Try out this traditional Okinawan tea, Bukubuku Cha!

Try out this traditional Okinawan tea, Bukubuku Cha!

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Okinawa

Finding establishments in Japan that serve traditional Japanese or Chinese tea is an easy task. However, trying to find a cup of traditional Okinawan tea, Bukubuku Cha, can be difficult, even on Okinawa. And if you saw a cup of Bukubuku Cha, you’d know it because it’s not a simple cup of colored liquid.

Bukubuku Cha is a concoction consisting of green tea, Chinese tea, various herbs, peanuts, brown sugar and roasted rice broth that is literally foaming at its seams. Not your average cup of tea.

To try out this Okinawan delight, stop by Kariisanfan, one of the rare tea shops where you can enjoy the drink that was served to Chinese envoys visiting the Ryukyu Kingdom between the 15th and 19th centuries.

When you order this tea, which will run you 800 yen, a Kariisanfan staffer will bring you a wooden bowl containing a mixture of Okinawan green tea, Chinese tea and roasted rice broth. And then it’s time for you to do a little work. Using a bamboo tea whisk, you will whisk the mixture until it turns into a bubbly bowl of foam.

Interestingly, only water from Naha or other southern parts of Okinawa makes the mixture foam.

“You need hard water containing various minerals in order for it to foam up,” shop owner Tsukiko Mitsuboshi said. “Water in northern Okinawa is soft and cannot be used for this tea.”

When you have finished making your foam, you will be brought a large ceramic cup of drink that you choose beforehand. You can order regular tea or choose one of 13 herb teas on the menu. Also on the menu is unpolished rice tea or coffee. You also get to choose if you want your drink hot or cold.

You will then scoop some foam from wooden bowl and place on top of your drink. Finally, sprinkle peanut powder and brown sugar powder on the foam. And then it’s time to drink. Have a napkin ready because you will definitely get foam on your face.

“The tea is sweet,” Mitsuboshi said. “The foam has no taste, but with the flavors of the main tea and powders, you may feel as if you were eating sweet bubbles rather than drinking tea.”

If you run out of the foam, you can ask for free refill. It’s also good to note that you will be served complimentary Okinawan sweets when you order any tea at the café.

“The drink contains herbs, roasted rice broth and water containing plenty of minerals,” she said. “So, it is considered very healthy, even though it’s sweet and tasty.”

Kariisanfan, which can seat 20-30 people and has four parking spots, is only a 4-minute walk from Shuri Castle in Naha City. Drop by the cafe after you have enjoyed strolling in the UNESCO World Heritage site.

According to Mitsuboshi, Kariisanfan means “a tiny tea house of good omen.”

So start or end your day on a good note by stopping by Kariisanfan for a fabulously foamy cup of Bukubuku Cha.

Open: Thu-Mon, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. 
Address: 9 Ikehata-cho, Naha City (4-minute walk from Shuri Castle)
Website (in Japanese):
For more information, call 0980-885-5017 (Japanese)

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