Top Picks... Tea Spots
The top places in the capital to get your Nippon tea on.
Tea may have originated in China but there’s no doubt that the Japanese perfected the preparation and ritual of the world’s favourite cockle-warming cuppa. And today, there’s no shortage of pretty places to enjoy the pour-fect brew, be they trad chanoyu or sleek cha counter. Here are our five favourites…
Book ahead to steep in this classic Meiji-era teahouse, nestled in the midst of a picture-perfect Japanese garden complete with waterfall, koi pond and bonsai. There are two tasting experiences to choose from: taking the Tencha will get you a verdant matcha with confections, or learn traditional tea ceremony etiquette with an Otemae lesson. Post-sips, skip around the immaculate grounds – they’re blossom-ravishing in spring, awash with azaleas in summer, aflame with red foliage in autumn and serenely snowy in winter.
Shoes off as you enter this woody, tatami-lined nook sided by a quaint courtyard garden. Nab a spot by the windows and order the Matcha Shiratama Zenzai – hot green tea, sweet bean paste and mochi balls, served with a side of salted kelp to cleanse your palate – don't cha know.
Slightly touristy, and with decidedly blah decor, it’s hard to beat a steaming pot as you overlook the singular splendour of the stunning Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens. Avoid lunchtime, which can get as squishy as the Marunouchi Line.
The contempo creation of leading Japanese designer Shinichiro Ogata, kaiseki resto Yakumo Saryo is an avant aesthete’s Edo dream with clean white walls, muted woods and vast plate glass overlooking lush manicured surrounds. Inside, the Sabo teahouse serves up blended brews in artisan-made ceramic cups, breakfast sets and seasonal sweets, which you can watch being made onsite.
A modern meditation taking the tea ceremony from stodgy to stylish. Steam through the front shop, stocked with glass jars of the finest leaves, to find a black wood bar where friendly master Shinya Sakurai will prepare a cup of roasted hōjicha before your eyes, or a tasting flight complete with wagashi and a healthy side of veg. Tea-riffic!Happo-en / 1-1-1 Shirokanedai / Minato-ku / +81 3 3443 3105 / 10am-10pm Mon-Fri, 8am-10pm Sat-Sun / happo-en.com
Kosoan / 1-24-23 Jiyugaoka / Meguro-ku / +81 3 3718 4203 / 11am-6.30pm Thu-Tue / kosoan.co.jp
Kantoku-tei / 1-6-6 Kora-ku / Bunkyo / +81 3 3815 2480
Yakumo Saryo / 3-4-7 Yakumo / Meguro-ku / +81 3 5731 1620 / 9am-5pm Mon-Sat / yakumosaryo.jp
Souen / 3-16-28 Nishi-Azabu / Minato-ku / +81 3 5786 0024 / 11am-7pm Tue-Sun / sakurai-tea.jp