Who loves their tea more than the Japanese and British? With National Tea Day this weekend, you’ll want to gather the best and finest selection to celebrate the two nations’ favourite drink. That means matcha, sencha, genmaicha and more green teas to rival English Breakfast, Darjeeling and Earl Grey.
But how do these two tea drinking cultures compare? What tea norms do they share and where do they differ?
The Green Tea / Black Tea Divide
The green, white, oolong and black tea family, despite their differences, all come from the humble Camellia Sinensis ‘mother plant’. Green tea leaves, most commonly produced and consumed in Japan, are steam-cooked to halt enzymatic activity and maintain a fresh, delicate taste and luscious green colour, whereas black tea leaves, most commonly consumed in the UK, have been crushed, dried and left to oxidise to develop further astringency.
Both teas are great for you, but green teas have a far richer yield of antioxidant polyphenols such as catechins and flavonoids. That’s why this National Tea Day, we’re saying go green.
Tea In Everyday Life
When we think of Japanese tea culture, tea ceremonies probably come to mind, but while these are still thriving traditions, loving tea is present in everyday life too. In restaurants and sushi bars, tea will often be served for free alongside meals, families will often pack thermos flasks of green tea to accompany picnics and bento lunches, and bottled teas can be picked up at local conbini convenience stores and vending machines. All this means you’ll never be far from your next brew. Of course, tea is also enjoyed at home and, like in the UK, any strained social affair can quickly be saved with the blissful question, ‘cup of tea?’ or ‘ocha wa ikaga desu ka?’.
As mentioned before, green tea is often served for free at restaurants, and this is because the gentle flavour is unlikely to overwhelm the taste of your meal. The leafy flavour of green tea also calls for complementary treats sweeter and less starchy than the cakes and biscuits enjoyed with a cuppa in the West, and so wagashi sugar confectioneries were born. These artisanal treats, as elegant in appearance as they are sweet in flavour, are, however, not made for dunking.
To celebrate National Tea Day, Japan Centre are offering 30% off Itoen Matcha lattes in store and online, plus, exclusively online, 20% off organic Japanese tea from Clearspring and double loyalty points on their entire tea range until midnight Sunday 22 April.