My Tea Journey | The Formative Years in Japan | Robert OBrien - Good Life Tea

My Tea Journey - Part 1 - The Formative Years

by Robert O'Brien September 23, 2017

My Tea Journey - Part 1 - The Formative Years

As the owner of Good Life Tea, I get asked how I got into tea and became a tea retailer. In this post, I will tell you my background and answer this question.

My family in JapanMy mother was born and raised in Japan.  My father met her when he was in the Air Force stationed in Japan. My mom was clerk typist on the base and they dated. Shortly after his stint in Japan, he got a job with Pan American Airways.  With his free flying privileges, he went back to Japan and married my mother. The newlyweds immediately settled in Connecticut where I was born.  When a  job posting in Japan came up, our family of 5 moved to to Tokyo. (My dad passed on a job in Africa. I can’t imagine how different my life would have turned out.) I was 3 years old and was and language was somewhat confusing when you're learning both at the same time. I was enrolled into the local kindergarten and I became bilingual. I still speak Japanese quite well.

 

In Japan, tea is always served. It’s like water in America.  You go to out to eat, you get tea, you visit with friends, you’re served tea. Tea is served several tea times during the course of the day.  So as a kid, I drank tea.  It was probably diluted down and not the best stuff. In the Japanese kindergarten I remember getting served Japanese bento (which is now all the rage) for lunch. I'm sure there was tea on the menu, although I don't remember it.
>>>> Drink Green Teas Like the Japanese -   See our Green Teas  <<<<

I do remember drinking green tea on a train trip. Not so much that it was tea, but rather how it was sold. It was sold hot in a clear plastic container. Which resembled a Japanese teapot. I was fascinated with this faux teapot which pretty much crumpled on its own after the hot tea was poured out.  The plastic was super thin.
Genmaicha Green teaI do remember drinking Genmaicha. It’s a tea that has popped and roasted rice added to it. It’s sort of a starter tea for kids because the tea is very mild as the rice is about half the flavor. To this day, Genmaicha has a deja vu effect on me.
Another tea experience. I must have been about 10 years old and our family went on church retreat. The retreat was at a Catholic monastery run by Franciscan monks. It was less monastery and more hotel. Being run by American monks, they provided black tea and coffee at a self serve counter. I was too young for coffee, but I enjoyed acting like an adult by making myself many cups of tea bag tea. There was not a lot to do at this place as it was monastery and making tea was the best fun I could come up with. In Japan black tea is very foreign. They hardly ever drink it so there was the additional fascination of something that wasn’t Japanese.
 

I lived in Japan till I was 13 years old - 10 formative years of my life.  We left Japan and moved to Guam and then to NY state. Again these were Pan Am assignments that my dad took.  Having lived an international life, life in Putnam County, NY was quite a different experience. No one drank tea. Sushi was exotic and weird. After all, it was 1977. Things have now changed, of course. Both are so mainstream now, you can find them even at gas stations.
Gas Station Sushi
During the following years, coffee was the big drink. Americans were exposed to better coffee with the rise of Starbucks and I too jumped on the bandwagon. My college and early NY City career days were fueled with coffee.  Even though soft drinks were equally popular then, I never took to them. I found them to be too sweet.
About 5 years ago, I rediscovered tea. My wife, our 2 kids and I were visiting friends with in Hudson, NY where we had previously lived. Two of these friends were in the tea business.  One of the tea shops was in Hudson and the other in Woodstock NY. When I lived in Hudson, as a Realtor, I sold the building the Verdigris Tea is now located in. It’s a lovely shop which is managed by Monica.  Ironically, I did not drink tea even though the shop was steps from our home.
Verdigris Tea Hudson NYDuring this trip, we visited with Monica at Verdigris Tea and I awakened to tea. The next day, we ventured to Woodstock NY to visit with our other Hudson friend Amanda, who owned a tea shop in Woodstock. (She has since sold her shop and moved south.) It was at her shop, that I sampled many teas and really discovered that tea was not just Japanese Green and generic tea bag tea.
At around this time, I was looking for something new to do career wise and I decided that tea looked like a great idea.
In my next blog post, I will finish my story. Stay tuned. If you have any questions or comments, please post them. I will be sure to respond.


>>>> Drink Green Teas Like the Japanese -   See our Green Teas  <<<<

Robert O'Brien
Robert O'Brien



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