Today Is Japanese Tea Day. Here’s How I Built a Meditative Tea Ritual With Japanese Sencha.

Most people think of today as Halloween. It is, but October the 31st is also another special day: Japanese Tea Day.

Living here in the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s a lot of amazing opportunities to experience Japanese culture. The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, of course, stands out. I also recently stayed at the Hotel Kabuki in Japantown, and I love visiting tea places like Boba Guys.

That’s why I was excited when Upton Tea Imports reached out and asked if they could send me some teas to try for Japanese Tea Day.

Their little tins of loose-leaf tea have fast become part of my afternoon ritual. 

Upton Tea sources teas from all over the world, importing them and selling them in the United States. Their tea samples include teas like sencha, Yamato, and various matcha green teas.

I’ll admit that I’m not exactly an authority on tea, even though I love drinking it. I was a little perplexed when my Upton teas came not with traditional bags, but with a unique paper filter that you skewer with a tiny plastic sword and place over your tea cup!

But after brewing these teas for a couple weeks, I’ve really enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the process. There’s something meditative about carefully measuring out tea leaves from a little metal tin, filling up the filter, pouring in boiling water, and savoring the resulting emerald-green brew.

The teas I tried in my sampler all taste fresh and delicious, with a deep astringency (especially when I forget and brew them for too long!) and bright, green grass notes. I like the Japanese Sencha especially.

Brewing these loose-leaf teas is also an exercise in accepting imperfection. I usually end up with a couple little tea grains in the bottom of my cup, which actually feels like it makes the experience of drinking the teas that much more authentic and tactile.

No, I won’t be performing a traditional Japanese tea ritual any time soon. But I’ve built my own afternoon ritual around enjoying these teas. 

Drinking them definitely isn’t as simple as plopping a Lipton tea bag into a cup of steaming water and hoping for the best. But again, that’s kind of the point. Drinking real loose-lea tea is a nice chance to slow down, focus on something that’s a bit meditative, and enjoy a warming drink as our Bay Area weather turns chilly.

I’ll definitely continue brewing these teas far beyond Japanese Tea Day. If you want to create your own tea ritual, check out the Upton Tea Imports website for loads of different tea sampler sets, both from Japan and beyond.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.


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