Goushi Iijima sits in front of the irori ( a traditional ash fireplace), his back ramrod straight yet somehow deeply relaxed. With measured, fluid movements, he pours cold-infused green tea into delicate clear glass cups set on lacquerware saucers.

We balance the saucers in our hands and pick up the colored glass handles to take the first sip: grassy, tannic, yet sweetly well balanced. The cold green tea has had a lengthy steep and is a fresh bump of morning caffeine. As we greedily gulp it down, Iijima is readying the next round.

This time: kōcha. Known around the world as black tea, the Japanese word is more accurate regarding the actual color ("deep red tea"). The cold "black" tea is floral with almost no tannic aftertaste. The Murakami area of Niigata Prefecture gets low sun exposure throughout the year, so the tea develops more sweetness than tannins, resulting in a noticeably mild tea with floral notes.