What best way to celebrate that you’ve been granted a Chinese visa for your little tea trip next spring? With a cup of Japanese tea at newly opened Isshin in Den Haag (The Hague) of course! 😉
It wasn’t really planned to just visit this brand new Japanese tea shop while visiting The Hague. I had to pick up my visa at the visa center and wanted to do a whole day of tea tripping in this city, so I asked Jessica from @kizunatea, an online webshop selling Japanese teas based in The Hague, for some tips. Jessica was so very kind to give the best possible spots to drink tea and I was excited to do some sipping. But my only weekday off was Monday, and Monday being the new Sunday, all small business owners close their doors that day.
All but one: Isshin. A Japanese tea geek’s Garden of Eden at the edge of The Hague’s Chinatown. Often in tea shops in Holland you will find some Japanese tea, but the focus will be on Chinese, Taiwanese or Indian teas. In buying Japanese teas your best pick in the Netherlands would be a webshop like Kizuna Tea, of which I’ve heard many good stories… but I still have to place my first order (hopefully after the 2017 teas arrive).
Walking into Isshin the welcome was incredibly warm. Not only because of the greetings of owner Miyuki, but also because of the store itself. It looks more like a little kitchen or cozy living room than a tea shop. And of course everything was designed with the beauty of Japanese detail.
Miyuki told me she came to the Netherlands less than a year ago for the education of her son and said she had worked in tea before, but in a completely different spectrum of it: selling herbal teas in Japan over twenty years ago.
Now it was time to promote Japan’s best teas to the world, a mission that brought us in the same room once before. During the weekend of the Japan Export Tea Council, who came to Holland with a heavy delegation to the ITC Academy for a weekend course on Japanese teas last October, Miyuki was one of the people helping out with the course, and I was an attendee.
Miyuki took me around the shop and explained more about the teas she sold. All teas come from the same region in Japan: Yame, in the Fukuoka prefecture on Kyushu, the most southern island of Japan. Most of them are from farmer and producer Yuhachiro Higuchi. Single farm teas, something that – correct me if I’m wrong – is not so common in Japan as most teas are blends with leaves from different farms, even different regions within regions, to make a standard quality.
Besides, Isshin offers Sencha from many different types of cultivar, not only the most popular one, Yabukita. I saw Okuhikari and Sakimidori among many others. Teas are fairly priced, ranging from 16 euros to 28 euros (for the top Sencha) per 100 grams.
Isshin is a shop and not a tea house, but Miyuki had some time to serve me a cup of what one customer described as ‘the Kobe Beef’ of her teas. It was a Kabusecha that was very sweet and at one point was tested by Miyuki to the limit with water that was a bit too hot, to see what is was capable of. Still, sweetness and no disturbing bitterness.
Another customer walked in, joined the little tea session and seemed to be very impressed by the taste as well. The man didn’t know of the existence of Japanese teas like this Kabusecha before. He had discovered Matcha just recently by walking into Isshin one day and said he made a bowl of Matcha every time before working out, to get an energy boost. Now he came to Isshin to buy some for his mother, in the hope she would fall in love too. Love for tea is all about sharing and spreading, even and especially when you are new into the world of tea.
After being spoiled with all kinds of sweets and the Kabusecha, I bought my last Japanese tea of the 2016 batch – I promised myself this a few times already – and left with a Sencha and a little bag of fine Gyokuro for Amsterdam.
Isshin is the most Japanese-minded physical tea shop there is in Holland and – Miyuki realized this herself too – can be a bit overwhelming, too specific, for new or potential tea lovers. But she came up with a great idea to make it easier for people to walk in: Isshin is, next to a tea shop, a little Japanese cultural center, with workshops on tea, sushi making, a Japanese language course and many ideas in the pipeline to spread more knowledge on Japan and its culture. Of which tea is obviously a very important part.
Den Haag/The Hague
Sunday open at 12
To see what workshops Isshin offers: check their Facebook.