Photo by Ko Sasaki
Fancy yourself a tea drinker? Genuine Japanese matcha is not something you should miss—and these five tea houses have the best of the best. Don't know what matcha is or where it comes from? Get the backstory here.
This well-known tea vendor has been selling matcha since 1790. It recently launched a kiosk in the Kyoto train station near the Hachijoguchi exit with an on-site stone mill that ensures the matcha is as fresh as it gets.
The famous Kyoto tea merchants opened their landmark teahouse in Uji, 10 miles outside the city. It serves their brand of tea as well as matcha-based sweets. Traditional tea ceremonies, including a leaf-grinding tutorial, are offered four times a day.
Kyoto has many matcha dessert cafés, but Kagizen, located in the historic Gion geisha district, is one of the most impressive. The treats are as fun to look at as they are to eat: chewy strips of bamboo-wrapped kanrotake, a red bean jelly, and tamashimizu, small, swirled cakes that come in such flavors as matcha and ginger.
Hamarikyu Gardens, a 60-acre former palace estate with massive pine trees, provides an idyllic setting in Tokyo for this historic teahouse. Settle on a tatami mat for traditional matcha and a pastel-colored wagashi (confection), served the same way since 1704.
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Matcha adds an airy zest to a cold pilsner— at least, according to this century-old Tokyo establishment, which last June began serving “matcha beer” in its seasonal beer garden.
Bonus: Accept a Tea Ceremony Invite
Participating in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony is an unforgettable experience—and one you shouldn't pass up if you get the chance. They are complicated, ritual-bound affairs, so come armed with these tips. (If in doubt, just mimic those around you.)
1. Wait outside the tearoom until the host signals you, then wash your hands and bow to enter.
2. When all guests are seated, the host wipes the teacups and tools with a silk cloth, then prepares thick matcha koicha. The host will then hand the cup to the first guest, who bows and takes it with both hands.
3. The first guest turns the cup, takes a sip or two, then wipes the rim of the cup before handing it to the next person. Each guest repeats the ritual. The whole ceremony takes place in slow motion—think of it as a meditation in tea form.
>>Next: Where to Sip Matcha in New York
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