The Tea Commandments: Mohini and the Art of Brewing
By Cynthia Popper
On June 9, 2014
Sencha, Earl Grey, Genmaicha: Tokyo boasts countless tea shops, serving up every blend and leaf you can possibly imagine, but one little shop near Yotsuya Station not only pours some of the finest brew in town, it makes sure you do it correctly at home.
Meet Toshi Yamaguchi, owner of Tea Shop Mohini. Unlike most artisans in Japan, Yamaguchi-san doesn’t come from a long line of tea makers. For most of his professional life, he’s been an accountant.
“About ten years ago I decided to make a change. I went to classes on tea making for over a year through the Nihon Tea association. I was the old man in the class, most of the other students were women younger than my daughter!”
His passion drove him to open his first shop in Akebonobashi, where he carried over 60 types of tea. The new location features a retail shop with over 160 types from Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and all over Japan. Organics, herbals, florals, all well-priced and prettily packaged.
Yamaguchi-san brews tea with the attention to detail you’d expect from any true connoisseur, and the results are invariably, delicious.
“Water. It’s all about the water. Here in Japan we have soft water, so the steeping takes less time. Overseas, in England for example, the water is hard, so a tea that takes one minute to brew here takes three or four minutes there.”
My Lotus iced tea and lemon tart set was nothing short of perfection—Mohini’s menu features a range of cup, glass, and pot options, as well as a well-edited menu of complimentary sweets and sandwiches. The shelves are lined with both bag and loose leaf options to take home, and Yamaguchi-san is more than happy to give you tips on crafting your tea properly.
Black Tea Tips
Warm everything. The pot. The cups. The strainer. Measure. One cup = one spoonful. 180ml of water. Leaf size. A heaping spoonful for three minutes for larger black teas. Smaller leaf-size means a rounded spoonful for 2.5-3 minutes.
Bag Tea Tips
As with black tea, warm your cups and pot with hot water before brewing. Respect the bag. Don’t aggressively dunk it in. Ease it into the water gently, and pull the tag across the diameter of the cup three times. Cover your cup with your saucer for 1-2 minutes before removing it.
Green Tea Tips
Buy a kyusu (急須 ) the traditional Japanese teapot characterized by the side handle. Most kyusus have a built in strainer, but if yours doesn’t, buy a strainer for pouring. You should also use traditional tea cups, called yunomi chawan, or sometimes just yumoni. Heat the water to 100 degree Celsius, then cool it down to lukewarm before brewing. Never brew green tea with piping hot water.Brew for 45 seconds—if you over-brew your tea can turn bitter. Swirl gently. You can add warm water to the kyusu up to three times to enjoy every drop of tea in the pot.
Even if you’re not a hard core tea-snob, but want to try a local, non-chain, true tea experience Mohini’s is a must-try. A lovely reprieve from the tall-chai-latte.
Nearest station: Yotsuya
Hours: 10:00 – 19:00
Translation provided by: Christine Lundell