Tea at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto

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Trip Index:

Introduction
Getting There – JAL First Class
Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
Guide to Tsukiji Fish Market
Room Service Review: Ritz-Carlton Tokyo
Day in Tokyo
Shinkansen Bullet Train
Hotel Review: Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Tea at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Day 1 in Kyoto
Day 2 in Kyoto
Room Service Review: Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
Getting to Hiroshima
Hotel Review: Sheraton Hiroshima
Day trip to Miyajima
Day in Hiroshima
St. Regis Osaka
Day in Osaka

While waiting for our room to be ready at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, we walked across the lobby to the restaurant to enjoy afternoon tea. The timing was just right since tea time went for a while longer, and the sun’s rays were shining through the windows creating beautiful pattern on the floor. The hostess greeted us warmly, and seemed delighted that we would be joining them for tea that afternoon.

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Seating for the tea was split up into several rooms semi-separated by latticed screens. I asked our hostess if we could be seated at a very nice two-seater table with a view out the window but was told it was reserved.

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I hid my disappointment as she led us thought a full middle room with tables and chairs, and came to another room with a lovely couch nestled between two bookshelves. She made sure we were comfortable, and I thought to myself that somehow, she had given us an even better table than I had originally wanted.

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She returned quickly and I was given a chilled towel.

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I looked around the room and loved the homey touches that made it feel that I was enjoying tea at the cozy home of a friend. There were bookcases with interesting books about travel (I took one down to flip through it), comfy suede-feel pillows, and soft lighting.

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The dark wood tables were set with the finest linen placemats, and a crisply folded napkin awaited on the plate. An orchid sat decoratively in the middle of the table, and champagne glasses were there in case we decided to have some. There were two set tea menus. The first was ¥4500 (about 36 USD), which could be accompanied by a glass of Perrier-Jouët for an extra ¥2000 (16 USD). The second was ¥6000 (48 USD). Perusing the menu items everything looked good. We decided on the first menu, along with the champagne.

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A little bubbly was a great way to toast the start of the meal, and a couple glasses were brought over quickly.

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Upon further inspection though, one of the glasses had absolutely no bubbles. We summoned the waitress back over, and she knelt down to take a look. After realizing that it was flat, she admitted that one glass had been from a bottle that had been open a while and that the other glass had come from a bottle that had just been opened. Not her fault at all, as there were several bottles that were chilled and she had simply taken one to pour from.

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Terribly embarrassed, she returned quickly with the new bottle and a new glass. It was much better, with a ton of bubbles.

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The teapots were brought out, and placed on little silver metal stands.

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Small hourglasses filled with white sand were set next to the teapots. They were to help perfectly time how long we should wait until pouring the tea to maximize the flavor.

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A small palate cleanser was served, which was a small spoonful of something like sherbet. It was just the teensiest bit tart and it left no aftertaste at all. Since we had chosen different tea types (ie white vs black) the hourglasses had the right amount of sand to correspond with each one.

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First came the savories which were a feast for the eyes. Little bits of pastries and creamy additions with carefully arranged toppings. There was a foie gras creme brulee with mango chutney flavored sakura, salmon rillette, roast beef with wildflowers, a quiche and a ham and onion delicacy.

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The savories were followed by nuts that were in a half-shell. Oddly, they were tougher to open than I had expected and my husband and I sat there at the quiet restaurant trying surreptitiously to open them.

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The tiered sweets tray arrived, looking fancy. With a flourish, the waitress whisked off the top cover and hung it neatly so that it hovered above the first tier. By now the section of the restaurant we were sitting in was full as well but since there were only four tables it didn’t feel busy.

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Just then, my sand ran out. It was time for tea! I had chosen the chocolate tea, which turned out to be a lightly colored liquid when poured, accompanied by a single fairy blossom floating on top. The rim of the cup was ornate, with an intricate pattern that matched the small saucer beneath. Still hot, I took a small sip of the tea. It was deliciously flavored without being overwhelming.

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It was a good thing, too, since I had all of those pastries to try. Since I adore macarons I tried a bite of each of those first. Unfortunately, the orange one was too gooey and soft as though it had gotten a few drops of water on it, and the chocolate one a bit too hard and crunchy like it had been sitting out for a few days. I was surprised since the Pierre Herme shop was right in the hotel and I figured that they were a specialty.

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I moved on to the next tier, to try the pistachio and chocolate sweets. The chocolate one was much too dense for my liking and the pistachio one was just ok.

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What was next? More tea. I finished the first cup and poured a second one. Ohh, it was so good.

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The top tier consisted of scones. A daintily scalloped cup held clotted cream, and a small shot glass held marmalade. I happily took a large scoop of each, prepared to lather it on one of the scones.

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Picking up a scone I noticed it was hot. Very hot. In fact, it was so hot that it reminded me of when I put something in the microwave way too long and it gets hard and not so great to eat. So disappointing, since they looked so lovely. I still enjoyed the flavors and may have polished off all the clotted cream, but the scones could have been better.

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I gingerly took a half slice of the final dessert – a tiny rose-flavored pastry. It was delicately flavored and extremely good. I took tiny bites interspersed with more of the chocolate tea, which turned out to be a wonderful combination.

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I ended up finishing the rest of the pot of tea, and I was happy that the meal had ended on a high note.

Overall the tea was delicious, the waitress was warm and attentive, the dishes and setting was lovely, but the food with the exception of the last rose dessert was…disappointing. I’m not sure where things went wrong since everything looked good, and I hope it was usually a better meal.  I really really loved everything else about the experience and hope that others get a chance to experience it with really tasty bites. I felt too that it was too expensive at $52 per person (including a glass of Perrier Jouet). Here’s the current Ritz-Carlton Kyoto tea menu (scroll down past the breakfast).

Next up: Day 1 in Kyoto

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