02 August 2011

Japan in Germany 2: Green Tea Cycle Katzenzunge

I have just returned from our summer holidays to a backlog of e-mails and blog entries. The first stop in my July travels was the city of Bonn in North Rhine-Westphalia. My husband was there for business, and I tagged along to visit a cousin and do some sightseeing. As the weather was fine – a rarity in Germany this summer – I decided to walk to the Museum Mile rather than take the U-Bahn.

After passing such historical buildings as Villa Hammerschmidt and Palais Schaumburg, I followed Willy-Brandt-Allee to the U-Bahn station at Heussallee. As I waited at the lights to cross Heussallee, my eyes were drawn to a wagon drawn by a bicycle with a sign in Japanese advertising green tea. It was so completely unexpected; I thought that I was seeing things for a moment.

As I forgot my camera that day, I have taken a screencap from the website.

Another sign introduced the wagon as Green Tea Cycle Katzenzunge and the menu offered a wide assortment of green tea from full-flavoured varieties such as Tenko and Shincha to milder green teas such as Kukicha and Hojicha. The menu even offered such modern concoctions as Matchaccino: cappuccino made with matcha (green tea powder ) instead of coffee.

I was greeted by the friendly, smiling face of the proprietor Ryoji Ichikawa (follow him on Twitter where he updates daily on his whereabouts) and as he prepared my Genmaicha, I asked him about how he came to be on the Museum Mile in Bonn. I learned that his wife is German and after living together in Osaka for several years, they had moved to Bonn for her work two years ago. He noticed that proper Japanese tea was hard to come by in Bonn and decided to start up his small business selling green tea.

The name “Katzenzunge” (Cat Tongue) should not be confused with Katzenzungen, the traditional German chocolate confectionery by Feodora . Rather, it is the literal translation of the Japanese neko-jita (猫舌). The term “neko-jita” is used to describe someone who is very sensitive to hot (but not spicy) liquids or foods. In his explanation of why he called his business “Katzenzunge”, Ichikawa-san explains that the name conjures up for him the image of people blowing on their hot drinks in order to cool them down – an image that gives him a kind of cozy feeling.

I certainly felt very cosy as I parked myself on a bench by the Rhine and sipped my Genmaicha out of its stylish (for a disposable cup) white paper cup with black lid.. As I watched the ships pass up and down the river, I must admit that I felt a bit natsukashii. . . it occurred to me that the last time I had sat by myself and watched shipping vessels was in Yokohama back in 2006 when I went for a walk after seeing the Nihonga Painting: Six Provocative Artists exhibition at the Yokohama Museum of Art. Sigh. . .

If you live in the Bonn area or are planning to visit anytime soon, I highly recommend visiting Green Tea Cycle Katzenzunge and enjoying a traditionally brewed, organic green tea. Weather-permitting, Mondays to Fridays, Ichikawa-san can be founded on Heussallee. On Saturdays, Sundays, and state holidays, he can be found on the Bonn side of the Rhein – a wonderful place to go for a stroll or a bike ride.

One can also purchase about a dozen varieties of loose leaf Keiko Organic Green Tea from Kagoshima. Ichikawa-san also offers lessons in green tea preparation. Visit the Green Tea Cycle Katzenzunge website for more information. 

This blog post is part of a new series called Japan in Germany.  

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2011