In the heart of Yokohama Chinatown, Monkey-Magic Teahouse Chaso strives to propose something different and fresh since opening in 2001. For residents, this is a place worth visiting again and again and for visitors the appeal is found in the warm wooden building, hospitable staff, sunshine and flowering tea "blooming" before your eyes in a glass teapot. There is indeed some magic here.
Concept & Values
Fans of "Dragon Ball" or Chinese movies will immediately understand why the English name of this business "Goku" becomes "Monkey-Magic Teahouse" and why the entrance features an illustration of a cute monkey wearing clothes. Goku is the Japanese reading for the name of a legendary character in the 16th-century Chinese novel "Journey to the West: the Monkey King." As the most exciting menu item of this teahouse is "flowering tea," it's important to note that the Monkey King was born on the "Flowers & Fruit Mountain."
The name of this teahouse ends with "Chaso", which means teahouse, to differentiate it from its sister shop "Monkey-Magic Teahouse First, "a shop opened (first) in 1981 that sells tea and utensils in Yokohama Chinatown.
This teahouse and its teas are great but the owner highlights something else that "it's not the tea, it's the people." This may be why I have excellent memories beyond the tea itself, this may be why customers can normally (not during the coronavirus pandemic) enjoy puppet theatre shows and live concerts of Chinese pipa (you may know its Japanese descendent: the biwa lute), and this may be why this business appeared on popular TBS TV program "Matsuko no Shiranai Sekai" (The World Unknown To Matsuko) in 2016.
Tea Shop, Teahouse & Staff
This non-smoking teahouse is easy to spot, with yellow and red flags, red balcony and a wooden frame. Usually, you will see a colorful monkey-shaped board and plants at the entrance.
The ground floor is a warm colorful shop with many things dotted around everywhere and narrow pathways (be careful with big travel bags). You can buy around 100 different types of Chinese tea leaves, a wide range of tea utensils and even books related to Chinese tea.
The second floor is a big "Shanghai classic style" room with wooden tables and chairs and comfortable cushions (comfortably sitting 30 customers), in which you can drink around 40 different kinds of Chinese tea and eat. Sit back, relax, enjoy the moment (maybe borrowing a book/magazine if alone), and chat over a cup if you have company.
You'll greatly appreciate the friendly staff who somehow manage to be simultaneously present and discreet. Upstairs, they will prepare your tea at your table.
Wonderful Tea & Other Drinks
A broad selection of tea is available. I recommend flowering tea to first-time visitors:
- Black tea. From ¥1,100.
- White tea. ¥1,320.
- Red tea. ¥1,100.
- Yellow tea. Currently unavailable.
- Green tea. From ¥715.
- Blue tea (oolong). ¥1,100.
- Jasmine milk tea. From ¥605.
- Flowering tea (blooming tea): Dried tea leaves and flowers bound into a bulb, opening or blooming in hot water. The glass teapot allows you to see/photograph/record the process and enjoy the flowers while drinking. Rare in Japan. From ¥715.
The menu changes over time so you may or may not find:
- Monkey-magic cocktail. Added in December 2020, vodka with watermelon, 100 percent natural taste. ¥1,100.
- Hot Pu'er tea with fruits. Autumn/winter only, fermented tea with honey and pieces of orange, apple, green grapes, wolfberries and Chinese hawthorn. ¥1,320.
- Jasmine watermelon smoothie. Watermelon smoothie containing jasmine tea, chocolate (shaped like watermelon seeds), and pink salt rock. Great during Japan's hot summers. ¥880.
Noodles, Desserts and Set
The food selection is diverse and also changes over time:
- Onion char siu noodles. Autumn/winter only, contains white onion, barbecued pork, raw egg, soy sauce and sesame oil. ¥957.
- Soy milk dandan noodles. Autumn/winter only, Sichuan pepper and chili oil make this dish strong and sharp. Contains pork. ¥902.
- Dunhuang dessert: The highlight of this teahouse. Ice cream with white tapioca, adzuki beans, lychee. ¥715.
- Lychee tea hot dessert. Contains white balls filled with two types of red bean paste. ¥550.
- Goku set (Monkey set). Dried fruits, dried confectionery, fluffy sponge cake and hot steamed bun (mushroom or meat based). ¥660.
Kanagawa Prefecture gave a dedicated certificate to Monkey-Magic Teahouse Chaso. Staff wear masks and disinfect surfaces between visits. The number of clients is restricted, body temperature is checked at the entrance, and social distancing is enforced. There is a partition at the cash register, contactless payments are favoured and electronic payments are possible notably via PayPay. Online shopping is possible too if you just want to purchase tea or utensils.