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Asian tea cafes in Tokyo


Coffee & Tea 5

Asian tea cafes in Tokyo

Rachel M. | Oct 28, 2001 06:01 AM

One of the more recent trends in Tokyo on the cafe front seems to be Chinese tea or Japanese tea cafes. Having enjoyed tea shops in Taiwan when traveling there, I picked up a copy recently of Hanako (a trendy young women's magazine that is embarrassing to buy) that featured the above type of cafe, plus places to buy tea sweets and accessories.

It being a blah rainy Sunday, I thought I'd go check out a few of the options today. First stop was Yugetsu, in the Tokyu dept. store in Shibuya. Tucked away on the 6th floor behind the large ladies' and wigs section, it's a replica of a Hong Kong tea shop. The staff is all from Hong Kong, it seems--the manager and I chatted in a really bizarre combination of English and Japanese (menu is all Japanese, though, so if you don't read it his limited English is still a great help). I had the dim sum lunch set and let the manager choose my tea, which ended up being a type of oolong tea, but without the usual metallic/tannic taste that I don't like in oolong. There's an electric kettle on the table, so you get to keep pouring yourself lots of tiny cups of tea, which is kind of fun. The set included four savory dumplings, basically shrimp and vegetable variations, and two sweet dumplings that were filled with a red bean, coconut and nut combination. For 1500 yen, it wasn't much food, but the tea was very nice and the atmosphere soothing. They also have tea and sweets sets, and there seems to be a larger food set, as well.

I then headed over to Hiroo to hit the National Azabu supermarket (an American-oriented supermarket that I get the urge to go to every three months or so). After finishing my shopping, I decided to try So-an, a Japanese tea cafe back on the main shopping street. This was a more trendy place, with an L-shaped wooden counter and a sofa area, white walls, lots of art books lying around, funky music. There were about 15 types of Japanese tea to choose from, including various types of sencha, hoji-cha, and matcha (names are written in English, but not descriptions). In the middle of the counter there's an urn of water for tea, heated over a fire, and the staff makes a show of pouring the water back and forth between containers to get it just the right temperature for your type of tea. Your cup comes with a few sweets, as well, although more on the cookie and nut side than what some might think of as typical tea sweets. They'll refill your water pitcher twice so you can continue to make yourself tea.

Cups of tea range from 350 yen to around 800 yen, and there's a limited food menu. They also sell loose tea and tea pots/cups, etc. The 30g packets of tea come packaged in a CD box, which is kind of cool--I think a few friends of mine will get those as part of their Christmas presents. I don't get to Hiroo much, but I'll stop by here again.

Tokyu Toyoko Dept. Store, Shibuya (the one above the station) 6th floor, south wing
Tel. 3477-4811

Hiroo 5-7-11
Tel. 5789-3290
Follow the shopping street past Homeworks and around the corner when it turns. So-an is on the left hand side.

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