Traveler: Liliana Lopez – Tea Specialist & Co-Founder of Melez Tea
”Japan is the future and the past all at once, it was so distant to anything we had experienced yet it felt so familiar.”
What is your most unforgettable escape? Japan, in the spring or in the fall, without a doubt.
What was the purpose of your travel? Tea and inspiration. Being a tea sommelier, about to launch our own tea experience in Turkey with Melez Tea, we really wanted to live and breathe tea in one of it’s meccas.
With how many people did you travel? My husband and I.
Where did you stay? Shangri-La in Tokyo, great city views and right next to the train station. Hoshinoya in Kyoto, an unforgettable ryokan.
What did you most like about the trip? The architecture and the rituals embedded in the culture. From the importance they give to their tools to the mindful execution of their craft whether they be a sushi chef, a calligrapher, a taxi driver or a tea ceremony master.
Could you share an unforgettable memory about the trip? Playing a drinking game with a geisha (and winning!) in one of the oldest ryokans in Kyoto. There are less than 2,000 geishas left in the world and they are really hard to spot even in Gion, the famed geisha district.
Your most surprising find during the trip? The Golden Gai, a small bar district with narrow streets and around 200 tiny bars. Most bars sit around 4-8 people and have different themes, from punk rock to jazz or anime.
Favorite restaurant(s) or food you have tried during your trip? Noodles at Ramen Street, food stalls at Nishiki Market in Kyoto, Sushi Nakamura and Daiwa Sushi at the Tsukiji Fish Market.
What are the must tries of the city? Mochi & Japanese green tea, this is the heart of Gyokuro, Matcha and Sencha tea.
Any hidden gems you could whisper to us? Souen Sakurai, a modern Japanese tea experience in Nishi-Azabu. It is a bit out of the way but definitely worth it if you are intrigued by tea.
Would you go back? As soon as possible.
Could you list a few of your favorite finds you came back with? A collection of Japanese green tea, a matcha bowl handcrafted by a Kyoto tea master, pottery from Hasami and delicate Japanese paper.
Any tips that might be useful to know before going there? If you are planning to go for the cherry blossoms, make sure to book at least 6 months in advance.
Next stop you would like to visit? Sydney.