Wagashi: Traditional Confectionery for the Tea Ceremony

wagashiWagashi (和菓子) is a traditional Japanese sweet made of bean paste, rice and fruits.

It’s often served with a bowl of matcha in the Japanese tea ceremony.

There are two types of wagashi served in a tea ceremony depending on the type of matcha:

  • Wagashi served with usucha (薄茶, thin matcha) is called higashi (干菓子) , a dry sweet often made of rice, flour or the finest quality of Japanese grained sugar: wasanbon (和三盆).
  • Wagashi served with koicha (濃茶, thick matcha) is called omogashi (主菓子) often made of bean paste, sesame, rice, sweet potato and sugar.

Is wagashi healthy?

Wagashi is a healthy sweet which contains plant protein, fiber, almost no animal fats, and no cholesterol. In this aspect, it is very different from Western sweets.

Red beans often used in wagashi contain antioxidants, high concentrations of catechin, anthocyanidin and more polyphenols than red wine.

wagashiWagashi in the Japanese tea ceremony

Wagashi comforts us not only by its nutritional value, but also its beautiful design that changes throughout the year. In a tea ceremony, the small wagashi lets us appreciate the seasonal changes.

As you can imagine, the sweetness of wagashi and the bitter, deep taste of matcha is a heavenly combination. Some of us pair coffee and muffin, but it’s not quite the same.

In the Japanese tea ceremony, guests eat wagashi with a signal from the host (teishu, 亭主) before a bowl of matcha is served. This timing has the purpose of first appreciating the taste and design of wagashi. Later, the focus turns to the taste of matcha while the sweetness of wagashi is still in the mouth.

Wagashi combined with matcha plays an important role in the Japanese tea ceremony as well as in Japanese tea culture.

Have you tried wagashi yet?

About the author:

Reina Sakao is a Japanese living abroad. She loves green tea, the Japanese tea ceremony and Japanese culture.

With the aim of sharing that culture with the world, she runs Sakao Enterprise Group. Among the services offered, there is an online tea shop.

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4 Responses to Wagashi: Traditional Confectionery for the Tea Ceremony

  1. Elle says:

    Hi Reina,

    I haven’t tried wagashi yet, and to be honest I have never heard of it!

    It does look really interesting. I have had red bean paste and enjoy it, so I think I might like the taste of wagashi as well.

    It looks like something that is only consumed at tea ceremonies, so I think it might be hard for me to find out of Japan.

    What is that leaf that is wrapped around the wagashi in the first picture? Is it edible?

    • Reina says:

      Hello Elle,
      Thank you very much for your comment.
      Wagashi is often served in tea ceremony but of course you can also have it as a regular dessert.
      Basically most of wagashi is made with red bean paste or the paste is inside (like the wagashi in the first picture) and I am sure you will like it if you like red bean paste.

      The Wagashi in the first picture is called Sakura (cherry blossom)-mochi which is served in spring, the season of sakura, with a leaf of cherry blossom around it and yes the leaf is edible.

      It may be hard to find one if you are out of Japan. But I see you live in Vancouver? There may be some Asian/Japanese stores where they make Wagashi? If you have a chance to visit Montreal, there is a restaurant where they serve homemade fresh strawberry Daifuku.

      If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me!

    • Reina says:

      I may do How To Make Wagashi easily session on YouTube. Actually there are quite a lot of people who would like to make some or try some.

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