Tuesday, July 19, 2016

アイスティー aisu tii

There are some things the Japanese do so well.  It is of course a country famous for its tea.  There is an elaborate, centuries old ceremony surrounding this beverage.  That is hot tea.  

As the temperatures rise and the sweaty Kyoto summer begins its assault hot tea becomes less appealing.  I turn to aisu tii (iced tea) during this season.

In the States iced tea often comes from the same dispenser as Coke or any other soft-drink.  It is a sad, syrupy bastardization of this noble drink.  If you are lucky, you will get a Lipton brew poured from a glass pitcher and served with a slice of lemon.

In Kyoto, in places like Malebranche cafe, iced tea is something altogether different.  It comes in a cast-iron kettle, the same way it would if you were drinking it hot.  It comes with a tall glass half full of ice.  It comes with a bowl of ice and ice tongs.  It comes with a little plate of perfectly sliced lemon.  It comes with one of their famous Chanoka (Langues de chat) matcha flavored cookies.  It comes with a metal stirrer, a straw and instructions in Japanese and English how to pour the perfect iced tea.  All this is brought to you on a lovely wooden tray.

With bottled tea from various beverage giants becoming more and more popular in Japan, especially among young people, fewer people take the time to brew tea in a pot.  Something so wonderfully simple, serenely pleasant and culturally important has, even in Japan, been reduced to a vending machine experience.

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