How Tsu 好吃: Steamed manjuu and Tea

How Tsu 好吃 is a hidden gem in back neighborhood of Ginowan, a small cafe with tea and steamed buns.

It is not too difficult to find, but if you didn’t know about it, you probably wouldn’t have followed the signs to get there. The signs lead you to a small alley, with about 1 maybe 2 kei car spaces.

There is a sign outside saying “Open.” And sure enough, as you open the door of what seems to simply be someone’s house… a small tea space and kitchen appears. The menu is in Japanese and English (probably due to the location near to the military base, though I cannot imagine many Americans come here). There are handmade steamed buns: nikuman (meat), taanmuman (taro), anman (red bean), and bao (like a steamed pork sandwich bun). There are also some choices for tea: high mountain oolong, jasmine, herb, and coffee. For 500yen, I got red bean and taro buns with a pot of high mountain oolong. Cheap and delicious.



Open noon-7pm. Closed on Mondays.

Nuchigafu: Afternoon Bukubuku tea set

Another bukubuku-cha post! Sorry, I cannot help myself, I love tea culture.

So one afternoon I set out on a mission, and asked if my husband would join me. We headed for the Tsuboya yachimun (pottery) district of Naha. Specifically to the popular Ryukyu-style restaurant, Nuchigafu ぬちがふう(命果報).

This place gained much popularity after the Jimami Tofu movie came out; the owner collaborated with the movie showing and prepared a special lunch set that included all the foods that were found in the movie. Many of my friends raved about it (I forgo due to the copious amounts of pork in most Okinawan cuisine). However, recently, they started offering an afternoon tea set with bukubuku cha, so… of course I most check it out.

The restaurant is located off a quiet back street, but it is easy to find. The architecture is beautiful, and one of the resident cats greeted us. The atmosphere inside is quite nice and relaxing. We ordered one “simple tea set” which included 8 treats (savory and sweet), 3 traditional cookies, and bukubuku tea, and one bukubuku tea set (which comes with 3 traditional cookies). The bukubuku cha was prepared at the table so you could watch the magic happen. Everything on the plate was delicious of course. Overall I highly recommend this place for an afternoon stopover while you are visited the pottery district!



Gongfu cha (Chinese tea ceremony) 工夫茶 in Okinawa

工夫茶 (Japanese spelling: kunfuucha): gongfu tea ceremony

As a tea “enthusiast,” I am always interested in trying any type of tea available. While in Taiwan and Shanghai, I have enjoyed gongfu “tea ceremony” on a few occasions. Recently, I began to discover that Okinawa has a few cafes that specialize in this type of tea ceremony. So while I am currently taking Japanese tea ceremony (茶道,  or 茶の湯) lessons, I love a good cup of tea wherever I can find it.

This post will not get into all the specifics of how to perform gongfu cha, etc., but I will give an insight into where you can try this here in Okinawa. Honestly, the tea purveyor of the shops will be able to demonstrate and give a much better explanation for you.

Most of these cafes are in Naha. First up is Ryukyu Chakan 流求茶館, located not far from Kokusai-dori. It is in one of the neighborhoods, along a back street, where you come to a small shop. Inside is gorgeous! There is counter area, and tables, so choose your preference. They offer light meals, in addition to tea and tea drinks. As for the tea, they have many different varieties (at different prices) to choose from; they also have a nice little picture system to indicate which are used for the tray (tea ceremony), mugs, and pots. For gongfu cha, be sure to choose a tea with the tray icon. As a word of warning, the menu is entirely in Japanese and I do not believe they have any English available; that being said, if you do not know much Japanese, just bring some patience and your smart phone translator. The staff is very friendly and kind, and will demonstrate how to prepare your tea when it comes out. Oh, and the tea sets are more than enough for 2 people! In addition to the tea, they will bring out some small dish of chinsukou and dried fruits. Overall the price was reasonable for an afternoon tea for 2 people, and my husband and I had a fabulous time.

The next place is  Camellia Sinensis カメリア・シネンシス (yes, the name means tea plant!). This place also has gongfu cha, in addition to many teas such as “flowering” teas (blooming teas). Another nice place to check out in Naha.

In Naha there is also the Taiwan Teahouse 台湾茶屋; I have not made it here yet, but they appear to also offer gongfu cha.

And lastly, there is a teahouse located in Nanjo area; I wrote a blog post about this place earlier (though at the time I wrote it, I hadn’t realized she offered gongfu cha): Tea house Ichiyou: 茶房一葉. I highly recommend this place, it has several types of Japanese, Chinese, and Taiwanese teas. The last time I was there, I had gongfu cha, in addition to a delicious light meal. Again, like the other places, everything is in Japanese, but the owner is quite kind, so bring your patience and do your best.

**At all of these shops, you can also purchase various types of tea to take home.


Wa Cafe Nodoka: 和カフェ和花

和 wa: this has a dual meaning, “harmony” or “Japan/Japanese,” specifically the concept of peaceful unity and conformity within a social group. It is also one of the 4 tenets of Japanese tea ceremony (“wa,” “kei,” “sei,” and “jyaku” meaning harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility).

Wa cafe Nodoka is a rather recent addition to the Minatogawa Stateside town in Urasoe.

As for parking, there are some spots in front of their store, otherwise you may have to go to the pay area. The cafe menu is in both Japanese and English, offering some lunch plates (including their lunch bento of the day) as well as sweets and drinks.

As for me, I chose to get a matcha 抹茶 and a dorayaki どら焼き, the brown sugar-cream cheese-dango flavor (黒糖ちーどら kokutou chii dora). My husband opted for the daily bento with shikwasa juice.

Everything was superb, and beautifully presented. This Japanese-style is not actually as common in Okinawa as you might think, so it was a really nice change of pace.

Afterwards, I enjoyed admiring all of their matcha tea bowls (抹茶碗) with cute Okinawa inspired designs.


Bukubuku-cha, at home

ぶくぶく茶 bukubuku-cha: “buku buku” tea, a type of Ryukyuan foamy tea using genmai-cha 玄米茶 (toasted rice tea) and sanpin-cha さんぴん茶 (jasmine tea). I wrote about bukubuku-cha and some of the cafes where you can experience this in Okinawa here.

Today, I decided to try to make it at home, using a little packet I purchased on Kokusai-dori. It actually turned out great! What a nice omiyage (souvenir) this would make for a tea lover.


Well, when I opened it up, there were several individual little packets (green tea, sanpin tea, roasted rice, and crushed peanuts) inside, as well as a list of instructions… so I got together the things I needed: 500 mL hard water (mineral water, purchased at SanA), a whisk (or 3 chopsticks works, too), and some bowls/teacups.

Step 1 & 2: take the 500 mL of hard water and boil, add in the roasted rice, and let simmer (~medium heat) for 10-15 minutes).


Step 3: Steep the sanpin tea and green tea in 500 mL of regular hot water (nearly boiling, we have a Japanese electric water kettle). As far as time, use the strength you prefer (probably ~ 3-5 minutes).


Step 4: In a bowl, add 200 mL of the sanpin tea/green tea mixture and 100 mL of the roasted rice/hard water mixture.

Step 5: Using your bamboo whisk (or chopsticks), whisk to make foamy bubbles. As you make more bubbles, you can scoop them up and set them aside in another bowl if you desire.


Step 6: In a teacup add some of just the sanpin tea/green tea mixture from Step 3. Add just a TINY amount of the roasted rice/hard water mixture.

Step 7: Add your foam on top of the tea in the teacups and top with the crushed peanuts. Now time to enjoy… I served it with the chiirunkou I purchased yesterday. Yum, a regular Ryukyuan tea party. This package is supposedly “individual” serving, but it was just enough for my husband and I to each enjoy a cup.

**The only thing in the packages were 1) green tea (sencha 煎茶), 2) jasmine tea, 3) roasted rice (煎り米 irigome, or sometimes known as genmai 玄米 and though this can also mean brown rice, here the meaning can also be roasted rice), and 4) crushed peanuts, so if you can get these plus mineral water you can make this yourself at home by following the above instructions.

Wasanbon, sweets to go with tea: 和三盆

千菓子 higashi: dry wagashi, dry sweets (no or little moisture so they stay good longer). This is the generic term, which can include a few different types (including rakugan 落雁 used for Obon offerings). These are the opposite of namagashi which are made fresh and have a lot of moisture content.

和三盆 wasanbon: a type of Japanese fine grain sugar used to make wagashi. This term is also used for the small sugary shapes that are served with tea melt in your mouth.

I visited a shop here in Naha called 知念製菓 和菓子 四季彩 Chinenseika Wagashi Shikisai. The kanji 製菓 seika means confectionary, and 和菓子 wagashi means Japanese sweets. I wanted to pick out some cute confections to serve with tea sometime. The shapes and colors are often seasonal, with a few year-round standbys. These sweets are basically just pure sugar with some added color, contrasting perfectly with the bitterness in tea. If you buy them individually, each little sweet is 70yen at this shop (though if you buy a bag of the same shapes, you save money on the per piece price). I like variety and did not need many, so I chose a few individually that I liked.


address: 〒903-0804沖縄県那覇市首里石嶺町2-260-1

Studio & Coffee Miyanchi: みゃんち

Miyanchi is a nice cafe in a clean, new Okinawan-style building. For lunch, there are set meals, sort of a Okinawa-style fusion. The main dishes are Okinawa soba noodles, but in various styles; I always get the Thai green curry soba. It also comes with seasonal salad, taro juushi, tea or coffee, and dessert. I love the tea; it is a special blend of Okinawa tea and herbs. I even bought some to take home, it was so relaxing. Everything is served in pottery made at the shop, and there is a small gift shop area with art, house tea, and other local items. There are a few regular tables, counter seats overlooking the yard, and a tatami room. It is a very lovely spot for lunch! It is close to the Awase Living Design Center along Rt 329.

address: 沖縄県沖縄市与儀1丁目29番22号

Dessert Labo Chocolat: デザートラボショコラ

Dessert Labo Chocolat is a patisserie in Shuri. They have many gift biscuits, cookies, meringues, macarons, etc., as well as many types of whole and cut cakes. The reason for my visit was to have an afternoon cake and tea set: for 750円 you can choose any cut cake/pastry in the display case and (ice/hot) tea/coffee/juice. There were so many choices, it was very difficult to choose, but I ended up with a raspberry tiramisu, as well as 2 macarons, with an iced tea. There were tables both inside and out, but since it was a lovely day, I chose to relax outside on the patio, which surprisingly had a rather nice view. Overall, it was quite delightful, and if you happen to be craving something a little sweet and relaxing in the Shuri area, I recommend you drop by.

address: 〒903-0815 沖縄県那覇市首里金城町4-70-4

Tea house Ichiyou: 茶房一葉

茶房一葉 Sabou Ichiyou, translated means “teahouse one leaf.” It is the name of an adorable tea room and shop in Nanjo, Okinawa. It is kind of my secret spot since- I may have been her only gaijin customer. I found it after searching online where to find mooncakes in Okinawa, which turns out to be a bit scarcer than one would imagine (the irony is that the popularity of mooncakes has now risen, and are a bit easier to find over the last year). I was desperate, and I really wanted mooncakes 月餅 for moon-viewing ceremony. I finally found this place after sifting through results in Japanese, and decided to seek it out.

I plugged the address into my phone and drove off through a rural area of Nanjo. I pulled up to this small place, and it seemed a bit quiet and off by itself. Tentatively, I opened the door and sure enough I was greeted by a gentle looking woman. She seemed very surprised to see a pale foreigner entering, but nonetheless was extraordinarily kind. I explained in poor Japanese that I was seeking out mooncakes for Tsukimi (moon-viewing). She was excited and decided to serve me some green tea and a jelly dessert called youkan 羊羹. It was indeed wonderful. Then she gave me some acerola jam to take home and asked to take a photo with me. She was so sweet and kind.

Later, after actually reading the website more in depth, I realized she very skilled and professional at tea and tea ceremony. Maybe I can convince her to teach me some of her knowledge one day… but I will probably need to be better at Japanese. Hopefully this will motivate me to continue to learn.

address: 沖縄県南城市大里嶺井502-2

Sanpin-cha: さんぴん茶

さんぴん茶 sanpin-cha is the popular Okinawa jasmine tea!  Sanpin-cha is considered Chinese-style tea, with a lovely fragrance.  On the mainland it is usually labelled ジャスミン茶 Jasumin-cha. Typically it also has a lower caffeine content than regular tea.

It has been a favorite in the islands since the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom hundreds of years ago. Originating with the trade between the Ryukyu Kingdom and China, the tea is an example of the mixture of Chinese and Japanese influence in the islands.

You can find it in cans (as shown below), bottles, tea bags or loose tea in every grocery store and market here in Okinawa. There is usually a really pretty Ryukuan or island flower design, so it is very eye-catching. Sanpin-cha is not sweetened, so I think some Americans do not care for the taste, but it is very refreshing and zero calories which is good for you. I think just about conbini and vending machine in Okinawa sells cans or bottles; every time there is a lab BBQ or get together, sanpin-cha is guaranteed to be there. I know some people who make a cocktail from sanpin-cha and awamori (island liquor). IMG_4785

I also like this one with the shisa design:

Tea: お茶

Tea is all the same plant “Camellia Sinensis,” the difference is how it is grown and processed.

Tea is culturally and historically significant in Japan, as well as the rest of Asia, so let us introduce some Japanese terms to identify tea.  This is a quick guide for the beginning tea-enthusiast who has relocated to Okinawa and is interested in figuring out how and what to purchase.

茶 cha: This just means tea.  Okay, maybe you knew that one already.

緑茶 ryokucha: this simply means green tea.  There are several types listed as following.

煎茶 sencha: This is the most common drinking tea in Japan. It is grown in full sun. Besides in the form of  leaves, sencha can also be in the form of a powder (粉), so it can be difficult to distinguish from matcha if you do not know what to look for.

玉露茶 gyokuro cha: This tea is a very high quality green tea; less than half of one percent of all Japanese green tea ends up as gyokuro. About three weeks before harvest, the tea plants that are reserved for gyokuro are put under 90% shade (same as matcha). This changes the characteristics of the resulting tea quite a bit. Due to the extra labor and care involved, gyokuro green tea is considerably more expensive than other types of green tea.

抹茶 matcha: The leaves are crushed into a fine powder.  Matcha is used in tea ceremony and for making sweets and confections; it is not typically drunk everyday, but on special occasions. It is grown in the shade like gyokuro cha.  A simple way to think of it is matcha is powdered gyokuro cha.

**You may see 抹茶入る : this means that matcha is used but not necessarily exclusively. Many drinks and powders will advertise this, but it is frequently mixed with sencha (or possible other types of tea), so read carefully.

Some notes of interest: earlier or first harvests are typically higher quality, however also higher cost.  A really superb, high quality Japanese green tea will never really be cheap.  Kyoto Uji cha (京都宇治茶) is renown for its high quality.

Some people prefer organic products, so be on the lookout for 有機 pronounced “yuuki” on the label.

Other types of tea to be familiar with:

新茶 shincha: This is called new tea, which is a first harvest tea. It is described as having qualities of sweetness.  Typically shincha is considered very good quality.

番茶 bancha: a late harvest green tea. Since the quality of late harvest green teas are lower than the first harvest, it is often this is used to make some other unusual types of green tea such as genmaicha (described below), and another type known as houjicha, which is baked and produces a reddish color liquid with little to no caffeine.

玄米茶 genmaicha: This is green tea mixed with roasted (puffed) brown rice.

ほうじ茶 houjicha: This is made using roasted tea leaves, giving it a mild taste with much less bitterness; good fragrance and typically low caffeine.

紅茶 koucha: This is black tea; the leaves are completely fermented.

烏龍茶,ウーロン茶 uuron cha: oolong tea, Chinese style tea which involves withering the plant under strong sun and oxidation.

さんぴん茶 sanpin cha: The popular Okinawa jasmine tea!  Also considered Chinese style tea, with a lovely fragrance. On the mainland it is usually labelled ジャスミン茶 Jasumin-cha.

麦茶 mugi-cha: This is barley tea, so not even from the “Camellia Sinensis” plant, instead made with roasted barley.  Caffeine-free.  I include this one simply because you see it quite commonly.

うっちん茶 ucchin-cha (Okinawan) or ウコン茶 ukon-cha (Japanese): This is another Okinawan tea, this time made from turmeric. This is also very low in caffeine and supposedly excellent for you health (especially liver). I mention liver health because Japanese, Okinawans in particular, seem to drink alcohol quite a bit, so ukon is used as a health supplement around here.

グァバ茶 guaba-cha: Guava tea. Also caffeine-free, made from guava leaves, and supposedly healthy for you.

ハイビスカス茶 haibisbusu cha: Hibiscus tea. This is a pretty pink-red color herbal tea, made from roselle, the part of the hibiscus flower. It tastes a little “fruity.”

Everything said and done, buy what you like to fit your tastes, budget, and use. Whenever possible, try a sample and decide for yourself.  My husband likes the tea from Higashi village (東村) from here in Okinawa, and it is very affordable (okay, cheap, it is by no means high quality, simply local)… so taste is relative.  There are places you can sample and buy tea: Naha downtown Ryubo department store, Lupicia at the new Rycom mall, tea shop in American village Aeon are some examples. Otherwise, you can shop the farmers markets and grocery stores for more basic teas.

As a last reminder check 産地 for origin of the product.  国産 means domestic Japan, 中国 is China, 韓国 is South Korea. Depending on the quality of the tea, it may also show the locality within Japan. 静岡 Shizuoka, 鹿児島 Kagoshima, 三重 Mie, 京都 Kyoto, 神奈川 Kanagawa, 愛知 Aichi, 福岡 Fukuoka, 熊本 Kumamoto, 宮崎 Miyazaki, 岐阜 Gifu, and 佐賀 Saga are some of the tea regions in Japan. Tea from Okinawa will be labelled 沖縄産. Different countries and regions have different characteristics in flavor and fragrance; I have enjoyed visiting and exploring many tea-growing regions here in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, and I encourage everyone to do the same as it is quite a relaxing and amazing experience.  No trip to Japan (or Asia for that matter) is complete without a stroll through a major tea-producing region’s fields.

Hopefully this quick guide provides some useful information for your next trip to the Okinawan grocery or other specialty store as you look for the green tea of your choice.

This is only the tip of the iceberg… I have not even included all the herbal or other specialty teas. Maybe in another post for another time.

For a unique experience in Okinawa, try Bukubuku cha, a type of Okinawa tea ceremony.

If you are more interested in Chinese tea, there are some spots in Okinawa to try Gongfu tea.

Bukubuku-cha: ぶくぶく茶

Bukubuku cha ぶくぶく茶 is a type of tea in Okinawa that is frothed. You use a bamboo whisk and froth the tea, creating foamy bubbles.

At this particular location, for the tea, I chose the traditional sanpin-cha さんぴん茶 (Jasmine tea) as the base, but there are several other flavors you can try at Kariisanfan in Shuri (I have tried ucchin/turmeric and hibiscus flavors previously as well). The tea for foaming is typically jasmine tea roasted with rice, making it a type of genmai-cha 玄米茶, one of the secrets to its foamy-ness. In addition, the minerals in the hard water found in the southern part of Okinawa help make it foam.

The set came with various little snacks, some traditional Ryukyu sweets (such as kunpen and chinsuko), some just general Japanese sweets. It is sort of the Okinawan equivalent to mainland Japan tea ceremony, as it was used during the Ryukyu era to entertain accredited Chinese envoys when they visited. This set also came with brown sugar and crushed island peanuts to sprinkle on top.

There are a few locations to experience a nice tea set, which usually comes with some traditional cookies as well. Some places you whisk/froth your own and others it is brought out to you all ready to go. There is even one place where they will dress you in kimono/yukata and have a small tea ceremony (again, another place located in Shuri area); I have not tried this place yet though it looks like a really nice experience.

The culture center on Kokusai-dori also offers it at certain times, so stop by there and check their schedule.

You can even buy a little (but expensive… 400yen for just 1 serving!) package at some omiyage shops on Kokusai-dori. It works! You need to make sure to use “hard water” such as mineral water. Read about how to make bukubuku-cha at home here; there is a “recipe” attached so you can skip buying the package and just collect the materials yourself, or if you purchase the package but do not read Japanese, you can follow my translated instructions. For a tea-lover, this is a must!


Some other places offer it on the menu, but not very many come with  nice set like this. Some will even make it with a coffee base.

Uchinaa chaya Bukubukuうちなー茶屋ぶくぶく: Tsuboya yachimun (pottery) street, they make it for you.

Kariisanfan 嘉例山房: near Shuri-jo, you whisk it yourself for the full experience.

Cafe Okinawa Shiki カフェ沖縄式: near Naminoue Shrine, serves bukubuku coffee.

Nuchigafu 琉球料理ぬちがふう(命果報): Along Tsuboya district’s Yachimun Street.

During the Nanmin festival at Naminoue Shrine in May, you can try FREE bukubuku-cha made by some expert ladies!