On a Friday or Saturday night, one of Syracuse's best alternatives to drinking at a bar is stopping for a bubble tea or a chocolate soy mousse at a quirky downtown tea lounge that has managed to successfully mix traditional Japanese tea with fresh urban culture.
Since opening in 2004, Roji Tea Lounge has already developed a music label, undergone an expansion and is now certifiably green.
This winter, Roji, on Washington Street, became the first restaurant in Syracuse to be certified green by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a national nonprofit that helps restaurants and their customers become environmentally sustainable.
"The idea of becoming green was always on our mind," says Christian Van Luven speaking for himself and wife Tomomi Yoshida, who opened Roji together in 2004. "The more we learned about organic and fair trade products the more we wanted to become sustainable on all fronts. Not only that, but tea in essence has so many essential properties and health benefits to those that drink it, that it seems right to have a shop that follows the same pattern toward the planet."
Bringing Urban Culture to Syracuse
"I like the idea of having a small city that still gets to experience what you'd find in a major metropolis," says Christian. The couple first put together the concept for Roji Tea Lounge when living and working in New York City.
Christian explains, "The idea is taking the traditional aspects of tea culture, and putting them into a modern atmosphere. The key of Roji is to provide service that makes the customer feel at ease to enhance the experience of drinking our tea."
Roji's business card explains how, "Roji (the path) is the walkway that leads you to the tea room and eases your mind as you enter."