At one Southern California shopping center, Peet’s Coffee’s huge floor-to-ceiling “Open Soon” banner hung on the wall for almost two years, during which the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf renovated and moved its kiosk to a better location, and Starbucks opened inside a furniture store. After writing about the Japanese Green Tea Café Project in 2015, I did not closely monitor anyone’s progress simply because I thought it would take years for the venture to materialize. Much to my surprise, the first Japanese Green Tea Café opened last year, and so did the Hello Kitty Café, which was mentioned briefly in the same post.

For the café’s location, the business operators chose Abbot Kinney Boulevard – an over-hyped, parking space-scarce touristy district near Venice Beach. Moreover, the team picked the profound -yet-not-too-catchy business name Shuhari, hoping to convey and execute these missions:

SHU (守): To savor centuries of tradition
HA (破): To shake things up, break the rules
RI (離): To achieve independence and a new sense of creativity

The cup of Saemidori Fukamushi Sencha that I ordered did not disappoint. The staff clearly had been trained well on green tea preparation; however, upon requesting more information about this particular saemidori fukamushi sencha, I was presented with a remark as vague as the menu description that reads “a deep-steamed green tea with robustness and sweetness.” How about show me the tea leaves and powder? How about share a two or three-sentence educational comment on fukamushi cha (深蒸し茶)? Perhaps it was much more critical, during a hectic Saturday afternoon, to take orders from the remaining ten customers standing in line than to answer an inquisitive customer’s questions?
The two friends who visited Shuhari with me enjoyed their matcha latte. At Shuhari’s cozy backyard, one friend commented on how the term shuhari originated from martial art and could be applied to different disciplines, including software engineering. The second friend said we should enlist Lyft’s assistance if we ever decided to combat the area’s traffic and re-visit; yes, we must, the other forms of public transportation did not seem to exist!

Should I write a separate Hello Kitty Café post? Does this picture speak a thousand words?!

Just this week I had green tea three days straight, at three different tea shops miles apart in this vast, cosmopolitan city. The Japanese Green Tea Café Project undoubtedly will strive to reach its “50 Cafés” goal; competition will be most fierce though.