Located on the next block down from the busier streets of St. Marks and beyond, Setsugekka is a small shop that sells some of the most authentic matcha drinks and desserts in the city. With an unassuming storefront, it's easy to miss this little gem wedged between cluttered buildings, but this only amplifies the quaint charm of this traditional teahouse.
Run by Junya Mori and his wife, an award-winning tea master, Souheki Mori (who has over 20 years of training), Setsugekka offers more than just the perfect cup of matcha but a brief respite and moment of zen, channeled by their hospitality and kind service. Once you step in, you'll witness the minimal interior design that place focus on the elevated tatami mat displaying gorgeous ceramic cups and tea utensils. The warm lighting and the wooden lining on white walls creates a space that encourages a meditative, peaceful atmosphere. And if you're lucky, you'll also see Mori and staff looking beautifully prim and proper in their kimonos.
So what does Setsugekka mean? This word is actually a combination of three kanji characters, that translates to snow, moon, and flowers, which are meant to represent the beauty that is present in each passing season. And their matcha selection lives up to this thoughtful name.
Setsugekka radiates authenticity. The matcha is neither watered down nor overly sweetened. It goes back to its Japanese roots of tea ceremonies and skillful craft, boasting a menu that's straightforward, and yet still creates a sense indecisiveness come time to order. Nevertheless, every beverage is the perfect balance of a rich earthy flavor that is never overbearingly bitter. Whether you're getting an Usucha style or a latte that's been mixed with hot milk, it's the quality matcha that Mori carefully selects from different areas in Japan that ultimately takes the spotlight in every drink. There's a traditional heavy stone grinder that spins and produces the matcha powder on the spot, so you know every sip is incredibly fresh. One of my favorite items on their menu is the Matcha Affogato: a perfectly sweet milk gelato with Koicha, a thick matcha tea, delicately poured over to balance out the sweetness.
Setsugekka is the closest you can get to traveling to Japan and experiencing an authentic tea ceremony. They offer tea ceremony experiences, where you can observe firsthand the performance and meticulous care that goes into crafting the perfect cup of matcha. There are also tea lessons where you can learn about the history and procedures of a proper Japanese tea ceremony. This immersive and educational aspect of Setsugekka is what makes this place so special and the hub for all things matcha.