TEA, COFFEE AND SOFT DRINKS IN JAPAN: DIFFERENT TYPES AND HEALTH

SOFT DRINKS IN JAPAN

null Consumption of carbonated soft drinks (2000): 5.4 gallons per person, compared to 55.8 gallons per person in the United States. [Source: Euromonitor International]

The leading soft drink producers in Japan are: 1) Coca Cola; 2) Suntory; 3) Kirin; 4) Ito En; and 5) Asahi. Green tea soft drinks are often the top sellers.

Many Japanese find American-style carbonated drinks and fruit drinks to be too sweet. Pocari Sweat is a popular Gatorade-like sports drink. The Japanese also drink carbonated soft drinks made from milk, burnt rice and barely.

"Near water" drinks, with a touch of fruit flavor and chemically enhanced fizz, are popular in Japan. They have less sugar and fewer calories than carbonated soft drinks and include drinks like Aqua Pear Water, Eau Plus, Pure-In Water, Natural Apple Water, Alkali Ion Water, and Natural Peach Water. The best seller, Suoli, claims to be made of "natural water plus fiber, calcium and vitamins B and C." One company sells a beer "as clear as water" whose name appropriately enough is Beer Water.

Vinegar drinks are popular in Japan. Some drink them like wine. Others, especially women drink them as a health tonics under the belief they will improve circulation, reduce fatigue and induce weight loss. There are soft drinks, shakes, syrup and dessert drinks made with vinegar. In Japan, there are also jelly-like concoctions that are squeezed from tubes like toothpaste and are consumed instead of drinks. Many hikers and sports people consume them.

Inspired by a Japanese book entitled Dare You to Drink Urine, many Thais began drinking urine for its purported health benefits in the 1990s. One man who drank his urine told AFP, “Urine is an amazing medicine. Now I drink my urine every morning. I also use it to clean my nasal orifices and help with allergies.” The book claims urine helps clear the mind and can be used to treat and ward off illnesses ranging from a soar throat to AIDS.

Non-alcoholic canned and bottled drink market: tea products, 26.7 percent; canned coffee, 17.1 percent; carbonated rinks, 19.1 percent; near water drinks, 5 percent. Consumption of bottled water (2000): 2.3, compared to 9.5 gallons per person in the United States. [Source: Euromonitor International]

Japanese drinks such as Pocari Sweat and Calpis are popular in Southeast Asia. With drinks sales flat in Japan, Japanese drinkmakers are making a stronger push into Thailand, Indonesia and other countries in the region. Calpis is popular in Thailand while Pocari sweat sells well in Indonesia. Yakult has had success with its “Yakult Lady” sales system in Indonesia.

Good Websites and Sources: Weird Japanese Drinks /inventorspot.com and inventorspot.com/articles ; ; Japanese Soft Drinks instant-ramen.net ; Asian Munchies Drinks asianmunchies.com ; Green Tea Good Photos at Japan-Photo Archive japan-photo.de ; Japanese Green Tea www.o-cha.com ; Japanese Green Tea Online japanesegreenteaonline.com ; teanobi.com ; Links in this Website: DRINKING AND ALCOHOLIC DRINKS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ;BEER IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SAKE AND SOCHU Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TEA AND NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan

Japanese Energy Drinks and Kombucha

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Noburi eel
energy drink
Energy drinks are sold in small bottles mainly to sleepy or hungover salarymen. They have secret formulas of vitamins and proteins, with caffeine often being the chief energizing agent. Energy drinks are big business. There are dozens of drinks all competing for a share of a market worth $1.7 billion a year.

Lipovitan D has been the No. 1 energy drink of since 1962. It sells more than 400 million bottles a year and has a famous series of ads in which two adventurers that help each other out, with an energy lift from the drink, preventing a fatal accident. Lately the sales it and other energy drinks has declined due challenges from Starbucks, ginseng makers and challengers from cheaper energy soft drinks such as Chio

Kombucha is a smelly, sour-flavored brownish-colored tea that is said to have a number of health benefits and is said to be made from seaweed. The name “kombucha” means “kelp tea” and it was especially popular in the 1970s. In reality it is not made from seaweed. It is a sweetened, tea fermented by a bacteria and yeast culture that resembles a mushroom. In the United States it is a lightly carbonated sweet, fermented tea that is consumed as an energy drink and said to be able to ward off cancer.

Kombucha is said to have originated in China during the Qin dynasty around 221 B.C. as a healing and digestive aid. It later became popular in Russia and eastern Europe, where it is known as “kvass.” It can be made at home by brewing ordinary tea and sugar and pouring it into a glass jar with a kombucha culture and leaving it covered to ferment for about a week. As it ferments, the kombucha culture reproduces itself in new layers, known as scoby, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, which are removed for new batches.

Making kombucha at home is tricky. Maintaining proper acidity, temperature and cleanliness are essential. If not the brew can easily be contaminated. For this reason commercial kombucha brands are becoming popular.

Coffee in Japan

A generation ago very few Japanese touched coffee. By the 1980s there were over 100,000 coffee houses. By 2000, coffee had become a $8.12 billion industry with every man, woman and child consuming an average of 331 cups (2001) a year.

Coffee drinking has tripled since 1970 and continues to go up. Bottled and canned coffee accounts for 30 percent of the drink market. The Japanese invented canned coffee drinks. Some Japanese are fond of coffee made with newly-harvested beans.

Starbucks is very fashionable. In 1996 there were no Starbucks in Japan. By 2000 there were more than 200 and plans to open for more than 1,000 by 2004. Starbucks has made big money with small stands in train stations that cater to salarymen on their way to work. In recent years Starbucks dominance has ben challenged by competitors such as Seattle’s Best and Tully’s Coffee.

Both hot and cold canned coffee is popular in Japan. Both kinds are sold in a staggering variety in little cans in vending machines and convenience stores. Popular brands include Wonda, which used Tiger Woods in their advertisements, Georgia, which uses a popular sexy actress dressed in a man’s suit in their ads, and Boss, which used Japan’s most popular singer Ayumi Hamasaki for a while before changing to Tommy Lee Jones.

The Japanese invented canned coffee drinks.

Coffee and Sushi?

Kate Elwood wrote in the Daily Yomiuri: “There is certainly some mixing of cultures” between Japan and the West “ but at the same time, there is often a tidy allocation between the two traditions. Japanese tea goes in Japanese teacups, coffee in Western-style cups and saucers or mugs. Cultural anthropologist Ofra Goldstein-Gidoni in a study entitled The Making and Marking of the "Japanese" and the "Western" in Japanese Contemporary Culture somewhat playfully refer to "dangerous liaisons," such as green tea and sandwiches. Goldstein-Gidoni emphasizes that such rules of cultural interface are more strictly adhered to in the public sphere than in private homes. [Source: Kate Elwood, Daily Yomiuri, November 30, 2010]

“The choice of green tea as a symbol of division seems a bit weak, “Elwood writes. “In fact, green tea is Japan's Coke. Decades of slogans for Coca-Cola all seem to fit green tea's role in Japan: "Coca-Cola revives and sustains" (1905); "Thirst asks nothing more" (1939); "Where there's Coke, there's hospitality" (1948); "Things go better with Coke" (1963).”

But while green tea is the "passport to refreshment," to borrow another Coke slogan, Western beverages may have their visas revoked at the point of entry into Japanese culinary territory. Another of Goldstein-Gidoni's examples is coffee and sushi. Oh my! Whether it can be called a "dangerous liaison" or not, that combination certainly goes in the "when pigs fly" category. Even somewhat more palatable mergers such black tea and Japanese wagashi sweets are almost certain to get the designation of awanai (doesn't match). The pairing is not dangerous perhaps, but evokes a sense of fundamental incompatibility.

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tea-growing area of Kyushu

Tea in Japan

The Japanese take tea drinking quite seriously and regard themselves as experts on the matter (See Tea Ceremony). One of the first pieces written by a Japanese in English (in the late 19th century) was The Book of Tea, which explained why Japanese tea was superior to the teas found in other places.

Tea, including green tea, mugicha, oolong tea and black tea, account for 26.7 percent of $30 billion canned and bottled nonalcoholic drink market. Kyoto and Shizuoka prefectures are Japan's main tea-growing areas.

In some parts of Fukuoka Prefecture people mix the tea leaves from a finished pot of tea with soy sauce and eat it. Shichi Nasu wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “Believe you me, the leaves are good as the tea they produced.” The leaves are said to be high in fiber and Vitamins A and E.

Japan Tea Association: www.tea-a.gr.jp/ ; Japan Central Tea Association: www.nihon-cha.or.jp

History of Tea in Japan

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12th century bromze mirror tea kettle
Originating from Southeast Asia and the Yunnan province of China, tea was mentioned in a Chinese dictionary around A.D. 350. Tea processing is believed to date to around A.D. 500.

Tea was brought to imperial China from Southeast Asia about A.D. 900. It became popular during Tang dynasty, when it was associated with Buddhism (monks reportedly used it to stay awake while meditating). During this period of time, tea was not prepared like it is today. The leaves were first steamed and compressed and then dried and pounded in a mortar. China still produces more varieties of tea than any other nation.

The consumption of tea spread from China to Japan and India between around A.D. 1000 or 1100, perhaps by Buddhist monks. In the 13th century, a Japanese monk named Eisai brought tea seeds to Japan from China and promoted the drink. He taught people how to cultivate tea bushes and how to process the leaves into tea. Many present-day tea plantation contain plants that can be trace back to these early seeds.

According to legend, tea was created 1,300 years ago by an Buddhist monk with bushy eyebrows, named Bodhidharma, who mediated for nine years by staring at the wall of a cave. To battle his occasional bouts of drowsiness, he drank tea and came up with the novel idea of cutting off his eyelids so his eyes wouldn't close. On the place where he placed his severed eyelids, the first tea bushes appeared. This is reportedly why tea and the tea ceremony are so important to Zen Buddhism and Japanese culture as a whole.

Tea was originally brought over as a medicine not drink. It did not become popular in Japan with the aristocracy until the 17th century and did not really catch on with ordinary people until the 18th century. In 1609 tea reached Europe via Amsterdam. The first tea arrived in Britain came from China in 1652. The British established the tea industries in India and Sri Lanka.

Japanese initially drank powdered tea. The drinking of leaf tea was first imported to Japan in the late 16th century, though not widely consumed in the country until the mid-18th century. By Ming times, Zen temples in China had stopped using the powdered green whisked tea and switched to steeped leaf tea. But Japanese still preferred the powdered tea of chanoyu that had gained converts among the upper classes.

Christal Whelan wrote in the Daily Yomiuri: The 17th century Buddhist monk Ingen is credited with introducing a new form of Buddhism and leaf tea to Japan. He also introduced new foods and culinary practices to Japan. Watermelon, lotus root and kidney beans are all accredited to Ingen. According to Shokyoku Araki, director of education at Manpukuji, the strictly vegetarian cuisine for which the temple is now famous--fucha ryori, or "food to accompany tea"--originated in temple offerings shared by priests after major religious rituals. A crucial aspect of Obaku ritual was the drinking of sencha, a general term for steeped leaf tea. [Source: Christal Whelan, Daily Yomiuri, December 4, 2011]

Thomas Swick wrote in Smithsonian magazine, “In the old days processions would come through town bearing green tea for the emperor. If the tea container shattered, whoever caused the accident would be beheaded. So when a tea procession arrived, everyone stayed indoors without making a sound. Once it passed, they ran into the street to celebrate.” [Source: Thomas Swick, Smithsonian magazine, October 2010]

Kinds of Tea

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tea house
True teas (excluding so called "teas" for their plants) are divided into four categories according to methods of processing: 1) unfermented, 2) slightly fermented, 3) semi-fermented; and 4) fermented. The reference to fermentation is misleading because tea undergoes oxidation not fermentation.

There are thousands of different kinds of tea. Different soils, different climates, different altitude, different drying methods can all affect the flavor and look of a tea. Many companies blend teas and produce teas that favorable to people in certain regions.

Teas are also categorized by size, quality and the elevation they are grown. Tea particle sizes range from “dust,” to fannings and broken grades to “leaf” tea. Quality is described with words like flowery and pekoe (Orange Pekoe is a quality name as has nothing to with the color of the tea or oranges).

Low-grown teas (those grown under 600 meters) are full bodied but lacking flavor. High-grown teas (those grown above 1,200 600 meters) grow more slowly and are known their subtle flavoring. flavor. Mid-grown teas are between the two. Most commercials teas are blends with some high-grown leaves for flavor and low-grown leaves for body.

Green Tea and Black Tea

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tea house
Green teas are the least processed of all teas. They are steamed, rolled and dried (in Japan) or pan fried (in China) soon after picking to kill the enzymes and prevent oxidation before drying. Green tea has a slightly bitter, grassy flavor. The fragrance at first is grassy but later becomes sweet. The taste has been described as "fresh, energetic and sweet."

Green teas are popular in Japan, China Pakistan and Afghanistan. Since of discovery of possible health benefits they has become more popular in the West. The most prized green tea---longjin---is produced mainly in the Hangzhou area of east China and is drunk in April and May less than a month after the Ching Ming tea harvest festival.

When making green tea, the water should ideally be cooled to 158̊F to 176̊F (boiling is 212̊F) and made in a broad-bottomed pot preferably made of stoneware that allows heat to escape and exposes the maximum amount of tea-leaf surface to the water. Longjin and other green teas are made in lidded white cup called a chung from which the tea is poured into smaller cups.

Black teas (or red teas) are highly processed and oxidized. After picking the leaves are exposed to air, then crushed and stored in a temperature- and moisture-controlled room, where they oxidize, or ferment, which turns the leaves deep brown and intensifies their flavor. Grown primarily in India and Sri Lanka, these are teas most familiar to Westerners and are the mostly widely consumed in Europe, North America, Russia and the Middle East Black teas are made in a slightly larger pot with fully boiling water.

Gyokuro is considered by some to be the finest green tea. It is often served with great deliberation. “If you put in super hot water, “you ‘insult’ the tea.” Japanese say. Slowly it is poured a little into one cup, and then the other, going back and forth in the interest of equality.

Other Kinds of Teas

Dark green or black oolong teas are 30 to 70 percent oxidized. Most common in China, they are exposed to heat and light and crushed for less time than black tea. Their level of processing is about half way between green and black tea. They have strong and sometime flowery fragrance and fruity, mellow flavor. Common mainland oolong teas include Tikuanyin, shuxian and dahongpao. Taiwan oolong tends to be milder than mainland teas with an emphasis on fragrance over flavor

Oolong teas are infused with nearly boiling water in very small round-bottomed pots that almost fill to the top with leaves that expand in the water. Tea connoisseur Ip Wingichi told the New York Times, "Oolong is bitter and sweet, with good memories, sometimes quite uncomfortable. But only when you have seen the vicissitudes of life will you understand the meaning of it."

Scented teas, such as jasmine tea, and compressed teas in cake form are made both from oolong and red teas. Herbal teas are made from a variety of plants. They are not true teas because they are not are made with the tea plant. Red tea sometimes refers to herbal teas made from the South African rooibos shrub. It has a strong taste and smells earthy. It is high in antioxidants and is caffeine free.

Mugicha is roasted barely tea. Makinohara-wase tea from Shimda in Shizuoka Prefecture is an extremely early tea variety. It is harvested in April bey women who pick leaves measuring five centimeters to six centimeters

Non-drink products made from tea include Green Tea Cooling Bubbles Foot Lotion and Green Tea Radiant Body Foam made by Elizabeth Arden.. A French fragrance company has introduced a tea-scented perfume spray made with Chinese Lapsang Souchong, Indian Darjeeling and Sri Lankan Orange Pekoe. Super-model Claudia Schiffer, actress Michelle Pfeifer and actress Isabelle Adjani are among those who are said to use it.

Green Tea in Japan

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A wide variety of green tea products are available in Japan, including Leaf tea soft drinks, green tea incense, noodles, candies, tofu and green tea cheesecake. Green-tea-flavored Haagen Daz is very popular. Starbucks recently sells Kyoto Matcha Latte---made with matcha powder and Takanashi milk.

Tea leaves in Japan can be harvested four times a year up to October, But the first picking that takes place on and around the 88th day after stsubun---the official start of spring on the Japanese calendar---is the best in quality of the year’s crop. Tea form this first prick known as ichibancha, or first-flush tea. In the old days this tea was regarded as a key to longevity and prescribed as a medicine.

Types of Green Tea in Japan

Tea varieties have different tastes that are determined by different cultivation methods, picking seasons, sections of the tea leaves used, and production processes. Sencha is regular green tea. The most widely consumed tea in Japan, it has a balanced stringent, bittersweet taste and made using steamed leaves to maintain a bright green color. Matcha is high quality powdered green tea used in the tea ceremony. Gyokuro is high quality tea made from the finest new leaves carefully protected from direct sunlight. It has a sweet and mellow taste.

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O-cha is leafy green tea consumed after being steeped in a pot. Bancha is a brownish tea made with summer and autumn leaves and produced in way similar to sencha. Hoicha tea is gently roasted and has a rich aroma and mellow taste.. Genmaicha tea is a derivative of sencha and bancha tea combined with roasted rice. Kukicha and konacha are other kinds of green tea.

To brew good gyokuro: 1) Boil water and cool it until the temperature falls to 80 to 90 C; 2) Pour the hot water into a small kyusu teapot and wait until the temperatures drops another 10 C. 3) Fill up 80 percent of each cup with hot water from the kyusi teapot. 4) Prepare gyokuro leaves in the kyusu teapot and pour the hot water from the cups; 5) brew for about two minute to draw out the best flavor.

To brew good sencha: 1) Boil water and pour it into cups to lower the temperature from 70 to 90 C; 2) Put sencha leaves in a kyusu teapot. 3) Pour the hot water into the kyusu teapot, brewing for about one minute. To brew good hojicha: 1) Prepare leaves in a kyusu teapot. 3) Pour boiling water into the kyusu teapot and wait for about 30 seconds.

Tea, Green Tea and Health

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green tea Coke
Tea contains a number antioxidants, chemicals that prevent cell damage caused highly reactive molecules called free radicals that are often associated with cancer and to a lesser extent heart disease. Polyphenols are a kind of antioxidant found in tea that have been shown to deactivate substances that help cancer grow and block the action of enzymes that cancers need for growth. Polyphenols are also found in red wine. Polyphenols in tea, particularly green tea, are more potent than polyphenols from other sources such as Vitamins C and E. Black tea has more complex antioxidants than green tea, and these appears to benefit the heart.

Tea contains large amounts of catechins---a type of tannin---with antioxidant qualities linked with longevity, reducing blood pressure, and preventing cancer, heart and liver diseases. Tannins are organic substance found in tea and wood. Taken in large amounts tannins tannin can be toxic but their negative affects in the human body can be reduced if consumed with milk.

A study by scientist sat Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that the immune system of people who drank five to six cups of Lipton tea every day for two to four weeks produced five times more infection-fighting interferon cells than people who drank a similar amount of coffee. The interferon cells were produced by gamma delta T cells in the immune system triggered by amino acids called L-theanine found in large quantities in tea.

Green tea more vitamins, particularly B1 B2 and C, than other teas because it is not processed. Among the cancer-fighting polyphenols found in green tea is EGCG. Strongly associated with cancer fighting, it has 30 times more radical-fighting effect that vitamin E and 500 times more than vitamin C. EGCG can prevent the growth of blood vessels, which supply nutrients to cancerous tumors that they need to grow. It was once thought that green tea contains significantly more polyphenols such as EGCG than other teas but the amounts are more or less the same.

There is evidence that green tea prevents second heart attacks among people who have already had one; reduces muscle degeneration; cuts the infecting---ability of viruses and bacteria; and offers bacteria to protection from prostrate, breast, stomach and colon cancer.

Studies of Tea and Health

Most of the evidence on tea's health benefits come animals studies. These include studies that show mice given polyphenols are less likely to develop arthritis and that tea inhibits the growth of tumor. Animals have show that polyphenols combat cancer, and are particularly effective in combating cancer of the oral cavity and digestive tract.

A number of studies have addressed the cancer-fighting qualities of tea. A study in China showed that polyphenols reduced the size of pre-cancerous mouth lesions. A study in the United States with 35,000 women, showed that tea consumption reduced the chances of developing cancer in the digestive and urinary tract. A study with 110,000 men and women in the Netherlands indicated that tea drinking reduced cancers of the lung, breast and colon. A study in Italy showed that men of high risk of getting prostate cancer who took the equivalent of three or four cups of green tea a day were less likely to develop cancer than similar men given a placebo.

A number of studies have addressed the benefits tea to the heart. A study in China showed that heavy tea drinking lowered cholesterol levels. A study in Japan has linked oolong tea with lowering cholesterol levels. A Harvard study in the United States indicated that black tea drinkers were half as likely to get heart disease as non tea drinkers. The popularity of tea in Japan and China may partly explain why rates of heart diseases are so low there.

Tea drinking has also been linked with reducing cavities and fighting plaque. One study has shown that it kills cavity-causing bacteria. Another study found that tea drinkers have a better chance of surviving a heart attack than non tea-drinkers.

The jury is still out as to whether tea and green tea are the elixirs that they have has been touted to be. Positive results from animals studies don’t necessarily translate to positive results for humans. Human studies have been inclusive. In studies that have showed reduced cancer, disease or cholesterol levels among green tea or tea drinkers, it is difficult to prove that the tea lead to the positive result not something else. Many tea drinkers also eats lots of fruits and vegetables and it is difficult to ascertain which things are actually providing the help.

Chinese Tea in Japan

Chinese teas started to become more popular in Japan in the early 2000s. Once regarded as tasteless, they began gaining in popularity because they were different from the teas that Japanese normally drink and were considered more healthy than coffee.

Oolong, jasmine and puer teas are among the Chinese teas that Japanese favor. There are 100 shops in Tokyo alone that specialize in Chinese teas. Many department stores have large section with Chinese teas, tea pots and other tea paraphernalia.

In recent years Taiwanese teas have become quite popular, so much so that there are special tea drinking tours to Taiwan.

Christal Whelan wrote in the Daily Yomiuri: According to Sessho Doi, fifth head of the Higashi Abe lineage of senchado, more than 100 different schools of the Chinese tea ceremony are active in Japan today. Practitioners use a small pot and five tiny cups to serve multiple guests. The preferred tea is the bright jade-green colored leaf tea of gyokuro known for its fragrance and full-bodied flavor that leaves a strong aftertaste. According to Hiroaki Mizuki of Ippodo, Kyoto's classic tea purveyor, the pale green tea is meant to be "sipped slowly and savored on the tongue." [Source: Christal Whelan, Daily Yomiuri, December 4, 2011]

Japanese-Style Tea Drinking

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tea-ceremony-style tea drinking
The first step in drinking tea Japanese-style (not the tea ceremony) is to place all the necessary pots, cups and utensils in neat order on a small table. Fresh spring water is boiled on a special brazier and then poured into the handle-less cups and the pot to warm them---and then the water is thrown out. Water is next poured into a tea bowl so that it will be at the right temperature when the tea is ready.

The lid of the tea container is removed and placed on a special stand and the tea---about two grams per person---is placed in the pot with a special ladle and the slightly cooled water (about 70̊C to 80̊C) in the tea bowl is slowly and evenly poured into the tea pot and the lid is put back on the teapot. The tea brews for about two minutes before it is served.

The tea is then poured into ceramic cups with no handles a little bit at a time to make sure everyone receives tea of the same strength and quality. Tea drinkers are often served three cups: the first of which is fragrant, the second, strong, and the third, delicate. When a man prepares match for a woman it often has romantic implications,

Describing how tea is served at a tea tasting session at fancy tea house Elizabethan Andoh wrote in the New York Times, "A tiny clay pit holding the leaves and two small porcelain cups are brought to the table with a thermos of hot water. The teapot is set on a clay trivet, and scalding water is poured over and into the pot. (The trivet doubles as a sink, catching overflow.)"

"After a few moments the first infusion is poured into the slender and taller cup, then transferred immediately to what looks like a sake cup or shot glass. The first cup becomes a snifter---indeed the aromas are intense---and the second cup is for sipping. As the hot tea warns the cup, the design painted on the snifter changes color, from green to red."

Japanese Tea Market Trends in 2012

Kazumichi Shono wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “In an effort to serve up a better cup of green tea and meet changing tastes, companies are offering bottled varieties that are as rich as if they came straight out of a teapot. Until recently, beverage manufacturers competed by removing the turbidity from tea to make it clear. However, turbidity is now the rage. Suntory Beverages & Food Ltd. plans to change the taste of "Iemon," the company's major tea brand, by adding powdered tea to make it turbid and richer. Up to now, it has been clear. [Source: Kazumichi Shono, Yomiuri Shimbun, October 1, 2012]

In the bagged green tea market, the turbid tea became popular around 2007 and the proportion of turbid tea in the market has risen to 30 percent from 25 percent before 2007. A recent Suntory survey shows that changing tastes are not limited to tea. As long as the price is the same, consumers prefer richer tastes in soft drinks and alcoholic drinks in general, according to a company spokesman. As a result of the survey, the company decided to tweak the taste of its flagship tea brand. [Ibid]

Coca-Cola (Japan) Co.'s tea brand "Ayataka," introduced to the market in October 2007, was the precursor of turbid tea. Although Coca-Cola lagged behind in the bottled green tea market, the company's green tea share grew rapidly thanks to Ayataka's popularity. According to a survey by Inryo Soken, a marketing research company, Ayataka's market share in bottled green tea in 2011 rose to third place with 14 percent, following Ito En's "Oi Ocha," which accounts for 39 percent, and Iemon with 23 percent. [Ibid]

According to Ito En's public relations division, the company still places importance on its clear tea. However, as consumers who prefer a richer taste are increasing, the company launched "Nigori Maroyaka," a slightly turbid tea that was derived from Oi Ocha in March and "Futte Oishi 'Kyoto Uji Matcha-iri Ryokucha'" in July. Japan Tobacco Inc. followed the trend by changing its major tea brand "Tsujiri" to a turbid type in March. Kirin Beverage Co. is bucking the trend. An official said: "We have no plan to produce turbid tea. I'm sure we'll be able to keep customers who love our clear tea." In the beer industry, Asahi Breweries kept up with changing tastes by switching from bitter and rich brews to "Super Dry" beer, which dominates the market. [Ibid]

Image Sources: 1) Doug Mann, Photomann 2) xorsyst blog 3) and 7) JNTO 4) National Museum of Tokyo 5) and 6) Ray Kinnane 8) Coca-Cola 9) Wikipedia

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

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