Overflowing with Japanese Atmosphere! Popular "Wa Cafes" in Tokyo for Sweets and Tea
A "wa cafe" is a cafe that mainly offers Japanese teas like matcha (powdered green tea) and sencha (steeped green tea). Traditional Japanese sweets, which bring out the flavor of these teas, have also been gaining popularity. These cafes have become incredibly popular among foreign visitors thanks to their Japanese atmospheres. This article introduces several of these in Tokyo.
Jun 18 2018 (Jan 19 2020)
What is a Wa Cafe?
A "wa cafe" is a cafe that specializes in Japanese teas. Most cafes will also offer wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) to accompany these teas. To see why foreign tourists are making a commotion about these cafes, read on!
1. Kagurazaka Saryo [Ushigome-kagurazaka Station]
Located in the tasteful backstreets of Kagurazaka, this is a lovely cafe situated in a refurbished private house. The recommended dish here is the Kyo-matcha Chocolate Fondue (920 yen plus tax). Uji matcha and white chocolate are blended together to form a rich mixture, making for a luxurious sauce in which you can dip strawberries, shiratama (rice flour dumplings), namafu (wheat starch), homemade pie, and more. Any remaining sauce can be poured over some ice-cream. It’s the perfect option for anyone with a sweet tooth!
This is the Matcha Frozen Moa (810 yen plus tax). Hidden under the toasted, fluffy marshmallows are two flavors of ice cream - matcha and vanilla - as well as crunchy granola! A thick matcha syrup brings a subtle depth to the flavor. Enjoy the innovative textures and presentation of matcha. There’s also the Kyo-matcha Rare Cheesecake (770 yen plus tax) and the Hojicha Tiramisu Tart (720 yen plus tax), along with other unusual cakes that make use of Japanese ingredients, so make sure to check them out!
2. Mikan Club [Omote-sando Station]
The photo shows Mikan Club’s incredibly popular Tenshi no Namida (set for 1,000 yen, individual for 700 yen). It’s a mineral-rich dessert made from just agar-agar and water! It only keeps for 30 minutes after being made. Because it has no smell or taste, brown sugar syrup and roasted soybean flour are added so that you can really enjoy the unique texture. The translucent, gem-like appearance is quite magical. There are only 10 servings of it available each day, so make sure to get there early if you want to try it.
These Mitarashi Dango (glazed grilled dumplings) (set for 1,000 yen, individual for 700 yen) are a fun menu item where you get to grill the dango yourself! For the homemade glaze, you can choose 3 from a selection of 8, which includes standard sweet flavors like cinnamon, as well as unique choices like gochujang (Korean chili paste), peperoncino, and wasabi. It’s rare to get to grill your own dango, even in Japan, so be sure to try it out!
3. Sasha Kanetanaka [Omote-sando Station]
Sasha Kanetanaka is under Kanetanaka - one of Japan’s 3 biggest ryotei (traditional high-end restaurants) that was established in the Taisho era (1912 - 1926). Internationally renowned contemporary artist, Hiroshi Sugimoto, is accredited for the extravagant contemporary Japanese architecture. The single plank, wooden tables and windows that look out into the garden give it an open feel, allowing you to escape the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
The lunch menu is exquisite! You can enjoy a variety of gourmet dishes, including those from their monthly menu that follows the seasonal changes. No matter which dish you order, the flavor is high-class and the plating delicate. It is strongly recommended for those wanting to experience a luxurious Japanese lunch.
Their highly popular dessert is the Hon Warabi-mochi ni Kuromitsu (bracken starch dumpling with brown sugar syrup) (1,500 yen). It is made with bracken starch which, because of the toll it takes on manufacturers, is being produced in increasingly smaller quantities. You can enjoy the taste, elasticity, and springiness of the warabi-mochi as it melts in your mouth. Savor luxurious sweets in this traditional Japanese space that blends together history and cutting-edge beauty.
4. Chachanoma [Omote-sando Station]
This cafe specializes in Japanese tea and even has Japanese tea experts on staff. They serve high-quality Japanese tea and chachanoma desserts. The desserts are mildly sweet to ensure that they don't take away from the unique flavors of each item. The photo shows the Tiramisu-style Matcha Shaved Ice With Strawberries (1,600 yen plus tax), which is available only in the summer. To enjoy it at its best, pour the matcha syrup over the shaved ice, along with the mascarpone sauce and the strawberry tiramisu cream, and sprinkle the matcha on last.
This is the Chacha Parfait Sencha Set (from 1,600 plus tax), where you can choose the ice cream to be placed on top from 3 flavors: matcha, black sugar, or vanilla. A variety of chachanoma sweets - including ice cream, warabi-mochi, salted anko (red bean paste), shiratama, hand-roasted hojicha (roasted green tea) agar-agar, and milk mousse - are all crammed into this parfait of your dreams. There are over 30 kinds of tea to choose from. Enjoy experiencing Japanese culture here!
5. Tsuruya Yoshinobu Kayu Chaya [Mitsukoshimae Station]
Here, namagashi (fresh Japanese confectionery) are made right before your eyes. The Seasonal Namagashi With Matcha (972 yen) is very popular. Since around 30% of namagashi actually consists of water, it is very sticky and soft. Eating sweets made just for you by their skilled craftsmen is a truly luxurious experience.
Their freshly made namagashi have a refined and velvety sweetness. They change the namagashi on offer according to the season. In the summer, they make sweets that represent the season like sunflowers and Chinese lanterns. Seeing the process involved in making namagashi, which combines the delicacy and cuteness that you can only find in Japan, is an incredible experience. Make sure not to miss it!
6. Yojiya Cafe [Haneda Airport]
This is a cafe run by the long-established Yojiya, who are known for making oil absorbing facial sheets. There is only one branch in Tokyo. The sweets and food are branded with Yojiya’s symbol, the “Kyo-bijin" (beautiful Kyoto woman). It has a strong visual impact, and the cute appearance makes for perfect photo ops!
Visitors to Japan need to try the Kyo no Yasashii Asa-gayu (Kyoto’s easy morning gruel) (1,000 yen plus tax). The rice gruel is extremely good for digestion, and since it warms the body, it’s good for both health and beauty. With an additional 190 yen, you can get a drink with it. If you feel a little under the weather during your travels, be sure to try this one out!
7. Kanazawa Ice [Harajuku Station]
This store sells ice-cream that doesn’t melt. You can leave this mysterious ice cream in a 40°C (104°F) room for up to 3 hours and it would hardly melt! The secret is an ingredient called strawberry polyphenol. Since all the ingredients they use are natural, you don’t have to worry about it being bad for you. It's an ice-cream that you can bring all the way home!
Everything here goes for just 500 yen. Each ice-cream comes with one free topping. With an additional 50 yen, you can get sprinkles or choose from 10 colors of chocolate pens, and for an additional 100 yen, you can add a gold leaf or kinako (roasted soybean flour) sauce. Making your own original ice cream is sure to be a lot of fun! These ice creams are perfect for eating while roaming the streets, as they don't melt. Make sure to check it out!
*This place has closed down.
8. Gen Gen An [Shibuya]
This cafe has a great selection of tea, including Japanese teas like kamairicha (pan-fried green tea) - a rare tea that accounts for less than 1% of Japan's overall production, tamaryokucha (a type of green tea), hojicha, and beni hojicha, which is made by roasting highly fermented oolong tea leaves. You can taste samples and buy tea leaves here. They also offer new styles of Japanese tea, with flavors like lemongrass hojicha.
Their teas come in simple yet stylish cups that are far removed from the image of Japanese tea. Since the cups come in various colors, such as green for matcha and brown for hojicha, if you buy a variety of different teas with your friends, you can line up the cups against an interesting background and take lots of fun photos!
This Tasting Set (1,080 yen) is recommended as a souvenir. Each set comes with 3 kinds of tea. The navy blue 1 Day Set has cold water-infused tea, kamairicha, and kocha (black tea), while the red Low Caffeine Set has kuki hojicha (roasted tea stems), kamairi genmaicha (pan fried green tea with roasted rice), and lemongrass houjicha. Why not buy some for your family and friends?
9. Kurogi [Hongo-sanchome Station]
This cafe is on the Hongo Campus of the University of Tokyo, which is situated in Ueno. You can eat first-rate Japanese sweets overseen by Chef Jun Kurogi, who has received a Michelin star in the past. The outside of the building, which is covered with a countless number of Japanese cedarwood planks, was designed by Japan’s exemplary architect, Kengo Kuma. It’s worth going to just to see the artistic design of the building!
The recommended dish here is the Warabi-mochi (2,050 yen), which is served in a lovely dish. It uses 100% hon-warabi flour, of which only 100g can be produced from 10kg of bracken root. Note that the taste and texture of this luxurious warabi-mochi only keeps for 30 minutes. They offer coffee that has been selected by Sarutahiko Coffee, a popular coffee shop in Ebisu, to go well with their sweets. At this cafe, you can fully enjoy the exquisite pairing of coffee and Japanese sweets.
Since washoku (Japanese cuisine) was registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage product, wagashi (Japanese sweets) has been gaining an increasing amount of interest. Since they use ingredients like matcha and hojicha, even people who are not so fond of sweet things can fully enjoy traditional Japanese sweets. Enjoy a uniquely Japanese experience at these wa cafes!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.