When Japan’s Harada Tea commissioned Haruo Abe to expand its 100-year-old family business to the U.S., he wanted Gen Sou En—which opened in Coolidge Corner on Feb. 21—to have a local touch. So Abe hired a load of talent: Joe Cammarata (formerly of Hojoko and Backbar) as general manager and sake enthusiast, Sam Treadway (co-owner of Backbar) as tea master and assistant general manager, and Yozo Masuyama (formerly of Clear Flour Bread) as head baker. The well-known team is honing in on Japanese green tea by highlighting three distinct flavor profiles: umami, mild and savory; kokumi, rich and lingering; and shibumi, bright and intense. This trio is also the backbone of the greater menu, which pairs seasonal dishes with each tea. The 125-seat space features clean lines blended with traditional elements, including a ceremony room and a live tree meant to evoke the gardens found in ancient teahouses. Gen Sou En—which means “farm to cup”—also boasts a 10-seat area to host monthly classes such as matcha-making, where a teacher will demonstrate how the green goodness is made while participants whisk it in their own bowls. “We’re a tea company first,” Cammarata says. “We’re really proud of the way they make tea in Japan and we’re bringing that here and using that as the foundation of the company.”
Treadway helms the tea program that highlights the earthy, light and slightly briny taste of Japanese green tea, which is credited to the farms’ close proximity to the ocean. He’s fine-tuned each brew down to the second of steeping and degree of temperature, and recommends the pleasantly savory, vibrant green umami blend as a mellow crowd-pleaser—the more adventurous should go for the rich and rounded kokumi blend.
Matcha finds its way into multiple areas of the menu but is the star of the show in the matcha soda (pictured on page 9). The concoction, available in honey, grapefruit and ginger flavors, combines a housemade syrup that uses evaporated cane sugar from Ipswich’s Privateer Rum with matcha concentrate and soda. Treadway says, “It’s not too sweet, but the sensation is like drinking a fresh soda with a pleasant dryness at the end.”
Masuyama showcases traditional Japanese treats such as taiyaki (pictured) along with creative offerings, like a matcha roll cake—filled with pastry cream, whipped cream and condensed milk—and a Japanese soufflé cheesecake that’s made lighter than its American counterpart by separating the egg yolks and whites during the whisking process.
Cammarata crafted the three-cup sake menu to be first-timer-friendly by opting for chilled “easy drinking” picks that fit Gen Sou En’s three flavor profiles. His favorite, Kikusui Yodan Jikomi, exhibits subtle notes of fruit.