Hold the coffee: Tea shop craze brews in Japan
Nikkei -- Aug 03
Tea shops, tea houses, tea bars or tea cafes. Whatever name they go by, spaces specializing in tea are popping up all over Japan and drawing a heavily female clientele, offering beverages with fruity aromas and Instagram-worthy colors.

Starbuck's tea-focused shop that opened July 1 at Tokyo's trendy Roppongi Hills shopping center serves drinks like a yuzu, citrus lavender and sage herbal tea that sells for 590 yen ($5.60). While Starbucks Coffee Japan has offered Teavana-branded teas since 2016, this marks the company's first cafe in Japan to specialize in tea. The company will consider adding more Teavana locations as it aims to develop tea into a strong income earner like coffee and Frappuccinos.

Nayuki Tea & Bakery, one of China's biggest tea shop chains, launched its first Japanese cafe in Osaka's popular Minami district July 4, drawing fans with offerings such as cocktail-like sparkling grapefruit rosemary tea with fresh fruit and tea leaves from its own farm. Other popular items include baked goods topped with fresh fruit.

"We're promoting a new lifestyle culture of combining tea and fruit," an executive at the tea house's Japanese operator said. The company plans to branch out into Tokyo this year and set up 10 to 15 stores by the end of 2021.

Hugely popular among 20- and 30-somethings back home, Nayuki expanded its network to about 360 outlets in China in the first five years. China's other top tea chain, Heytea, is apparently also eyeing the Japanese market, according to media reports.

Nayuki opened its first Japanese cafe on July 4 in Osaka. (Photo by Keiko Maruyama)

Japan was home to 1,300 tea cafes at the end of 2019, more than tripling from three years earlier, according to market research firm Fuji Keizai. While this was far less than the 62,900 coffee shops, the latter decreased by 4%.

The tea boom started with the craze around bubble tea, or iconic iced milk teas with tapioca pearls offered by Taiwanese cafe chains. Gong Cha, which launched its first Japanese outlet in 2015, now has 71 locations here and is shooting for 90 by year-end.

Major chain Tully's Coffee is set to open a new location highlighting tea, its 10th, in Okayama this September. Nana's Green Tea, which serves drinks based on matcha green tea and roasty hojicha, has grown over roughly two decades to boast 87 locations.

The overwhelming majority of patrons at these tea houses are women enamored of fruit-infused, photogenic and fancy drinks.

News source: Nikkei
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