By Sanae Nokura / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterGoing beyond the traditional choice of lemon or milk, a new trend sweeping tea salons these days is “decorative tea” — adding cute embellishments such as fluffy foam or fruit. There is even a cheese-flavored option, and the rainbow of colors makes them a hit with today’s Instagram generation of young people.
In Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, Fortuner Tea-Box opened in August as a specialty shop for “cheese tea.” A hefty helping of foam created from white cream cheese and fresh cream adorns the top of the tea. With prices starting at ¥460, there are eight varieties, including a slightly astringent milk tea with tapioca, and a refreshingly sweet orange tea.
According to Fortuner spokesperson Asuka Horiuchi, cheese tea has its roots in Southeast Asia and is particularly popular in China. “It’s been well received because it has a flavor similar to that of unbaked cheese cake,” she said.
A 17-year-old high school student from Toride, Ibaraki Prefecture, who has been making the rounds of decorative tea shops with friends, said beverages of that kind have become hot items on the internet. “They look so cute,” she said.
In October last year, the Los Angeles-based Alfred Tea Room opened its first branch in Japan in the fashionable Omotesando area of Shibuya Ward. Its signature item is pink milk tea, starting at ¥750 before tax. The color of the tea comes from beets and strawberries, with its flavor tailored to meet Japanese people’s taste buds with a natural sweetness.
Meanwhile, Kirin Beverage Co. opened a cafe in October called “Milk. Black. Lemon.” also in Shibuya Ward. The menu includes 18 items derived from the three types of tea that are used in the maker’s Kirin Gogo no Kocha (afternoon tea) series. Among the specialized offerings, which also have distinctive looks, is Bubbly Lemon (¥450 before tax), a tea and soda combination adorned with slices of lemon and lime.
“Of course, the taste is important, but we also thought about how to present it in a pretty way,” said Momoko Azuma of Kirin’s marketing department. “We hope that these items will give the younger generation a chance to enjoy tea.”
Decorative tea shops have been opening one after the other in the past year or so.
“By going to family restaurants and convenience stores from the time they are little, the younger generation has become used to global flavors, and that makes it easier to be open to new tastes developed overseas,” said Shuntaro Kumazaki, a blender of the Les Feuilles Bleues brand who has also written books on tea.
“Being fermented, black tea can work in harmony with almost any ingredient, making it possible to further expand the menu of decorative teas.”
Recipes for decorative teas
In the quest for a decorative tea that best fits the current season, we asked for recommendations from Yuko Hirano, a tea specialist at Afternoon Tea Tearoom.
For black tea, pour 400 milliliters of boiling water into a teapot and add two teabags. Cover with a lid and allow to steep for three minutes.
“With black tea, the temperature is important,” Hirano said. “Warm both the teapot and cup, then add the freshly boiled water.”
One of her recipes, apple nut tea, is made with apple-flavored tea and has a refreshing aroma and faint sweetness. You can use condensed milk instead of the liquid sweetener used in this recipe.
The other recommended drink, honey orange milk tea, features Assam, and is a tasty concoction with just the right sweetness. Let the milk stand until it reaches room temperature before adding it to the tea.
“For their glamorous appearance, the drinks can be good as desserts,” as the featured fruit and nuts can also be eaten, Hirano said.
Apple nut tea
1. Cut ¼ apple into quarter slices. Crush 4-5 walnuts. Mix together with 3 tablespoons of maple syrup.
2. Pour black tea into a cup and add 2 teaspoons of the mixture.
Honey orange milk tea
1. Cut ½ orange into thin, half-moon slices. Mix with honey and let it sit for 2 or more hours.
2. Remove teabags from teapot. Add milk and 2 teaspoons of sugar, and stir.
3. Pour tea into a cup and add the honeyed orange. Garnish with chopped chocolate.
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