I only had five hours in Kyoto on my latest trip so I had to visit Ippodo's Tea House in Tokyo which is only a few stops from our apartment.
Easy to find and conveniently located in Marunouchi, right next to the Imperial Palace. It's about a five minute walk from the train station.
The Kaboku Tea Room is there for you to prepare your own tea; matcha, gyokuro, sencha and bancha. They open daily 11 to 7 and offer tea classes and events regularly.
You can buy tea and other fine tea accessories in the shop to take home for yourself or to gift to loved ones. I picked up some tea bags (yes, they sell tea bags), but even these are unique. The labels of the individual tea bags have a slit in them that firmly fasten to the rim of the tea cup or to the spout of the teapot.
They are super generous when it comes to sampling their teas. They fully encourage you to try their teas before making any purchases. That's always an excellent sign : ) Although there are many locations throughout Japan you can purchase Ippodo Tea, please note that tea tastings and take-out service is not available at the department stores (only at the main store in Kyoto and Tokyo Marunouchi Store). The kind people at Ippodo were quick to tell me about the shop that recently opened in New York City. See below for more details on NYC store. I told them I couldn't wait to visit.
And what a selection they have...
They provide a take-out service for those on the go. They were promoting their new Zojirushi thermos (for both cold and hot beverages) when I was there. The artwork on it is the same that's on the disposable cups you see here. It's also perfect for preparing matcha without having to use the whisk. Chihiro, from the NYC location, informed me that you can simply shake and serve.
You can also enjoy tea with dessert inside the shop. Now to New York City...
As soon as I got back to New York I ran out during my lunch break to check out Ippodo on 39th Street. They don't have their own tea shop and share a space with Kajitsu, but you can still sample teas and buy select teas to take home.
Chihiro was kind enough to prepare some tea for us. She's originally from Nara (where I have family) so we chatted a little about that.
I finally decided on the Uji-Shimizu (which is chilled and slightly sweetened) because it was crazy hot outside.
I am so curious about the artwork on the cups and thermos. Chihiro told me that Miss Shiokawa drew all the animals for Ippodo. I wonder why they chose those animals? I wonder if they have any special significance? In any case, I know I will be a regular at Ippodo even though they don't have any seating yet.
Ippodo Tea New York
125 East 39th Street (between Lexington Ave. & Park Avenue) inside
Daily 11am-7pm closed on Sundays
Happy tea time!