“Ruellia Tea Garden” is a B5-sized, 20 page full-color doujinshi by 斉藤アキ (Saitoh Aki) of the doujinshi circle “phanky berry beats“. A popular theme among Japanese artists is to create 擬人化 ( gijinka ) or anthropomorphized incarnations of popular objects, creatures or themes. Oftentimes, these anthropomorphizations are in the form of 萌え ( moe ) girls. This particular doujinshi does just that with tea, and presents each girl alongside facts about that particular type of tea.
I’m not certain which tea the cover girl represents, but I am going to go with Rose.
The index page is very appropriately labeled as the “menu.”
The first tea presented is Darjeeling. In addition to the illustration of the tea personified, there are facts about the tea itself (such as color and flavor) followed by which months of the year the 1st, 2nd and Autumnal flushes of Darjeeling take place.
The next tea is the Chinese black tea, Keemun (or “Qimen”, after the county where it is produced, inside of China’s Anhui province.) At one point, Keemun became the most prominent ingredient in English Breakfast Tea. (Nowadays, it’s mostly found in the more expensive varieties.) Keemun often has a smokey flavor and can be enjoyed both straight or with milk.
Next up is Captain Picard’s favorite tea, Earl Grey. In addition to facts about Earl Grey, there is a mention of the Twinings creation “Lady Grey”, which is essentially Earl Grey with oils of orange and lemon peels added. It also contains slightly less oil of bergamot than it’s “manlier” counterpart.
The following two pages contain guest illustrations by しらたま(Shiratama) and ミツカチル (Mitsukachiru), respectively. The illustration on the left represents Rose Darjeeling and the right, Highlands Strawberry.
While I don’t particularly think of Caramel as a type of tea so much as a flavor, it is presented here nonetheless. It seems to focus on French Caramel in particular, which I personally have never tried! This tea is excellent to have with milk.
Just as popular and well known as Earl Grey is English Breakfast Tea, which consists of several different black teas and is usually taken with milk and sugar. Japanese refer to tea taken with milk and sugar as “Milk Tea”, which you can even find in canned hot and cold varieties in Japanese vending machines. (I generally find these to include far too much sugar for my liking, but to each their own!) Of course, “Milk Tea” simply refers to tea taken with milk in it. The English Breakfast Tea page also discusses the “teas” taken at various times of the day in the United Kingdom; Afternoon Tea, High Tea, Night Tea, etc. These aren’t actually teas but small meals that are eaten at various times of the day. (Naturally, you drink tea with these meals!) Unlike Breakfast Tea, “Afternoon Tea” et al are not actually referring to beverages.
The final tea featured is orange pekoe, which in the United States, refers to generic black tea. Orange Pekoe does not actually contain any orange flavoring despite what the name might suggest, and it is not a special variety of tea, for that matter. When you purchase Lipton, for example, you are buying orange pekoe. In the tea industry, “Orange Pekoe” or “OP” itself refers to medium-grade black tea consisting of many whole tea leaves of a specific size. Some different types of Orange Pekoe are shown in the page’s bottom illustration, with different leaf sizes referring to different OP grades. Loose tea leaves produce the best cup of orange pekoe, as the leaves used in tea bags contain smaller, broken tea leaves (stems and fannings) that are of a considerably lower grade than whole leaves.
The credits include links to the guests artists’ websites as well as information about the circle and the release itself. Not much more to say than that.
I picked up my copy of Ruellia Tea Garden last year through Alice-Books, because I love tea and the idea of tea gijinka was irresistible. Admittedly, while I love tea, I consider myself far from being any sort of connoisseur and I’m actually a rather large drinker of coffee. That being said, I’m generally on the lookout for coffee related doujinshi as well, but they are harder to find than one might expect! (At least in comparison to tea, which is of course the more popular beverage in Japan.)
Speaking of which, I’ll be reviewing another, larger doujinshi about tea in the future, so please stay tuned for that!