Modern Japanese tea masters are upending centuries tradition with new twists on the drink, an attempt to persuade a new generation that tea doesn’t have to be stuffy, fussy and expensive. They’re bringing in innovations as daring as adding flavoring and alcohol.
Tokyo Saryo is a minimal teahouse located in Sangenjaya, Japan, created by Green Brewing . Considered the world’s first hand-dripped green tea cafe, the space features a simple rectangular layout with a U-shaped counter space.
The drip method creates a unique balance between water temperature and extraction to brew the perfect cup of tea. The space reflects this ideology of hand-dripped tea by focusing on only the essentials: cement floors with a concrete base and wooden surfaces.
Minimalism is also a hot trend for hospitality interior design. According to Forbes magazine , minimalist tea shop Tokyo Saryo “should be on every designer’s bucket list. ”
Described as a minimally-designed tranquil space, part of Tokyo Saryo’s fame and success has come from the simplicity of the interior, and the way that it increases feelings of happiness and health.
We didn’t have time to experience a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto, so we opted for the next best thing: the modern tea tasting at Tokyo Saryo .
The first hand-drip green tea shop in Tokyo, this minimalist tea house offers a posh tasting with leaves brewed before your very eyes. If coffee’s not your thing, this is a fantastic alternative especially for those seeking a more refined experience.
The cafe’s location is fitting, as the name Sangenjaya, literally “three tea houses,” is derived from the fact three popular tea houses stood there hundreds of years ago.
The cafe staff makes tea using a method resembling the brewing of hand-drip coffee — pouring hot water by hand onto tea leaves instead of brewing them in a pot.
It offers different menus each month, presenting a selection from among 25 brands of tea. Customers are served the first cup of tea brewed at 70 C to taste its richness, and the second cup brewed at 80 C for a bitter and astringent taste, according to the staff.
For people who are not familiar with different brands of green tea, the cafe has explanations about the feature of each brand on its menus.
A set for 1,300 yen comes with two different brands of tea and sweets, and a set for 800 yen comes with one brand of tea and sweets.
With plaster walls and only nine seats surrounding the service counter, customers can concentrate on just tasting tea, one of the staff said. “We are happy to answer any questions about tea, such as the production areas of brands and features in taste, so you can enjoy the depth of the (world of) tea.”
A pioneering cafe specializing in Japanese tea is Iemon Salon Kyoto, which was opened about 10 years ago by the beverage industry giant Suntory group to propose unconventional ways of enjoying green tea.
It offers meals and sweets together with tea and some cocktails of tea mixed with alcohol.
On the menu are different kinds of green tea, such as “sencha” and “hojicha” for 518 yen per serving and “maccha” for 766 yen and “gyokuro” for 928 yen per serving.
Meals are for morning and lunch, as well as monthly specials for dinner. Maccha-based beer and sencha-based cocktails are also served.
Its interior is arranged to recreate the atmosphere of traditional “machiya” townhouses in Kyoto.
“We hope to deliver the culture and spirit of Japan to the world through tea,” a manager of the cafe said.
Must-Try Specialty Japanese Tea Shops in Tokyo
Ippodo Chaho Tokyo Marunouchi Branch
Ippodo is a tea shop from Kyoto, and this is their branch in Tokyo Marunouchi. You can choose and buy tea as you taste them, and you can also take-out freshly-made tea. There is also a tea room where you can enjoy tea from scratch. They also have events where they teach how to make tea properly (explanations in simple English available).
Saryo Tsujiri Daimaru Tokyo Branch
This is a shop managed by Gion Tsujiri, a veteran shop in Kyoto that first opened in 1860. This branch was started from the desire of teaching young people the proper way to make and drink tea and to have them experience the true deliciousness of tea.
This branch is on the 10th floor of Daimaru Tokyo, directly connected to Tokyo Station, so you can enjoy the view of Ginza from the window. You can enjoy the various flavors of Uji tea not just as a drink but also in various sweets. There’s also a souvenir shop that sells sweets and tea.
Uogashi Meicha Tsukiji Branch
This is a Japanese tea specialty shop that opened in 1931. Their easy-to-make and easy-to-drink sencha is their most famous product, and they have a variety of Japanese tea that you can drink daily. Their other branch in Tsukiji, Cha no Mi Kurabu, sells tea, has a tea room, and holds events where you can enjoy tea.
Jugetsudo Ginza Kabukiza Branch
This is a Japanese tea specialty shop with two branches in Tokyo and 1 in Paris. This is an elegant branch where you can enjoy tea surrounded by 3,000 bamboo trees with a view of the rooftop garden of Kabukiza, a kabuki theater in Ginza. They have not just tea but also light meals like soba and sweets for you to enjoy. You can buy tea as souvenirs in the attached sales corner. wow-j.com