Many people don’t know that it is a tradition in Japanese culture to enjoy a cup of tea after the sushi meal to help cleanse the palate and aid in digestion. This after meal tea is known as “agari,” which is still followed in Japanese restaurants around the world. The next time you eat at a sushi restaurant, ask for an agari at the end of the meal. The catch? It’s usually free of charge.
What Exactly Is Agari?
Agari is a green tea (Camellia sinensis) that is served hot in almost every Japanese sushi restaurant in the world, although it’s usually not on the menu. It is traditionally served automatically and free of charge at the end of meals in Japan. In fact, most Japanese owned restaurants around the world continue to do so. Drinking agari is said to have a number of health benefits and recent studies on the properties of green tea have firmly established this is true. Yes, you too should be drinking agari!
What Kind of Tea Is Agari?
Agari is usually made from Konacha, a powdered tea created from the dust, buds and small leaves left over from processing fine green teas like Sencha and Gyokuro. As such it is inexpensive and easy to find, which is why Japanese chefs can offer it free of charge. Strong in aroma and in flavor, Konacha has all the health benefits of other green teas so don’t forget to ask for one when you finish your meal!
What Other Types of Green Teas Are Available?
The act of consuming tea is an art form in Japan. And of course you can enjoy other teas instead of agari. Here are some of the most popular and best tasting Japanese teas that can also be enjoyed at the end of a meal. Keep in mind that higher quality teas may not be free of charge.
- Gyokuro: Meticulously prepared to extract its full complex flavor, Gyokuro is considered one of the finest of green teas. Gyokuro makes a great choice after a particularly elaborate meal but is usually consumed in small quantities.
- Sencha: Full-bodied and balanced, Sencha is a widely consumed good quality green tea made from whole tea leaves. This tea will help perk you up after a meal and stimulate the digestive process.
- Kukicha: Made from the sticks and twigs of the green tea plant instead of the leaves. Kukicha is a robust tea that comes in many different varieties and levels of quality. It is known for its excellent ability to cleanse the palate.
- Genmaicha: Nutty and toasty tasting. It is green tea mixed with roasted rice to give it a unique flavor and extra body. Genmaicha is a great tea to consume after sushi or other lighter meals as it helps you to feel more satisfied.
- Matcha: Matcha is the cream of the crop of green teas. A rich drink made from whisking premium-quality, powdered green tea into hot water. It makes a decadent tea after the meal, especially with your desserts.
When Should I Ask For Agari?
Far from seeming like a cheapskate, asking for agari the next time you dine Japanese will show you know something about Japanese culture. Agari also puts a great finishing touch on Japanese meals and provides several important health benefits. So don’t be shy, ask for Agari.