Friday Five: Nerding Out Over Tea

When April arrives and spring starts awaking from its winter slumber, I long for Japan. Some of my best memories happened in the spring as nature shrugged off her winter layers of white and gray in exchange for a rainbow of color. One of the rites of Japanese spring in the small prefecture where I lived was tea ceremonies under the cherry blossoms. In my small town, I learned to appreciate the sit down tea experience in addition to the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. It’s been two weeks since my last Friday Five, so kindly pull up a comfy chair and allow me to nerd out with you over a couple of cups of tea.

The beauty of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden makes me long for Japanese countryside.

Q1: Do  you have a favorite style of tea?

Hot. Cold. Sweet. Unsweetened. Milk or Cream? Sugar or Honey? Japanese. British. Irish. Chinese. I like all kinds!! I’m like the United Nations of Tea Appreciation. Have I perfected the perfect cup? Absolutely not, but I would truly love to explore the rich history and culture of tea one cup at a time. In A History of the World in Six Glasses, Thomas Standage talks at length about the rich and diverse origins of tea and it’s economic impact upon the world.

Like beer, wine, alcohol, and coffee, I want to learn more than just the surface knowledge and geographical trivia related to tea. I desire development of a refined palette, understanding of cultural and presentational service practices, and to truly know when I am being swindled.

My favorite Chinese-style sweet Almond Tea at Shibuya LOFT. 


Q2: What tea implements are you still on the hunt for?

For basic Japanese Tea Ceremony, I need high grade powdered matcha tea. I would like to do detailed research prior to committing to a tin as not all matcha powders are equal. Like craft beers and fine wines, you can tell when you have an unfortunate one. I know of some Japanese markets in New York, and there are several Asian supermarkets here in Orlando.

My first tea ceremony experience and I was on local TV subtitled in Japanese!

I also would like a proper lacquered natsume (matcha storage caddy), fukusa (serving cloths), and chashaku (bamboo measuring scoop) for starters and should I find a formal place to learn, additional implements such as a hishaku (bamboo water scoop), mizusashi (hot water discard basin), as well as attendee supplies such as serving papers and picks for the sweets. Locating proper Japanese tea ceremony sweets without breaking the bank will be a challenge, too. I bought a gorgeous handmade tea bowl and a chasen (bamboo whisk) at the Hoggetown Medieval Faire by SwampFires.

For Traditional Afternoon Tea, I would love to obtain a tea cozy and larger teapot. I also lack a matching service set for tea and sugar as well as tiered serving platters. I need to make a pilgrimage to The British Shoppe, and get some authentic goods for my tea party needs.


Q3: Is Japanese Tea Ceremony really as formal as I’ve seen in photos?

If you attend a proper ceremony, it can last for several hours depending on the number of attendees. It is not an affair that you can simply drop in and out of, however, I did attend less formal Japanese tea parties under the cherry blossom trees, too.

Many Japanese are aware that non-Japanese do have trouble sitting in seiza (on folded legs) for extended periods of time, so often they will extend the courtesy for Western guests to sit more comfortably. However, women should not sit cross-legged, but legs together and to the side like a mermaid. All feet should be covered by socks or stockings, and pointed away from the tea as often the bowls of tea and plates of snacks can be shared. Plus, one should try to keep their feet away from food regardless of culture.

Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony presentation at the Morikami Museum.

There are many intricacies, so it isn’t uncommon to ask for help. The Japanese spoken is more formal, but the interaction is more about the sights (pattern and design of the bowl/serving dishes, flower arrangements, kimono appreciation), sounds (water pouring, whisking the matcha powder into hot tea), and smells of the tea room or venue (bamboo mats, flowers). I had the opportunity to attend several tea ceremonies of varying formality, and always deferred to the elders in the room. Many would make me their protege and take me under their wing, so I often selected seats near the middle. Although beer can be quite the social lubrication in Japan, the tea ceremony often fosters a deeper appreciation of life.


 

Q4: What are you favorite brands of tea?

When I was in undergrad, I lived on boxes Celestial Seasonings and bottomless pots of tea at Perkins. I am not playing up the poor college kid trope. I simply had no idea where to start when it came to tea. My tea consumption habits started by trial and error via sharing with girls on my floor, but so long as it was hot and kept me going through finals every semester. These days, I go by the recommendation of friends and cafe servers. So long as it doesn’t have mango, I’ll give it a try. I do not have a preference of loose tea versus bagged.

Part of the Bewley’s Cafe Christmas windows on Grafton Street in Dublin!


Q5: Where in the U.S. have you enjoyed formal tea?

I loved falling down the rabbit holes in Wonderland with Alice’s Tea Cup!


A personal goal I have is finding local resources for learning and investing in product because I want to support local businesses. I would rather pay a local premium (outside of EPCOT), knowing that it will in turn help a local shop owner. Time to put my think cap on and pull up the local review platforms and see what I can find!

Answer Me, These Questions Three

  1. What is your favorite style, blend, or flavor of tea?
  2. Where do you order/purchase your tea items?
  3. Where have you had your most memorable tea experience?

Stopping for an on a go brew in Edinburgh, Scotland!

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8 comments

  1. *Mandy* · April 8, 2016

    ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Monica · April 8, 2016

    This was fascinating! I love tea, but I know very little about its origins or traditional ceremonies. So cool; thanks for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen P. · April 8, 2016

      Thank you for your feedback. I am by no means a guru in the field, just a huge fan. It has been nearly seven years since I returned to the US, so my memories may not be as vivid as I like. Writing it made me want to get to the nearest tea house, but here in Florida it’s the Morikami (4 hours away).

      Like

  3. Dina Farmer · April 9, 2016

    How fun! I remember as a Teenager attending a tea ceremony. They just forgot to mention they would be serving a bean paste bun with the tea. I just don’t like them….Hahhah I was a little shocked when I bite into it. The ceremony was amazing except for that!

    I also love tea. I got some Bell Flower Tea from South Korea I’ve been nursing for a while. I don’t want it to fun out.

    Like

  4. Danielle @ From Girlie to Nerdy · April 12, 2016

    I did the High Tea at the Ritz not too long ago – it was so much fun 🙂 I love tea but don’t know much about it…you now must teach me the ways of tea and coffee haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen P. · April 12, 2016

      The Ritz Carlton has been my personal preferences above the Grand Floridian largely in part to the peace and quiet. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the GF’s Garden View, but depending on the day, there can be too many children for my liking. I appreciate parents teaching their children how to appreciate tea, but I inevitably get sat next to the boisterous group that do not use their library/indoor voices.

      I wish we had an Alice’s Tea Cup here in Orlando. I’ll see if I can do some research and maybe we can have a Nerdy Tea time!

      Like

      • Danielle @ From Girlie to Nerdy · April 12, 2016

        I would love an Alice’s Tea Cup here. I’ve never done GF tea, but sounds nice (minus the children haha).

        Liked by 1 person

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