As my blog my posts go on, one thing is probably becoming abundantly clear. I love tea. I hold the (self-appointed) title of Master Tea Wench and I have had the privilege of being invited to take part in specialist tea-training days with our amazing tea suppliers, Canton Tea Company. On the fateful day of Wednesday 17th December 2014, I had the absolute honour of being present for their Japanese Tea Day…
I know next to nothing about Japanese teas. Before Canton became our tea suppliers, their predecessors supplied us with Japanese Rice Tea, or genmaicha, to call it by its Japanese name (it’s a beautiful language, the words roll off the tongue with such lyrical grace). I didn’t get on with it very well. Later, outside of work, I tried a pomegranate tea which was blended with Japanese sencha. It was a much more palatable and pleasant experience, to my taste buds at least. I know there are many who enjoy genmaicha and I respect them, but I just can’t jump on that bandwagon.
With all this in mind, I was really looking forward to the Japanese Tea Day. Especially as there was going to be an honest-to-god Japanese tea ceremony. I was more than a little bit giddily excited at the prospect of seeing this.
Thus far, I have only been to two of Canton’s tea-training days, Assam and Japanese Tea. Assam was an eye-opening experience, taking a tea that I had previously reviled and showing me that in the right context it could be a sublime and beautiful thing. I held the same hopes for Japanese teas. Plus the people at Canton tea are amazing and lovely. When I went to their Assam Day they asked me to write a guest blog on their website about it! I then went and wrote a post about them on my personal blog where I dubbed them “The Heroes of Canton”, and I shall refer to them as such from here on out.
The Japanese Tea Day kicked off with a Skype call to their man in Japan, a lovely Japanese-American chap called Ian. He talked us through the various types of Japanese tea (with their beautiful, lyrical names – hojicha, kukicha, gyokuro to name a few), how they’re processed and how they come by the wonderful tongue-rolling names. Then came the absolute highlight – the tea ceremony.
Conducted in complete silence, there was something breathtaking about the whole thing. The simplicity, the precision, the elegant dignity and the gravitas with which everything was done. I have come to fall in love with tea over the past three years since my Tea Awakening, but never have I experienced such a powerful and evocative thing. And the tea, Canton’s own matcha, was beautiful.
It was incredibly compelling, watching the highly ritualised ceremony (a simplified version of the full formal tea ceremony) and then partaking of the results. It created a sense of connection that I have never found in just brewing a bog-standard pot of tea. If you ever have a chance to take part in a proper Japanese tea ceremony, do it. It’s an incredible experience.