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Japanese sencha tea ceremony in Oxford. Lovely people, lovely place, lovely tea.

Yesterday evening I attended an event at the incomparable Objects of Use in Oxford. The shop is an Aladdin's cave of carefully selected, beautifully crafted, functional objects from all around the world. The owners have recently travelled in Japan, sourcing all kinds of wonderful new things for us to enjoy, among which are - of course - tea utensils. To celebrate the arrival of their new teaware from Susumuya in Kagoshima, they held a modern Japanese tea gathering.

There were fewer than a dozen of us in the small shop, all sat around a table while James and Yurika from ChaYou prepared several different teas for us to taste. During the course of the evening we enjoyed several fine sencha, a genmaicha, and two black teas.

But the real magic of the evening was the way in which a group of strangers bonded over their love of tea, of Japanese culture and of friendly discussion. As one of the guests commented, coffee is a drink which invites you to drink and go - you meet a friend for a coffee and then separate; tea on the other hand is a drink which invites you to drink and remain; to relax and chat.

Things I learned from my new friends:

  • It is possible to get "drunk" on tea

  • Tea is used by monks to help them enter a meditative state (presumably while drunk on tea)

  • You can re-infuse a good tea several times - so getting drunk on tea is actually quite cost-effective.

  • There is a chinese tea called "Big Red Robe" which is named after a robe hung on the bushes to protect them

  • Sencha is hugely varied in scent and taste - its not all just "green tea"

All the below were shot on a Leica M-Monochrom using a 35mm summicron lens.

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