When we think of French drinks, our minds undoubtedly bubble over with images of champagnes and fine wines. Tea is certainly not the first, or even 100th drink commonly associated with France, no matter how long your stew on it. Yet, French tea is gaining popularity in Japan. It is now readily available in popular import food stores like Kaldi, and some tea merchants have even opened cafes in larger cities.

One such tea house in particular, nestled in the leafy suburbs of trendsetting Omotesando, has a history too fascinating not to be told. Combining adventure, history-making and kawaii cats, this is the story of Janat tea and its rising popularity in Japan.

Photo by Toby M

Janat Tea: Steeped in History

Janat is a French Tea Merchants based in Paris. The company was established in 1872 by Janat Dores. Dores was an avid traveller who roamed the globe in search of the finest teas, coffee beans, and jams that he could import into Marseille and sell in France. Dores' passion for adventure and life’s fine flavors enabled him to introduce his quality Janat tea brand to people across France where today it is a household name.

Dores’s tea really poured forth into prominence thanks to his friendship with Gustav Eiffel, the engineering mastermind behind the Eiffel Tower. Dores met Eiffel when he consulted the engineer for a more efficient way to preserve and transport tea leaves from overseas. Together, the pair developed the world’s first oak barrel for tea.

But like the perfect partnership between tea and cake, from this endeavor, Eiffel and Dores’ genius mingled to create another seminal innovation. Oak barrel-aged tea! By using oak casks made in the Champagne region of France and aging tea leaves in them, the pair developed a brand new tea product. Janat’s tea aged in oak barrels has a distinctive smoky taste which differs from batch to batch thanks to the uniqueness of each handmade oak barrel.

HiroS_Photo | © PIXTA

The barrel-aged tea was served in 1889 at the Exposition Universelle, cementing Dores and Eiffel's life long friendship, and introducing not only France but the world to the Janat tea brand. This tea would later be served for the first time to the public in Tokyo’s very own Janat Tea Salon.

Janat Tea: An Iconic Purrrfect Cuppa

As his tea empire began to boom, Janat Dores found himself having to travel more frequently. This was great news for tea lovers as he sourced and developed new tea blends, but sad news for Dores’ two cats, Sam and Beau.

Janat loved his two kitties dearly. So strong was the bond between them that according to legend, the cats, sensing the return of their master, would wait on the doorstep whenever Janat arrived home from a business voyage.

This bond between master and cat now lives on as the symbol of the Janat Tea company. Every box of tea contains the twin cat logo, and the doorstep of every Janat Tea Salon or store is flanked by Sam and Beau statues. According to the Janat website, the cats symbolize Janat’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion for making dreams come true!

From Paris to Omotesando and teacups the world over

Of course, the same two black cats can be found outside the Janat Tea Salon in Omotesando. This store marks the first international outpost of the Janat tea brand. Serving up delicious cakes and a range of Janat’s most popular teas, as well as some rarer ones, the salon is the ideal place to get the complete Janat experience.

The desserts on offer in the salon are all “très bon” and are dying to be tried, like the Pyramide Aztec, a rich dark chocolate cake containing roasted bananas. The stand out sweet, however, is the aptly named Gustave Eiffel Cheesecake. Like the eponymous tower, this cake is magnificent and was actually served during the Exposition Universelle in 1889 to celebrate the inventor's masterpiece. You can now try this historical cake yourself in the heart of Tokyo.

Meanwhile, the interior of the store is designed to look like a traditional Parisian cafe. Decked out with wooden furniture and softly lit by artificial and natural light, it’s a comfortable space to indulge in French cafe culture with friends. There are also possessions of the founding father dotted around inside, and while enjoying the delicious tea, it feels almost like you’re a guest in the home of Janat Dores himself.

By establishing their international Tea Salon in Omotesando, a globally renowned trend hot spot, Janat is now well at home in the company of style and good taste.

Janat Tea: Synonymous with Diverse Innovation

As Janat’s renown has grown internationally and within Japan, so too has its efforts to be a socially responsible corporation. Janat focuses particularly on promoting female empowerment as over 90% of workers in the tea industry are female.

Janat invests in providing high-quality education, health care, and career opportunities for female employees, especially on their tea plantations in Sri-Lanka. In addition, the organization patronizes the Femmes Du Mondes charity whose purpose is to empower women to overcome deeply ingrained societal barriers that prevent them from achieving their full potential. The charity is a collaboration between French and Japanese women, supporting women around the world.

In 2016, Janat launched the tea-for-two campaign. Using an adorable brand yellow camper van that travelled around Japan, Janat offered free cups of their delicious tea to female customers. Based on Janat’s belief that tea is a message of love and a moment to relax, the campaign aimed to give women a much needed moment to relax as the backbone of our society. For every box of their tea sold in stores, Janat pledged to provide a free cup of tea to any woman who crossed the path of their camper van. They achieved their goal, bringing smiles and satisfaction to women across Japan.

Much like the beverage they produce, Janat Tea company’s story is full of warmth, history, and global interconnectedness. We encourage readers to head down to their nearest Kaldi and pick up a box of Janat’s fine tea. Or, once the COVID-19 lockdown passes, visit the Janat Tea Salon in Omotesando for the authentic Parisian tea experience.

Janat Tea Salon Details

  • Address:5-46-10 Jingu-mae, Shibuya 150-0001 Tokyo – Japan
  • Opening Hours: 11:00 - 19:00 (closed Tuesdays)
  • Tel:03-6418-8272

By - Toby M.