Tea in Tokyo
I'm a tea addict. The first thing I find in a new city is how they make their tea or coffee.
I've lived in Tokyo for a while, and during that time have had the pleasure of experiencing different types of tea. I'm writing this
Modern Japanese Tea Ceremonies
Western High Tea in Tokyo
The two most luxurious (and pricey) high teas I recommend are the Mandarin Oriental Lounge and the Shangri-La Lobby Lounge. Both are decadent, change their menu seasonally and have unlimited tea and coffee. For instance, in early winter strawberries are in season I've had strawberry-themed sets, and during fall I've had autumnal flavors like chestnut, butternut squash and mushrooms. For an upcharge, they also offer sparkling wine for celebrations. Both of these lounges are on the uppermost floors of skyscrapers in the heart of Tokyo. I recommend making late reservations, around 3PM so that you can watch the sun set over the skyline.
Quality-wise, both are comparable. In my personal opinion, the largest difference between the two is the experience and style, which I will cover below.
The Mandarin Oriental Lounge
The Mandarin Oriental Lounge has more of a British and French high tea feel in my opinion. While the ingredients may change, the Mandarin does scones, petit-fours, mousse, and hand sandwiches best and most of the fare will be in this vein. The Mandarin's oolong tea is some of the best I've had in Japan—nothing like the dark, bitter tea commonly served in izakayas. Also, the Mandarin's bathroom is ridiculously cool, although binary gendered (men's and women's side). If you go, don't miss it.
Shangri-La Lobby Lounge
Shangri-La Lobby Lounge has more of a worldy and modern feel. They will commonly include fare from Indonesia, Thailand, China, Turkey in addition to seasonal scones and jam. Every time I have gone I've been surprised by the uniqueness of the cuisine, and I've never had a bad dish. Because I'm a more adventurous gourmet, if I were to choose between the two, I'd choose Shangri-La. A friend of mine and I had the melon seasonal set, and they paired melon with salmon—which I hadn't thought before to try, but it was so delicious. If you're a fan of black (caffeinated) tea I recommend the Chocolate Monkey—it's a chocolate and spice tea that's complex and tasty. Unlike the Mandarin, Shangri-La has an easily accessible all-gender restoom on the lobby floor. 💚
So maybe emptying your wallet isn't your cup of tea (hah) but you still want to experience a good western high tea in Tokyo. These options are both around 4000 yen (it still is Tokyo after all) and still net you a great experience.
Berry's Tea Room
Reservations required; can be made over the phone (Japanese only). You can also go with no reservations and order the smaller Princess Set.
Full high tea is 4100 per person. The Princess Set is 2600 yen. (as of Sept 2022)
Map is here.