I’m going to start with the sweetest part of Kyoto. Kind of like eating dessert first. Tucked away in a traditional machiya is my idea of heaven: Nama Chocolat Organic Tea House. I immediately knew we had found ‘our kind of place’ when at the entrance to the leafy, overgrown garden we spotted an Irish Setter asleep in the afternoon sun. We tiptoed over him and entered a living room. Sitting on the edge, next to the sliding doors overlooking the garden, we sank into our cushions and grew silent.
This is the home and work place of chef Nakanishi Hirofumi, his Canadian wife Sherry (an artist) and their son Sasha. And you can tell that their artisanal approach is a lifestyle—delicately balancing their natural surroundings, family life and visitors that take refuge here.
The speciality of the house are hand-made bitter chocolates in flavours like Okinawan Shochu, Kyoto matcha (green tea), and a sweeter variety seasoned with Austrian herb liqueur. Each a surprise for our palettes that melts into deliciousness.
We sat, we sipped our tea and we watched time pass just a little bit slower, until we were ready to return to the world.
Nakanishi’s own words read like poetry to me:
“On a typical day, I wake at four in the morning with no alarm clock. I sit at a low table on the tatami, and with a long knife I begin cutting my chocolate into squares. I do it by eye, so in fact each piece differs slightly.”
“As we live and work in the same building, there really isn’t a line we can draw between being open and closed. Our house has sliding paper and wooden doors so when they are pushed aside or simply removed in the summer, the outside and inside meet.”
“…it was natural for me to create a European sweet. My teahouse has a traditional garden but the flowers bloom, the water in the pond flows, it is moving, and everything changes. To make Kyoto seeped in the past, stagnant, is to make a mockery of it.”
The quotes above are from an interview for Cocoaroma Magazine.