Though we have a strong affinity with John Barleycorn, Bacchus, and kindred spirits, it was never our intention to focus exclusively on Japanese alcoholic beverages. There are other drinks worthy of attention, and in this week’s blog post we will look at one of them—tea—specifically the beverage derived from the leaves of Camellia sinensis.
According to Innocent Awasom, writing in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Information, “Tea is the most popular and the most consumed drink after water.” It can be a stand-alone beverage, imparting pleasure and uplift without the accompaniment of food, or it can, like wine, be integrated into a multi-course meal, with different varieties or methods of preparation carefully chosen to enhance the sensory experience. And it is salubrious, as well.
The provenance of tea, of course, is China, which begs the question: “How did the Indian subcontinent become so closely identified with the product?” For the answer to that question, readers are encouraged to look at the shenanigans of one Robert Fortune, which are beyond the purview of this entry.
Japan’s acquisition of the plant was quite legitimate, though, and predated the Fortune ruse by centuries, having entered the country circa 805. Today, the country is closely identified with the drink, especially in its green manifestation, a color evocative of freshness, youth, and emeralds. Indeed, the Gemological Institute of America’s entry on emeralds has this to say about the color: “…the color green is known to relieve stress and eye strain.” Those in show business, of course, will be familiar with the green room.
If there were an “Emerald Prefecture” in Japan, the designation would undoubtedly go to Shizuoka, a place of verdant hills, seemingly rolling with green waves of tea. We have long believed that this product deserved more and better—i.e., serious—attention both here in Japan and overseas, and a giant step has been taken in that direction with the opening of MuSuBu in the Happo-en Urban Square Building on August 28, 2020.
One of us had the good fortune to be invited to the grand opening of this “event space” at which Shizuoka’s finest teas were paired with a number of dishes created by Shuhei Nitta, a chef of considerable talents. This writer was greatly impressed by his “Amela Tomatoes with Liquid Nitrogen Tea Granité.” The iced matcha was of exceptional quality and especially appreciated on a day when the temperature outside was about 38°C.
The fine teas of Shizuoka should be high on the sipping lists of all sophisticated sybarites! The sensory experiences that Japan’s most famous non-alcoholic beverage has to offer cannot be overstated. As for MuSuBu, it is an excellent place to showcase Japan’s fine products and will certainly attract a curious, well-educated, upmarket cohort, which, of course, precisely describes the readers of this blog!
More on MuSuBu can be found here: https://www.happo-en.com/musubu.
We have written a book. For more information on Japanese beverages, please check it out. You can get it at fine offline and online booksellers in Japan, including Amazon.
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