guest post: the wonderful world of o-cha [a japanese tea festival]

I’m very excited to publish this post – tea and travel‘s first guest post!  This article and all the accompanying pictures have been contributed by Melanie Lee.

Melanie is a trainer at Gryphon Tea Company an award-winning, Singapore-based gourmet tea company. Please visit her tea blog at and say hello on Twitter @melanderings.


The World O-CHA Festival took place from 28 -31 October at Shizuoka, Japan. As a newbie to the tea industry (6 months), this was my first time attending such a large-scale tea-related event and what an eye opening experience it was! From discovering the intricate subtleties of sencha from different regions to spotting all the interesting ways tea is being marketed (prancing on a platform to a matcha shake jingle, anyone?) it was the perfect way to acquaint myself with the tea world at large.

With hundreds and hundreds of tea booths at the Granship, Shizuoka’s Convention and Arts Center, it was a little hard to make sense at the information overload hurling towards you as exhibitors very eagerly offered you samples of their tea products and rattled away in Japanese (of which I don’t speak). However, over the few days I was there at the festival, I gradually made sense of what was happening.

Tea Trends

The trend-setting Japanese are the ones to look to in terms of ideas to make tea
more hip to mass consumers, and it was really interesting to see what they’d
come up with. As mentioned earlier, there was a rap-dance (see above picture)
concocted by Marushichi for their Shizuoka Matcha Shake mixes served in a cute
little plastic mixer cup with googly eyes no less. Besides this, there were plenty
of bottled diet teas up for grabs, innovative tea packaging and green tea snacks in
the form of potato chips, noodles, dips, donuts, mayonnaise etc.

matcha boogieing - *shake shake shake*

tea pen – for sencha on-the-go

green tea food products

Tea Traditions

However, there was also this sense that the authenticity of tea traditions
needs to be preserved. There were plenty of multicultural tea ceremony
demonstrations taking place, and many traditional tea makers made their
presence felt at booths by patiently showing visitors how to appreciate good
quality tea. For example, a gyokuro tea producer took 45 minutes to show
us how to brew gyokuro (the highest grade of Japanese green tea) and even
taught us how to fully enjoy the gyokuro by eating its infused leaves with ponzu
(Japanese Soya Sauce) which turned out to be absolutely delicious!

the traditional way of hand rolling tea

chinese tea ceremony demonstration

appreciating gyokuro the right way – the silver tray and toothpick is for eating up the leaves after you’re done with your three steeps.

Tea Education

As a tea trainer, I was also on a lookout for effective ways of transmitting tea
knowledge. This proved to be quite a hurdle as most of the tea masters only
spoke Japanese. However, Sensei Watanabe really stood out for me – he only
spoke Japanese and yet I was still able to gain a lot of information on tea brewing
techniques because he came up with all these beautiful visual charts to explain
brewing process. Talk about bridging the cultural barrier! It has totally inspired
me to use more physical visual aids for my tea training sessions back home.

sensei watanabe explains how one should increase the temperature of water with each progressive steep of brewing sencha.

Overall, I really enjoyed the World O-CHA Festival. Even though the main
medium of language was Japanese, the love of tea proved to be a universal bond,
and there’s nothing quite so delightful as sipping all kinds of teas all day long
and getting acquainted with fellow tea-lovers in the business. I’d love to be back
again for the next one in three years’ time!

4 Responses to “guest post: the wonderful world of o-cha [a japanese tea festival]”
  1. bee says:

    Mel, I’m drooling already. Thanks for opening my eyes to the world of nippon tea. I wish I could be there, haha. How can I get a training job like that? Cool to marry interest and work.

  2. Mel says:

    Hi Bee, if you’re interested in finding out more about Japanese tea, there are actually tea appreciation classes held at Liang Court. Call the Chado Urasenke Association at +65 63344175.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] details about my experiences at the World O-CHA Festival at the Tea and Travel website here. Incidentally, I really like the articles there, especially the interviews with tea industry […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Horai Center, Deb H.. Deb H. said: @travelandtea 's first guest post: The Wonderful World of O-Cha [a Japanese Tea Festival]: Thanks @melanderings #tea […]

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