Ochugen Is Soon Upon Us

Posted on June 11, 2012 by LISA KUNIZAKI | 0 Comments

We love bridging tradition and the present – and we’re playing with “tradition” and “present” in several ways. Japanese tradition, our executive director’s past, a coming holiday, and the gift of presents.
Give us a minute (More giving!) and we’ll wrap this up for you, as prettily as a piece of hand-decorated sugar.
Let’s start with the deep past and move forward.
Chambre de Sucre’s a young company, but we’re honored to be importing history. The firm that produces our sugar has been in business for more than 260 years. It’s older than the United States.
Our beautiful hand-decorated sugars have been around almost as long; the company started making them in the early1800s. Imagine hand-adorning tiny pieces of sugar in the kind of lighting that existed then! It must have been a challenge. The artisans met it beautifully,and the sugars became respected gifts. Even emperors have enjoyed them.

When Chambre de Sucre’s executive director, Lisa Kunizaki, was a girl, her parents sent her to spend summers with her grandparents in Japan.
Her grandfather taught her about Japanese etiquette. The lessons didn’t stop at theory. Lisa’s grandmother took her shopping – not for toys or dolls, but for small elegant presents to bring to other people in the village.
Grandmother and granddaughter did the rounds. Lisa paid her respects to her elders in the community.
(Taking tea with neighbors)
In Japan, as in many other cultures, a good visitor comes bearing gifts.
Lisa and her grandmother brought sugar. Traditionally made, hand-decorated, and beautiful, it was accepted with grace and appreciation in house after house.
Now, we come from presents past to present gifts. Rooted in Taoism and Buddhism, Ochugen is the day of mid-year giving. The date is July 15th, but people give Chugen or Ochugen gifts from July1st through the 15th, so don’t feel plastered to a day.
Gift-giving honors relationships,the harmony that colleagues, friends, and family members bring into our lives.Ochugen gifts are offered to relatives, friends, employers, supervisors, and physicians– people to whom we are indebted for the quality of our lives, or for our lives themselves.
(Visiting the temples)
At Chambre de Sucre, we carry on Lisa’s tradition of giving sugar as a mid-year thank you present to people who have made us happier and healthier, who have taught us, introduced us to good people, brought us business or helped us out in other ways. There’s quite a list.
When we give sugar, we honor not only the recipients of the presents. We also honor Lisa’s grandparents, the 18C founders of a Japanese sugar company, and the countless men and women who gave their time and talent to turn sugar into art.
Ochugen gifts don’t have to be pricey. It’s just like any other occasion. There’s an art to knowing what to spend on whom.
This year, we’re giving our city people the two-toned Sucre Pierre gift box. The contrast of dark and light, and the unfussy packaging will please designers and business people. We know plenty of people who see importance in every detail. For them, we’re wrapping Le Grand Sucre Assortis. That has something for every table, cup, or party. The angels who make our morning coffee and afternoon tea are getting Angel Wings. We’re giving many people tubes of green Mini-Hearts, with heartfelt thanks and wishes for a wonderful summer. Hard-working colleagues who miss the beach are getting Rainbow Sugar. We can't send them on a seaside holiday, but we can fill their bowls with something sweet and fine.
In the spirit of ochugen, we thank you for supporting Chambre de Sucre and keeping us company. May you enjoy thebest of every season of the year and your life.
Our friends call us jetsetters. It’s funny. Yes, we fly frequently (although not as much as we’d like), but if you want to find us, don’t look in upper class or business. We’re in economy with the rest of the herd.
It’s hardly luxury.
When we find something that brings upper class elegance to economy, we are astonished and delighted. At last year’s WorldTea Expo, Lisa met Tai Tokugawa, Director of Operations at Chado-En Tea Docents. It’s no surprise that they became friends; they have tea and sensibilities in common.
The Stay Beautiful Spa Kit is an at-home indulgence and in-flight salvation. There’s delicious green tea and a face mist you can use as a mask. Lisa uses it in-flight. “I feel like I'm in a spa, except I'm sitting in economy in a miniscule amount of space.”
We’ve picked her up at the airport, and we can tell you this. Even after a long-haul flight, Lisa’s skin glows.
You know we like to eat tea. One of our favorite ways is green tea crèpe cake. We love Megu’s. If you’re not in New York, the cake’s not hard to make. Zen Can Cook has an excellent recipe. Don’t get upset if some of your crèpes tear. Just put them in the middle of the cake. Between the cutting and the pastry cream, we promise that nobody will know. If you’re feeling spirited, serve it with Kelly Carámbula’s fizzy rhubarb and ginger cocktail.
Ah, the pleasure of being a Summer Child. Around here, that means enjoying Lisa’s latest tea. Summer Child is a peach tea. Based in Sri Lankan black tea, it has peach peaches and sunflower petals. It might be the brightest cup of caffeine you pour.
We don’t mean to tease you about our teas. We’re working on the labels. They have to look as good in our hands as they do on the screen. Paper, ink, every detail is important.  We’re just as eager to offer our teas as you are to try them. Soon . . . We promise.

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