Sherry Nakanishi was on her way to fulfilling a chore when she changed direction and followed a group of students into an abandoned old house. She knelt down on the floor in the Japanese manner and asked that the house be given to her. This auspicious meeting ultimately led to the opening of the Kyoto Nama Chocolat Organic Tea House.
A ten-minute walk east of Heian Jingu Shrine and twenty minutes west of the Path of Philosophy, it is in one of Kyoto's most historic districts. Fortune seekers and history buffs make their way here all year round to lose themselves in Kyoto's eastern hills. Black tea from Uji, the renowned tea-growing region south of Kyoto, and Rooibos from South Africa are served in an array of pots and cups from throughout Japan. It's serious pleasure at a leisurely pace.
The communal central table connects those seated at it to gardens at the front and back. There are also a few more private tables, and all are graced with a verdant scene reminiscent of someplace far more rural and serene than suburban Kyoto. A double pleasure is to have a cup of tea and cake while Hirofumi Nakanishi - master chef and creator of fresh Kyoto Nama Chocolat - packages your order to take away.
The story started in the Japanese Ambassador's residence in New York as Nakanishi sought to create the ultimate finale to the French haute-cuisine dinners served to countless foreign dignitaries. The fresh, light chocolate is blended with a liqueur made by monks in Austria, and it's presented in a beautiful box wrapped in handmade Japanese paper. Millet and blueberry tart; matcha and black bean cake; and chocolate, okra, fig and pecan pie are some of his more recent creations. Order the cake set with tea or coffee from the bilingual menu and spend an afternoon indulging. Drinks are 400 yen, cakes are 450 yen, and the cake set is 800 yen.
(All produce used is chemical free. Non-smoking.)
by Justin Ellis