Leisure & Culture #43

The Third Wave of Japanese Tea

San Grams

Written and Translated by v_ p
Photos by v_ p

Old huts, tatamis and a solemn pose – if these are your impressions of a Japanese teahouse, think again. A 3-hour train ride from Tokyo will take you to “san grams”, a post-modern teahouse located at Kikugawa, a small coastal town in Japan’s tea-growing prefecture of Shizuoka.

Just 3 minutes walk from the JR station, the minimalistic teahouse is designed by Hironaka Ogawa, influenced by top architect Kengo Kuma, whom Ogawa had worked with for five years.

Opened since April 2015, san grams is not another hipster business in town, but a new venture by century-old tea manufacturer Marumatsu.

The name of the teahouse is a combination of English and Japanese, meaning “3 grams”, the amount of tea leaves required to brew a cup of good tea; while “san” also refers to Mount Fuji, the iconic volcano quietly overlooking the tea fields of Shizuoka, where most of Japan’s green tea is produced. With a stylish makeover, and some references from “third wave” cafes, Marumatsu helps local farmers reach out to the new generation, directly from farm to table, to pass on the beauty of local tea.

With a minimal interior of wooden tables and green tea colored chairs, the key decor is a brush painting of the Kikugawa tea plantation area, pinpointing where your cup of tea came from.

Just 3 minutes walk from the JR station, the minimalistic teahouse is designed by Hironaka Ogawa, influenced by top architect Kengo Kuma, whom Ogawa had worked with for five years. The shopfront is decorated with wood planks, imitating tea twigs floating on a cup of tea.

Pillars at the garden area are made of recycled timber, connecting the present with the past.

Sunlight sheds on the white interior through the surrounding glass walls, with 18 types of “single origin” tea showcased in the middle, all grown around the mountains of Kikugawa, while a local map is drawn on the back-wall, in brush painting style, indicating where each type of tea is grown.

Packaging is simple yet informative, with the tea variety, flavour, the artisan method used in processing to the farmer’s name, all written in detail for customers’ reference.

Those who would like to stay closer to nature may sit by the garden carefully crafted by renowned landscape designer Yoko Abe, where over 100 types of seasonal plants are grown.

Enjoy a $35 tea-tasting session at the tea bar, with three single origin flavors picked and brewed by a teamaster just for you.

Even if you don’t have time to enjoy a locally grown lunch or exquisite tea desserts, do stop by for a quick tea tasting session -- for only 540 yen (around HK$37) per person, you may try three types of local tea of your choice, brewed by a tea master -- the deep steamed green tea, a specialty around the area, is not to miss.

San Grams Green Tea & Garden Café

1-1 Horinouchi, Kikugawa, Japan |http://www.san-grams.jp