Recently my mother and I were visiting Matsumoto in the Nagano prefecture in Japan and we popped into an unassuming café on the road leading up to the city’s historic castle.
Both of us being tea aficionados, the ‘Rossiyan jam tea’ on the menu piqued our interest. When the various components of the drink arrived we were unsure how to drink it, let alone knowing what all the different dishes were.
With limited Japanese language skills we figured out the porcelain tea cup contained strong black tea, the tiny glass bowl held a thick strawberry jam, and what we thought was sugar syrup, was actually vodka!
Rationalising that the café had a slightly Danish theme with Danish children’s books in the bookshelf, and cool wood tones running through the interior, we thought the tea was a Danish delicacy so when in Rome . . . (well actually Japan!).
Though it was a little early in the day to be drinking, the vodka in the tea wasn’t actually that bad, and the small spoonfuls of jam were needed with each sip to sweeten the taste of the rather bitter tea.
Googling ‘Rossiyan jam tea’ produced no results until it clicked that Rossiyan is the Japanese translation of Russian, a culture known for drinking tea with jam. Though I did think shots of vodka were for after tea, not during!
But why now, a few weeks on, does this cup of tea still sit in my mind?
This cup of tea was about sharing an experience with someone close to me, curiously trying something vaguely unfamiliar together, with the very spirit of adventure and travel hanging in the air. Knowing we were so far from the familiarities of home there was nothing we could do but relish the joy of the present moment – vodka and all!