Green Tea Artisan: Le Naturalisme, Kaohsiung 裸體主義
In 1895, the Qing Dynasty lost the island of Taiwan to the Japanese. Located on the southern coast of the island, Kaohsiung was a strategic naval base from which the Japanese intended to occupy Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Therefore much effort had been made to develop the land, until their defeat 50 years later in World War II.
A Kaohsiung native who decided to set up shop out of love for an old building is Henri Shi, 42, of Le Naturalisme
. The tea house is located near Sinyi Elementary School Station. “I was a kid who grew up in this neighbourhood,” says Shi, a woodworker by trade. “I’ve loved this old house since small.” Back in 1945, the house was built by local artisans using Japanese techniques, and later used by American soldiers. The space was originally a workshop where Shi carved combs and lotus flowers out of sandalwood and hinoki. Later, as the green tea lover gained confidence in making his own green tea desserts, he started selling those as well. His green tea powder is sourced from a family-owned producer in Uji, Marukyu-Koyamaen, now in the care of its eleventh-generation tea master. “Among the three major tea producing regions in Japan – Shizuoka, Uji, and Okinawa – the tea from Uji has a more brilliant green than the rest,” says Shi. “Its fragrance is also richer.” To five grams of tea powder, 90 millilitres of water at 85 degrees Celsius are added. “You then whisk it, the faster the better, for about 45 seconds.” Okinawan black sugar adds some burnt caramel notes, while warm milk and milk foam complete the cappuccino.
Mizu shingen mochi, a raindrop-shaped dessert originally from Yamanashi, is served here with a snow sakura blossom. For the green tea connoisseur, a tart with a silky, intense, and indulgent green tea ganache would be the most unforgettable. As I have a sweet tooth, my favourite is the green tea mille crêpe. There is a wonderful harmony between the springy and eggy crêpes, and the filling of fresh cream infused with genmaicha, a mix of green tea and roasted brown rice.
Adapted from the Sep Oct 18
issue of Cuisine & Wine Asia.