U.S. tea drinking is on the rise. Research has revealed this for several years now.
So now might seem like a good time to open a tea store in NYC.
Some tea retailers are betting U.S. tea drinkers will gravitate toward Japanese teas. The Japan Times reports that the U.S. imported ten times the amount of Japanese tea it did 10 years ago. The article does not say, however, what kind of tea this was. It could be bottled tea, food-grade matcha, or sencha used for blends.
Ippodo is taking the risk that New York is ready for a step up in Japanese tea appreciation, and offers some very delightful matchas, senchas, gyokuros, banchas, and a limited amount of teaware. On a recent visit, their selection included their Kafu matcha, Kanro gyokuro, and Hosen sencha. Staff were quite knowledgable, and gave an introduction of their Uji teas.For comparison, I went to the Ippodo online shop, where I found a 50 g bag of Kanro gyokuro for ¥2,ooo (just under $20 USD), while the US store sold a 50 g bag for $36 USD. Of course the store offers a rustic elegance and hands-on support in helping choose and explore teas, both value-adds that a website can’t offer as much of. It is somewhat possible that different grades are being offered, or that the market price of the tea has changed.
Dedicated customers for Ippodo will likely develop largely based on a previous affinity toward Japanese culture, or from experienced tea drinkers looking for more. It is not necessarily the place where the average teabag or bottle tea drinker will walk in and feel at home. Even so, it seems that Ito En also believes there may be enough of this kind of discerning tea drinker. Ito En is reportedly looking for the right New York location, despite having shuttered a Madison Ave. (also connected to a restaurant) store just a few years ago.
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