We are almost at the door to 2021. So it is just right to look back at 2020 – the year that no one could have predicted, one last time before we close the door shut behind.
Celebrating the one-year anniversary of our association at the end of January 2020, we were hopeful and excited for the coming year. We had many activities and projects in mind (like the Japanese Tea Master Course, the Japanese tea tour abroad, etc.).
Soon after, though, the spread of the Covid-19 and the announcement of pandemic, changed all the plans completely. With the increasing infection rate and tightening of international borders, we were no longer able to invite students from abroad to come to Japan, and one after another had to cancel all the Japanese Tea Master Courses. The Japanese tea tours abroad, like the trip to Europe in 2019, became impossible too, and we had to shelve the idea quite early on.
On the other hand, the pandemic has pushed us to discover and explore new ways, that perhaps we would have not thought of otherwise. Realizing relatively early that international travel in 2020 will be really difficult, we decided to move most of our activities online. That gave birth to a few completely new initiatives around community building and tea education.
In April we started the Global Japanese Tea Party – an inclusive and open for all, free style tea event. Between April and September, we repeated the event 6 times with the tea producers, ceremony teachers and other tea specialists in Japan and abroad connecting with each other virtually while brewing Japanese tea. All together we had 138 participants from 18 countries and 6 continents – truly global!
The Live Japanese Tea Sessions – a live interview with a tea professional, were started in May. By December we have welcomed 6 tea professionals that have been working hard on promoting and spreading the love for Japanese tea: Xenia from the Japanese Tea Hub, Susanne from Horenso Consulting, Francois from Hojicha.co, Lee – a retired tourism and hospitality professor, Bonnie from Parlor Tea and most recently Ian from Yunomi.life. Each of them shared theirs stories about starting to work with Japanese tea, their current activities and future plans.
Realizing how important it is to meet face to face when building relationships, this year we also started the Meet the Tea Farmer event. For tea professionals and tea lovers it provides an opportunity to meet the farmers making the teas they enjoy; and for the tea farmers it gives a chance to directly meet the international audience and hear what they like. Between July (when the first event was held) and November, we have welcomed 5 tea farmers from 3 different tea regions in Japan: Jun Watanabe from Shizuoka; Ryo Morisaki, Noriyasu Uejima and Kenta Hosoi from Kyoto, and Yuji Kurihara from Fukuoka. The events gave a unique chance to taste the farmer’s tea (shipped ahead of the event) and chat with the tea farmer in person about their teas, production methods and thoughts about the present and the future.
And lastly in October we started the online version of the Japanese Tea Foundation Course. Many people wanted to study about Japanese tea, but pandemic was making it impossible to do that in person. The push and encouragement of our members helped us to launch the online course, that already has 12 graduates from 9 different countries.
The membership program itself was started just at the end of 2019, but we are really glad to see that even through 2020 the global Japanese tea community has continued to grow, and now we have members from 42 different countries!
This year we have been working tirelessly on growing and supporting the tea community, and have launched various online tools, like the Japanese tea event calendar, Japanese tea photo library and tea jobs board. To deepen the connection between the members, we have been organizing member tea gatherings about once or twice a month. In 2020 we held 18 such events, and it was really invigorating regularly meet each other.
None of this would have been possible without the support of our members. We are extremely grateful to all our members, especially our pioneer Tea Catalysts and Tea Fellows. Thank you for being a part of the Global Japanese Tea Association!
2020 has been difficult in many ways, but it has taught us a lot too: to let it go and to be more flexible in the face of unforeseen events; and even more, to cherish our connections and support each other!
Once again thank you for being with us through this difficult year. We hope 2021 will be a more balanced and peaceful year. And we hope we can meet again soon and share a cup of tea!