Let’s Celebrate the New Era of Reiwa!

Yesterday marked the beginning of a new era in Japan. Emperor Akihito abidcated the throne at the end of April, paving the way for his son Naruhito to ascend to the throne. This ushered in the end of the Heisei era and the beginning of the Reiwa era. There will be a week of celebrations of all sorts, but when I saw that they had announced a special colour palette for the event, I knew I had to do a coordination to celebrate. The three celebratory colours are ume (plum), sumire (violet), and sakura (pink).  They  were  chosen  because  they  are  all  traditional  spring  flowers,  and  also because  they  are  mentioned  in  the  Manyoshu,  Japan’s  oldest  recorded  poetry  that  served  as  inspiration  for  the  new era’s  name.

I knew right away that my beloved peony furisode would be absolutely perfect for this outfit, since it features all three colours already. A white-based obi with delicate pink accents gave the outfit a bit of visual rest, since the kimono itself is quite busy and bold. I chose more pink and purple accessories to reinforce the theme and went with a classically feminine but modern styling.

To me, this outfit is the perfect way to usher in what will hopefully be a new era of peace, cooperation, equality, and prosperity for Japan.

Items used in this coordination

Fudangi First Friday – Flirty Florals

I’ve been pretty terrible at keeping up with my Fudangi First Friday project, but since this is the last one of the year I figured I had to make an effort! This gorgeous raspberry red hakata obi is one I got from Kimono Yuki back during the summer and hadn’t gotten around to coordinating yet. I love how rich the colour is, and it’s also super long, I can’t wait to wear it myself!

The obi is one of those strange colours that’s super bold and vivid but still manages to fall into the neutral category, at least when it comes to kimono. So I knew I could pair it up with almost anything. I haven’t done much with this multi-season komon recently but thought it could work and make a sort of sweet, feminine outfit that still felt a little mature due to the black base and richer tone of the obi.

I’d also never gotten the opportunity to use this adorable owl haneri. It matched some of the pinks in the kimono so perfectly, I’m very glad I thought of it. The finishing touch was a peach and white obijime that again ties in to some of the accent colours on the kimono. It was feeling a little drab against the obi, somehow, so I thought tying it in a cute bow would help balance things out a little better.

As much as I’ve loved doing the Fudangi First Friday project (and the MonoKimono challenge), I’m pretty sure that in 2019 I’m not going to commit to any challenge or project where I have to do something at a fixed and repeated time. I’ve just got too much going on. I hate feeling like I’ve failed and I don’t need that sort of stress going forward.

Today’s post was apparently brought to you by the letter F.

Items used in this coordination

 

Tea Time – Tea Forté

Today I have a beautiful assortment of teas from Tea Forté as well as their incredible KATI steeping cup in Hanami design. I received these for review purposes back in early June, and have been trying them out for a while to make sure I could bring you the best review possible. It’s just my luck that I get a selection of hot steeped beverages to work through while we’ve been hit with the hottest summer on record here in Montreal, but I’ve persevered! It was worth it!

To begin with, here’s the Matcha Collection; a beautiful presentation box with single-serving packets of matcha. Included are Chai Matcha, Chocolate Matcha, Coconut Matcha, Ginger Matcha, and Pure Matcha.

This is a beautifully cohesive, well-designed sampler. There are three packets of each variety, perfectly measured to make one cup of tea each. I love how thoughtfully designed the packets are, they’re very pretty to look at as well as being practical. They prevent the tea from being exposed to light and are very easy to open. so they would be great to travel with or keep at your desk.

I started with the Pure Matcha, because it was the most straightforward and I wanted to taste it clean before digging in to the interesting flavour combinations. It was earthy and grassy in just the right way; if you’re familiar with matcha you’ll know what I mean. It whisked easily just using a dessert fork, if you don’t have a proper chasen (bamboo whisk).

Next up was the Coconut Matcha. Full disclosure here, I like coconut by itself but tend not to like coconut-flavoured things. They almost always remind me of sun block or soap. I’m very glad to say that was not the case with this one! The coconut was delicate and natural-tasting, and didn’t overpower the fresh green taste of the tea. I do think I’ll be giving the other two packets to my mum, who is a coconut fiend, but I definitely did find this one more pleasant than I was expecting to.

From there, I started venturing out to the stronger and more adventurous combos, starting with the Ginger Matcha. This one was delicious – very heavy on the ginger, spicy and warming all the way down my throat. Which I probably would have appreciated a little more were we not in the midst of another oppressive heat wave! I did find the ginger overpowered the matcha itself a little bit but since I love ginger that wasn’t an issue personally. If you prefer your ginger milder, however, you might want to give this one a pass.

That brought me to the Chai Matcha, which struck a perfect balance between the grassy tea and spicy herbs. There’s also ginger in this one. but it’s not as up-front as the previous tea. There are also beautiful notes of cinnamon and a few other subtle spices I can’t quite pin down. This would also be incredible iced, or blended with a milk or non-dairy beverage of your choice.

I left the Chocolate Matcha for last because, to be frank, I was a little wary of it. I know it’s not uncommon for matcha to be paired with white chocolate in desserts, but the idea of it as a warm drink struck me as more than a little odd. Thankfully, the geniuses at Tea Forté clearly know what they’re doing, since this was unexpectedly delicious. It’s a little sweet without being cloying, and there are definite notes of cocoa in the blend that somehow pair really well with the matcha. This one would be a lovely dessert tea, and I’m going to try baking with it soon.

Next up is Hanami, another lovely presentation box filled with ten individually wrapped pyramid infuser bags as well as a pretty and sturdy tin of loose-leaf. This is a new addition to their product line and has already won a silver medal at the 2018 Global Tea Championship

This tea starts out with delicate sencha green tea, carefully blended with sakura essence and rose petals to bring a beautifully balanced floral note. This particular style of tea (green with light floral notes) is one of my favourite ways to drink green tea, so it’s no surprise that I absolutely loved this one. When mixing floral notes into tea it can be easy to go either too heavy and have the tea overpowered, or too light and make the floral almost undetectable, but there’s a reason this one’s an award winner. It’s spectacularly balanced!

This also shows off their fantastic handcrafted pyramid bags very well, and aren’t the little leaf tags adorable?! The bags are incredibly sturdy and allow for excellent water flow which makes for a very smoothly brewed tea. This isn’t really related, but I received this amazing mid-century tea cup from a friend years ago, and it’s one of my favourites. I don’t use it often because I’m afraid of breaking it, but this seemed like an appropriate time to bring it out.

As amazing as flavoured and speciality teas are, one of the best tests is how a pure, organic tea with no additions tastes, and their Organic Sencha is no exception. This is a beautifully gentle, clean, and fresh green tea. These tins have steeping instructions on them which is one of those little touches that make such a huge difference, especially when it comes to green teas. They’re quite sensitive to time and temperature, so having precise numbers to work from helps ensure optimum enjoyment of the product. This tea is clean, fresh, and just a tiny bit grassy/earthy, which is exactly what you want in a green tea.

 

The KATI cup is also absolutely gorgeous. It’s a really weighty, solid-feeling ceramic with a beautiful design of sakura on it. There’s a very fine mesh strainer that fits into it, perfect for loose-leaf teas, and a ceramic lid to keep your tea safe and warm. The cup comes in a ton of other beautiful designs, if the cherry blossoms aren’t your style.

I can’t get over how much thought and effort were put into every aspect of everything Tea Forté offers. From the flavourful, delicate, and well-balanced teas themselves to the design and aesthetics of the packaging. They feel so luxurious, and would make incredible gifts. I highly recommend everything listed here (assuming the products are to your taste!), and I’ll definitely be buying from them in the future.

 I received this item from the retailer or manufacturer for honest review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me. 

Tea Time – Sakura Matsuri Tea

With a shop name like Tiaras ‘n Teakettles and years of experience organising tea parties, dinner parties, and formal balls, you know Jess has to be serious about tea. Nowhere is this more evident than in this custom blended Sakura Matsuri tea. I’ve been fighting off some kind of sinus/throat crud for just over a week now, so a nice cup of tea seemed like the perfect treat today.

Sakura Matsuri is Japanese for Cherry Blossom Festival, which makes it a perfect name for this tea. It’s a blend of quality. long-leaf green tea with cherry essence and dried rose petals that give the green base a fresh, spring-like flavour.  Even though the cherry and rose of this tea are subtle and well-balanced, I would still recommend it more as an afternoon treat or a dessert accompaniment – the flavours likely wouldn’t mesh well with hearty main course foods, if you’re the type to enjoy tea with your dinner.

The risk of incorporating florals into tea blends is that they can often end up tasting soapy but the rose aspect of this tea is perfectly complemented by the green tea and the cherry notes. It’s definitely there, but it’s subtle enough that the focus remains on the tea itself. When I made the first pot of this to try out, everyone in the household was a fan, which is rare. This is a light, lovely tea for the transitional springtime. And of course, with a sakura-themed tea, I had to use this sakura cup from Ceramic Ai that I love to bits. It snowed here in Montreal this morning, but this combination of tea and cup brings a little bit of brightness into my life.

The packet sold is a very generous amount, good for several large pots. I also love the added detail of including the steeping directions on the label. Lighter teas often require cooler water and shorter steep times, and having them right at hand is very useful. It’s a small touch, but very much appreciated.

If and when spring ever arrives here, this tea would be perfect for a dessert picnic under the flowering trees. Something to look forward to, I suppose!

 I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site. 

Review – Japanese Collection from Squish Candies

Squish is a locally-based candy company that’s grown into quite a success story over the years. They focus on unique and seasonal flavours aimed at adults (including an entire cocktail-inspired collection), and offer a huge selection of all natural and vegan options. As someone with allergies to both artificial flavours and milk proteins, their efforts in avoiding common allergens and really clearly labelling all their products is incredibly appreciated.

So of course when I saw they’d released a special edition Japanese Collection for this spring, I knew I had to jump on it. I was very curious to see how they’d hold up to some of the more gummy variations of wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets. They released three separate flavours that all play very nicely together; sakura & sake, sake blossoms, and yuzu mimosa.

I was most looking forward to the sakura & sake flavour, and while they were tasty enough they ended up being my least favourite of the three. Between the cherry flavour and the slightly herbaceous accent of the sake they come off a tiny bit medicinal, for lack of a better word. They’re by no means unpleasant and I’ll happily eat them, but I’m not nearly as crazy about them as I am about the others.

The sake blossom ones have a very fresh and clean taste. It’s subtle but definitely has the familiar taste of sake. There’s even a hint of that warmth you feel after drinking alcohol. The nice thing about these is that they aren’t overly sweet, so they’re refreshing and not overwhelming.

The yuzu mimosa ones are by far the standout here. They’re absolutely delicious and it was very difficult for me not to eat them all in one go as I was trying them out and photographing them! They’re the perfect balance of tart citrus and sweet gummy, without being cloying. They taste like sunshine and summer and brunch with friends on the patio.

And look how cute and springy they are all mixed up in this jar! Eating them mixed like this seems to balance the flavours perfectly. You get the sweetness of the sakura, the bright citrus flavour of the yuzu mimosa, and the delicate sake to balance everything out.

Are these a substitute for imported wagashi? Sadly, no. Are they delicious, and a great accompaniment to a seasonal meal or snack? Absolutely! I’m definitely going to be stocking up on the yuzu mimosa and the sake ones.

 I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.Note: A portion of all purchases of sakura & sake during the month of April will be donated to support The Véro & Louis Foundation. This Quebec-based charity’s mission is to build and operate group homes to support autistic people twenty-one and over.