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Matcha & The Japanese Tea Ceremony

It is said the Zen priest Eisai brought tea seeds to Kyoto in 1191 and popularized the consumption of powdered tea. It wasn’t until the fifteenth century that a new culture around tea evolved into the modern tea ceremony known as Chanoyu (literally translated “hot water for tea”). The tea ceremony is an extremely structured and studied ritual that embodies many philosophical, artistic, and aesthetic concepts unique to Japanese culture.

In 2015, the matriarch of the Otsuka Green Tea Co., Mrs. Hiroko Otsuka (a Japanese tea ceremony expert), and 2 other Otsuka employees, Kokei Sugihara, export manager and Haruyuki Nagata, sales manager, visited Minnesota.

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This visit was a chance to build a growing relationship and learn from the folks who produce award-winning green teas. It started off with an exchange of gifts, of course. From Bill to Mrs. Otsuka, a copy of The Book of Tea, Bruce Richardson’s edition with never before seen photos of early 20th century Japanese tea workers.

DSC_1761

Mrs. Otsuka gifted Bill a tea bowl for use in the Japanese tea ceremony. It has handmade paper infused into the glaze.

tea bowl

The most amazing part of the visit was Mrs. Otsuka serving tea –Japanese tea ceremony style.

Getting ready.

All of us taking some of the traditional sweets that accompany a Japanese tea ceremony

All of us taking some of the traditional sweets that accompany a Japanese tea ceremony.

A little like Necco wafers, but a lot better.

Ready to make tea.

Measuring the matcha.

Measuring the matcha.

A demonstration of grace and focus, whisking the tea.

A demonstration of grace and focus, whisking the matcha.

Keeping her arm very straight, without touching the bottom of the bowl.

Keeping her arm very straight, without touching the bottom of the bowl.

Artisan vs. truck driver.

Me, desperately trying to not spill all over myself.

One of the things I most love about tea; it gives you pause.

One of the things we love about tea; it gives you pause.

Then Mrs. Otsuka passed out wondrous origami figures that she had made for all of us.  It was like opening Christmas presents.

Mrs. Otsuka passed out wondrous origami figures that she had made for all of us. It was like opening Christmas presents.

Origami fighting sumo wrestlers.

Origami fighting sumo wrestlers. 
Then it was everyone else’s turn to be served tea.

Sarah, learning to turn the bowl.

Sarah, learning to turn the bowl.

Elliot (our senior tea blender), learning to “sit like a samurai.”

Learning to “sit like a samurai.”

Whew, we didn’t embarrass ourselves.

Read the full blog post about Mrs. Otsuka's visit HERE.

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Matcha Usucha - Ceremonial Grade

Genmaicha

Houjicha

Karigane

Saemidori #50

Gyokuro

Otsuka Tea Co. was founded in 1869 in Shizuoka, Japan. It has been owned and run by the same family for five generations. Read more about the Otsuka family in our blog post "From Samurai to Tea Master."

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