“Sometimes a cup of tea is about so much more than the tea.”
Deepening tea knowledge and making connections among tea industry professionals and tea enthusiasts across our planet is the forte of the members of the Global Japan Tea Association (GJTEA). By maximizing social media, personal and professional connections, and developing popular educational programs, the young, passionate international staff share the pleasures of Japanese tea with those on all continents.
The genesis of GJTEA, though, was in Europe.
In 2017, Yasuharu Matsumoto (Japanese), Anna Poian (Italian, now living in Spain), and Simona Zavadckyte (Lithuanian, who has lived in England, Germany, and Japan) were traveling together in Europe to promote Japanese tea. At that time, they were working for Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms. During their travels, they observed that people living outside Japan lacked accurate information about Japanese tea and often could not obtain authentic Japanese tea. They organized as GJTEA in 2019 to help solve these problems.
GJTEA Co-founder and president Simona Zavadckyte earned a Master’s in Japanese Studies with a focus on Politics and International Relations. She has worked on tea farms in Japan, and she authored Japanese Tea: A Comprehensive Guide. Zavadckyte is more than qualified to lead the organization as it builds bridges between Japanese and other cultures. Within the last two years, Zavadckyte and other members of GJTEA have held many in-person and online events around the globe.
World tea tours
Though the founders traveled around Europe for many years, they conducted their first official GJTEA tour in 2019. Last year, they hosted tastings, led workshops, and gave lectures at the prestigious Berlin Tea Academy, the UK Tea Academy in London, the Tea Circle in Brussels, the International Tea & Coffee Academy in The Hague, and the Japan Foundation in Spain. GJTEA brought along two Japanese farmers on their tours of Europe. The farmers shared their teas and Japanese tea culture with attendees. Unfortunately, future in-person tours are on hiatus until the pandemic subsides.
Meet the tea farmer events
Despite COVID-19, GJTEA organizers discovered a way to continue introducing Japanese tea farmers to the world. They created online meetings with farmers. Registered participants (ten at most) receive two high-quality teas before the event. During a Zoom meeting, everyone drinks tea and interacts directly with the tea farmers.
Global Japanese Tea Party
The GJTEA website describes the Global Japanese Tea Party as “a freestyle event, where everyone can join the conversation while brewing Japanese tea from your own home. All you need is tea, hot water, and a laptop or a smartphone with Zoom on it.”
These parties facilitate productivity. Participants are sharing knowledge and building successful businesses. At one party, an Australian selling Japanese tea advised a Californian who was setting up a Japanese tea business. The Swedish owner of a tea shop connected with organic tea producers in Japan. Check the GJTEA website for the date of the next one.
Live Japanese Tea Sessions
Live Japanese Tea Sessions are interactive global conversations about tea that take place live on the GJTEA Facebook page. Each one involves a “Japanese tea professional speaking about their discovery of Japanese tea, current activities, and the present tea situation in their city or country.” Listeners are invited to join the conversation. The next speaker on October 7 will be Bonnie Robin from Parlor Tea in Australia.
“Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order.” – Okakura Kakuzo, 1906
Japanese Tea Courses
GJTEA offers a depth of experiential education (touching, smelling, picking, being in tea fields) of GJTEA’s Japanese tea and culture courses: Japanese Tea Foundation Course, Japanese Tea Intermediate Course, and Japanese Tea Master Course. These courses benefit tourism marketers, tea shop owners, traders, and others in the tea industry and those who just love and want to learn more about Japanese tea. Students are from Thailand, Indonesia, the US, Europe, Australia, and parts of the world.
Before the pandemic, these courses were offered in Kyoto, The Hague, Ghent, and Madrid. Future plans include courses in more locations. For now, the Japanese Tea Foundation Course is available online. The next one starts in October.
International tea trade services
Besides education, GJTEA helps foreign business people who need assistance with the Japanese tea industry. Introductions, translation, and the processing of import and export documents are some of the trade services it provides.
Zavadckyte says that GJTEA wants to “provide a platform for tea people to meet and connect.” The Global Japan Tea Association is obviously about Japanese tea, but it is also about making and developing human relations that transcend national boundaries.