Japanese Teatime Etiquette - Tea is Right-

You may know how to brew sencha. Did you know how to serve tea and wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets)? Unfortunately, many Japanese don’t care anymore, but there is an etiquette.
by Nikkei

1) Tea should be on the right side of the guest. Sweets should be on the left.
2) The pattern on the tea bowl, if any, are faced to a guest so that the guest can see it. Put the grain of wood of a saucer sideways.
3) Prepare a wagashi toothpick for sweets. (when needed)
4) Fold the wagashi paper with the edges out of line like going down to the right. 

When you feel like the Japanese way, please try at least 1). It's easy to remember because "Tea is always Right"! \(^^)/.

Anyway....we only three more days to go. I know many things are going on now, but I really hope the coming year will be peaceful, calm, and good one. 

良いお年を!(Yoi o-toshi wo!)  Wish you all the best for 2017.


Learn Japanese Tea from Non-Japanese Expert

As you may know, the bottled tea is very popular here, but Japanese people don’t make tea at home as much as we used to. If not tea geek, people don’t drink green tea a lot.  

On the other hand, I’ve known (of) some “non-Japanese” who love Japanese tea and work as an expert in Japan. They include people who manages an internet tea company, who work at the Japanese tea organization, and who work as a master of Sado(Japanese traditional tea ceremony). In addition to their deep knowledge and their love about tea, their Japanese (language-ability wise) are amazing! Once in a while I feel that they know more Japanese words than I do. There are more non-Japanese who involved in Japanese tea field although I haven’t met them yet. 

Recently, we sometime see the very interesting scene here and there. Japanese people attend the seminar or the lesson about Japanese tea hosted by a non-Japanese teacher. While listening about Japanese tea told by non-Japanese teacher and tasting some Japanese tea made by non-Japanese instructor, Japanese people are impressed by the taste, and surprised to know the taste of tea can be changed according to the brewing way. Actually, I’ve attended Sado class hosted by a Canadian tea master, and I learned a lot. 

I sometimes find interest in knowing about Japanese tea from their perspective. But at the same time, I feel like “What are we doing ???????!!!!!!!. We are born and bred Japanese, but we don’t know about it.”  I have to admit that many of us, including me, tend to feel the attraction of foreign cultures as the saying goes, “The grass is always greener.” I don’t think this is bad because knowing foreign cultures can be a good chance to think about our own culture. It should be....

Anyway. it is very happy to see that Japanese tea have come to attract the world, which we never dreamt of it.

frm Soft Kenkyusha 


Shincha (new tea) vs Ichibancha (the 1st tea)

Have you heard these words;  “Shincha” and “Ichibancha”?

“Shincha”  literally means “new tea” and “Ichibancha” means “the 1st tea of the year”.Usually, both words refer to “Sencha”. Even Japanese often mix them up.

Shincha is spring tea of the year. The fresh and greenish aroma  is the key character. But this kind of aroma is very delicate and  won’t last that long. In order to enjoy the fresh aroma, we are often told that we should use up the tea until the end of the rainy season, which is around the mid of July. After this, the freshness will disappear. So we don’t take the tea as Shincha anymore.

Ichibancha is the 1st flush tea of the year. It sounds the same as Shincha. That’s true in a way. Before the rainy season, we can call the 1st flush tea “Shincha”, but after that, we don’t. It can be called “Ichibancha”, but not “Shincha”.Does it make sense?

Let me put it this way. Let’s say, there is a tea plucked and processed this spring. Now (as of 2016 December) we can say, “ This is Ichibancha of 2016”, but not “2016 Shincha.” because our rainy season has gone. Shincha is a part of Ichibancha and a word for limited time.

Don’t get disappointed. Shincha will lose “the fresh aroma” around the mid of July every year, but it can be matured well and it creates more body if it is stored properly.

For the time being, try Ichibancha 2016 if you still have. 2017 Shincha will be ready in about four months.


Which is First, Tea or Sweets?

I am happy to drink tea. I am much happier to have tea with some sweets or food.

How do you enjoy tea and sweets? I mean which is first. Of course, you can do whatever you like. But this is the way that the tea people recommend.

When you have Matcha, it may be better to have sweet first. Matcha is strong and powerful since you consume the whole leaf. If you drink Matcha when you are hungry, it might bother your stomach. Also Matcha is a bit bitter. Having sweets first makes its bitterness milder. Actually, if you attend sado, or the traditional tea ceremony, sweets are served before tea. So you have to have sweets first whatever you say.

When you have Sencha or Gyokuro, the story is different. You don’t have to finish the tea, but drink the tea first at least one sip. The tea like Sencha and Gyokuro have a very sensitive aroma and flavor. You don’t want to miss those, do you? If you eat sweets first, you wouldn’t taste the delicate character enough, which is shame. Savor the tea a little first, then sweets. This is more recommendable to enjoy both tea and sweets.

I had Matcha toast at a tea room in Kyoto. It was not Matcha-ish, it was real Matcha toast as you can see from the pic. Plenty of good quality of Matcha powder and Tencha (the Matcha leaves before being ground) spread a wonderful aroma even before I took a bite.

In this case…. Enjoy it whatever you like.:-)


Japanese Black Tea Summit in Nara 2016

An annual Japanese black tea event was held in Nara on December 4 and 5.

My first impression was "A….. LOT"!! (LOL)

Around 40 tea farmers not only from Nara but from throughout Japan set up their tea booths so that the attendees could taste the teas and buy them if they like. In order just to get the ticket for tasting, "a lot of" people were in a long long line.

"A lot of" people were flocked to sample the tea while chatting with the farmers.

Other than tea tasting, some lectures and a symposium were held. They were not just for fun, they were more serious ones, but "a lot of" people came to listen.

I have attended this summit several time before, but I had never seen such a crowded scene.

This year, several mass media covered Wakocha, and some big beverages companies put bottled Wakocha on market and more. Thanks to those, the tea has gained recognition much much more. I could feel and see it from the scenes of the crowd.

Japan used to produce black tea after the opening of Japan to the West around mid of 19th century. It was to earn foreign currency. However, due to the poor quality and poor price competitiveness, the production of then black tea was almost died out once. But people who tried to revive their tea business in their local areas, they started to put new life into the black tea, which have been getting popular. Now, there are more than 600 different kinds of black teas in Japan.

In the 19th century, the government was leading the black tea industry. Now, the people in the local areas have been leading. Unlike the first black tea boom which people was forced to produce to export, now they produce the tea so that, originally and mainly, the local people enjoy with their local food while living in harmony with their nature including soil, water and weather etc.

Actually, other than Wakocha (literally means “Japanese black tea.”), there is another name for it, called “Jikocha”, which literally means “local black tea”. The present Japanese black tea are full of love by farmers and the power coming from the nature.

Attendees must have felt the nature power of  the producing-areas where the tea is grown and processed while drinking it.

Nara is a famous place for the Giant Buddha.
"Buddha bread" was sold at the venue.

Kamairicha made by Mr Kajihara in Kumamoto

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