Japan’s MUSICA reopens its tea saloon
Tea Saloon MUSICA and the owner, Yuma Horie. Image courtesy of Yumi Nakatsugawa
One of the leading black tea specialised shops in Japan, Tea Saloon MUSICA, resumed tearoom operation on 9 July, for the first time in six years.
Yuma Horie, the third owner of Horie’s family business, had been looking for a suitable place for their tea saloon in Ashiya, Hyogo where he was born and raised. He found a notice for available space in the city-owned and recently renovated ex-Miyatsuka Residential Building, and applied for the competition with a detailed business plan. MUSICA was selected among dozens of contenders for the only space designated for a catering establishment. The reopening of MUSICA’s tea saloon was greatly welcomed by their loyal customers in not only close-by Kobe or Osaka cities but also various parts of the country. The small and cozy tearoom is located on the grand floor of the two-story building and has a 33-square meter floor space with a 15-seat capacity.
MUSICA was founded by Yuma’s grandfather, Kenkichi Horie, in Dojima, Osaka in 1952. Since Kenkichi was a prominent music critic, the saloon featured on music and beverages. When, Kenkichi’s son, Toshiki Horie succeeded the management, he converted it a black tea specialized shop. Toshiki studied black tea enthusiastically by visiting both major tea-producing and consuming countries. He also renamed the saloon to Tea House MUSICA in 1969, which gradually had become famous as a pioneer in black tea business. The shop relocated several times in Dojima area. The last MUSICA shop in Dojima, which opened in 1999 was the biggest and occupied the third floor of a new building with a space of 462 square meters. It was a combination of tea saloon, tea retailing shop, restaurant as well as blending and packing workshop.
Initially, the shop had great success, however, their high rental and labour costs gradually affected their profitability. Consequently, Yuma searched for a downsized shop space to sustain their tea business. Yuma made two crucial decisions; moving from Dojima and suspending the tea saloon business. In 2013, Yuma relocated MUSICA to Ashiya and has continued tea retailing with a lower and manageable fixed cost. Thanks to the increase of mail orders, MUSICA’s teas are still enjoyed by many black tea lovers nationwide. At the same time, many of their customers expressed that they really missed MUSICA’s tea saloon.
“It was a unique coincidence that the MUSICA and this building were established in the exactly same year, 1952,” Yuma explained. The building was constructed in stone and even survived the devastating Kobe Earthquake, which hit in 1995. It used to accommodate eight families, four in each floor. After the recent transformation, other rooms are mostly used as ateliers by creators.
MUSICA serves about 40 kinds of tea from main tea-producing countries, both blended and non-blended form. In order for customers to enjoy the full characteristics of each tea, hot teas are basically served by pot. They believe brewing tea by pot is the best and only way to make black tea more popular — this is the unchanged style of MUSICA. In addition, the building has some garden space allowing each tenant to make use of it. Therefore, MUSICA returns their infused tea leaves into the soil behind the tea saloon, which will turn to manure and may enhance beautiful flowers to grow in a few years to come.
“This building will be listed as a cultural property of Ashiya City sometime next year. We are proud to operate a tea saloon here and hope to bring tea culture to the coming generations,” Yuma resolved.
Yumi Nakatsugawa has been working as a freelance writer specialising in food and restaurant management. While freelancing, she developed a love of black tea as well as tea-producing countries and tea people. Her passion for black tea has brought her to Sri Lanka, India, Kenya, Indonesia, Nepal, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea to see tea production first hand. Based in Japan, Yumi may be reached at: [email protected]