#6 Green Tea

In ancient times, the water in Japan (and China) was too dirty to drink straight from the sources, so they were usually boiled before consumption. People then got the idea to flavor the water with various kinds of leaves and even flowers, fruits and bark which also enhanced the nutritional value of the water. Thus, a strong tea culture formed over hundreds of years and is still going strong today.

Even in ‘modern’ cities, tea is ubiquitous. Traditional food has also developed alongside tea (or sake) which means that in most Japanese restaurants you’ll almost certainly automatically be served some form of green tea instead of a glass of water like we have in the west.

‘Green Tea’ is an umbrella word that covers almost any tea that is well, green. But there are so many types of green tea – both Japanese and Chinese.

However, although you can find almost any tea any where in Japan, there is only one that is quintessentially Japanese – matcha. Famously used in the Japanese tea ceremony, it is considered one of the highest grades of tea one can drink.

It is usually found in powder form, and you can buy it at any supermarket or combini. It’s a little pricey, but it can be used for more than just making tea. Matcha is used to flavour many foodstuffs, including ice-cream, jelly and chocolate. One of my favourites is matcha latte, which tastes delicious and warms you up on a cold day. During the summer, you can also get matcha ice tea or you can buy various matcha flavored things from vending machines.

Matcha tends to be a little bit like Marmite – you either love it or hate it… but in my experience most people at least don’t mind it. I’ve noticed however, that matcha is much more available in more touristy areas, which could be an indication that it sells well to foreigners who want to try it, and isn’t consumed as much by the Japanese people themselves (in my host family, for example, we don’t have matcha).

As a person halfway between a foreigner and a Japanese person, I can attest that I still love it and would choose matcha over chocolate ice cream any day.

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