Train to NagoyaDrinking tea brings me comfort. The comfort stems from my memories of when I fell in love with tea. I fell in love with Japanese green teas when I lived for a year in Japan after college. Each day I faced language and cultural barriers. Learning new ways to behave and perform simple tasks sometimes became overwhelming. Making eye contact with strangers was considered rude and aggressive behavior. I spent my days looking at no one and speaking to no one. Commuting on the train, I read several books and English newspapers.

Over time, I adopted a few Japanese customs, finding comfort in their rituals and customs. Japanese people live regimented lives. They catch the same train to work, sitting in the same car next to the same person. I tried to adopt this mindset. I wanted to fit in. Eventually, I chose which customs to practice. One custom I practiced every day was drinking tea. Everyone drank tea all day in Japan. My tea background was limited to herbal teas and soy chai lattes.

My tea journey began at work. I taught English in “cram” schools. The school secretary offered me a cup of Sencha, steamed Japanese green tea, every day. I drank it because it would have been rude to refuse. She was the only staff member who spoke to me. I appreciated her kindness. Intuitively, I knew not to ask for sugar. I learned to like the sweet grassy flavor.

sencha_napkinsI have fond memories of drinking my tea, with the leaves in my cup, and preparing my lessons. It took me a while to realize that the green tea gave me just the boost of physical and mental energy I needed to teach my lessons. Making English fun and interesting to young Japanese children was challenging. After a few months, the aroma and taste of Sencha became familiar.

Recently, I researched Sencha’s history. I learned that Sencha means “boiled tea.” For centuries, royalty and rich Japanese primarily drank expensive powdered tea called Matcha. Because Sencha was a leaf tea, it was cheaper and widely available. In the late 17th Century, Japanese tea scholars translated tea-brewing-etiquette publications from Chinese into Japanese. Common Japanese people had access to the wonderful art of brewing and serving tea. Japanese people felt the ability to brew tea gave you a certain sophistication.

I remember how drinking green tea helped ease my nervousness and improve my focus. Now I drink Sencha in Los Angeles while I work. I associate a good cup of Sencha with a positive productive work day.