I used to have about seven cups of the piping hot stuff every work day at any one of my seven schools in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken. It certainly warms you up on a cold, chilly day...
but... don't let any Japanese person fool you with their statement: "Oishi desu ne."
That translates to the English vernacular of : Delicious isn't it?
Y'know what? It's green tea. It's not really delicious. It's functional, and it... functional. I have no idea what else it is... but I've eaten a lot of delicious things in my life, and you know what? O-cha is hardly in the same stratosphere as being 'delicious'.
Everyday work, the office ladies would present me with a cup of o-cha (hai, domo - thanks!) and would ask after seeing me have a quick sip, if it was delicious.
I think even they knew it wasn't exactly the highest quality o-cha out there... but I think they were really just asking if it was okay... you know... because if the gaijin (foreigner) isn't polite enough to say it's good, then someone better change the leaves in the pot!
I've watched o-cha leaves - the same ones - sit in a pot for hours and hours, as more and more hot water is poured through it to make a green tea for people... like anything being over-used, it soon loses its flavor.
Maybe what we really want is the first cup from the brew.
It's probably very good for you... in fact, I know it is.
The Japanese folks I talked to when I lived there between 1990-1993 used to tell me that it was practicaly a cure all.
I wondered to myself if they weren't correct... I mean... half the population used to smoke like chimneys, but never did I hear anyone with a smoker's cough. I did notice the smokers drinking a ton of the o-cha.
And what about Nagasaki and Hiroshima... two cities that were irradiated with atomic blasts 67 years ago? I'd expect genetic mutations, or higher incidences of cancer... and maybe there is... but not as high as one might naively expect... but everyone looked great... could that damn o-cha have anything to do with it?
Who knows. I'm not going into the health benefits or health claims of the green tea beverage companies.
I'm just talking about the green tea that had some flavor, but mostly always tasted watery to me.
But... not all green teas are created equal. You get what you pay for.
I've actually had some high quality green tea that possess a very strong green flavor. Bitter, in fact. It's how you know you are alive.
If you ever get a green tea that tastes bitter - and someone asks you if it's delicious... feel free to lie and tell them it is... at least this time you can bet that even if you don't like it, they will be impressed with your sense of taste.
And... should you folks REALLY want to know what high quality o-cha tastes like... I suggest you go to an official Green Tea Ceremony. You want to talk about bitter? My eyes still scrunch up in remembrance.
Bitter yes... but, at least there was flavor.
That watered down stuff you get at work or school? Crap.
You ever want to make a great impression on a Japanese person... spend 10,000 yen ($100) on a pouch of real green tea leaves. You'll be at their place having a meal in no time sharing it with them. On the plus side, there may also be booze there.
But... all of this is just me. Some people find o-cha very tasty. Probably the same people who think natto (rotting soy beans) are tasty. Hey... I eat natto... but that's just to impress the Japanese. It, too is also good for you, but that doesn't mean it's tasty.
PS: Of course... this blog may have been more about manners than green tea. I said 'may'.