Toasted Rice, Ballet Birds, and Kimonos

The Japanese Phase

The traditional cultures of Japan have long been an area of interest for me, however for years they have floated somewhere in the murky waters beneath my study of India and other distraction points. But food, bowls, kimonos you name it, it’s awesome. However, it was only recently, on one of those long stormy Yorkshire summer evenings that I entered my “Japanese period”. It started, as most things in my life do, with a cup of tea. Or a bowl rather. I’ve always preferred drinking from a bowl – much more ceremonial – it makes the drinking of the tea an event rather than an accompaniment to some other activity. After a short visit to the pantry my brother emerged baffled. Apparently I had been hoarding brown rice…? Apparently overcome by some subconscious fear that the precious grain supply may fall short, I had filled an entire shelf with sacks of brown rice. It was about 5 minutes after this discovery that my brother completely blew my mind. He told me about a roasted brown rice tea that his Japanese friend had made for him some time ago. Now, my addiction and borderline unhealthy obsession with tea in all its multifarious incarnations is no new thing. So the fact that I had never come across the roasted rice tea was truly remarkable. Naturally I had to try it immediately… and in vast quantities. After assuring my brother that this was in fact the most delicious thing “IN THE WORLD”, we settled into a contented (yet ecstatic) tea bowl haze.

Not long later, Netflix recommended a series for me. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but Netflix is all knowing and sent me Wild Japan. I was attracted as much by providence and the title as I was by the incredibly striking image of two red capped herons dancing in the snow (I’m a sucker for unusual birds - especially these guys who partner for life and perform a ballet together every year just to keep each other interested). I loved everything about the show. I could even see through my fish phobia (yes it’s a real thing) and appreciate that Mrs Fukada’s method of using wild carp to wash her dishes was pretty damn cool. I was in London over the weekend and went to visit my favourite Indian cloth shop. But there, nestled between the kurtas and the dupattas I spotted a quilted, raw silk kimono. It was old, very crumbly, badly in need of some restoration and reinforcement, and totally perfect. So I threw it over my summer dress and merrily took to the streets. Despite the sweltering heat I had no intention of taking off my maroon kimono with its loose threads flapping at my sides. After a brief pause for some udon (naturally) I took him home to begin the restoration project. It’s been a labour of love let me tell you. But as I sit wearing it now, a bowl of roasted rice tea beside me, I have no regrets.

Want to make your own Roasted Brown Rice Tea? It’s stupidly simple. For recipe click here.