Where to Gen Sou En, a Japanese-style teahouse in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner. Parent company Harada Tea Processing Co. is located in Japan, near Mt. Fuji, but some familiar local names are attached: Joe Cammarata (Hojoko) is the general manager, Sam Treadway (Backbar) is assistant GM, and Yozo Masuyama (Clear Flour) is head baker.
What for A modernized teahouse experience in a lovely space, where baked goods and green tea are taken seriously.
The scene A big, bright, open room with separate seating areas: a curved island with bar stools and outlets; woven pod chairs arrayed around a small garden of moss, rocks, and a tree reaching for the skylight; a tatami space with a pile of shoes beside it; a long table at the back where precocious children keep their mothers busy. Modern lanterns hang from a ceiling of light wood slats, and an island of wood shelves display tea. A long line snakes toward the door from the counter, where the denizens of Brookline order food and drink: an anime character wannabe in over-the-knee boots and a short skirt, a plummy-voiced white-haired gentleman who looks like he should be the host of an intellectual talk show, an Instagrammer wearing saddle shoes, women in Eileen Fisher and the men who love them.
What you’re eating Gen Sou En is open all day. In the morning, it serves Japanese breakfasts of rice, fish, miso soup, and pickles, as well as breakfast sandwiches, hand rolls, and avocado toast with soy sauce. For lunch and dinner, you’ll find more hand rolls, katsu sandwiches (featuring meat or vegetables that have been panko-crusted and fried), and teishoku: bento-box sets of rice, pickles, miso soup, and anything from vegetable tempura to Japanese-style fried chicken. There’s also soft serve in flavors like matcha-vanilla and coconut-yuzu. The baked goods are a highlight: tea-flavored cakes rolled with whipped cream, croissants, hojicha cookies, matcha cream puff, and more.
Care for a drink? Green tea comes in three blends: umami (mellow, smooth), kokumi (deep, complex), and shibumi (sharp, intense). There are also herbal teas, tea lattes, coffee drinks (miso latte, anyone?), and house-made sodas, plus sake, beer, and wine.
Overheard Food-related enthusiasm, discussion of dinosaur species, tea curiosity. “Do you like the apatosaurus? You need to sit on your tushy,” a mother tells her toddler. At the counter, indecision reigns. “Oh, I want a hoji-cha roll cake! Ooh, I want a hoji-cha latte! They have omu raisu! Oh, there’s Japanese iced coffee! I want everything,” a woman tells her companion. “Why don’t you just try the whole menu?,” he says. “Oh, I would love to!” A new arrival looks around at the crowd: “This is the tea house Brookline didn’t know it needed!,” he exclaims.
299 Harvard St., Coolidge Corner, Brookline, 617-505-6745, www.gensouenteahouse.comDevra First can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.