Posted October 29, 2016on:
Souen is the name of this modern teahouse but it’s also known as the Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience, named after the person who opened it – Shinya Sakurai.
It used to be located in Nishi-Azabu but since a few months ago, it moved to the SPIRAL building at Omotesando. So these photos are from the old Nishi-Azabu location.
It feels like some ancient pharmacy, with the “lab-coats” that the tea master wears.
I haven’t visited their new location but I would imagine that it has much of the same tranquil zen feel as this spot.
I opted for a tea tasting course which ran the gamut of gyokuro, hojicha, and matcha.
It starts off with their gyokuro, which is some of the best I’ve tasted so far – probably a result of being curated personally by Sakurai vs the mass market kinds (even high-grade ones).
It’s a lot smoother and rich than most gyokuros, which is already known for its luxurious taste.
You need a lot of gyokuro leaves to produce a tiny amount of tea – it’s really the espresso of green teas! That’s why it’s so expensive as well.
For the final infusion of gyokuro, he brews it over chunks of ice with shiso and sudachi.
A throwback to his days as a bartender before becoming a tea master, a chilled gyokuro ‘cocktail’.
After 3 steepings, the gyokuro leaves are presented for consumption with ponzu sauce. Not as bitter as one would expect!
The next one is hojicha, freshly roasted on the spot over a stove.
The warm aroma of roasted tea leaves wafts thru the room.
Served with Japanese pickles! Strangely appropriate.
Finally, the tasting course ends with matcha.
Definitely buy back the tea that they sell – it’s really much better than the usual stuff at places like Ippodo or Fukujuen.