"There are two types of people," my dear old landlady used to say, handing me a bowl of frothing matcha tea: "Those who like alcohol, and those who like sweets."

She was well aware which camp I belonged in. But as a tea-ceremony teacher of no little repute, she saw it as her duty to inculcate in me an appreciation for sweets, especially wagashi, the dainty traditional confections that can seem cloying on their own but which go so perfectly with ceremonial green tea.

Of course, the two sides are not mutually exclusive. In the heat of summer she was partial to a glass of sweet but well-chilled umeshu (liquor infused with tart green ume plums). And in the same way, I am more than partial to a fine sherry trifle, a well-doused rum baba or even — twist my arm — Christmas liqueur chocolates.