Finding Japan in Germany! Part3: An Interview with Erik, the owner of the Japanese tea café, Macha Macha in Berlin

"A report on Japanese culture found in Germany"- In this article TJ writer wasabi, who is currently in Berlin, is interviewing people she found who are associated with Japan and its culture. This time, she interviewed the owner of the Japanese tearoom, Macha-Macha in Berlin.

Hiro Kirk   Culture,

Erik with a cup of tea


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macha-macha-entrance

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What’s Macha Macha? It’s a Japanese tea café opened by a German owner last October.

Macha Macha is located in Hermannplatz, a hip area in Berlin. The shop is based around the color white, with a high ceiling that was designed by, Carsten Kraemer. The curtains hanging on the wall are all made of Japanese paper and are sewn together by him. They have a terrace with a mini-Japanese garden that entices people on the street to stop by. I was surprised when I found a Japanese garden in Germany, but it feels so good to have a cup of Japanese green tea in this well organized semi-European style Japanese tea café. The shop is ran by Erik, who is German. I interviewed him about what brought him to, open a Japanese tea café in Berlin, and his story about how he got interested in Japanese tea.

the owner Erik

He quit his job and went on journey. His encounter with a tea wholesaler was a lucky twist of fate.

As some of you might wonder, I first asked him how he came to start the Japanese café in Berlin. He says that he quit his job in 2012 and came up with an idea to go off on a Shikoku Pilgrimage (visiting 88 temples associated with the Japanese Buddhist monk, Kukai). From his younger days, he has always been a huge fan of Japanese culture, so the trip to Japan was a really fascinating and exciting thing to do. However, the nice little Japanese tea cafes being outnumbered by the larger chains coffee cafes disappointed him because he really wanted to try more of a variety of Japanese green teas.
The people who came to the last tea workshop I previously introduced in an article, said, “It’s kind of interesting to see how Western and Asian cultures are turning around, Japanese tea getting popular in Europe and coffee getting popular in Japan.”
According to Erik, the production of Japanese tea has been in decline over the last 30 years, because it’s difficult for Japanese tea farmers to run their businesses by only making green tea, and some of them have been shifting back to the production of black tea. In Japan, green tea gives the impression that it’s, what elder people drink when they want to relax. I can understand why the young Japanese people are more attracted to coffee backed by commercially promoted images of New York or Europe’s picturesque streets. I love coffee, but it’s just a shame that young people in Japan are becoming less interested in green tea even though it has a lot of benefits that coffee doesn’t have.

While feeling a little down about tea cafes unpopularity, he met a Japanese tea wholesaler in Japan, and was told that it’s really hard to bring green tea’s popularity back to Japan, unless it becomes popular outside of Japan. Right at that moment, he realized what he wanted to do.

Erik with a cup of tea

Going back to the roots of business.

It’s fascinating to know that his lucky encounter with the tea wholesaler almost solely led him to open the café in Germany. He also mentions about the future of Macha Macha and that he doesn’t want to make it just to pursue profit, like the coffee chains do. “I want to distribute the profit to those who are related to Macha Macha in the near future, because if you think about the origin of business, it was to provide for the needs, not pursuing profit.” I kind of understand why I love Macha Macha so much, because this café is backed by his philosophy, and is way more important than offering horrible coffee/tea to massive amounts of people that you can’t actually provide any quality service to.

teas

Green tea’s key is “Umami” that smells like the ocean?

In Germany, green tea is easy to get at the supermarkets, however so little people know the right way of making green tea, for example, you never use 100℃ water, it should be about 70~80℃. Adding milk and sugar is common here, which may sound a bit strange to most Japanese. Macha Macha serves tea in an authentic way, and it even surprises Japanese people who are not familiar with tea making. It was interesting to know that German people who had green tea for the first time here express its taste as “seaweed.” That got me thinking that maybe the Japanese people’s favorite taste (or Umami) is derived from its geography that is surrounded by the rich oceans where you can catch lots of seafood. According to Erik, this Umami is quite addictive, and there are some people who continuously say that they can’t drink anything other than green tea. The good green tea they offer even surprises Japanese customers! I saw his passion and love for Macha Macha and his beloved Japanese tea.

Erik with wasabi

“In my former life, I think I was Japanese!” -Erik

I see his love for Japan is really a deep one. The reason why he loves Japan is as he says, “I don’t know, but I really love it.” This answer might not be very convincing to some of you guys, but it’s the most convincing reason that I can associate with, as a person who has also had the same feeling. “Maybe I was Japanese in my former life, that is probably the most likely reason.” “I’ve been drinking Japanese tea since I was a student and was interested in Japanese philosophy, Zen, and so on.” “Germany and Japan have a sort of, kinship with each other.” “I’d like to introduce the real Japanese tea in Germany and give people an idea of how to ‘feed your soul’ by taking time to drink tea.”

Macha Macha is my personal favorite café in Berlin so far and it was actually the first time to listen to Erik’s story and talk with him. Through this interview, I came to love Macha Macha even more! A guy from Germany is now working so hard to spread Japanese culture and create new things out of it… that got me thinking about why it’s important for young Japanese people to redefine Japanese culture.

These days in Berlin, the weather is continually nice with lots of sunshine. Having a pleasant cup of green tea under the sun on the terrace, with a slight smell of the ocean softly spreading in my mouth reminds me of days in Japan. Go check out the Japanese tea café Macha Macha if you are in Berlin.  

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AUTHOR

Wasabi

Wasabi

Writer / Translator

I’m a freelance translator from Tokyo who likes to travel right in the middle of the unpredictables in life. Through the translation of articles I hope to create points of contact between Japan and the rest of the world. As a writer, I want to add information that isn’t in the guide book, from a “wasabi” perspective!

Website

Information

Address Hasenheide 16, 10967 Berlin
Hours Tuesday to Saturday 11:00-19:00/ Sunday 13:00-18:00 (Closed on Monday)
Access U7, U8, M29, M41 (3min walk from Hermannplatz) 
Phone 030 52688475
Website https://www.facebook.com/macha.macha.japanese.tea