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Unveiling Rochester Tea Society

Finally, a tea society! It was a dream long in gestation, to sit down with a bunch of nice folks, partake of a beverage that is older than the mankind’s first book of grammar, and chat amicably about anything under the sun. Of course by the nature of the congregation, the palaver would center mostly around tea.

As three ladies and an equal number of gentlemen gathered at Kumagama Clay Studio for Rochester Tea Society’s first meeting on the evening of 14 September the drum roll was heaven sent. A storm raged outside. What won’t some people brave in the name of tea! It was an impressive gathering indeed.

For the first meeting we were drinking, appropriately, Japanese teas whose original patrons were the monks and the military - the clam and the courageous. The Japanese tea tradition certainly sublimates the essence of tea as a nourisher of both body and mind. One good thing about tea I love is the effect of centering it has upon the drinker.

So unperturbed by the weather we began proceedings with the uniquely Japanese tea staple - Genmaicha, a mix of sencha and toasted brown rice. Janette, a member, brought her own stash of Genmaicha to share. She had two kinds and one had matcha blended in addition. The latter was the second tea we brewed, and it was served like all others in small earthenware unomis made by Cody Kroll at the studio. The soft vegetal taste of sencha and the flavor of toasted rice blended perfectly with the earthy cups.

Rochester Tea Society

The third tea we drank was Sencha from Miyazaki Prefecture. The fragrant vegetal/kelpy flavor of the most popular Japanese green tea, which Sencha is, was enjoyed by everybody. We tried multiple brews of tea at cooler temperatures, while Cody shared his knowledge of Japanese teaware with the members. Janette, who’ll be visiting Japan shortly (for whom we were all excited), recounted how people in Japan traveled around the country collecting the “perfect” spring water to make their tea. It was brilliant to have so much wonderful knowledge about Japan to pass around besides just tea.

Of course we did have Japanese snacks - mochis. I got them from an Asian store and they weren’t bad at all. I say that confidently especially since there were no leftovers to be seen. The sweet, starchy taste of the mochis paired well with the green teas.

The final tea of the evening was Gyokuro. It was first time for all of us to be drinking this premium tea from Japan. What a stir it caused! The complex fragrance and flavors of this tea had such an impact that we held on to our seats lest we be blown away. It was floral, grassy, minerally, kelpy and astringent all at the same time. It is difficult to get the measure and temperature of this tea right and I was struggled with it. We had nearly five multiple rounds of the same tea and only a couple of times I came close to hitting the mark.

So with some hits and some misses the first meeting of the Rochester Tea Society closed. It was a rather perfectly wabi-sabi experience - the Japanese philosophy of finding beauty in the imperfections of this world as upheld by Cody in his pottery. We are very thankful to all those who came to the first meeting, especially Janette Heininger, who has been our ardent supporter since the early days.

The society meets next on 26 October 6 pm. If you are interested in sharing your knowledge and learning more about tea you are welcome to join us. We have limited seating. Please write to us at before we can confirm a place for you.

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