Category: Japanese Culture

Wagashi and Matcha – combination polished through ages!

Wagashi and Matcha – combination polished through ages!

Before talking about Matcha and Wagashi, we need to mention another important cultural tradition in Japan that significantly contributed to popularity of both. That is “Sado” (茶道・さどう) the Japanese traditional tea making ceremony. …φ(◎◎ヘ)

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What is Japanese tea ceremony, Sado?

In a tea ceremony, the host makes Matcha green tea and serves it to a guest or guests in a traditional Japanese manner. The guest(s) enjoy both the host’s hospitality and the tea. This ceremony is called ”Sado“. (or ”Cha No Yu“)

In Sado, there are various rules dictating how to make tea, how to drink tea, how to sit, how to bow, how to stand, how to walk, etc., but all these came into being so that the host can better serve the guest(s), the tea can be better prepared, and guest(s) can better enjoy the hospitality and the tea. There are different schools, which all have different rules, but the basic flow of the host making tea and the guest(s) enjoying it is the same in all the schools.

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Sado embeds deep meanings and the ceremony is not only about making and consuming tea, but the goal is to morally and spiritually enrich participants. Initially, Sado was practices only by Buddhist monks and Japanese nobility, but by 16th century tea drinking and Sado spread throughout all layers of Japanese society.



The history of Japanese tea ceremony

Tea was introduced to Japan from China, initially as medicine. It slowly became popular as beverage, and by around the 14th century, entertainments involving tea had become widespread within the Samurai class. They included Cha Yoriai (chatting over a cup of tea) and Cha Kabuki (guessing the place of origin of tea leaves from taste and flavor). The tea drinking culture gradually spread nationwide.

Then, the Sado culture that we still have today was formulated by tea masters such as “Sen no Rikyu” .



How Matcha and Wagashi developed together

Wagashi was developed to complement Sado and Matcha drinking ceremonies, not only from taste (typical Matcha is unsweetened and bitter when you drink), but also from looks and sound perspectives.

First, Wagashi were designed in artistic manner to match Sado ceremonies to further enrich the procedure with the goal of enriching person spiritually and mentally (it has to look nice for you to feel nice, right? :)). Second, the names of sweets had to sound spiritually nice. That is why so many Wagashi are named after beautiful seasonal object or phenomenon, words from a famous poem, and other spiritually inspiring things for Japanese people. The last but not least is taste. Wagashi should not taste too sweet or too plain. It should well combine and blend with bitterness of unsweetened Matcha. If Wagashi is too sweet then drinker cannot enjoy rich taste of Matcha, if opposite than Matcha can appear too bitter. Wagashi makers follow their ancestor’s methods to recreate perfect taste balance between Wagashi and Matcha.

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Matane! (in Japanese, means “see you soon!”)