Books / Reviews

The wonders and virtues of green tea

by Anna Kunnecke

This diminutive book is packed as tightly as an obento box with an array of mini-essays.

GREEN TEA LIVING by Toshimi A. Kayaki. Stone Bridge Press, 2010, 160 pp., £14.50 (hardcover)

And like a good Japanese obento lunch, which always includes five colors (white for rice, green for vegetable, brown for protein, et al.), this book is composed of a little of this and a little of that, all wrapped up neatly in the philosophy that Toshimi Kayaki calls “green tea living.”

While a fair amount of the advice is predictable (guess what? green tea is good for you!), she does an admirable job of tucking in a wide variety of charming household lore.

The common theme to these tips are that they are eco-friendly, frugal and earnestly Japanese. Kayaki extols the virtues of her grandmother’s “old ways” around the house and encourages busy people to take time to incorporate old-fashioned rituals into their modern routines. As is happens, these old ways are marvelously eco-friendly.

Here is one for a certain type of housekeeper: First, drink the green tea. As you do, you will imbibe a whole chapter’s worth of good health benefits, from clean breath and strong teeth to weight loss and lower blood pressure.

Then, shape the wet leaves into a pack and pat it onto your face. This will surely banish wrinkles and age spots.

After that, the leaves can be used to clean every room of the house, including floors, counters, and bathrooms.

Finally, the remaining tea leaves can become superior compost for your garden. As the author exclaims throughout the book, “How green!”

While this will hardly satisfy the serious eco-warrior, it will certainly appeal to Japanophiles who delight in incorporating tidbits of Japanese culture into their lives.

Rather than reading the book straight through, I would encourage plucking out a bit here and a morsel there. Although the book is written primarily for an American audience (with advice like: try to walk more! or if you can’t, then do stretches while you’re driving!) it would be highly useful to a Westerner who finds herself visiting a traditional Japanese home.

For example, it might encourage a more positive attitude toward the various brown substances that will be served (konnyaku — cleans out your intestines! or nukazuke — antioxidants!).

From exercising more to using cash instead of credit cards, these tips will delight anyone who likes to consume their Japanese culture like an umeboshi — a red pickled plum that’s the cherry on top.