About 15 years ago when I was 13 I went on a student exchange to Japan. I'd been learning Japanese for two years and could manage to detail my basic needs, wants, likes, dislikes etc. I was in a what is considered in Japan to be a small city, about half a million people. Many people I assumed had never in person seen a caucasian or really in my case a very fair haired blue eyed girl. I had many people stare at me just about everywhere I went. I was at the shopping centre with my host family when someone stopped me and made me wait whilst they flipped through a dictionary then pointed at me with the words 'movie star' scrawled on a piece of paper. I just laughed and said 'no'. These days if I was to go to Japan I doubt I'd get that same response.
As a result of my trip my family started to host exchange students. I have many Japanese friends as a result and learnt so much about not just them and their culture but myself too. As I grew up, left home and made my own family and career as a teacher I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I could open my home to exchange students. As part of an annual school trip we hosted a really lovely girl from Japan, lets call her K. K was such a delightful student, so open to new experiences and willing to try anything and everything. I think the thing I liked most about K was that she loved tea just as much as I did. I have this lovely tea, Japanese Morning Dew, that she'd share with me most mornings. Before she left we went to the specialty store where I buy the lovely blend and we purchased some for her take home. I'm sure she could get nicer tea in Japan but it would be a nice memento from her time at our home. Saying goodbye to her was difficult, I'd become rather attached. I tried not to cry as we don't want the kids all crying and blubbering and as she gave me one last hug she placed a little folded letter in my hand. Two and half years on I still carry than letter in my purse because it's just beautiful.
A few weeks after K had arrived back in Japan I arrived home to a letter saying there was a parcel for me at the post office. I went and picked it up, it was pretty large and was from Japan. When I got home and opened it it was a large gift box containing a dozen decent sized tins of Japanese green tea blends and a lovely letter from K's parents thanking us for everything we had done. The brand was one I was unfamiliar with, of course, but would soon come to love. Lupicia. It does of course have the unfortunate sounding connotation with alopecia however they make lovely teas. I'm still working my way through the teas and have some definite favourites. Tsugaru Green, which is an apple flavoured tea and Tropical Green which is infused with tropical fruit flavours are great however Budou Green is my favourite.
This blend of grape with green sencha has a very strong aroma, much like grape lollies, chewing gum, or even grape Fanta. The aroma is just as sweet when brewed. When you drink the tea however, you lose a little of that fake-grape flavour. It's still a refreshing blend and if you are a lover of fake grape flavour, and I know there are plenty of us out there, then this tea shouldn't disappoint you. I haven't tried it but I believe this would make a nice iced tea too.
About six months ago when all my Lupicia stock was low, I thought it was the end, that I'd never taste this lovely tea again so I decided to ask Google. Lupicia is a Japanese company who through some sort of tea miracle have a retail store in Melbourne and also an Australian online store. They famously boast to have over 400 varieties of tea, perhaps not all on sale at the same time I suspect. The Melbourne store in in the QV Building and looks as thought it is aimed at possibly a touristy market.
Earlier this year as we welcome another group of student from K's school in Japan a girl from the group approached me and handed me a letter. She told me she was K's little sister and this letter was from K. I couldn't help but shed just a tiny little tear when I read her letter and she said she was studying hard so that one day she could come back. When she does she'll be very welcome.
Tea: Lupicia lose leaf Budou Green
Store: Lupicia - online or at the QV building in Melbourne. Google for international stockists.
Comment: A wonderfully aromatic tea if you are in to grape flavour. The grape tends to dull on consumption. Brew at 75 degrees celsius for 2-3 minutes. If brewed incorrectly this tea is practically unpalatable.