2011/10/28

Black Tea Day - Nov 1st -

In Japan, November 1st is “the day of black tea” set by Japan Tea Association in 1983 to spread the consumption of black tea.

The question is… why "November 1st"?

Apparently, it was the very first day that Japanese ever had “black tea”. Who was the luckiest person?  It was a Japanese castaway, named Daikokuya Kōdayū. In 1783, his ship drifted on the way to Japan, but managed to escape to the Russian mainland. People there saved his life and he stayed for a while. Eventually, he had Catherine the Great allow them to go back to Japan. During his stay, he was invited to her tea party, and had a cup of tea. This is why Nov 1st  is chosen as  “the day of black tea” in Japan.

He was not lucky to drift, but lucky enough to alive and come back to Japan, and have a nice cup of tea. Don’t you think?



2011/10/24

Wakocha Gathering

I’ve talked about Wakocha (Japanese black tea) a lot on my blog, so you may know Wakocha is the recent trend in Japan.

Still, it is not widely well-known enough even among Japanese. In order to promote Wakocha, an event was held last week in Iruma city. A lot of tea farmers, the tea promoter, and the shopkeepers and the tea-lovers gathered together. I joined it as a consumer. We tasted various types of the teas, discussed how we should improve the quality, and learned how we should promote them more widely.

Now, at least 300 kinds of Wakocha are produced. I am not saying all are good, but the quality overall is getting better for sure.

Japan used to produce black tea a long time ago just for exportation, but the business failed. I assume it is because Japanese tried just to copy “black tea” such as Darjeering, Uva and Assam only for business. However, needless to say, the condition in Japan like the soil and tea variety is different from that in India, Sri Lanka etc. Of course, the business ended in failure then.

Now, people are aiming to make “Japanese-flavor” black tea in order to enjoy and stimulate our tea business. In earnest!


2011/10/18

Bubbling Tea

You may hear about the Lepet-so( or Lahpetso), which is the tea “eaten” in Myanmar. It is often considered pickled tea.

There are similar kinds of teas in Japan too, called “Bukubuku-cha”, “Batabata-cha” “Botebote-cha” etc. They are like “bubbling tea” to eat. Tea is foamed with chasen (a bamboo whisk) and, rice, cooked beans pickles or some other grains are added into the tea. The origin of those bubbling teas is said to satisfy one’s appetite in old times when people didn’t have enough food. Even with a little food, tea could provide better nutrition. They are" tea of the wisdom for life".

Unfortunately, these are not common and well-known even among Japanese nowadays. Those tea culture are preserved only at some local areas (such as Okinawa, Toyama, Niigata and Shimane prefectures) as their traditions. I have to confess, I have never tried it…..

However, this is a part of Japanese tea culture. If you are curious what they are, check it out!

This is “Bukubuku-cha” in Okinawa.


Botebote-Cha

2011/10/12

The Seacret of "CHA"

Have you seen this character?



This is “CHA (tea) ” written in Japanese Kanji.  (*Kanji is often translated as Chinese character.)

Broken down into smaller parts, the character of tea can be implied “Human beings are between grass and wood”. That is, the word of preaches that people are embraced and protected by the blessings of nature. Tea is one of them.

There are various views of the origin of the character, and especially I like this interpretation. Tea has been with us for a long long time.

2011/10/08

My Pet "Camelliia"

This is my “pet”. It looks like a bag, but it is not. It’s a simple, almost square a piece of cloth called furoshiki.

Photo from Musubi
PC
Furoshiki are used not only for carrying things, but for making gifts look more beautiful by changing how to tie. This represents the concept of Japanese culture, which is “versatile”. Think about chopsticks. Japanese use them when cutting and picking foods. We don’t have to use knife, fork and spoon eating Japanese food. How about Kimono? They can be adjusted to fit anyone’s size and shape. Versatile, isn’t it?

Furoshiki is not exceptional. One piece of cloth can carry all kinds of object such as cans of tea, wine bottles, watermelons and even PC.

two bottles of wine
Also, furoshiki often have auspicious pattern, and it is believed that wrapping gift with the lucky patterns keeps the gift pure. Furoshiki are not just cloths to wrap things to give. They also wrap the sender’s thought and heart for others.

…..And, does this topic have something to do with tea? Yes, see the pattern on my pet furoshiki. That’s “camellia”. And, think about tea plant. Camellia sinensis!


watermelon!?


* My favorite Furoshiki shop:
YAMADA SEN-I CO., LTD  http://www.ymds.co.jp/index.html
Musubi (its brand name) http://www.kyoto-musubi.com/

Special Thanks:  All photos are from "Musubi"

2011/10/04

Green Tea Cosmetics –for the revitalization -

A Japanese cosmetics company has set up their new brand “QUON”, which focuses on “organic Yamato-cha (green tea produced in Nara)”. Some cosmetics have already put on the market, attracted people who are concerned about organic products. Strictly speaking, the tea used for the cosmetics are grown by “Nature Farming"way.


In general, Japanese agricultural industry is facing difficulties. Organic type of farming is even more difficult to take care and manage. Therefore, more farmers give up their jobs and abandon the land.

The new challenge to collaborate a cosmetics company and sincere tea farmers can pave the way for the better future of Japanese tea farmers, eventually bringing the revitalization of Japanese agriculture.




2011/10/01

Zen Expression in the Tea Ceremony

As you may know, the concept of Japanese tea ceremony is strongly related to Zen Buddhism. There are lots of expressions linked with Zen Buddhism, particularly associated with the Japanese tea ceremony.

For example,

Ichi-go ichi-e
Treasure every meeting, for it will never recur.” The day will never come again. The time will never come around. The expression reminds guests that each tea gathering is very special in the context of tea ceremony.

Wa-Kei-Sei-Jaku
“Harmony, respect, purity and tranquility.” The concept of the simple 4-word is seen not only for tea ceremony, but most of the traditional Japanese culture. This is the time-honored Japanese soul and spirit

Ryuryoku-Kako
“Willow is always green, flowers are always crimson.“ This line signifies natural, genuine and pure. Everything in this world has its own form, color and aroma. Value and appreciate its own special quality as it is.
 
Ko-Un-Ryu-Sui
It literally means "cloud goes and goes and water flows and flows". It implies 'freedom' such as clouds and water. It preaches that lead oneself according to circumstances.