Alexandra Billingsley

Chicago IL, USA

Intern #117



Before Obubu

Ever since I was a child, it was always a goal of mine to visit Japan. Growing up watching anime and reading manga, my interest expanded over time to include Japanese history and language, and Japanese culture in general. As my high school education was coming to an end, I started planning for a gap year – a year of travel after high school and before starting college – where I could spend a long time living and working away from home. My dream destination for this was Japan. 


Why Obubu

As I was planning for this gap year, I started looking around for opportunities to intern in Japan and stumbled upon Obubu. I’ve had an interest in tea for many years now (an interest that at first arose from my dislike of coffee but has since developed into a passion for tea itself), and saw this internship as a valuable opportunity to expand my knowledge of tea from purely a theoretical standpoint to a practical one. I didn’t know very much about Japanese tea, but – in the fool-hardy way that I usually do – I plunged head-first into this exciting new topic!


During Obubu

I was at Obubu from the dead of winter in January to the warm sunshine in the beginning of May. As the seasons changed, so did my day-to-day work: from lots of tea packing, construction, and some tea tours, to a schedule that included more farming and insider work, although with no tea tours because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While I was out farming today, Akky-san asked me what skills I had gained at Obubu. I immediately replied with a simple skill that I was able to improve considerably: making a bowl of matcha. Before I came to Obubu, I made bowls of matcha using low-quality tea and a poor whisking technique, resulting in an inevitably bitter taste that I couldn’t stand. However, through the tea tours and by using high-quality matcha, I trained my skill and am now, at the end of my internship, proud to say that I can make a damn good bowl of matcha. 

Of course, Obubu helped me cultivate many new skills and gave me many fantastic experiences. From figuring out what level to harvest the tea leaves at during a kyobancha harvest, to being part of a demonstration in sorting tea, to the new lessons in our staff tea lounges each week, every day at Obubu was an invaluable opportunity to learn. I ended up staying on for an extra couple of weeks after my scheduled internship was supposed to end (because of COVID-19), and was so happy to be a part of the first flush harvest as well!


After Obubu

After Obubu, my plan is to go to college. Beyond that – as to what I will study or major in, what job I will have, or what direction my career and life will take –  I have no idea. However, I can say that tea will always be an important part of my life and that the friends I have made and the skills I have learned at Obubu will last a lifetime. Thank you so much Obubu!


You can find out more about my experience at Obubu in the video below: