Upgrade your daily cuppa with a tea-tail, or tea cocktail, the spirited concoction that's been taking Tokyo by storm. These tipples – highlighting the quintessential Japanese green tea in its many guises from frothy matcha to toasty hojicha – can be found at many of the city's outstanding bars. However, you can now also enjoy a boozy glass or two at selected tea salons and cafés that are open throughout the day.
In fact, tea cocktails are becoming so popular that there are specialist bars dedicated to serving tea-only drinks, both alcoholic and not. From tea-infused spirits to inventive mixes shaken to perfection, here are some of our favourite venues to enjoy tea cocktails.
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A tea cocktail specialist, Mixology Salon is one of the six Tokyo bars featured in this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Bars list. The dual-language menu covers a wide range of options, from ‘tea-tail’ tasting courses and signature concoctions to spirits and mocktails.
One real favourite is the bar’s take on the classic old fashioned. The green tea fashioned is made with two types of bourbon, matcha, kuromitsu brown sugar syrup plus chocolate and vanilla bitters, and topped with a gold leaf for that visual pop. If you’re leaning more towards sweet, the soba caramel banana blends frozen banana and fresh cream with a soba (buckwheat tea) and rum mixture that’s been re-distilled in a vacuum still – it’s like a milkshake for adults. Yum.
This tiny secluded tea bar in Ebisu shows just how easily tea can transition from a morning pick-me-up to a nightcap. Aside from serving hot and cold Japanese tea, owner Koki Shigematsu also offers tea cocktails made with the likes of hojicha-infused rum and matcha-blended whisky.
A standout is the fruity concoction made with apple brandy and Sun Rouge sencha grown in the rich volcanic soil of Tokunoshima Island. This particular green tea produces a purple-grey liquid but turns brilliant pink when mixed with a bit of acidity. Pair your cocktail with one of Inari Tea’s stunning plated desserts created by a former pastry sous chef at the famed Janice Wong Dessert Bar and you’ll have a decadent night out.
Located in the backstreets of Daikanyama, this little tea purveyor serves up both boozy and non-boozy brews. The tea cocktails range from green tea and Kinmiya shochu highball to chamomile hojicha blended with Stone’s ginger wine. Our favourite is the beni hojicha amaretto; the black tea, roasted green tea and almond liqueur concoction tastes just like the classic Japanese dessert, sweet almond tofu.
With its retro ’80s vibe, Shibuya’s Gen Gen An looks more like a cool hangout than a tea shop, and it’s run by the folks behind the futuristic tea room at the teamLab Borderless digital art museum. With the later closing time on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, you can sip on uniquely Japanese cocktails made with sake and tea until 11pm.
For a tall thirst-quencher, we recommend the lemongrass hojicha cocktail with umeshu (plum wine). The zesty herb adds a refreshing kick to the dark toastiness of the roasted green tea. The sake and tea concoctions are just as good, made from an original sake created in collaboration with famed sake bar Gem by Moto. We particularly love the sake infused with beni hojicha, a roasted black tea that gives off a deep, floral aroma.
Sakurai is a cool and modern interpretation of a Japanese teahouse, where you’ll experience an almost meditative tea session, complete with some dainty Japanese sweets known as wagashi. You can choose a tea course to sample the different types of Japanese tea, or pick from a green tea to have it freshly roasted into hojicha. But if you really want to fully appreciate the creativity of the tea masters here, ask for the house-infused tea liquor: sencha-infused gin, hojicha-infused rum, beer with matcha…
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