Green Tea Made Easy with Arigato Japan Food Tours

Properly made hojicha under banana leaves—perfection.

Fourteen years. Fourteen years I’ve lived in fear of making green tea for guests.

That sounds dramatic, but it is honest-to-goodness something that has caused me anxiety. And not just green tea: My teatime anxiety extends to all kinds of tea. My nerves when British friends drop by for a visit become frayed the second I put the kettle on to boil. When it comes to herbal teas, I resort to handing over a tea bag and a mug of hot water, not willing to get the steeping time wrong. I should probably just give the whole beverage up as a bad job.

Except I like tea. All of it. A lot. Even when I make it poorly.

Example of poorly made green tea with a background of Chibi Maruko. This tea was made several hours before the workshop. It was bitter.

So when Arigato Japan Food Tours contacted me with an offer to join a Tokyo Online: Green Teatime in Japan session, I was keen to accept. Schedules being what they are, however, it took about a month to find a day and time that matched us both.

Well, the stars aligned last week, and my teatime life has changed (for green tea, at least—and living in Japan, that’s the most important variety). Next time Relative-In-Law comes to visit, I’ll put a steaming cup of green tea down in front of them with pride, knowing they won’t choke on any bitterness.

Loose tea can be used more than once. This is hojicha that’s been brewed twice.

The workshop’s host was Lauren and she is fabulous. Professional, punctual and friendly, she knew what she was doing on the technical side of things (Zoom workshop, natch) as well as the tea side of things.

She had two cameras in use, one for her face and one for her tea setup, which made for a very smooth session. I greatly appreciated being able to see her as she explained things while also being able to peek at her setup as she discussed various teas and methods. She also encouraged questions and made it an interactive experience. The one-hour session flew by.

This photo is here for no other reason than to show how cute my cup looks with a teapot lid on top. Stick a face on it and it could be an Anpanman character.

What did I learn? How to make a cup of tea, of course, but also what green tea is and which varieties are common, the history of green tea in Japan and how it evolved over the centuries, proven health benefits and a certain secret connection to another Japanese superfood—seaweed. (You’ll have to take the course to find out which seaweed and what the secret is—my lips are sealed!)

One thing I really appreciated was that the slides Lauren used were sent to us after the session, so there was no need to take notes during the workshop; we could simply enjoy and interact freely. She also sent us a screenshot of all of our smiling, tea-drinking faces, which was a nice memento.

My go-to tea looks like this. Delicious green tea can come from bags, too, of course, and Lauren will tell you how.

Though I participated in the workshop with a bag of green tea, since taking the workshop, I’ve decided to give loose green tea another chance. Lauren’s loose tea in little bowls—she had several kinds of tea on display—looked so much more appetizing than my boring little bag.

Pro tip: Never try to photograph loose tea with a hibiscus blossom. You will inevitably end up with ants in your tea.

I now find myself drinking several cups of tea—hojicha is my favourite—every day, and my little teapot is getting quite the workout. As summer turns to fall and then winter and my tea-drinking goes into overdrive to keep the chill away, I know I’ll appreciate this workshop even more. It really was a lovely way to spend part of an evening, in good company learning something new that I could put to use right away.

Just look at all of those delicious twigs mixed in with hojicha. Hojicha is steamed like regular green tea, but roasted afterwards for a delightfully earthy flavour.

If you love green tea but can’t quite get it right, or if you’re interested in trying it out but aren’t sure where to start, sign up and let Lauren guide you to a much more delicious way to enjoy Japan’s standard non-alcoholic beverage. (Seriously, even toddlers drink this stuff.)

A much safer way to add a random hibiscus blossom to a photograph of loose tea.

Arigato Japan Food Tours runs quite a few workshops. In-person tours take place in several major Japanese cities, so regardless of whether you find yourself in Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Kyoto or the Mt. Fuji area, there’s a workshop to get you acquainted with the local food culture. Of course, this being 2020, virtual travel is the best most of us can manage. Luckily, Arigato Japan Food Tours runs several online experiences, and even a virtual tour of Shibuya!

Check them out at their website, Twitter feed and Instagram and sate your appetite for Japanese foodie culture.

Published by helenkamakura

Helen is a Canadian writer and innkeeper based in Kamakura, Japan, where she lives with her Japanese husband and two children. If money became obsolete, she would happily accept peaches, fresh peas, and sun-warmed cherry tomatoes in exchange for her labour.

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