The staff at Ippodo, a centuries-old tea merchant in Kyoto, may not go in for the rigidity of tradition, but they take their tea very seriously. To them, enjoying a quotidian cup of tea in the company of friends is more pleasurable than following the rites and rigors of a traditional ceremony. This shop and tearoom on Teramachi Street is in a beautiful machiya (townhouse) that dates back to the 1860s. The entrance is dominated by copper colored tea urns, and the aroma of different kinds of loose green tea — matcha, sencha, hōjicha — fills the air. In the tearoom, you can sample nearly a dozen varieties, and there’s not a tatami mat in sight. One thing you should notice, however, is a timer on your table. This, as your server will advise you, is indispensable when it comes to preparing your pot of tea.