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The Connection Between Japanese Food And Tea

Posted by Angelina Kurganska on

Teas have been used in food for centuries and in such a wide variety of ways! Just think about some of the most famous ones: matcha in your cake, Earl Grey in your cookies, tea-pickled eggs, and so much more. The aromatic qualities of tea have made it a pleasant addition to many foods around the world.

Japan is not an exception. In fact, green tea (especially matcha) has been used in Japanese cuisine from desserts to dinners and everything in between.

When we think about the ties between Japanese food and tea, one of the dishes that stand out the most is chazuke (cha meaning tea, and zuke meaning to submerge). 

This popular and heart-warming dish is the most simple thing: pouring hot tea over rice. The recipe became popular during the Edo period as a way to save leftover rice that might be a little dry or hard. 

Making Chazuke

What you will need:

  • 1 cup cooked Japanese short grain rice
  • 2 tsp sencha or genmaicha tea leaves for 1 cup of water

Brew tea as per instructions and pour over the rice (ideally it should cover the rice halfway). And that’s all there is to a simple chazuke recipe!

If you wish to go further many variations exist for the rice toppings. For example: salmon (grilled or raw sashimi-grade), sesame seeds, shredded nori, wasabi, scallions, bonito flakes, and well… anything else your heart desires!

Another popular way of “eating green tea” is something we like to call “Ponzu Gyokuro”, because that’s precisely what it is.

This comes out of our love for chagra (used tea leaves). Since not all nutrients from the tea leaves get passed into the water, the leaves we usually throw away are left with some benefits for us.

Read more about chagra here: 

  1. What to do With Used Tea Leaves: Chagra and the Concept of Mottainai
  2. The Many Uses Of Japanese Green Tea
  3. Japanese Green Tea Face Mask Using Sencha Chagra


Making Ponzu Gyokuro

What you will need:

  • used tea leaves (gyokuro is our favorite, but sencha and genmaicha also work well)
  • ponzu or soy sauce with a dash of lemon or vinegar 

Add just a few drops of ponzu to the used tea leaves (you don’t want them to be swimming in it) and enjoy! You can eat Ponzu Gyokuro as a side dish, as a topping for rice, or inside of a salad.

To read more about what you can do with tea check out our recipe index

Do you have a favorite way of incorporating tea into food? Let us know in the comments below!