In May of 2004 my wife Tomomi Yoshida and I opened Roji Tea Lounge in Syracuse, NY. Our idea blended some of the places we enjoyed in Japan and New York City, while also making you feel as if you were relaxing at home. Roji Tea Lounge became a place where we could share a variety of worldly teas, adhere to the traditional ways of serving tea, all within a chill atmosphere, letting the music add to the ambiance. It was more of a challenge for us to see if something like this would ever work in a smaller city. Most people told us it wouldn’t work. The first couple years were rough until we developed our customer base. The personal interaction between the server and customer is something we always enjoyed. It introduced us to so many people here in Syracuse and we loved to share our teas and the lounge experience with all we have met over the years. Those connections are the most important thing that keep me going, especially after losing Tomomi to cancer in 2012. I was not sure if I could continue with Roji, but the impact and response from our customers, staff, family and friends was overwhelming. It meant a great deal to know what Roji Tea Lounge meant to so many people and how it seems to go beyond Tomomi and I.
My staff and I look forward to introducing our customers to new teas, food, and music while still maintaining our core of service, simplicity, and style. I thank you for being a part of Roji Tea Lounge and I look forward to making new connections in the future.
– Christian Van Luven, Owner, Roji Tea Lounge
Tomomi Yoshida 2/3/77 – 11/19/12
She shared her culture and life with this city. In her memory, Roji will continue her vision of providing a relaxing escape from the outside world where all are equal in front of tea.
The roji, the garden path, which leads from the machiai (waiting room) to the tearoom, signified the first stage of meditation – the passage into self illumination.
The roji was intended to break connection with the outside world, and to produce a fresh sensation conducive to the full enjoyment of aestheticism in the tearoom itself.
One who has trodden this garden path cannot fail to remember how his spirit, as he walked in the twilight of the evergreens over the regular irregularities of the stepping stones, beneath which he lay dried pine needles, and passed beside the moss-covered granite lanterns, became uplifted above ordinary thoughts.
Kakuzo Okakura (1863-1919)
The Book of Tea