Brookline’s first Japanese teahouse, Gen Sou En Tea House, opened at the beginning of the year and brings a touch of zen, and matcha, to Coolidge Corner. The interior, designed by a Japanese architect who received his degree at MIT, merges the Feng Shui of a minimalistic teahouse, with the productive design of a counter service eatery. At the center of the main dining area, a live tree grows from the ground, reaching towards the large skylight above it. It’s a far cry from the Panera that formerly occupied this real estate.
Haruo Abe, the overseer of the American expansion of parent company Harada Tea, says he was drawn to Brookline because of its large Japanese population and adventurous foodie crowd. “The people around here are very curious and welcoming to different cultures,” he says. “When we decided on this place everything just came together.”
Green tea is the house specialty. The most popular order serves up one of three green tea varieties, Umami, Kokumi, or Shibumi on a tray with a teapot, two glasses, a small assortment of matcha cookies, and an hourglass to know when the steeping is complete. Abe says these teas are an introduction to the flavor profile and vernacular of Japan.
“Gen Sou En” loosely translates to “farm to cup.” True to that slogan, all of Harada Tea’s products are sourced directly from Japanese tea fields and begin the steaming process just 30 minutes after harvest for maximum flavor capture.
Of course, no relaxing conversation over tea is complete without something sweet. Head baker Yozo Masuyama, formerly of Clear Flour Bread, crafts goodies like matcha pound cake and red bean filled rolls. Masuyama operates a rotating menu of over 100 baked goods of his own recipes. Gen Sou En offers 15-20 standards daily and then a few surprises from Masuyama’s recipe collection.
Gen Sou En also serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner offering everything from traditional bento boxes and sushi to a Japanese breakfast sandwich containing your choice of bacon, lox, cheese, or natto.
In addition to serving food and beverages, Gen Sou En hosts events like tea ceremonies, book readings, and private functions. A small market area in the teahouse offers loose leaf Harada tea and brewing supplies for at home enjoyment.
For Abe, it was important that the teahouse be a community spot for Brookline. “What I love about this place is the diversity of ages, from millennial to senior folks,” he says. He’s already thinking about further expansion in the Boston area, but first and foremost Gen Sou En’s priority is serving its current patrons in the best way possible. He says, “We have a responsibility to be a good landmark in Brookline and to uphold that neighborhood pride.”