I was feeling nostalgic after my NYC Favourite Tea Places list, so I decided to continue the series! Last year I visited Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Over the next few months, I will outline some of my favorite places! This time will be Japan!
Between February and May 2018, I was in Japan for 3 months. Most of my time was at Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms as an Intern. It goes without saying that Obubu Tea is my favourite tea place in Japan. While I was there, I was able to learn about tea farming, production, culture, and so forth. I even had the opportunity to help run tea tours, pick and harvest tea! However, what really made it a great place was all the people I was able to meet such as the staff, fellow interns, and all the people who visited the farm while I was there. If I ever had a chance, I would visit or be an intern again in a heartbeat.
That being said, I have already gone in great length about Obubu, so I wanted to share other tea places in Japan since I had the chance to travel to different cities while I was there! I didn’t want to pick a favourite, so like in my NYC list, this will be based on the order I visited them.
One thing that is different about Obubu Tea is that it is a new generation of farmers, meaning tea fields were not passed down within the family. Therefore, to farm, Obubu rents tea fields from other farmers in the area that are unable or do not want to continue for various reasons. One of the tea fields is on Matcha Pechu! I have taken dozen of pictures and none of them will ever do it justice. To get to this hill, it is a long narrow and twisted path up the hill but worth it! I miss it dearly!
Address: Wakuza, Soraku District, Kyoto, Japan
In contrast to the more traditional tea shops I visited, Tokyo Saryo is rather new in comparison. I found out about this through a friend who suggested it because it is known for being the “world’s first hand-drip green tea shop.” A short train ride from Shibuya Crossing (the largest crosswalk in the world!), this shop had a very modern vibe that reminded me more of a coffee shop.
The menu has an option for two senchas and a tea cake. However, I saw a tea from Wakzua, and I couldn’t help but add it as well to the roster. I had Ujihikari (Kyoto, Ujitawara, Okututaka (Shizuoka, Kawane), and Z1 (Kyoto,Wazuka). The teas were given 3 infusions with the last one, a bit of genmai (roasted rice) was added to give it a nutty flavour! I found overall, the hand-dripped tea had more of a subtle flavour and the astringency wasn’t as strong.
I also ended up buying some tea and two modern teapots that were made of heavy clear plastic. I really liked the vibe of this shop and I would love to go back and try more hand-dripped tea! Lastly, when I was looking on the website, and it looks like there is food as well!
Company: Tokyo Saryo
Address: 1-34-15 Kamiuma, Setagaya, Tokyo, 154-0011
Ippodo Tea Co.
While in Japan, I visited the main branch of Ippodo Tea in Kyoto twice. The shop has been around for nearly three centuries and is in the centre of Kyoto. I have always heard great things about it, so I was happy I was able to visit the Kyoto branch.
During my first visit, I only had time to browse the shop area since it was rather busy in the shop. However, the second time around was much quieter and I had a chance to sit down in the tearoom area.
I at the bar and I had a bowl of matcha with a wagashi (a traditional Japanese sweet that is served with tea) and a small pot of hojicha. I found the experience very relaxing because it was very quiet and the staff was very sweet. I also ended up bringing some tea home and really enjoyed it, so win-win! I would suggest anyone who wants to visit a more traditional shop that has a long history of tea in Japan, Ippodo is a good one! It also has another tea shop Tokyo and in the United States!
Company: Ippodo Tea Co.
Address: 52番地 Tokiwagicho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-0915, Japan
Nakamura Tōkichi Uji Honten (Main Store)
I found out about this shop when I was in Kyoto and there was a tea event at the hotel I was at. I asked for recommendations in Uji and this was one of them. This is another long-standing company dating back to 1819! There are two stores in Uji but I picked the main store. The store has a restaurant and tea shop inside. The food looked amazing, so my friends and I decided to eat there.
I ended up picking a rice dish with fish. It also came with an assorted of ingredients such as matcha brown rice, tencha (what is used to make matcha) and Kyoto style pickles to place on top of the rice! It was delightful. It also included a dessert of matcha jelly and mochi.
However, I have a sweet tooth, so I also ordered their Maruto Parfait [Matcha] to share. Pictures don’t do it justice. Parfaits are common in Japan. This one had 11 ingredients and included tea jelly, match ice cream, lemon jam, berries, and so forth! Both items came with an information card which was very useful! Looking back at my pictures, I wish I had the stomach to order more!
Company: Nakamura Tōkichi
Address: 10 Uji Ichiban, Uji City, Kyoto
Kimono Tea Ceremony Maikoya
I didn’t think I could do my trip justice to Japan if I didn’t include a tea ceremony. This one holds a special place in my heart because it is also the last tea place I visited before I left Japan. I came across this company through researching and hearing about it from others! I originally had intended to wear a kimono (which is an option they offer) but sadly, I mixed up the days. Thankfully, Maikoya still accommodated me.
Keep in mind that most of the tea ceremonies that are offered demonstrate only a portion of the whole tea ceremony which can last many hours. This one specifically was 45 minutes. During the ceremony, the staff “cleansed” the utensils and bowl, demonstrating whisking the matcha, then allows us to whisk our own matcha, and then drinking it along with a wagashi (a traditional Japanese dessert severed with tea).
I really liked how bright this the room was and the staff was all very friendly! I would suggest this one for someone who is visiting Osaka and wanted to see a tea ceremony. I also attended one in Kyoto and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were options in other popular tourist areas. Seeing the ceremony up in close I found very informative!
Company: Kimono Tea Ceremony Maikoya
Address: 1 Chome-22-7 Shinmachi, Nishi Ward, Osaka, 550-0013, Japan
Honourable Mention: D:Matcha, a small cafe and restaurant in Wazkua! The staff was lovely and there were amazing meals and desserts!
Writing and looking at the pictures I took made me miss Japan. I am so glad I was able to spend 3 months there and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am hoping to go back one day in the future! There were so many other tea places that I just couldn’t include. It ended up being one place from each major city I visited: Kyoto, Tokyo, and Osaka.
I also want to create a google map that pins all the places I have been to. I think it will be fun and useful to have. That being said, the next list will be Hong Kong!
The question of the post: Have you been to Japan before?
P.S: If you want to read about more Kyoto tea shops, I visited for a day and traveled around!