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World O-CHA Festival in Shizuoka 世界お茶まつり

World O-CHA Festival in Shizuoka 世界お茶まつり

Yunomi Staff |

by Katrina Wild 

June 4, 2024

 

Every three years, Shizuoka Prefecture hosts the World O-CHA Festival, a celebration of tea's rich history, innovation, and diversity. The latest event in 2022 marked its 8th iteration and served as a testament to the enduring allure of tea culture. The festival, divided into spring and autumn editions, is a must-visit for tea enthusiasts, industry professionals, and curious minds alike. For those who missed the 2022 event, there's good news – the World O-CHA Festival will return in 2025, promising another unforgettable experience. Mark your calendars and prepare to embark on a journey through the enchanting world of tea in the heart of Shizuoka Prefecture. In this blog, we'll explore in detail about the vibrant kaleidoscope of experiences that await attendees of this extraordinary tea event in Japan. 


First, let's review the World O-CHA Festival that took place in autumn 2022, which we were fortunate to attend. The event was held from October 20th to 23rd at the GRANSHIP (グランシップ) convention centre in Suruga Ward of Shizuoka City. Over the course of four days, the festival attracted 114,000 visitors, keeping exhibitors busy and filling up various symposiums and paid tasting sessions. Due to post-pandemic sanitary measures, there were fewer exhibitors in 2022 than the previous years, and no foreign exhibitors, as restrictions on entry to Japan had just been lifted. However, foreign teas were still represented through distributors based in Japan. Looking ahead to 2025, we can most likely expect the return of more international exhibitors. 


 

This festival is done in a hybrid format, combining professional seminars as well as engaging activities for the general public, allowing exhibitors to promote their craft and make retail sales. With officials and professionals in attendance, it is also a great opportunity to maintain and establish relationships if you work with tea. Whether you are a tourist in Japan or on a sourcing trip for your tea business, the World O-CHA Festival is an ideal event to include in your itinerary, offering networking opportunities and the chance to meet tea producers from all over Japan.

On the ground floor, including the outdoor area, vendors showcased their latest teas, cutting-edge technologies, and innovative projects. From post-fermented teas to the use of satellite imagery for tea farm management, the expo floor buzzed with excitement and possibilities. In the main market hall (ワールドO-CHAマーケット), visitors could purchase a wide selection of Japanese teas, pottery, and receive tea samples from the Japanese Tea Export Promotion Council.

 

The third round of the Nihoncha Award (日本茶AWARD) and the exhibition of winning teas from the World Green Tea Contest 2022 (世界緑茶コンテスト2022入賞茶展示), prestigious recognitions of excellence in Japanese tea, added an air of anticipation to the proceedings. There was also an exhibition of calligraphy and a temomi (手もみ茶) demonstration by the Shizuoka Preservation Association of Tea Hand Processing (公社団法人静岡県茶手漆保存). During this demonstration, Bret Mayer, an association member, introduced some spectacular hand-crafted teas and explained the temomi process.

While most of the exhibition was dedicated to tea, there were displays of local produce such as tea themed clothing, authentic wasabi and Korean ginseng. In the outdoor area facing Mount Fuji, visitors could buy tea and books, take a break with some snacks (and more tea), and enjoy offerings from street food stalls. Some of the tents featured tea cultures from other countries, such as Myanmar and Malaysia. 

Venturing to the upper floors, attendees embarked on a sensory journey through tastings, demonstrations, video screenings, and cultural experiences. Part of the second floor was designated as the Tasting Festival (テイスティング・フェスティバル), featuring a section dedicated to the 100 Famous Teas of Shizuoka. Here, visitors could explore the nuances of Shizuoka's renowned teas, from iconic sencha to lesser-known varieties. Small independent producers proudly presented their creations, offering a glimpse into the boundless creativity within the tea community, encompassing everything from production to brewing techniques.

One of the festival days included a screening and talk about the Japanese tea documentary Gochisou Chaji (ごちそう茶事), produced by a group of volunteers led by Mr. Makoto Takatsu and released in spring 2021 (you can take a look HERE). The third floor featured another tea market, along with additional space for tea gatherings and ceremonies, providing a comprehensive experience for all attendees. Beyond traditional tea ceremonies, one of the activities involved even yoga!

The 6th floor featured an exhibition celebrating the long history of Japanese tea, along with additional spaces for tea gatherings and ceremonies. One highlight was a Song Dynasty (960-1279) matcha preparation workshop. The powdered tea we know as matcha was brought to Japan by Zen master Eisai during the Song Dynasty, which coincided with the Kamakura period (1185-1333). During this workshop, attendees learned how "dian cha" (powdered tea) was whisked and served in Tenmoku chawan. After vigorous whisking—1000 times repeated 7 times—participants wrote or drew images on top of the foam with matcha paste, practicing "chabaixi," an ancient Chinese art form of calligraphy and painting on tea froth.

The exchange hall hosted a SweeTEA pairing experience, featuring chocolate pairings from various regions such as the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela, matched with Japanese tea. Florent Weugue of Thés du Japon hosted a French cheese pairing seminar in collaboration with Ms. Mori from the Alpage cheese shop in Kagurazaka. The pairing of Brillat-Savarin (non-pasteurized) with Matcha Asahi from Uji-Shirakawa was particularly impressive. Other notable pairings included Shizu-7132 from Kawane with Ossau Iraty (ewe's milk cheese) and Fukumidori from Sayama with Mimolette (aged for 24 months).

For those seeking a deeper immersion, tea conferences and ceremonies were held in the conference halls on the 9th, 10th, and 11th floors. Engaging discussions on the latest trends and challenges in the tea industry provided valuable insights into its dynamic landscape. The World Green Tea Association organised a symposium on the presence of Japanese tea in foreign markets. Meanwhile, ancient rituals offered a glimpse into the profound connection between tea and Japanese culture, highlighting its enduring legacy and heritage. 

A day at the World O-CHA Festival 2022 was a whirlwind of discovery and delight, where each moment offered a new opportunity to explore, learn, and connect. Whether sipping freshly brewed matcha or marvelling at intricate tea art, attendees found themselves captivated by the endless possibilities of tea. Whether you're a seasoned tea aficionado or a curious newcomer, this festival offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the magic of Japanese tea.  

Looking ahead to the next festival in 2025, the anticipation is palpable. As the global tea stage continues to evolve and innovate, we can expect another exciting program yet to be announced. The World O-CHA Festival 2025 was promoted at the World Tea Expo 2024, held in Las Vegas on March 19-20. According to their social media, one of the themes for the next festival will be promoting tea to the younger generation.

The spring edition of the festival will take place from April 19th to May 21st at the Tea Museum of Shizuoka (ふじのくに茶の都ミュージアム), Shizuoka Tea Market (静岡茶市場), and various locations in the Tokyo metropolitan and Kansai areas. The main convention in autumn will be held from October 23rd to October 26th, 2025, at GRANSHIP, sponsored by the 9th Tea Festival Executive Committee. Mark your calendars and be sure to follow updates on their website and social media channels.

Official website: https://www.ocha-festival.jp/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/worldochafestival2022

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/world.ocha.festival2025/?hl=en

Photos: Katrina Wild, World O-CHA Festival
Text: Katrina Wild

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