There's a new store in Kyoto, near the Oike Street end of Teramachi, my favorite shopping street. The store is called Lupicia. (ルピシア）They sell tea, and they are a class act! The shop is gorgeous. Along the one wall there are small tins of different teas - probably hundreds - for customers to inspect and smell. If you want to try before you buy there is an area at the back of the store where they will brew a cup of whichever tea you are interested in. They have teas from all over the world, green teas, black teas, herb teas, fruit teas, flower teas, even South African red bush tea. There are some very special Japanese style teas available in pretty little sample packs of three teabags for 300 yen, and also in various sizes of beautifully packaged gift tins. They would make wonderful souvenirs or gifts for tea drinking friends back home.
The store opened just yesterday. I found they have a mail order tea business on the internet, but I chatted with the charming European manager who was strolling around the shop in traditional Japanese dress, and he told me the store is the only one in Kyoto. (After we left the store my friend and I were speculating about the nationality of the manager. My friend thought French but I thought perhaps Belgian or Swiss...)
Now I'll tell you what I bought! The first tea that attracted my interest was 'Karigane Nikki' ( 雁ヶ音日記 ) which is Houjicha (roasted tea) with cinnamon. Then there was the fruity-scented 'Karakoro' ( からころ ), a black tea flavored with yuzu (citrus) and plum. Finally I bought 'Tattoo', a green tea blend with jasmine flowers and longan fruit, which smells heavenly and is described on the packet as having a smoky flavor.
I only bought 300 yen sample packs of each of these, but I still received three gift teas at the check-out, where they also inquired whether I wanted my purchases gift wrapped. So in addition to my selections I will also be able to try 'First Flush', 'Grapefruit' and 'Champagne Rose' (no English description on the packets so I don't know what I'm in for.)
It's enough to make me wish I was more into tea... but sadly, although I like to try new things, and I do drink the occasional cup of tea, what I really like is coffee...