Not Just for Brewing
The world of tea is a deep and ancient one. Japanese tea stretches back to the 9th century when a Buddihist monk brought the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis) back from China and planted it in Kyoto, Uji. From that point, Japan has had tea ingrained into the tapestry of its culture, down to the fiber, and the Japanese people have enjoyed a plethora of different kinds of fantastic and flavorful teas for centuries. From astringent and bitter to sweet and umami, the flavor profile of tea is different from every bush, hill, and region in which its grown from.
Many people drink tea everyday, but surprisingly, the world of cooking with tea is something not very popular yet. Matcha is having a boom all over the world currently, and many people have been experimenting with it in things like breads and desserts. But is that all there is to using tea for food and cooking? I’d like to think not!
Hello everyone! My name is Kai Masuchika and I’ve been in love with food culture ever since I can remember. When I was 14 I enrolled in my high schools culinary arts program, and learned under an absolutely phenomenal chef who taught me the important influence food can have on people and culture. To him food wasn’t just something consumed, but the grand unifying factor for people all over the world. That was a gift he gave to me that I can never repay, and shapes how I view food to this day.
(left to right: Coworker and best friend Matthew, Me, Head Chef Eric, Sous-Chef Antone)
After my first year in the culinary arts program, I fell in love with cooking and got a job as a dishwasher at a local high-end restaurant. One thing lead to another and I found myself on the line, cooking with a group of very smart and very hardcore chefs who taught me almost everything I know today about cooking. Ten years have passed since then, but no matter what kitchen I go to; or what hardships are thrown my way, nothing can extinguish my love for food and the world of culinary arts.
Japanese Culture and cuisine have an important place in my life. My love of Japanese cuisine has been imbued in me by my 3rd generation Japanese- American father and my immensely loving and supportive mother from the time I was a young boy. Growing up in Hawaii and later on the U.S mainland, I watched almost solely Iron Chef Japan from the time I was 2 years old and ate Japanese food daily, giving me an intense connection with cooking and Japanese culinary culture.
With my love of the Japanese people and their food, I decided to explore what the world of Japanese food was all about. In doing so the more I studied, the more I found out how important tea was to these people. Tea was never really something I thought much about but the more I looked, the more I realized its significance to the culture I loved so much. So I was incredibly excited when, after a bit of research I stumbled upon a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Interning at Obubu tea farms in Wazuka, Kyoto, Japan. I learned on the Obubu website that they were accepting interns to come and immerse themselves in the expansive world of Japanese tea, the people, and the town’s everyday way of life. I decided that my home in State College, Pennsylvania could be put on the back burner so after hard work and several drafts of my application, I was accepted and flew 26 hours away from my apartment, friends, family, and job; and arrived here in Wazuka, Japan to widen my view of the world.
I came to Obubu to mix my love for cooking with this great opportunity I have here to become a more knowledgeable and versatile chef, which leads me to what this blog is all about. While I’m here in Wazuka, I’d like to use everything to my advantage, and experiment with local foods from this beautiful town and area, as well as to use tea grown by us here at Obubu in all the dishes made by yours truly. Every week or so, I will be creating a fun and exciting dish. In this blog, I will document my process from the initial stages to the final product, which will be a several course meal using tea as an essential ingredient to accentuate local food. What you can expect from my documented journey are things like the concept and thought process behind each of the dishes; all the steps I took to create it; trials and tribulations I went through to make it, pictures of the process; and finally recipes for all of you to try at home!
I’m very excited to start and hopefully I inspire even just a few of you to try using tea in ways you’ve never thought to use it before. So until next time, keep drinking spectacular teas and keeping cooking and eating delicious food!
Kai Masuchika, Chef, Obubu intern