Your cup of tea
Photos by Matt Wilce
Matt Wilce teas-off in search of pots of gold
An integral part of life for most Chinese - whose most popular colloquial greeting is
"Have you had tea yet?" - oolong and more recherchEleaves are undergoing a
major boom here in Japan. Premium bottled varieties are already stacked on conbini
shelves and teashops are bursting onto the cafEscene citywide. Unlike Japanese chado,
the Chinese tea ceremony places more emphasis on drink than ritual. The tastes, aroma and
qualities of individual leaves are compared in a less formal and more hospitable manner,
and the practice is more common in Taiwan and Hong Kong than the mainland. A valiant
patriotic effort to steal back some of the brewing glory has been made by a number of
enthusiasts promoting greener infusions - we sipped up and picked the choicest leaves from
the crop of new tea-shops.
Hua Tai Tea (Hua Tai Cha So)
With a history that dates back to 1842 in Taiwan, the Hua Tai Tea Company offers a great
introduction to Chinese tea in authentic surroundings. Their latest shop opened last
November in Shibuya, with four floors devoted to the world of cha - eclipsing their
five-year old store in Daimon. Loose-leaves and tea sets are available on the first floor,
the second features premium tea sets and a small tea-making area, while the main teahouse
inhabits the third. On the fourth are a small private room (JY1000 for 30min) and a larger
party space (JY2500 for 30min). Classes are also available in Japanese and Mandarin--see www.chinatea.co.jp for details.
1-18-6 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku. (Tel: 03-5728-2551) Open 10:30am-8pm (closed Tue).
Nearest stn: Shibuya. Email: email@example.com
102 Urbanist, 2-3-6 Daimon, Minato-ku. (Tel: 03-5472-7762) Open 10am-7:30pm (closed Sun).
Nearest stn: Daimon/Hamamatsucho
|A taste of Taiwan at Hua Tai Tea
This antique-packed teahouse opened at the end of last year inside Tokyu Toyoko department
store in Shibuya and aims to provide a range of authentic teas, dim sum and desserts that
will appeal to Japanese tastes. The food menu was revamped this May to include dim sum,
ramen and chimaki (steamed mochi rice wrapped in bamboo leaf) as well as
three kinds of Chinese sweets. The period furniture and Sino-accent pieces belie the
location, offering shoppers a respite from the commercial hustle and bustle.
Tokyu Toyoko Department Store, 2-24-1 Shibuya. (Tel: 03-3477-4811) Open 10am-8pm.
Nearest stn: Shibuya
This small teashop - there are only 12 seats in the modern Chinese interior - opened last
December as part of the "Odaiba Little Hong Kong" area of Decks. Specializing in
authentic teas from continental China and Taiwan, Goku adds a smart slant to an age-old
tradition. The interior is replete with Chinese books and shogi (chess) sets,
which are also on sale in addition to their range of teas.
Decks Tokyo Beach 6F, 16-1 Odaiba, Minato-ku. (Tel: 03-3599-6785) Open 11am-10pm
daily. Nearest stn: Daiba
The 12-year-old Pu-erh tea from Taiwan - usually grown in Yunan province on the mainland
and the only type of tea that is intentionally aged - and the blended and smoked Kuei Hua
Oolong tea come recommended. Ginpin also offer tea - making classes-in Japanese, but gaijin
are welcome - with two kinds of cha, dessert and a five percent discount on other items
(reservations necessary at least two days in advance, minimum three people, JY2500 per
1F Muraii Kashiwagi, 7-20-12 Nishishinjuku (Tel:03-5389-7739) Open 11:30am-10pm
(closed Sun). Nearest stn: Shinjuku
This light and airy modern cafEat the top of Bell Commons has a French chef cooking up
delicious Chinese/French accompaniments to the 80 varieties of tea in stock. In addition
to Chinese leaves, a range of herb teas is also available, and the shelves are stacked
with unique tea sets and related paraphernalia. Since they opened last fall, the cafEhas
become a popular lunch spot - set meals are around JY1500 and come with free refills of
the daily Chinese brew.
5F Belle Commons, 2-14-6 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku. (Tel: 03-3475-8055) Open
11:30am-10:30pm. Nearest stn: Gainenmae
The tea is always greener
|The private rooms at Hua Tai Tea
are perfect for the quiet cuppa
Everything but the chazuke (tea poured over rice sprinkled with flavorings) can be takeout
at this fast food-ish take on tea that opened last December. A pot of o-cha - there are 15
varieties to sip - comes in at JY200, and sets that include o-nigiri (rice balls)
or traditional bean paste sweets start at JY500. For busy OLs - who are hooked on the
health benefits of the low calorie tipple - and urbanites on the move, this 21st century
twist to the green stuff hits the spot.
2-14 Yotsuya, Shinjuku-ku. (Tel: 03-5368-0785) Open 7am-11pm. Nearest stn:
Featuring hand-picked Japanese tea leaves carefully selected from Kyushu and Shizuoka,
this sleek shop offers a variety of green teas such as gyokuro (premium shade
grown), sencha (steamed and rolled leaves), mizudashi (cold-water
infused) and macha (powdered green tea) from JY380-JY800. The menu is topped by
their trademark best-selling o-nigiri made with high-grade pickled tea.
Urbas Hiroo 101, 5-17-11 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku. (Tel: 03-5789-3290) Open daily
11am-11pm, closed every 3rd Wed. Nearest stn: Hiroo