50 SHADES OF TOKYO DESSERTS | SHADE 4
I won’t lie, when I found this place I had a selfish desire to keep it to myself. However, an overpowering voice of a blogger inside me won and here I am, writing a story about a wonderful hidden gem my friend Mandy and I recently discovered. After all, good secrets in the food world are hard to keep. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Kosoan Tea House! Tucked away in Tokyo’s quaint and trendy Jiyugaoka neighborhood, the place seems to offer an ideal pocket of calm in the midst of a buzzy city. It is practically impossible to know that the house is open to public as there are no signs or posters from the outside that would mark it as a tea house, merely a wooden signboard carved with the Japanese Kanji name. Set in an immaculate 100-year-old Japanese house Kosoan is an ideal spot to escape the hustle and bustle of the world, and indulge in authentic Japanese culture by savoring the finest matcha tea and exquisite wagashi while also admiring beautiful landscaping of a serene Japanese garden. Narrow pathway with meticulously placed stepping stones leads you behind the house to a secluded little Japanese garden. As we opened the old sliding door we seemed to be immersed into a different world. Tatami floors, wooden paneling, warm yellow lighting, antique furniture, hanging scrolls and other vintage pieces of art create an enchanting atmosphere and exude an ambiance that makes you feel like you are transported to Edo period Kyoto. Once we took our shoes off, we were ushered with typical Japanese hospitality to the main tea room where we made ourselves comfortable on the floor by one of the square tables surrounded by vintage swords. There is a sense of tranquility in the air, yet the atmosphere is relaxed and unpretentious unlike other formal tea houses. Room was filled with cheery murmur of ladies in attendance while a cute Japanese couple on the next table was going through wedding magazines, presumably busy planning the big day. We were the only Gaijin guests throughout the night which makes me think the place is frequented mostly by the locals or tourists from the region.Our server brought us an English menu with pictures. We put an order for three different sets to sample the best the tea house had to offer. Kosoan serves various traditional Japanese desserts. One of their signature desserts is the Kosoan Style Matcha Shiratama Zensai. This house specialty includes a hot matcha served with white glutinous rice balls and red bean paste (shiratama zenzai) at the bottom of the bowl. Soft chewy rice balls provided nice texture while the contrast between the bitterness of the green tea and the sweetness of the red bean paste was absolutely delicious! The small side dish is salted kelp (shio kombu) which is served as palette cleanser.
The second set featured classic combination of beautiful frothy matcha tea and wagashi, a traditional Japanese unbaked sweets aimed to balance out the bitterness of the green tea. The tea was rich, had an intense color and a sweet and aromatic finish. It was smooth and creamy, had a mild bitter taste, with just a slight hint of umami flavor in the end. Accompanying wagashi was a crystallized sugar azuki bean treat, which cracked pleasantly as I sliced it with a tiny wooden knife. Wagashi are traditional Japanese confections that evolved into an art form in the ancient Imperial capital, Kyoto. It represents the essence of Japanese culture, and embodies Japanese sense of perfectionism as well as unique sense of beauty and appreciation of seasons. The shape change regularly reflecting the changing seasons. The one that we got in Kosoan was clearly reminiscent of ice, reminding us of the cold Japanese winter. Mandy’s set featured beautiful anmitsu, a classic Japanese dessert that is often enjoyed in the warmer months of spring and summer although it didn’t fail to please the palate in January. A colorful bowl of fresh fruit was served with sweet azuki bean paste, boiled peas, delicate gyūhi (type of wagashi similar to mochi) and small cubes of agar jelly. The dessert came with a small pot of sweet black syrup to pour onto the jelly before eating. Black tea was a wonderful accompaniment to the sweet treats. It was a delightful combination of different textures and flavors. As we sipped our delicious cups of tea, we couldn’t help but ogle the beautiful décor of the room. Japanese dolls, paintings and objets d’art are collected by the owner of the cafe. There is also a small shop at the entrance where you can buy little handmade items. At the end of our visit both Mandy and I were totally relaxed and fully recharged. It felt like we just came out of a meditative state. Kosoan is truly a charming spot and I will make multiple returns here with my visiting friends. It is a place where Japanese aesthetics, traditions and nature harmoniously converge and create an idyllic retreat in the midst of Tokyo’s crowded streets and soaring high-rises. Make sure to visit it yourself next time you find yourself in Tokyo.
Kosoan is within a 7-minute walk from Jiyugaoka station (Tokyu Toyoko Line or Tokyu Oimachi Line).
- Hours: daily 11:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.. Closed on Wednesdays.
- Address: 1-24-23 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
xoxo, ~ nano