Tradition And Modernity: A Guide To Tokyo’s Top Tea Rooms
The City's Best Spots For A Delightful Tea Service
It's time for a cup of positivitea.
It will warm you if we’re cool, cool you if we’re hot, and cheer you if feeling blue — and that’s just the start of a long list of positive effects this popular drink can have on you. It goes without saying that tea has been a staple drink in Japan ever since the Zen monk Eisai brought it back from China in the late 12th century. But while in the old days the flavors were more or less limited to green tea, in modern Japan, you’ll find yourself almost lost at the vast array of thriving traditional tea houses as well as a new generation of contemporary tea shops that are bringing a whole new dimension to tea drinking.
Just in time for the hot summer, we visit some of the best tea rooms in town – from the hottest new establishments to the century-old mainstays that make your dreams of sipping and relaxing come to life.
Typically, an ambiance is half the experience of a dining venue, but in Higashiya it’s almost all about it. The calming Japanese design sensibility and the serenity of the place, the contemporary yet timeless interior influenced by Japanese aesthetics – everything here exudes restrained elegance. Not to say the tea or food is lacking. Higashiya specializes in artisanal wagashi, bite-sized traditional Japanese confectionery inspired by regional specialties, but recreated to appeal to contemporary palates. You can either purchase your treats to go or proceed to the tea salon inside where the tea masters beyond the kitchen bar will serve you a wide array of herbal and green teas. Opt for the Japanese-style afternoon tea set, which comes with savory and sweet bites paired with a selection of two teas.
Where: Pola Ginza Bldg. 2F, 1-7-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (Weekdays), 11 a.m.-7 p.m. (Sun, National Holidays) Closed Mondays.
Any tea — especially green tea aficionados — should look no further than Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience, a tea bar located right outside Omotesando station. Run by tea master Shinya Sakurai, this cozy tea bar makes you feel like you’re in one of those one-of-a-kind spots where past and present harmoniously merge to provide the ultimate experience and taste. Explore, enjoy, and be surprised by the 50-plus shades of green Japanese tea that you’ll find here. For ultimate experience, order tea tasting set that includes six types of tea paired with corresponding wagashi.
Where: 5-6-23 Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 11 a.m.- 11p.m.
Housed within secluded modern kaiseki restaurant Yakumo Saryo, Sabo Teahouse is another gem in the city where the setting epitomizes Zen aesthetics. The interior of the tea house oozes Japanese simplicity: a quiet, dimly lit space featuring one large, square, wooden table and a counter at the back where you can watch your waitress expertly preparing your matcha tea. The menu is in Japanese, but if you ask for wagashi, they’ll bring out a set of exquisite samples for you to choose from. Their seasonal selection of sweets revolves around opening the palate to different textures and unexpected flavor combinations that provide unique sensory experience.
Where: 3-4-7 Yakumo, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Set in the peaceful neighborhood of Sangenjaya, Tokyo Saryo is attracting crowds that come here to taste the hand-dripped green tea and bask in the minimally-designed tranquil space. The shop utilizes pour-over-tea drippers made from a copper base, a ceramic dripper, and a wooden holder. Every component was crafted specifically to ensure the tea leaves sit for just the right amount of time, making the perfect brew. You can taste a wide variety of single origin teas from all over Japan.
Where: 1-34-15 Kamiuma, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 1 p.m.-8 p.m. (Weekdays), 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (Weekends and national holidays). Closed Mondays.
Set in an immaculate 100-year-old Japanese house, Kosoan in Jiyugaoka is an ideal spot to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, and indulge in authentic Japanese culture by savoring the finest matcha and wagashi. A narrow pathway with meticulously placed stepping stones leads you behind the house to a secluded little Japanese garden. As you open the old sliding door you’ll be immersed into a different world. Tatami floors, wooden paneling, warm yellow lighting, antique furniture, hanging scrolls and other vintage pieces of art create an enchanting atmosphere and exude an ambiance that makes you feel like you are transported to Edo-period Kyoto.
Where: 1-24-23 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Closed Wednesdays.
Ukai is a well-known Japanese luxury restaurant chain that specializes in outstanding seasonal menus. Their teppanyaki restaurant located in Omotesando’s Chanel Building serves not only one of the best wagyu steaks in town, but also boasts a private tea room. Set in an elegant room with floor to ceiling windows and comfortable armchairs, the salon offers exquisite desserts on its a la carte menu, as well as a cart of petit fours that go so well with your cup of tea.
Where: 5F, 5-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 12 p.m.-2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m. (Weekdays), 11:30 a.m.-11 a.m. (Weekends, national holidays)
Based on the ground floor of the same Otemachi Tower that houses Aman Tokyo, Café by Aman offers a casual way to experience the luxurious brand. The interior is purposely kept understated as not to distract attention from the surrounding area – an impressive 3,600-square-meter forest. The floor-to-ceiling windows allow diners an unobstructed view of the lush greenery in the middle of concrete-heavy Tokyo. Grab a seat on the lush terrace on a cool summer night and sample their afternoon tea set featuring crepes.
Where: The Otemachi Tower, 1-5-6 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 11 am–10 pm (Sunday –9 pm)
For an ultimate afternoon tea experience head to Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, which offers an outstanding selection of teas paired with delicious scones, sandwiches, and desserts. Their lounge with sweeping views of the city provides a perfect respite from the clamor and summer heat of the city.
Where: 2-1-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 12 p.m.-5:30 pm (Tea service)
What’s your favorite spot for an afternoon tea? Share with us in the comments!