Feb. 18, 2016 UPDATE
Enjoy out Matcha in Kyoto!
Tea Houses where Locals like
Lastly, we introduce four of our favorite Tea Houses as Kyoto locals. You can enjoy matcha tea and green tea at these locations. We won't be showcasing places that only locals go to, but rather shops that have stood the test of time, offering the same relaxing atmosphere and charm to everyone who passes by their doors, unwavering in their hospitality and aesthetic no matter how many patronstourists visit. Surely one of the best parts of Matcha is the way it gives us a break from the everyday, a chance to relax and gather our thoughts and enjoy a bright and happy atmosphere. Every time we enter these shops and sample their delicious tea and sweets, we reach the same blissful conclusion.
KasagiyaNinenzaka is one of the routes plying the path up towards the mountain gates of Kiyomizu Temple. Located toward the center of that path is this small and modestly appointed teahouse. This is far and away our top recommendation. Kasagiya is famous for its sweet "ohagi" rice balls. However, what always seems to relax us the most, almost unexpectedly so, is the taste of the "Ousu" (thin) matcha tea which the staff set about whisking up immediately after you order. The three characters seen in the shop "喫茶去（Kissako)" are a term from Zen Buddhism that means: "Please, have some tea." This phrase underlies the shop's commitment to treating all guests equally and with honest hospitality. This teaching goes back to the tea masters and is oft-repeated in the world of tea ceremony. Sipping our cups, it almost feels like we can sense this ethos in every drop.
Marukyu Koyamaen Nishinotoin Motoan Tea HouseThere are only a few select locations in Kyoto that could be called bustling with energy. Instead, you'll be walking through a shopping arcade, slip into a sidestreet, and slowly make your way towards the hush and calm of where people go about their everyday lives. Marukyu Koyamaen Nishinotoin Tea Shop is located on one such sidestreet, and it offers delicious tea and slightly unusual sweets to guests. The small inner garden is brimming with Kyoto charm and the elegant interior is intriguingly modern yet nostalgic. The tableware is dainty but extremely well-designed...everything about this shop, down to the last detail, is worth a visit, and the service is top-notch. It goes without saying that the Green tea served at Marukyu Koyamaen is the genuine, delicious article! Why not enjoy tea time at this warm and inviting shop?
ZEN CAFEOn a sidestreet in Gion is this tasteful, cute, and modern cafe opened by Kagizen Yoshifusa, a historic vendor of sweets. It opened as recently as 2012, ushering in something totally new to the denizens of Kyoto. Over the last several years, a range of innovative products (largely of the European sweet variety) have appeared, revamping the traditional image of Kyoto and the world of Japanese sweets. They have proven so popular as to become instant classics. This is the smart and determined move of a brand that has persisted for hundreds of years catering to a new demographic as it cements itself a place for many more years to come. Kagizen Yoshifusa's own experiments in sweets have borne fruit, and the ZEN CAFE has fans nationwide. If you find Japanese food delicious but traditional sweets a bit complex, you are sure to love this shop and discover what can make Japanese sweets so great -- all as you experience their perfect pairing with Green tea.
Toraya-Karyo IchijoTo the west side of the Imperial Palace is a lovely cafe where you can have matcha by the terrace while gazing at lush green lawns. This Tea House is operated by the historic Toraya, a purveyor of traditional sweets. Not only do they offer freshly-brewed Matcha and Green tea, but they also prepare shaved ice, parfaits, and other high-quality matcha-based confections. The modern decor, unified around the color black, is extremely luxurious. Yet the shop is relaxing, and you can be yourself as you dig into some sweets. It must be thanks to the large garden fanning out from the spacious windows. Whether you visit once or bring your special someone here time and again, this is sure to become one of your new Kyoto favorites.