Of of my “favorite things that ever happened to me” was getting the chance to work in Japan for a week when I was with Hitachi Telecom.  Every morning at the Tokyo hotel I had a traditional breakfast – salmon, pickled vegetables, rice and miso soup.  Then I’d join up with my coworkers and take a 30 minute train ride (and a 20 minute walk) to an outlying business district.

Despite the stifling heat, I always liked this walk because it gave me a glimpse into a less touristy part of the city.  The stores and restaurants along this road were geared to the Tokyoites who commuted here every day.

I got really excited when I spotted a little tea shop.

I stepped inside and immediately I felt a sense of escape.   There were a dozen or more varieties of green tea beautifully presented behind glass and the shop owner was just glowing to have someone new to share them with.

A coworker of mine translated my request  “I would like a very good tea and I don’t mind if it costs a little more.  How about that one?”  I was pointing to one that was about $60 per pound.

His response was not what I expected.

He explained that he didn’t want to sell me that tea because he didn’t think I would be able to brew it correctly.  It took skill – just the right temperature, just the right duration.  He unilaterally decided to sell me the cheapest one he had  ($10 per pound and apparently blonde-proof.)

Then he sat me down at a small table with another coworker of mine, Abby, and served us some of his best tea with green tea cookies.

He also gave me a green tea brewing lesson.  It went something like this:

1) Pour some very hot, but not boiling, water into a teapot.  Swish it around, then pour it out.

2) Put a few leaves into the teapot and close the lid, letting the steam “open” them for a minute or so before filling it with the hot water.

3) Steep the tea for just a couple of minutes, then serve.

Then he meticulously wrapped my tea in gorgeous paper – pink with cranes!

These scones remind me of that day.  The recipe is adapted from a couple of my favorites, including “Classic Currant Scones” from Joy of Cooking.

Green Tea Matcha – Ginger Scones

1 cup whole-wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 cup unbleached flour
1/3 cup sugar  (preferably sucanat or coconut palm sugar – reduce to 1/4 cup if using cane sugar)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. green tea matcha powder
6 Tbsp. butter, unsalted, cold
1/4 to 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 egg
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Whisk together the first six ingredients (through matcha powder.)

Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender or your fingers until the butter is coating much of the flour and the texture is crumbly (like breadcrumbs.)  Mix in the ginger.

Whisk the egg and cream together.  Pour them into the flour mixture and incorporate them with a fork until a dough begins to form.

Form a ball with the dough and, on a lightly floured surface, shape it into an 8-inch round.  Slice it into twelve segments and place them (not touching) on an ungreased baking sheet.

Brush each segment with a bit of cream and sprinkle on some granulated sugar.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

(Also posted on The Nourishing Gourmet’s Pennywise Platter 5/10)