All About Japan

The Polite Way to Sip Green Tea with Company

| Food & Drink , Tea
The Polite Way to Sip Green Tea with Company

While in Japan, you may have various opportunities to sip green tea in polite company. However, not knowing the procedure may leave you feeling bewildered in front of your host. We spoke with Mineko Shiiya, a master of Japanese manners, to produce a surefire reference for your next tea time.

1. Green Tea: Cup without a Lid

In general, when sipping green tea, lift the tea cup (just the cup, not the saucer) with your right hand and support the bottom of the cup with your left hand. It's okay to make a sound when sipping.

If the green tea is served with a snack, drink all the tea first and then eat the confection. This rule changes when dealing with matcha, which we'll look at below.

2. Green Tea: Cup with a Lid

2. Green Tea: Cup with a Lid

Being served a teacup with a lid is a sign of gracious hospitality. In this case, the procedure is as follows:

1. Place the fingers of your left hand on the side of the cup.
2. Lift up the lid with your right hand, using your thumb and index finger; lift away from you so the side facing you opens first.
3. Moisture will have collected on the inside of the lid; turn the lid to drop the moisture into the cup.
4. Using both hands, turn the lid over completely so it's inverted.
5. Using both hands, place the lid down on the table to the side of your cup, still inverted.
6. Sip your tea as per the rules above.

3. How to Sip Matcha

Before serving matcha, your host will usually offer you a sweet confection. When you finish eating it, a cup of matcha will be placed in front of you. There will likely be a design or pattern on the side of the cup, with its best side facing you. Lift up the cup with both hands, and to avoid touching the most beautiful part of the cup with your lips, turn it a little twice to the right or left. Sip while admiring the design of the cup and the color and aroma of the tea. It's okay to make a sound while sipping.

Shiiya says that in the case where matcha is presented along with a confection at the same time, eat the sweet first and then sip tea. This softens up your taste buds for the deep bitterness of the tea to come.

Green tea may well be served when you visit someone's home in Japan. You're free to partake once your host says, "Dozo" ("Go ahead."). Say "Itadakimasu" (lit. "I receive"), then follow the steps above depending on the situation. Enjoy!