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There’s no tea without sweets to go with the bitter tea flavor!

If I’m honest, it was probably the sweets that really kept me interested while I was first learning. The MVPs of okashi sweets are mochi (glutinous rice), white and red sweet bean pastes, plus the occasional appearance of roasted soybean flour (kinako), chestnut (kuri), sweet potato and so on.

There are two main types of wagashi (Japanese-style sweets) used in Tea: higashi “dry” sweets and omogashi “moist” sweets. Omogashi are the more involved and elaborate sweets that typically have some kind of mochi or other wrapper around a sweet, soft filling like red or white bean. When you’re having a lot of matcha, these go with koicha thick tea. Then, higashi dry sweets tend to be smaller, simpler, and like the name implies: dry sugar pastilles or pressed shapes. These classically go with usucha thin tea.

While nowhere on earth can compete with Kyoto for beautiful, creative, and historical wagashi, luckily for us in Los Angeles we have a few great traditional Japanese sweets shops. Probably the two most beloved in L.A. today are Chikara Mochi (their name is a pun on mochi and being powerful!) in Gardena and Fugetsudo in Little Tokyo. Fugetsudo is the oldest business in Little Tokyo - since 1903 - (it might be the oldest Japanese-American business in the US!) and is now run by its third generation, Brian Kito. We will definitely be getting Fugetsudo wagashi from time to time- but if you ever find yourself in Little Tokyo on your own, be sure to drop in and try some!

~ Prof. Michelle Liu Carriger

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