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Omotenashi and Matcha

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Photo credit: @cityfoodsters

First-time visitors to Japan are almost always struck by what many might consider to be insanely great levels of customer service. Shopkeepers, taxi drivers, retail establishments, railway personnel, hotels, etc. will invariably treat customers with deep, almost elaborate respect and politeness.  

You will be flattered, your purchases will be wrapped beautifully and impeccably, many bows will ensue, you exit mildly exhilarated, and you walk away with a strong feeling of wanting to come back. If you ask them how and why they do such a good job of making you feel welcomed and attended to, most will answer something like, "because it's how I want to be treated, too." They go ridiculously above and beyond to anticipate and over-deliver on a guest's needs.  

That whole feeling of interaction is called omotenashi. The word seems destined for eventual inclusion into contemporary English, following the path of other Japanese concepts like wabisabi, and, most recently, shinrinyoku ("forest bathing" -- getting cleansed and energized via immersions in nature/forests). 

"Treating people the way you want to be treated" (masochists excepted!) would be a decent translation of omotenashi. The key concept in omotenashi, however is its true goal and most effective attribute: it reliably builds long-term trust and loyalty.  

Kyle Connaughton, founding chef of the remarkably omotenashi-forward Single Thread Farm in Healdsburg, has described the concept of omotenashi as the overriding driving force of his entire business. The service there is impeccable, your needs are anticipated and exquisitely met. You owe it to yourselves to experience this level of service (and food) at least once in your lives.* 

It is possible to deliver amazing service without being servile, which is something Japanese service culture is sometimes accused of by nonJapanese visitors.  

So, in a sense, what we're really talking about here is the culture of providing palpable customer delight via service, which leads to long-term trust. Omotenashi is the offer of human service that's much better than the customer could provide for herself. 

So what does this have to do with matcha? Well, for one, matcha is a delightful interlude for human connection -- it's the ideal excuse to sit down with someone and make real connection with them, over a beverage that brings out the best in people. Human connection via optimal nutrition for brains and bodies. It's lovely to not only meet the needs of a guest you're connecting with, but to exceed them.

This is a kind of omotenashi.  

We take the spirit of ometenashi seriously around here at Breakaway HQ; we are constantly trying to provide our tribe with tools and ideas that they might not have thought of themselves. We try to make it easy to learn about matcha, to make the ordering and delivery of matcha as frictionless as possible, to design and develop teaware that's delightful to use, and --most importantly -- to treat people as individuals.

In other words, omotenashi -- treating people in ways you yourself would like to be treated. It's kind of simple, and it's really effective.  


*Single Thread also has the broadest and most interesting matcha usage imaginable, with coldbrew variations, selections of several incredible hyperpremiums, and mind-bending culinary creations. Available during meals and as room service. Rooms also come with single-serve matcha packets for coldbrew on the go!

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