Our black tea-loving reporter goes in search of a proper cup of tea at five of Japan’s most popular cafe chains.

Like most Japanese people, our reporter Mariko Ohanabatake is a tea fan. She’s not just a fan of Japanese green tea, though, but also of Western-style black tea, or “kocha,” as it’s called in Japanese.

What Mariko is less a fan of, though, is how black tea is served at many of Japan’s major cafe chains, which is that they often just give you a cup with a tea bag floating in it. She guesses that shouldn’t be such a surprise, seeing as how coffee is king at many of these chains, with black tea occupying a much smaller niche on their menus.

Still, if Mariko could have her wish, she’d have a proper cup of black tea brewed in the pot, with only the liquid itself poured into her cup for an elegant atmosphere as she sits and sips. And so she set out to see if she could make that dream come true, visiting five different cafe chains, Starbucks, Doutor, Tully’s, Veloce, and Komeda Coffee, to see how they serve their tea.

● Starbucks

First on the circuit was Starbucks, where Mariko ordered the English Breakfast Tea (which starts at 480 yen [US$3.25]). With a base of Indian-grown tea to which Sri Lankan leaves are added, this is an orthodox blend with a broadly appealing flavor, but sure enough, a tea bag is floating inside the cup.


Next up, Doutor’s unassumingly named “Tea” (260 yen). A blend of Darjeeling and Assam, this was, surprisingly, the smoothest and most balanced tea of all the varieties Mariko tried for this investigation, despite being the least expensive.

It also not only came with a ceramic cup and saucer, but even a special little paper coaster for the tea bag, so that she could remove it from the cup without getting the tray or table wet.

● Tully’s

Tully’s bills its Original Malawi and Darjeeling as a mixture of rich and pleasantly astringent qualities. By this point, Mariko wasn’t surprised to see the now-familiar string and paper tab of a tea bag…

…but she was surprised to see that if you order the 430-yen tall size, there are actually two tea bags in there!

● Veloce

With Veloce’s 300-yen Black Tea (which you can order either straight or with lemon), made with Ceylon tea, it’s back to a ceramic cup, and you even get a classy little dish to put the tea bag on…but it’s still a cup with a tea bag in it.

● Komeda Coffee

Last, Mariko visited Komeda Coffee. Despite having “coffee” right there in the name and being known as much for its food as its beverages, unlike every other chain on her list, Komeda actually pours you a cup of tea from a pot, instead of plunking a tea bag in a cup of hot water!

This was true not only for the 460-yen Straight Black Tea pictured above, but also the Wakocha Mizuki, which starts at 560 yen and gives you your own little pot too. The “wa” part of its name refers to Japan, because this is a rare Japanese-grown black tea variety, using leaves cultivated in Mie Prefecture.

For the record, Mariko wasn’t necessarily disappointed in the way any of the teas tasted. Still, as most tea fans will tell you, enjoying a cup isn’t just about downing the liquid, but washing away the stress of the day by treating yourself to a moment’s peace as you slowly savor the drink, and for when she wants to do that, Mariko is happy to know that there’s at least one major chain that seems to take the relaxation ritual seriously too.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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