valentina Alvarado, and now I am very happy to be able to share it with you. I enjoyed every minute of the making process as I not only had the chance to write about tea and drink many cups along the way, but also to meet fascinating people and new tea spots that I didn’t know before.
I hope this map can serve as a guide for people and tea lovers coming to Barcelona and that it allows them to connect and share their love for this wonderful beverage.
My invitation is to visit Minimaps to download the full map and also to have a look around as it is full of good stories, interesting places and fun things to do in various cities. The best part is that all the maps are free to download so you can also start a collection!
Special thanks to Ana, Editor in Chief and creator of this amazing project for inviting me to participate!
If you have any comments or suggestions, tea places that are worth visiting or questions, please do get in touch! I would love to hear from you!
Happy tea everyone! Enjoy!
I am very excited to announce that I will be doing a Tea Tasting event in Barcelona at the Cuchara Club on Tuesday the 14th of April at 7:00pm. Join me to discover the fascinating world of tea in an intimate and friendly environment where we will appreciate the simplicity and the complexity of this ancient beverage. The tasting will be in Spanish but please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Degustación y apreciación del té: una experiencia sensorial
Descubre el fascinante mundo del té en un ambiente intimo y cordial donde apreciaras la sencillez y la complejidad de esta bebida milenaria.
El cupo es limitado. Para reservar por favor envía un correo electrónico a: email@example.com / Space is limited! To reserve a spot please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
¡Espero verlos allí! I hope to see you there!
I haven’t met Caroline in person yet but I do know her herbs. We got in touch through a friend we have in common that recently came to Barcelona and told me about Caroline’s project of aromatic herbs blueyellow. She had also told her about my blog and my tea project, so she formally introduced us.
Without much brainstorming or clear ideas about our new “project”, Caroline sent me the list of the seasonal herbs she had available so we could chose the ones we thought could match well with tea. Few weeks later she came to Barcelona and brought me the beautiful bouquet. Since I was away that week my husband kindly met with her and received the herbs on my behalf. When I came back home the smell was striking, all over the house… So nice and fragrant!
So tea and fresh aromatic herbs? What a perfect combination! It’s time to start tasting and blending these herbs with tea. In the bouquet there were: Wild Bergamot (Monarda), Lemon Bee Balm (Melissa), Mugwort (Artemisa), Anise Hyssop and Spicy Oregano. Most of them I had tried before in their dried version except for the bergamot leaves from which I just knew the essential oil extracted from the fruit.
I started by infusing each one of them alone, just to see how they tasted and behaved in hot water. Then I would write some ideas and ingredients I wanted to add and try. I did many tests, blending the fresh herbs with other dried herbs and teas until I was pleased with each one of them.
I am finally happy to present these 5 blends:
Blend # 1: Anisse Hyssop, Rose buds and Yin Zhen Silver Needles
Sweet, spicy, flowery, refreshing and soothing. A nice pale yellow liquor with a fresh and delicate aroma. Perfect as a mid-morning tea.
Blend # 2: Wild bergamot leaves, Chamomile buds, High Mountain Oolong and Calendula petals
The fruitiness of the oolong combined with the light but peppery taste of the bergamot leaves and the sweet taste of the chamomile buds makes this blend a calming tea. Nice amber and deep yellow liquor.
Blend # 3: Lemon Bee Balm and Flower tea
Citrusy and almost mentholated flavour. The flavor of the Lemon Bee is strong as well as its aftertaste. The flower tea just adds a soft tea base for this blend. I would personally add some honey to balance the flavour of the lemon bee just a bit!
Blend # 4: Wild Bergamot leaves, Rose petals and Hibiscus
Just an infusion with no tea in it. The sweetness of the rose petals with the tangy flavour of the hibiscus and the citrusy flavour of the bergamot make a lovely blend to enjoy hot or cold. Lovely color and festive taste.
Blend # 5 Mugwort, Elderflower and Jasmine green tea
Refreshing, delicate and flowery. Ideal for any time of the day.
Overall my favourite herb was the anisse hyssop, its flavour is so sweet and fragrant that really caught me. The flower and the leaves are also exquisite and beautiful.
The bergamot was very nice, yet very different to the essential oil from the fruit. I loved the fact that the bergamot leaf infusion has been made for a long time by American natives for stomachaches, fever, colics and insomnia. So its medicinal properties plus its delicate flavour make it a good choice to blend with almost any kind of tea.
The lemon bee balm was also a great surprise as it literally has nothing to do with its dried version. The smell and taste is powerful and strong as well as its aftertaste. I found it challenging to blend with, because it would overlap the taste of everything else. So, I decided not to fight too much against it and just let it be, putting it together with a flower tea. Loved it!
The little spicy oregano stem I didn’t use. I kept it dry to put it on a nice homemade pizza or sauce. Cheeky me!
The mugwort was easy and nice to blend with. It blended perfectly with the jasmine and the elderflower.
I really loved this collaboration, blending tea with fresh herbs was simply wonderful and I will definitely continue mixing and matching new herbs and teas! To know more about blueyellow please visit http://blueyellow.co where you will find all the varieties of aromatics available and the story behind this fantastic project. I am also certain that Caroline would be delighted to guide you through her herbs and answer any question you may have!
It has been a pleasure to work with someone like Caroline that puts so much love into what she does and to have the opportunity to share our passions (tea and herbs) in such a beautiful project!
Last week I visited a charming Japanese teahouse in Barcelona called Usagui (which means Rabbit in English), a lovely place where you can find a nice selection of Japanese teas as well as a variety of sweets and desserts (including mochi!).
I ordered a Sencha Fukamushi, an exquisite deep steamed and spring tea that I particularly loved. Fukamushi refers to the steaming time of the tea leaves in the production process of the Sencha, being this one the longest one (two minutes approximately). This is a beautiful tea: grassy, rich in flavour with a buttery feel to it and a vivid green colour.
My tea came in a small clay teapot in a square wooden tray. It had been already brewed, as they took care of the water temperature and the steeping time of the tea beforehand. Then I kindly asked for a second and third infusion and they gave me precise instructions on how to do it each time. For the second infusion they suggested 80 seconds and then serve “until the last drop”. For the third time, only 30 seconds and then pour again, “until the last drop” and so I did. It is said that the last drops are the most important ones as they are more concentrated in flavour and can even determine the final taste of the tea…
I also tried an iced apple kocha (black tea) and a fruit pannacotta. Both very delicate and refreshing.
The teahouse is very minimalistic and intimate, ideal for a peaceful afternoon with a nice cup of Japanese tea…
Thank you Usagui, until next time!
Usagui. Santjoanistes 28, 08006.
By recommendation of two local friends last week I visited a charming teahouse and shop called Caj Chai in the Barri Gotic in Barcelona. It is located in Calle Sant Domènec del Call, a hidden spot perhaps if you are just wandering around.
It is a nice place with an extensive selection of teas to try and discover. We ordered a cold matcha with soy milk and a Chinese Huang Zhi Xiang Dan Cong oolong; a very special oolong. It was the first time I tried a Dan Cong. I had read many things about it and it is fascinating. I also found two blogs with specific information about this tea that I recommend reading and that I will copy below. But, in a nutshell, one of the features that makes Dang Cong Oolongs so special is that they don’t come from tea gardens but from “wild trees” or independent bushes that are controlled according to the age of the tree and its fragrance among other many things, so its production requires lots of knowledge and expertise. My personal experience with the Huang Zhi Xiang was exquisite. It was very fresh and flowery but also with a sort of rough taste and roasted notes. This one was Orange flower (Azahar) and it was absolutely beautiful in taste, texture and aroma.
The store also specialises in teaware. From single gaiwans to Japanese and Chinese teapots, cups and bowls you can find sets and individual pieces, some of them handmade by Petr Novak, an amazing potter from Czech Republic. The gaiwain in which my oolong was served was made of clay and it was accompanied of a thermal jug on the side with hot water for me to pour it. I appreciated the fact that the tea was served in an appropriate teaware according to the type of tea, something that makes the whole experience even more special.
The staff is also friendly and helpful, willing to provide more information about the teas. They also offer tasting events on a regular basis that are open to the public.
We sat at the end of the store and spent a lovely afternoon sipping tea and enjoying each other’s company. I am willing to come back soon and take some teas with me.
Caj Chai is a must for tea lovers and enthusiasts or for anyone open to spend an afternoon drinking high-end teas from around the world in the heart of Barcelona’s historic city centre.
If you would like to read more about Dang Congs, here are the two blogs I mentioned above: