Uji tea is one of the most famous green tea brands in Kyoto. It is also regarded as one of Japan's top three green tea brands along with Shizuoka tea and Sayama teaSince its production started in the Kamakura period, many tea shops in Uji have a history with over 100 years. While green tea increases popularity, for instance, green tea draws attention abroad and plastic bottle green tea is available now, the volume of green tea leaves poured from tea pots is decreasing.
Let's see the café where you can not only enjoy delicious Uji tea but also acquire knowledge of Uji tea such as carefully-selected different tea leaves and tea brewing steps.
Have the most enjoyable time while appreciate the value of Japanese green at the café "aotake" located in a traditional Japanese-style house with a history of 100 years.
"aotake" opened in August, 2018 and is located on a corner plot along the Shichijodori Street, which is a 10-minute-walk from Kyoto Station.
The owner Tanaka had run the café with the same name in Kizugawa until 2017. This café was so popular that it drew media attention. With the hope of appreciating tea value further and being more particular about tea, the owner moved the café to the central Kyoto. Although this new café is smaller and the number of seats is reduced compared to the former café, she said that the café is the perfect size to provide elaborate services and it is easier to use.
The café is located in a renovated old traditional Japanese-style house built in 1912. The old timbers and furniture of the house are nicely used in the café. As it is required to take the shoes off before entering the café, you can relax in the café as if you were invited to someone's house. The garden that you can see from the faintly dark room of the café looks impressive and picturesque.
The café offers three kinds of tea: Japanese, English, and Chinese and homemade sweets. The owner herself selects all tea leaves at the café. She only serves teas that she can confidently recommend. Her best recommended Japanese tea is "Tezumi Gyokuro (the finest hand-picked leaves)". Uji Gyokuro are famous for luxurious green tea. Among them, those produced by the tea farmer Yoneda are highly praised. They are so expensive that people often hesitate to buy them for home use.
On the first brewing, infuse tea leaves in warm water at 50℃ for about two minutes. This will enhance umami and sweetness of the tea. When you sip the tea, you will be overwhelmed by its rich flavor, like "Is this real tea?" Water temperature for infusing tea will increase at 60 ℃ and 70 ℃ on the second and the third brewing respectively to bring out of bitter flavor of the tea.
First, the owner Tanaka will brew tea for you and you will do it by yourself from the second. If you are not comfortable to do it by yourself, it is possible to ask her to brew it for you. Please enjoy your tea together with soft, creamy Tofu Shiratama (sweet dumplings made from tofu and rice flour).
The owner served Japanese tea when she hosted an event at the former café in Kizukawa. She started offering Japanese tea on the regular menu at the new café. She said, "Since the size of the café becomes smaller, it requires less work so that I can spend more time for brewing tea. I can spend enough time for each customer and offer tea at the best time. This is my ideal café because now I can do what I couldn't do at the former café in Kizukawa."
Her hope to offer delicious tea in a comfortable atmosphere becomes flourish in the central Kyoto.
485 Zaimoku-cho, Shichijo-dori Takakura, Simogyo-ku, Kyoto
Closed days: Tuesdays and Wednesdays
A 10-minute walk from Kyoto Station
Enjoy freshly-made authentic Warabi Mochi (bracken-starch dumplings) together with carefully brewed Japanese tea at Tea confectionary ENJYU.
Tea confectionary ENJYU is a relatively new café opened in August, 2017. It is located along the Uzumaki-Daiei Dori Shopping Street, which is a 10-minute-walk from Koryuji Temple. The owner Izumi who operates the shop had worked as an apprentice at Oimatsu, a long-established, famous confectionary shop for 18 years.
"Café literally means "tea-drinking shop" in Japanese. But, why do most café in Japan offer coffee, not Japanese tea?" This question inspired him to learn about Japanese tea. Japanese tea is usually served together with Japanese confectionary. As he thought Kyoto is famous for Japanese confectionary, he decided to move to Kyoto all the way from his hometown Hokkaido. With his passion towards Japanese tea and hard work as an apprentice, he succeeded in opening his café that offers Japanese tea.
Although he considered opening his café in a tourist site, he chose Uzumasa because many young people live in this area. He hopes that young people will stop by his café to enjoy Japanese tea in their everyday lives like coffee.
About 40 different single estate teas from various producing areas, including popular ones like Uji and Shizuoka and rare ones like Tanagashima, are available at this café. You can enjoy authentic Japanese confectionery that he learnt at Oimatsu over tea. Since he wanted to offer his customers delicious teas that he was convinced to recommend, he visited tea farmers to select teas. "I could understand people who work there and soil they use by visiting tea farmers and increase my knowledge of tea farming. In addition, a story behind each tea when serving the tea will make my customer more interested in the tea, which is like killing two birds with one stone. Some tea farms were surprisingly deep in the mountains and it was very hard for me to get there. However, encountering fantastic teas completely dispelled such my hard work."
The best recommended item on the menu is a set of sencha and Warabi Mochi. He makes Warabi Mochi with simple three ingredients: authentic bracken starch produced in Japan, sweetener, and water. As he makes it every time he receives the order, you can enjoy freshly-made Warabi Mochi.
Although people usually think Warabi Moshi looks white, Warabi Mochi made with authentic bracken starch looks dark. You will be impressed by its elasticity and smoothness. As his Warabi Mochi is sweet enough to eat it without brown sugar syrup, it goes well with refreshing sencha.
His recommended locally-produced sencha is Yabukita produced in Wazuka. Yabukita tea leaves are harvested without the covering process that is usually done with tea leaves. Therefore, they offer a strong refreshing flavor that is unique to Japanese tea. Furthermore, they provide intensive umami. The balance between the refreshing flavor and umami is excellent.
The owner Izumi will brew your first tea and you will brew it by yourself after that. As a lot of work was required for the producing tea leaves, you can enjoy their flavors even after brewing them five times. As sencha varies its flavor according to how many times it is brewed, please take your time to enjoy its different flavors.
■ Tea confectionary ENJYU
1F chien viverrin, 14-93 Uzumasa Omokage-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Closed days: Thursdays and the 3rd Wednesdays of each month
A five-minute walk from Katabiranotsuji Station by Randen Line and by city bus
If you want to enjoy top-quality Japanese teas, please stop by Marukyu Koyamaen Nishinotoin Tea Shop and Teahouse Motoan located in a nostalgic Japanese-style house.
Marukyu Koyamaen Nishinotoin Tea Shop and Teahouse Motoan opened near the Nijo Castle in the summer, 2008 as a showcase shop of Marukyu Koyamaen which has been in tea business for about 300 years since its foundation.
This shop is 120-year-old house and tables and a small tea room are facing to the garden. Although the shop is located on a busy street, you can enjoy teas and sweets in a calm and quiet atmosphere. You can also purchase tea leaves for gifts at the shop.
Marukyu Koyamaen has been producing and selling Japanese tea for a long time. They wanted consumers to take time to see their tea products and to enjoy tea, so, they decided to open this shop. Not only many tourists but also locals who love Japanese tea visit the shop to enjoy Marukyu Koyamaen's delicious teas.
At the tea house, a wide range of Japanese teas and sweets are available including sencha (green tea), matcha (fine powdered tea), matcha flavored sweets, and shaved ice. Among the various Japanese teas, sehcha "Midori-no-in" is only available here. The president himself blended this tea and made it into a product. The tea provides abundant aroma.You can fully enjoy its rich flavor.
The staff will brew the first tea for you and then you can brew the second and the third tea by yourself. As you will learn how to brew the tea from the staff.
Although you can enjoy a tea alone, the best is to have it with Japanese sweets. Some types of seasonal Japanese sweets are prepared at the tea house. So, you can chose one of them.
The bitterness and umami from macha will spread through your mouth. Please try the shop's specialty sweets together with a Japanese tea.
As the shop is often full in the afternoon on weekends and holidays, I recommend you to visit the shop before 14:00 if you want to have a relaxing time.
■Marukyu Koyamaen Nishinotoin Tea Shop and Teahouse Motoan
West side of Nishinotoin,South of Oike, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Teahouse: 10:30-17:00 (L.O.)
Closed days: Wednesdays (Open on national holidays) and 1st-3rd January
6 min. walk from subway Karasuma Oike stn.(K08,T13). Ext.No.4-1
Enjoy high-quality sencha without hesitation at YUGEN that offers single estate teas produced in Wazuka.
The owner Sudo himself likes Japanese tea so much that he practices tea ceremony. Since people usually hesitate to enjoy Japanese teas and tea ceremony due to its prestige image, he wanted them to enjoy Japanese teas and tea ceremony in a relaxed manner. So, he decided to open his café.
He decided to open the café within a walking distance of tourist spots and the bustling street because he thought that it is easy for locals to visit his café. He puts a lot of thought into offering high-quality teas at a reasonable price such as purchasing tea leaves directly from the farmers.
Although several seats are available at the café, it is a stand-up shop. The café looks very stylish like a coffee stand so it is hard to believe that you can get Japanese tea here. Both sencha and matcha are available on the menu. Although the serving ways of tea are different, all teas are available for take-out. Therefore, you can enjoy a tea while strolling around Shijo-dori area too.
The café offers sencha made from single estate tea leaves produced in Wazuka, a major producing area of Kyoto. Three kinds of sencha are available at the café: Okuyutaka whose umami and bitterness are perfectly balanced, Gokou that has umami of Gyokuro, a high-quality tea, and Yabusata that brings out the best refreshing flavor that is unique to sencha. You can enjoy distinctive flavors of each tea. You can choose a tea according to your preference by looking at the flavor comparison chart on the menu such as the strength of umami and bitterness.
Gokou is the most popular tea at the YUGEN. You can brew your tea up to twice.
On the first brewing, infuse tea leaves in rather lukewarm water at 60℃. This will bring the best out of umami and make the tea delicious. On the second brewing, infuse the same tea leaves in warm water at 75℃. The tea will taste bitter, which is typical for sencha. Sweets served with tea will vary depending on the season and the timing. Please enjoy sweets over tea so that it will enhance deliciousness of the tea. As tea leaves are available for purchase at the café, you can enjoy the tea you liked at home too. Stylish traditional crafts such as Arita ware displayed at the café are available for purchase too. Many of them are reasonably priced even though they are genuine, which is the same as the teas.
Mr. Sudo operates the café with the hope to have people enjoy beautiful or delicious things in their everyday lives that requires skills to make them. Why don't improve the quality of life with tea leaves and crafts purchased at the YUGEN?
266-2 Daikoku-cho, Bukkoji-dori Fuyacho Iru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
Open all year round
Enjoy original sencha with flavors of a long-established tea shop at Salon de KANBAYASHI, located in the storage of a traditional luxurious residence.
AKAGANE RESORT KYOTO HIGASHIYAMA 1925 near the Yasaka Koshin-do Temple is a popular instagrammable sight along with Gion and Kodaiji Temple. The venue is mainly used for weddings or parties. Salon de KANBAYASHI is a café adjacent to the venue.
This café collaborates with Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten, a long-established Uji tea shop with a 450-year history since it foundation, offers Japanese teas in western café-style ambience.
As you know, releasing "Ayataka", a popular brand of bottled green tea turned Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten into an overnight sensation. The café mainly offers Japanese teas of the Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten and products made using these Japanese teas to promote Japanese tea culture including tea flavors when brewing tea with a tea pot.
Originally-blended sencha provides a grate balanced flavor when having it over meals. This is because the sencha is made to go well with French dishes serving at AKAGANE DINING, a French restaurant in the same premises. Although there is another Salon de KANBAYASHI in Gion, this premium tea is only available here (tea leaves are available for purchase too).
When ordering a tea, the staff will brew the first tea for you while telling tea episodes. The staff will present fluid movement when brewing the tea. The brewed tea looks faintly brown because slightly roosted tea leaves are blended to make the tea paired well with the dishes. This tea offers a perfect balance of umami and bitterness and smoothly goes down the throat. Although you can brew the second tea by yourself, you can ask the staff to do it for you if you are not comfortable. The staff will kindly brew your tea.
Please enjoy a "Matcha Gateau Opera Karesansui (Matcha green tea cake)" together with a tea. A high-quality green tea powder named "Biwa no Shiro" is used abundantly for this cake. Karesansui (rock garden) is decorated on its plate, which looks photogenic. As plenty of green tea powder is used for the cake, its distinctive bitter flavor will spread through your mouth when you have a bite. The cake will go well with moderate sweet sencha. So, please enjoy it together with the tea.
The café is closed on Tuesdays and days when weddings take place. So, please confirm if the café opens before visiting.
■ Salon de KANBAYASHI
Inside the Akagane Resort Kyoto Higashiyama 1925, 400-1 Kinencho, Simogawara-dori Kodaiji Tonomae Agaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto,
Closed days: Tuesdays and irregularly closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays
A 12 minute-walk from Gion Shijo Station on the Keihan Line
A 15 minute-walk from kawaramachi Station on the Hankyu Line
13 minutes by taxi from JR Kyoto Station
Nowadays, it becomes easy to have a delicious Japanese tea. However, nothing tastes better than Japanese tea poured from a tea pot. Like having a hand-drip coffee, please enjoy a Japanese tea by using a tea pot. As it requires a little more work, you should also enjoy its process till the end. Why don't you have a luxurious time for a cup of tea when you are in Kyoto?Tea leaves are available for purchase at all the cafés I have introduced here. If you find your favorite Japanese tea, please try to brew it with a tea pot at home. If you don't have any Japanese tea pots, please feel free to make a tea by using the tea pot you have at first, regardless of the proper manner.
I hope that people will utilize this fantastic Japanese tea culture the has been passed down through generations in their daily lives.