May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so I wanted to talk about the benefits of tea time! Many people have some stress and anxiety in their life, whether caused by work, studying, health, finance, friendship or something else. Some people have good friends to talk to about their problems, other people play sports to help clear their mind. As I have been practising and teaching the tea ceremony for quite a long time, I wanted to focus on the importance of tea time, and a proper lunch break.
Japanese people take a proper lunch break, and stop for a cup of tea or coffee quite regularly during work. I know many Japanese people work long hours, but still take the time to go to a restaurant, cafe or izakaya, which serve lunch, dinner and sake, beer and wine in the evening. Some izakaya (Japanese pubs) offer lunch sets for fantastic value, as their main business is dinner and drinks in the evening, so they want to get some business during the day, and use up any spare ingredients. I go to Chiso Inaseya in Kyoto for lunch whenever I'm there. Their lunch is fantastic value for money, and they serve Ippodo’s Iribancha free of charge, like tap water here in the UK. It’s a very luxurious tap water, don't you think?! I also go to Ryugetsuan in Kyoto for dinner. They don’t have a website, but it is one of my favourite restaurants in Kyoto. The owner is also the chef, and runs the restaurant by himself, serving very top class food with pretty reasonable prices.
As you might know in Japan restaurants specialise in one type of meal, so a sushi bar will only serve sushi, a tempura place will only serve tempura, and a soba restaurant will only serve soba. This means that their quality is fantastic as they're specialists in one type of food, and the price is reasonable as they don’t waste ingredients. So we need to decide what we’d like to eat before we go to a restaurant. Some large companies have fantastic cafeterias so their employees can have a very good quality lunch for good value. They hire top chefs to attract good employees and then open the canteens in the evenings as an izakaya as well. However you might see your boss and colleagues in the evening at one of the tables so it might not be relaxing for everyone…
The quality of food and drinks is very important for Japanese people, so they won’t eat supermarket sushi in front of their computer for their lunch, that will just be a snack for them. I was shocked when I first started working in an office in London as many of my colleagues would eat sandwiches and crisps in front of their computer for lunch, and wouldn't move from their desk. My French best friend and I would go to a restaurant or cafe near the office every day, as a proper lunch break was essential for us. Our productivity increases, and we can relax during our lunch break. We didn’t have a great selection of tea at the office at that time, but tea breaks were also important as your concentration drops if you don't take a break from time to time.
In the tea ceremony, we use our five senses to enjoy the moment so we smell, hear, see, touch and of course taste to enjoy our tea during our tea break. It takes only a few minutes to make a wonderful cup of tea to relax. Genmaicha (green tea with roasted rice) is a very comforting tea, and is wonderful for relaxing. If you have good quality yunomi, then you get a good feeling from holding them, and using beautiful tea ware can bring you pleasure too. The smell of good tea is very different from that of dusty tea bags or instant coffee, and I also love to hear the sound of pouring water into the kyusu tea pot, or matcha tea bowl.
We are all busy and the day seems to fly by, but our productivity is linked to our concentration too. If a good lunch break and tea break can help our focus, and help us recharge then it's definitely worth taking the extra time to have proper lunch, and good tea.
If you’d like to experience my tea ceremony workshop, you are always welcome to join and our workshop gift ticket makes a wonderful present as well. For those wanting to practise the tea ceremony more regularly, our Usucha practice course is very relaxing and meditative.
We sold out of most of our matcha tea last week, but our Marukyu Koyamaen matcha is back in stock, including the Low-Caffeine Matcha and Choan. Ippodo tea will be back in stock next week as the Ippodo team in Kyoto is currently taking a holiday.
Finally, I am collaborating with my friend Aya, the incredible pastry chef from Kichiya, on the 20th and 21st May to run a pop up Japanese Tea House at The Factory in Dalston. Aya will be selling her fantastic pastries and sweets, and I will sell lots of Japanese matcha, tea, and tea ware. I will also be running an introduction to the tea ceremony workshop which will last around 40 minutes, and is a great activity for matcha beginners! You will learn about the tea ceremony as well as make a cup of matcha or a matcha latte with me, and I’ll be serving some sweets from Kichiya as well. You can book a ticket for the workshop here.
It’s free to come to our pop up Tea House, we just ask you to book a ticket here, so we know how many people to expect! Please come along with you friends and family, everyone is welcome and I’d love to see you there!