Wagashi and Tea Ceremony
November 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
I love wagashi.
It was kind of a problem in Japan, because wagashi and matcha (powdered green tea) are so expensive that I could only have it on special occasions.
I love everything about them. Their seasonal shapes. The overwhelming sweetness. The combination of that sweetness with the bitter green taste of the matcha. The solemnity of the tea ceremony.
So what is wagashi anyway?
Wagashi means literally Japanese candy. While the term can refer to a range of candies, they are all generally made out of an bean paste and are often served at tea ceremonies. The sweetness of an is nothing like the sweetness of sugar, it is deeper and doesn’t give me the sugar jitters. Since wagashi are most often made of plants, they have little to no fat. Also adzuki beans, especially when processed into an paste, have high concentrations of catechins, anthocyanidin and polyphenols. So, if you want to have candy, you might as well eat some that might fight cancer and heart disease!
These little candies come in all shapes and sizes, but they are above all other things seasonal candies. The image above is of a wagashi that I bought in spring, it is appropriately a flower blossom. There are wagashi for winter,summer, fall, and even moon and rabbit shaped wagashi for the moon viewing holiday.
If you ever go to Japan, it is likely you will encounter these at a tea ceremony, so here is a basic run down of how to comport yourself:
This is what you do when you are given your chawan (tea cup)
- Take chawan with right hand, place it in palm of left hand
- Rotate chawan 3 times clockwise with the right hand (this should make a 180 degree turn)
- Look at the cup and admire it (the “front” of the cup is facing you now)
- Try to drink the tea in 3 sips
- After drinking, wipe the rim of the chawan where it touched your lips with a napkin
- Rotate the chawan as in step three, but counterclockwise
- Return the chawan to your host