If June was any indication, we are in for a sultry summer. Alternating rounds of torrential rains that fall in this tsuyu rainy season and bright sun that vaporizes the gathered moisture bring on riotous thunder storms. Bolts strike alarmingly close to our hilltop home. On these muggy days a shot of shincha, the year’s fragrant newly harvested first crop of green tea, brewed with ice, cuts through with a moment of cool clarity.
I cover a few grams of verdant spindles of tea with cubes of ice and a sprinkle of water. The glass katakuchi begins to sweat immediately. A magnolia leaf collects the condensation and protects the tray below as ice draws out the sap of the leaves.
I wipe the katakuchi and magnolia leaf dry, and pour the brew into a glass guinomi. It’s like golden nectar, rich and sweet. Cold brewed green tea contains less caffeine but in the midst of hot afternoon doldrums, this measured shot of shincha offers a clear-eyed clarity, an enhanced and acute ability to concentrate. Focus draws near and ideas and solutions hover closer, easier to grasp.
We have crested the summer solstice but only just and each day still feels luxuriously long. We work until the evening call of higurashi cicadas lure us back up the hill towards home. It’s the same call that serenades with a hopeful and encouraging tune at first light, but as a hazy pink sky bids the sun a slow farewell in the gloaming, the call sounds sweetly melancholy.
We move slowly throughout a long and languorous evening meal. The ice brewed leaves are saturated and unfurled. I transfer them into a glass teapot we brought back from Italy so many years ago. It recalls to mind that and many other wonderful adventures in distant lands. I’m surprised that I don’t long to travel as much as I thought I would. For the time being, staying put suits me just fine. I float the tea leaves in water to rest overnight. The cold, clear flavor and gentle dose of caffeine of mizudashi has been the kindest way to wake up to summer.
Darkness quells the tymbal nerve and when that final light fades, the cicadas cease to cry. Crickets murmur quietly in the hills as we ready to slumber, if we can, in heat that hovers thick and still.