Our awesomely cool friend (tomodachi) Yumi-Chan, originally from Nagasaki, now living in Tokyo, recently visited Honolulu once again, and brought us some awesomely neat omiyage, or gift, a Japanese tradition that’s commonly practiced here in Hawaii as well when visiting from abroad.
Typically omiyage are edible, where here in Hawaii it’s usually something popular and exclusive to each island. Such as here from Oahu, you’d take someone you visit on the neighbor island or abroad something like Char Hung Sut Manapua. If from Kauai, Hanelei Kulolo. Maui, Kitch ‘n Cook’d Maui Potato Chips or Komoda Bakery Butter Rolls. Molokai, Okole Bread. And on and on.
So this time around, Yumi-Chan brought us an omiyage set of…. hmmmm, what might it be?
Upon unwrapping it, I don’t know about you, but I can’t read Japanese Kanji or Hiragana characters, so I had to have Yumi-Chan translate it for me into Eigo (English). The box on the left is Nenrinya Yakigashi Baumkuchen, a German style “baked sweets’ Japanese Tea Cake. The black box on the right is a flight data recorder. Nah, just kidding. lol It’s Japanese Ocha (tea) by Rakuzan from Kagurazaka prefecture in Tokyo, Japan.
What I wanted to illustrate more than anything else here, is how BEAUTIFUL the Japanese are at packaging their products, and these here exemplify that.
This here is the Baumkuchen German style Japanese Tea Cakes, where notice how meticulous they wrap the contents in a fibrous wax paper for an elegant presentation as you open it. It’s almost as if there’s going to be a brand new gazillion dollar iPhone in there! lol
Then after you uncover it, they further meticulously wrap each Baumkuchen Cake in its own sealed plastic wrapper for freshness, seated upon a custom-fit tray.
Note from the box and packaging within, they have this sort of whacky, yet clearly heartfelt poetic description about the product: “We made this Baumkuchen with all our hearts”. I’ve seen stuff like candy’s and drinks with uplifting punchlines similar to this, such as for example “This is fun. We’re having a nice day”. Or “Made for good people of the world, bringing us happiness and joy”. lol
And there it is, the Neninrya Yakigashi Baumkuchen German Style Japanese Tea Cake, Maccha Green Tea style.
Then there it is, Ninrinya Yakiguchi Baumkuchen German Style Japanese Tea Cake, Sakura (Cherry Blosssom) style.
Now you might be wondering what’s with the funky shape of this cake, and above explains it all, where the ones in the box are actually an entire vertical slice of a whole Baumkuchen.
Slicing it up, notice how it’s layered “tree-rings” that are incredibly symmetrical from each to the next. Pretty neat!
Taste-wise, it’s kind of interesting, as there’s this hint of coconut in it, yet I don’t think that’s what it is, yet it’s sort of “coconutty” if you will. Texture-wise, being a tea cake, it’s rather stiff, airy and dry, with a firm, kind of dusty, finely gritty crust, meant to, well, to be enjoyed with hot tea. Or coffee, if that’s your thing. I’m a green tea freak, so obviously leaned towards Maccha style, and it was definitely shouting out that flavor profile.
Overall, while I’m not a cake fan as you know, these were certainly at the top of its game for tea cakes.
Speaking of tea, up next is a 3-piece Ocha set by Rakuzan from the Kagurazaka prefecture in Tokyo, Japan. How do I know this? Do you think I can read the label on the box? Nope, Yumi-Chan translated it for me. Ha!
So Yumi-Chan translated each Rakuzan Sencha (Green Tea) as followed from left to right:
- RED: Yuryo cha hin hyo kai nyusho cha (won the prize at Excellentfine Tea Competitive Exhibition) MIYAKO NO HA
- BLACK: Norin suisan Daijin sho jyusho cha (Minister of Agriculture prize tea) MIYAKO NO HANA
- GREEN: Yuryo cha hin hyo kai nyusho cha (won the prize at Excellentfine Tea Competitive Exhibition) MIYAKO NO KA
The following sequence is the total “unboxing” of this fine set of Japenese Green Tea
Left to right: RED: Yuryo cha hin hyo kai nyusho cha (won the prize at Excellentfine Tea Competitive Exhibition) MIYAKO NO HA, BLACK: Norin suisan Daijin sho jyusho cha (Minister of Agriculture prize tea) MIYAKO NO HANA and GREEN: Yuryo cha hin hyo kai nyusho cha (won the prize at Excellentfine Tea Competitive Exhibition) MIYAKO NO KA
Above: RAKUZEN JAPANESE GREEN TEA: Yuryo cha hin hyo kai nyusho cha (won the prize at Excellentfine Tea Competitive Exhibition) MIYAKO NO KA.
Unlike the outside of the box, fortunately the instructions booklet included within had them in 3 languages: English, French and Japanese. What’s interesting is it tells you to pour the scalding hot boiled water from the kettle into the serving cups first, which not only properly portions exactly how much tea to brew in the tea pot, but it also says to let the scalding hot water cool slightly before adding to the tea pot. Not sure why, but I’m guessing if the water’s too hot it will perhaps make the tea taste bitter or “off”? Any thoughts on that?
Above are the green tea leaves after letting it steep in the cooled hot water (oxymoron right there!), where I squeezed them through a colander to extract every last drop of its color and flavor essence.
And there it is: Rakuzan Maccha premium Japanese Green Tea, in all its fully steeped, EGCG-packed metabolism-boosting glory!
Hai, Ocha wo issho ni tonoshimi masho (“Let’s enjoy tea together).
And? Dude, this Maccha is SUGOI (AWESOME)! Easily the best quality, best tasting green tea I’ve ever had. No question. Way better than any of the green tea bag stuff, even the better ones. It’s intense, yet smooth, with no bitterness at all. Simply refined, elegant tasting green tea at its finest!
Oh yeah, the Tea Cake NEEDS the hot, earthy and rich Green Tea to compliment it. Lovin’ it! Ah, oishii so yo.
Well there you go, a wonderful Japanese Tea Cake and Ocha Set Omiyage from our awesome tomodachi, Yumi-Chan. Hai, domo arigato gozaimasu!
Following are a couple of photos (plus a video of her singing Karaoke!) of Yumi-Chan on her recent visit to us in Honolulu. The first photo at Japan Village Walk in Ala Moana Center, and the second in Waikiki at Kuhio Beach Grill. Kireina nei!
Here’s a video of Yumi-Chan with me at Wang’ Chung’s singing a Japanese song in Karaoke (please don’t mind the camera man’s work lol)…