Kyoto is not a city usually associated with afternoon tea. For one thing, this is hardly a Japanese tradition. However, on a recent visit, we discovered a unique version in a most extraordinary hotel. This all came about by accident, too.
After a short walk around Ninenzaka, a famous old street near Gion, we returned to the Park Hyatt Kyoto to take refuge from the summer heat. We’d been too busy to have lunch and it was already mid-afternoon, which is neither here nor there time for a meal.
This was when the hotel concierge suggested: “Why don’t you try our afternoon tea?” I’d been hearing about this unique pairing of sweet and savory treats with assorted fine teas. So this was the perfect thing to do.
LOBBY OF THE PARK HYATT KYOTO
We sat in the corner of the lobby lounge, which is a wood paneled space filled with books and art. It’s a wonderful place to spend some time in, just relaxing over cups of tea. It’s cozy and intimate — perfect to escape the summer heat or to keep warm in the winter.
It turns out, the Park Hyatt Kyoto version of afternoon tea is a five-course event paired with tea. It can really stand in as a late lunch instead. So we were very pleased to have followed the suggestion of the concierge.
FOOD AS AFTERNOON TEA
Every course was a work of art, and the teas were delightful. We began with a plate containing two bite-sized morsels. One was a terrine of foie gras and passion fruit. Meanwhile, the other was a financier topped with fresh mango and ringed with grated coconut.
AFTERNOON TEA AT THE PARK HYATT KYOTO
One piece was savoury and the other was sweet. This turned out to be a very balanced combination of tastes, especially when drunk with a slightly acidic tea. The chef paired this with a rose hip blend from Kyoto, from the Herbalist Club Miyama.
VEGETABLES & SEAFOOD
Following a traditional multi-course meal, we then had the afternoon tea version of salad and seafood. The chef sent out a perfectly formed summer vegetable terrine and a corn waffle topped with scallop and sea urchin. We ate this with green tea wafers and cups of a green tea and ginger blend from Kotoshina in Kyoto.
EGGPLANT AS TONKATSU
The main course followed, and this was probably my favorite. A Kamo eggplant was fashioned into a deep fried cutlet and served with olive green tapenade. This was so similar to the Tonkatsu, which is everyone’s favorite Japanese comfort food.
PEACH PALATE CLEANSER
Prior to the last course, we had the equivalent of a palate cleanser. Slices of fresh peaches were arranged nicely in a basket and sprinkled with sake granite. It was a lovely pairing of sweet fruit and spicy alcohol.
Finally, the chef sent out dessert. Or at least the equivalent of it in this afternoon tea multi-course pairing. He made a cherry and ricotta cheese soufflé which was warm, sweet and filling all at once. A slice of chocolate covered jelly accompanied the soufflé. Guessing what to do with this, we dipped the chocolate sticks into the soufflé’ and this turned out wonderfully.
The tartness of the cherry in the soufflé also complimented our last tea. We happily drank cups of tea in a beautiful red color, a blend of hibiscus and Shiso. Everything was fruity and tart and yet also sweet and comforting.
We were full after that. But what a delicious and relaxing way to spend Saturday afternoon in Kyoto.