I recently attended the Japanese Tea Tasting and Snack Pairing Event organized by Marina and Dmitry. The event was comprehensive as our hosts talked about the origins of Japanese tea, differences among the different types of Japanese tea and health benefits. They used slide shows and pictures which were very helpful. The afternoon began with a cup of cold sencha as spring is slowly turning into summer. Sencha is white tea as it is less fermented and thus, more cooling for the body. Then we were given a cup of hot sencha to compare. Frankly speaking, tea was also served hot, beginning from China and all the way to Europe. Over time, people developed cold tea and it is always thought that without the hot temperature, tea cannot be properly infused. Marina also explained this point and that is why we can often use colder water on whiter tea and usually need hotter water for darker ones. Talking about the different kinds of tea, they gave a good explanation of the differences between sencha and matcha. I believe many people will have the same misconceptions as I did. Matcha tends to give an image of milky green tea, similar to the one received at traditional tea ceremonies (bitter green tea covered with a layer of froth) or green tea latte, popularized by many brand names. In fact, the matcha served by Marina was not milk green. It did not look very different from the cups of sencha but definitely smelled different. Dmitry also took out all the soaked tea leaves to let us smell the difference. It was amazing as we observed how the tea leaves looked different and also smell different. Naturally, the tea tasted different too.
As the event progressed, we were given a place of exquisite bites. There were wild honey from Russia, dried fruits from Pakistan, nuts from India and of course, yokan (a kind of Japanese traditional jelly-cake) from Japan. Marina believed in having people finding their way through experiences so she did not specify which snacks will go well with which tea. After all, everyone has a different taste. The pair was also opened to questions.
After much of the typical Japanese green tea, we were given hoji tea which is roasted green tea. Bet you didn’t know that. Again, we smelled the leaves and tasted the tea. Once again, it was different from the usual bottled tea available in stores. Now the question is how to pick good tea. The only way is to find a merchant or farmer you can trust.
Finally, we enjoyed oolong tea which is not typical of Japanese tea but was still introduced to us as it is representative of black tea. Darker tea tends to have less theine and therefore less effective in cooling your body or keep you wide awake.
I will definitely recommend this Japanese tea tasting event to tea lovers who just want to enjoy learning about and drinking tea. If you are in Tokyo, wanting to learn about traditional Japanese tea ceremony while wearing kimono, I will suggest you check Tokyo by Food Experiences.
Yan Ting is a Singaporean Chinese living and working in Tokyo. She loves food, traveling, and meeting people. She is working towards becoming a polyglot.