The Miyawaki family Tea Shop
PUBLISHED: 15:48 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:20 20 February 2013
Japanese visitors love traditional Cotswold tea shops: scones dripping with jam and cream, served in the surroundings of a clematis-clad honey-coloured building. But not many of them decide to stay and open their own... Meet the award-winning Miy...
The Japanese family serving a traditional tea are observing all the ceremonial rituals. Firstly, the container in which the tea is presented has to be beautiful and worthy; secondly, great respect should be shown to those partaking of the tea; thirdly, there are certain courteous phrases that must always be used; and finally everyone should realise that the drinking of tea is as much about the mind as the body.
But this isn't a traditional Japanese tea ceremony: it's beautifully baked scones, jam and cream on porcelain plates that are being served to guests by the courteous Miyawaki family.
Iwao and Junko Miyawaki and their daughter Juri - a Cordon Bleu-trained cook - opened Juri's, the Old Bakery Tea Shoppe, in Winchcombe five years ago. And not only have they taken on the English at their own game - they've beaten them! For they've just been named the 2008 top tea shop in Britain by The Tea Guild, the organisation that represents and encourages outlets dedicated to brewing and serving tea to the high standards desired by the United Kingdom Tea Council.
"English people are very generous," Mr Miyawaki says. "I don't know how many tea rooms are in the whole nation but you people selected as 'number one' one which has Japanese owners. I do not believe that would happen in the same way in Japan, if English people were to come over and open a sushi shop in Tokyo."
Which is typical Miyawaki modesty. For they work extremely hard to maintain the high standards that satisfied the stringent judges who marked them on 15 different categories, from variety of teas to cleanliness. Juri will often get up at 4am to make her special recipe scones (always served warm), delicious cakes and lunches.
"It's very interesting for us," she says. "I have learned a lot from running a tea shop like this. In Japan, tea is a very important ritual: more of a mental and spiritual experience. Whereas in England, it's a social event: a way of getting together and celebrating, or simply enjoying life."
For the Japanese, the tea ceremony has always had religious connotations. Samurai warriors laid its foundations in the 13th century, and closely linked it to their Zen Buddhist beliefs. In the 16th century, Japanese tea master Sen Rikyu perfected it, specifying everything from the architecture of the tea house to the utensils that should be used, and raising it to new spiritual heights.
"During the Samurai era, people were fighting, killing each other; yet they were seeking a peaceful status; they wanted discipline and art. The tea ceremony was a tool for helping to establish this. That is why there were so many complicated rules, which are still much the same today," Mr Miyawaki says.
"You must first stay in the waiting rooms of the special tea house; then you must bow to the tea host - it all involves great respect. And, of course, you must appreciate the earthenware container that holds the tea: it will be very old and intricately decorated."
All of which is not so different from the care and concern with which the Miyawakis greet their guests. The irony is, however, that the restrictions of Japanese society are exactly the reasons Mr Miyawaki ended up in the Cotswolds.
"In Japan, you have to follow rules not only in tea ceremonies but in everyday life, too. It's completely different from England, where you have such a free feeling," he says. "You have a right to speak out, whatever you want to say. In Japan, it's a closed society; a man's world; they have all the power.
"Yet men work hard and long hours: it's a work culture. In other words, you neglect the family, the home, the family life. I was really the exception because I studied in the US and I was westernised: I hated that sort of society where you could not be yourself."
He has spent most of his working life in London, Europe and the United States, taking his wife and daughter with him. It's not only been a freer existence for him; he feels it's given Juri many more opportunities than the restricted life she might have led back in Japan.
Indeed, Juri went on to graduate in Politics and Medieval History at St Andrews University. But it was a visit back to her parents - then living in Manhattan - that changed the course of her life. "My mother showed me a very interesting programme about Martha Stewart, (the American 'Delia'), and I was inspired by her. My mother has always loved European cooking, too, but I'd never thought of it as anything other than a hobby before."
As a result, Juri took a Cordon Bleu course in London and underwent a tough apprenticeship at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons where - alongside a lot of potato peeling - she thoroughly learned her art.
The family had always dreamed of settling in the Cotswolds and, in 2003, they bought the typically-English honey-stoned building in Winchcombe High Street now known as Juri's. "My wife likes Jane Austen very much and you can find the Jane Austen world in the Cotswolds, which is why she was always longing to live here. In New York, she would say, 'I want to go back to the Cotswolds, blue skies and beautiful nature!'".
The Miyawakis welcome visitors from all over the world including Japan, especially since the local newspaper in Mr Miyawaki's home region of Hokkaido, in Northern Japan, ran an article on them. He has also trained as a Blue Badge Guide - the only Japanese person to do so in the Cotswolds - to show them round. But Mr Miyawaki intends to do more than simply point out the (albeit very lovely) sights of interest.
"The Cotswolds are important for Japanese people," he says, "because the Cotswolds have the right values - heritage and nature. And now I want to show the Japanese tourists how to learn from the English and enjoy their lives.
"In the past, when the economy was booming, Japanese people gave their lives to their companies; now the boom is over, they don't know how to live. They sacrificed their private lives and now they don't know how to get them back again.
"I am very glad I live in England," he says, "because that could have been me."
Juri's - The Olde Bakery Tea Shoppe is in the High Street, Winchcombe GL54 5LJ; 01242 602469. It's open Wed-Sun and BH Monday from 10am-5pm. For more information, visit www.juris-tearoom.co.uk