Tucked away in bustling Osu, you will find Ocha no Kakien – a haven for tea lovers like no other. Mr Goto, who is the 13th generation of his family, is the proud owner of this third-generation family business which opened in 1947. He is also, most probably, the most knowledgeable man about tea in the world.
I have a soft spot for local shops, because you meet people who are actually passionate about what they do. And it rubs off. We sat with Mr Goto for a good two hours and chatted about the beginnings of the tea leaf, to how us humans actually taste tea. It was surprisingly fascinating and I now know a lot more about tea than I thought I ever would. Though I did try my hardest to get him to share the perfect way to make tea. He would only tell me that you have to make the best tea experience for that particular person – which he tries to do every day. I then knew I was in the right place to finding some of the best, and authentic tea in Nagoya.
If you haven’t yet begun a love affair with tea, or would just like to support your tea-drinking habit, Kakien is where it’s at. He uses an impressive 32 different tea leaves, when most tea shops only use one. This is so he can create many different teas and cater to more tastes (and not leave anyone out). Mr Goto has actually spent hours with a single customer, taste-testing teas to find the perfect one. He will match your palette with a divine ocha; then he can also tell you how he made it and where the tea leaf was grown.
And as we were chatting, two little schoolgirls who could barely see over the counter skipped up asking for a tsumetai ocha (cold tea) to share, just like they were at their granddad’s house.
Mr Goto’s impressive knowledge base was born from his love affair and hands-on approach to making tea. Before he took over Kakien from his father, no tea was actually produced in the shop. Now, before you even walk into his humble little space crammed with fragrant teas, you will see his big tea-roasting machine out front. Out the back you will find machines grinding Maccha into powdery green snow. Mr Goto explained that the machine is designed in a way that the tea is ground softly, to produce amino acids and proteins, making it tastier. And you can also change the shape of the particle in this process: for example, if it’s spiky, the tea floats to the top of the water so you taste it as soon as the tea hits your lips. Wow.
His process for making a blend is to first visualize a tea; the flavor and how it will be created. The quality of the leaf differs each year the actual process of making the tea can affect the taste. Creating tea is a work of art, for which Mr Goto has created his own branding and bags. And this is what I really loved – the name of his teas. Ippukucha. Ippuku meaning to take a break, which, as you know is the root of Mr Goto’s passion.
Mr Goto was not just next-in-line to run Kakien; I truly think tea runs through his veins. He believes drinking tea is like taking a deep, relaxing breath – which is what a tea break should be. Nowadays, a tea break is mostly spent hunched, scrolling through Facebook, take-away cup in hand, or even worse still – at our desks. We have already lost our tea lady, and now the tea break is a dying ritual that Mr Goto believes we need; to take a moment and clear the mind. Doesn’t that sound good.
Kakien is a popular shop for omiage as well. If you’re fresh out of gift ideas and have already bought the standard fans, chopsticks and whiskey, Mr Goto sells a revolutionary cold tea thermos with filter. You simply put your tea leaves in the bottom, add cold water, keep it in the fridge and drink from it just like a normal water bottle like magic!
They have also been perfecting ice cream at Kakien for 20 years – if Mr Goto is going to do something, he’s going to do it right. They use tea from Maccha leaves to make it, and as a Maccha virgin, this ice cream was something special. Not too sweet, not bitter at all, and as smooth as the wet stain it left on my shirt as it dripped in the September humidity. Nice one Lauren.
If you’re in the area, or even if you’re not, Kakien is worth the journey. It’s the perfect place to wrap your cold digits around a mug of tea this winter. Mr Goto speaks English and will help you find the tea that is right for you. And you will not just buy tea here. You will have an experience that you won’t find purchasing online, or in-line at Aeon.
Ocha no Kakien
Map Page 30 | C4
3-34-4 Osu, Naka-ku
Tel: (052) 241-3477