Ran Hotei Cafe and Gallery
I was first introduced to Ran Hotei around 6 years ago when shopping in Sanjo Shotengai (an old-fashioned shopping arcade on Sanjo Street on the western edge of Kyoto city) and almost immediately became addicted to their sweets – particularly the Kinako and Caramel Fudge cake (OK and the Matcha Fudge cake too).. and also the Houjicha pudding (roasted green tea flavoured custard)… I’d better stop there. They have a wonderful selection of teas and drinks to go with the sweeties.
Kinako (roasted soy bean powder) Caramel Fudge cake above. And the Matcha Fudge cake and Houjicha Pudding which I took home one day – yep, they do take out. Yay!
The Art Deco space is absolutely charming and it is a little too easy to while away the afternoon on one of their comfy chairs. It is particularly picturesque towards the back of the teahouse/cafe where you can sit on the floor on Zabuton cushions if you prefer.
I love the old tiles and manhole cover inserted into the flooring on the way to the bathroom by the garden. Ran Hotei is an unexpected tranquil patch in an old-school, slightly run-down shopping arcade.
Sanjo shotengai is a a short walk south from Nijo Station and worth making a visit if you are in the area. The “local” vibe in the arcade is a nice step away from the regular tourist haunts.
What I didn’t realise at first was that Ran Hotei is owned by Randy Channell – a Kyoto local who trained as a Tea Master and has been performing and teaching about the subject for many years – he’s in fact rather famous these days, known throughout Japan for his expertise and constantly on TV, in mags etc. It is rare for a foreigner to gain such respect in a traditional art so he clearly has talent.
On the third occasion I popped in to Ran Hotei I was fortunate to meet Randy. To be honest I was expecting someone of his standing within the community to be a little intimidating – but he was the total opposite. Really down to earth, passionate about what he does and trying his best to share his knowledge and maintain a successful business. We enjoyed a good old chat while he simmered and stirred his popular curry – their special lunch time offering. It is pretty damn delicious too might I add.
If you are looking for some serious education in English about The Way of Tea (in a non intimidating way) make sure you look up Ran Hotei. The classes are held in an intimate space above the cafe. If learning about Tea Ceremony isn’t on your itinerary next trip nevermind – it is the perfect stop for a cuppa and something sweet – or some homemade curry !