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Archive for September, 2011

Ippodo Tea Co., Tokyo

Marunouchi Store, between Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace

Kokusai Bldg.

3-1-1 Marunouchi Naki-dori

Tokyo 100-005

Tel. +81 3 6212 0202

10am to 7pm (last call in the tearoom is at 6.00 pm)

http://www.ippodo-tea.co.jp/en/index.html

 

 

The Tokyo address is more expensive than the one  in Kyoto, no doubt due to its location in upmarket Ginza with neighbours like Hermes and Tiffany’s! The décor is modern , and the place lacks the historic atmosphere of Kyoto, but it is still well worth the visit.

I was shocked to see two men at another table sipping from espresso cups, until I discovered that they contained matcha, prepared in the traditional wooden bowl then poured into coffee cups for a modern twist.

 

 

The Imperial Palace East Garden, near the Ippodo tearoom in Tokyo

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Té Concepción

Shimogyo-ku, Takatsuki-cho 345

Opposite Higashi Hongan-ji Temple

Tel. 075 365 2100

Subway Kyoto Station

 

A tearoom that also serves food.

 

The vast temple hall at Higashi Hongan-ji

The largest wooden structure in the world

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Kyo Club

Nishikikoji-dori

On the 2nd floor at the Eastern end of the Nishiki food market


Head upstairs for bowl of matcha and some organic food overlooking the covered market. A great way to just sit and be as Kyotans fill their baskets with mystifying foodstuffs, ranging from dried fish to fresh chestnuts and pickled vegetables. Next to the Aritsugu knife shop.

Looking down at Nishiki market

Aritsugu knife shop

Nishikikoji-dori, at the Eastern end of the market

 

One of the sales assistants speaks excellent English and will guide you in your choice. They can stamp your name on the knife, in English or Japanese, and will teach you how to clean it and care for it with the tender loving care deserved by the best kitchen knife in the world.

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Lupicia

Teramachi Shopping Arcade

Teramachi Street @ Sanjo Street

Tel. 075 257 7318

Open 10am to 7pm

www.lupicia.com

Subway to Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae or Sanjo Station.

 

A beautiful, modern shop selling over 400 teas presented in small round tins that you can open and smell. Darjeelings, Chinese and Japanese green teas, red teas and flavoured teas, plus tea-related confectionary and accessories. Although they do not serve tea, you can taste the ones that you are interested in.

 

Lupicia is in the Teramachi covered shopping gallery

 

Cool! A temple with puppet machines.

 

Tagoto Honten soba restaurant

Just around the corner if you are feeling hungry, this is one of Kyoto’s oldest soba (buckwheat noodle) establishments. Turn left out of Lupicia and then right at the pedestrian intersection at the end of the Teramachi Arcade. Tamago is on your left – there are no signs in English, so if you reach the Lipton tearoom you’ve gone too far (and should flee anything called Lipton anyway)!

 

Judging by the sounds coming from the surrounding tables, slurping is most definitely the done thing when eating noodles in Japan. Whether you go for cold soba on a bamboo tray accompanied by a cup of dipping sauce, or a hot soup with mouth-watering delicacies, definitely SLURP. It is also OK to pick up the soup bowl in both hands and drink the broth straight from the bowl.

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Ippodo Tea Company, Kyoto

Teramachi-dori Nijo, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0915

Tel. +81 75 211 3421

Shop : 9am to 7pm (6pm on Sundays and holidays)  –  Tearoom 11am to 5pm

www.ippodo-tea.co.jp

Subway to City Hall.

Ippodo's shopfront on Teramachi St.

Nothing much outside that I can read indicates that this is the place I am looking for, but as soon as I step through the sliding doors into the Ippodo tea shop I am struck by a sense of having arrived at The Source. Ladies in brown aprons and white headscarves are scooping different varieties of Japanese green tea, and ONLY green tea, from large tins onto scales and into tea caddies with the utmost respect and attention.

The Mecca of Japanese green tea, founded in 1717, Ippodo means “preserve one”, a name bestowed on the shop by Prince Yamashina of the Imperial household in 1846 in the hope that it would always provide only the most supreme quality teas. The Uji district of Kyoto prefecture, with its ideal climate, has been growing premium tea for over 800 years, and the traditional Japanese tea ceremony originated in Kyoto.

Entering the Mecca of Japanese green tea

Ippodo sells green tea and nothing but green tea: traditionally blended matcha, gyokoro, sencha and bancha in a range of qualities and prices, and there is a menu and instructions in English on how to prepare the teas.

You can also buy utensils, although the matcha whisks and scoops are slightly cheaper at Bamtera (see below) and are so obviously made, and sold, with love, that I preferred to buy mine there. At Ippodo, I resisted (for now) the tiny round metal box containing a sieve with a bamboo spatula for removing any lumps from the matcha powder before preparing it. Details, details…

You can purchase a matcha starter kit for newcomers to the bright green powder, but as a complete matcha virgin, I decided to head for the shop’s tearoom, take a seat inside Japan’s temple of green tea, and learn directly from the staff. The tradition in the Kaboku Tearoom is that customers prepare their own tea. Since the end result depends on three things – the tea leaves, the water and the preparation – Ippodo provides the first two, and you provide the third.

Teatime in Kyoto

The neighbourhood

Strolling up Teramachi Street looking for Ippodo, wondering if I might have missed it hidden away behind one of the many shop fronts with strictly Japanese only signs, I discovered many other treasures. The part of Teramachi Street running north from City Hall is quiet and low-rise, with antique shops and artisanal boutiques wholly dedicated to a single craft like bamboo carving, pottery or paper-making.

The Bamtera Bamboo & Wood  shop sells chasen whisks with neat little ceramic stands to store them on and protect the fronds, matcha tea scoops and other utensils, carved from one of nature’s most multifunctional materials, yet dedicated to one sole and unique purpose.

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