Thursday, January 26, 2012

Japanese Tea. And Not Japanese Tea.

Japan. Green tea. Those go together, right? It's true.

I fell in love with the whole concept of Japanese tea ceremony back in my college/university days and delved into it quite a bit for my senior project. Then, I lived in Shizuoka prefecture 1995-1998, THE green tea prefecture the way an American would say that Idaho is THE potato state. (I may or may not even have a Hello Kitty tattoo involving this prefecture and its very green tea-ness. If I did, probably Mt. Fuji is part of the scene. Maybe. I'm pretty sure I don't, however, have a potato tattoo.)

This time around living in Japan, I've become somewhat of an honorary member of the tea ceremony club at my junior high school. They let me show up at the club and learn stuff (lots to learn - people study for decades). Once in awhile one of the gurus of tea invites me to huge tea ceremonies in beautiful places (imagine this during cherry blossom season, be still my heart). Back in September, they even let me wear kimono and serve tea for the moon viewing tea ceremony here in town. It was a huge honor. Technically, I wore a yukata (summer kimono, not as fancy) because it was still stupidly hot, and I was much more in the ranks of my yukata-wearing students than the kimono clad adults who knew what they were doing (and did so with awe-inspiring fluidity, beauty and grace) after decades of study.

I could drink my weight in real-deal matcha tea. It's kind of like the artificial Starbucks flavor but then actually and really and truly authentically powdered tea that's distinctly bitter (in a good way) and not at all artificial. If you haven't had real matcha, you just haven't had real matcha. Yet. Someday, please do. If you can get someone who knows what they are doing to serve it to you with all of the ritual and grace, even better. If none of those are options, I still think Starbucks matcha lattes are pretty tasty when they are the only option.

For all the green tea surrounding me, it's a big of a challenge here to find the kinds of tea I usually drink back in the States. You know, the gazillion different flavors and varieties and herbals and not all lining the shelves of every grocery store? In my town, aside from a bunch of green tea and stuff I can't understand, we have 1 box of 6 not so great flavors of herbal. There is a reasonable selection at the import store in the city, but getting there isn't super cheap or fast (roughly 1 hour and US $10 each way), and their prices are just cheap enough that I bother looking but just high enough that I never buy any.

While I was in the States over winter vacation, I stocked up. One night Tom and I wound up at Big Lots, and they happened to have a brand I'd never tried. And it was vanilla. And it sounded great. When I finally made a cup this morning at my desk during my free period, hoping to make lesson planning smell better, I fell madly in love. Sadly, I'll probably never find this exact kind again (if you've been to Big Lots or other super discounted places, you know how the inventory changes), but I intend to savor every single sip while I have it.

11/366 - Lesson planning smells better with vanilla tea
(Taken on my iPhone and toyed with in Instagram)


  1. I love vanilla tea, and my favorite is rooibos caramel tea. Your tea looks very dark, do you always make it that strong? I don't think I ever had REAL green tea, let alone the tea ceremony!

  2. They have that brand on


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