Roji Tea Lounge in Downtown Syracuse is one of the best tea lounges. Tonight I was reading Stephen Dunn’s Different Hours (W. W. Norton & Company in 2000), and he quotes a Japanese Proverb on page 73: “The reverse side also has a reverse side.” It got me thinking. Fittingly enough, I was situated in Roji Tea Lounge, drinking a chai tea with soy. It’s not wearing the T-shirt of the band unless you are actually doing so.
When you are in a place, either living or visiting, it’s typical to try to find something to do that everyone else is doing. It’s easy to find those niches which will pertain to your personality; however, sometimes that routine you are used to does not cut it. It’s time to step out of the so-called comfort zone and/or do something that you have been asking yourself to do–whether you accept that fact or not–for a while. When you have or want to step away from the bar scene, it loses its coolness sometimes, what do you do?
Dunn writes: “It’s why the terrified and simple / latch onto one story, / just one version of the great mystery.” Falling into the same routine can be stressful and tedious. There is no mystery, no sense of wonder, and often times we are numb to recognize the redundancy that plagues us.
We’re in Syracuse. What is there to do? Go to the bars and grab a drink? It’s the same safe answer to a lot of our activity searching dilemmas.
Roji Tea Lounge is that place to overcome that redundancy.
Tomomi Yoshida and her husband, Christian Van Luven, first opened the tea lounge almost a decade ago at its present location at 108 E. Washington Street in Downtown Syracuse. Since then, the tea lounge has maintained its venue as a staple of the growing diversity of the downtown area. With the exception of Mondays, the lounge is open from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Sundays until 11 p.m.).
Ms. Yoshida, aside being the owner, added significantly to the personality of the business. She wanted to keep Roji as authentic as possible with decor, service, and mood. Whether the customers entering were returning or just passing by, the focus was to make them feel welcome and ensure they had a great experience. In late 2012, Ms. Yoshida passed away, but this legacy and criteria still carries on.
Everyone you encounter at a bar, whether your eavesdropping or simply glancing over, has a story–or so it is said. Intentions and personal plots are never essentially clear. However, at Roji, everyone is on the same level, or wants to be. Everyone is going about their business, basking in the aura which is contained in Roji.
Roji Tea Lounge is the flipside of boredom and redundancy.
The menu is extensive. The amount of teas offered cannot be fathomed, and the ability to make a decision is rather difficult. Out of the pages of teas offered at the lounge, I went with a favorite of mine: chai tea with soy.
Depending on the type of tea you opt for, certain teas are served differently. I have gotten chamomile tea before, served to me in a kettle with a glass cup. The varieties of bubble tea are all served in a tall glass. The chai tea (pictured above) is served in a bowl with some extra cold tea on the side. Yes, if it’s too hot, add some right in to cool it down to your liking.
By all means, please treat yourself do one of the several desserts as well. After all, as fantastic as tea is by itself, it is always perfect to add that extra indulgence as an accompaniment.
There are plenty of seats available. In main room, there are four couches and tables with chairs. There is a side room with more traditional Japanese seating: cushions on the floor with the small wooden tables do accompany them.
Roji Tea Lounge may not be something you are used to. You may drive and walk by the lounge regularly, and you may inquire about the lounge, stating that you should go in there sometime. The lounge offers an escape from doing the same routine. It’s a place where friends gather as much as it is a place where business is handled. Roji is a great place for students to get homework done, and it’s a great place to play games with friends. You can look eye-to-eye with that special someone through a fog of vapor, holding hands.
Through the blustering cold of Syracuse winters, the brick walls and tranquil atmosphere, often accented with an extensive range of music, Roji Tea Lounge will protect you from the elements. The lounge is a perfect place to showcase art and have live acoustic music.
When a cold beer cannot do the trick, you know the hops may get to you and leave you cotton-mouthed, a nice warm tea will soothe you to the core. You’re walking down the street and the street lamps provide a strict consistency—a trail of breadcrumbs unintentionally dropped—around distracting sweet brightness of the neon lights to a subdued culture of Roji Tea Lounge.