What is “matcha”?
抹茶(matcha) is powdered green tea leaves. Both the powder itself and drinks made with the powder are called matcha. There are two types of traditional matcha drinks called 濃茶(koicha) and 薄茶(usucha) in Japan. 濃茶(koicha) literally means thick(strong) tea and it has dark green color. On the other hand, 薄茶(usucha) literally means thin(weak) tea with bright bluish-green color. They are made with powdered green tea leaves and hot water, but the biggest difference between them is the amount of powdered green tea used for. In general, the powdered green tea used for koicha is three times as much as that is for usucha.
What is the difference between “matcha” and “green tea”?
I had believed that tea leaves used for matcha is the same as normal green tea, and I had thought I could make matcha by myself if I grinded green tea leaves at home. However, I found that the idea I had believed for a long time was wrong until I studied matcha to write this article. (>_<) There are some conditions for matcha which Japan Tea Industry Central Association determined as follows;
*They have to use green tea leaves grown in a shade. Tea bushes need to be covered by a sunshade made of bamboo or straw for 20 days before the tea leaves are harvested. This process is important to make the speed of tea leaves’ grow slowly and stimulate an increase in chlorophyll levels which turns the leaves darker and causes the production of amino acids. (known as “umami”)
*After harvesting tea leaves by hand picking, they are steamed on the same day and dried without rolling up. This process is different from normal green tea which is rolled up by hand-rubbing. (Although picking up and rubbing job are done by a machine mostly as the industry modernizes, the high quality green tea and matcha are still made by a traditional way).
*Petioles and veins are removed, and then tea leaves are crumbled. The rest of the leaves are dried in 45 degrees and ground by a stone hand mill.
Matcha is one popular flavors for desserts in Japan
Matcha drink is bitter even if that is usucha, and people usually have it with a sweet dessert. I didn’t like matcha flavor when I was small, but I got to like it very much after I tried matcha latte and matcha ice cream. The combination of matcha, milk and sugar are so good, and they changed my impression of matcha in a good way. I guess it is not only me who experienced the same thing. Matcha drinks and desserts are getting popular nowadays. According to the data which Japan Ice Cream Association surveyed, the third popular flavor for ice cream is matcha in Japan. (The most popular flavor is vanilla, and the second one is chocolate.)
Today, I’d like to talk about cafes and restaurants that you can try matcha dessert in Tokyo.
(1)Matcha parfait in 升(masu = a traditional container for drinking sake)
Matcha and mascarpone cheese cream, sweetened chestnut, warabi-mochi, matcha jelly and puffed rice are inside the masu. White chocolate is used as a lid of the “masu” and matcha powder topped on it looks like a Japanese stone garden. The matcha cream has a good balance of sweetness and bitterness. Unlike normal parfait in a glass, you cannot see layers of this matcha parfait, so It is interesting that you don’t know what is inside until you eat it. The matcha parfait costs 1,100 yen. You can add black sugar syrup if you pay plus 200 yen.
They have matcha parfait all year around and some different flavors for each season.The above picture shows the parfait limited in fall. Diced pumpkin, caramel flavored ice cream, puffed rice and mousse of refined Japanese sugar are inside the masu.
サロン ギンザ サボウ SALON GINZA SABOU
Business hours: 11:00 a.m.～10:00 p.m. (Last order 9:00 p.m.)
Address: 5-2-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Tokyu Plaza Ginza B2F
The nearest station: Ginza station of Tokyo metro Ginza line, Marunouchi line, or Hibiya line
It takes one minute on foot from the exit C2 or C3 of Ginza station to the store
(2) Matcha fondue
Fondue is a Swiss dish of melted cheese served in a small pot over a portable stove heated with a candle or spirit lamp, and eaten by dipping bread and vegetables into the cheese using long-stemmed forks. Unlike the original fondue, Matcha fondue is a dessert, and eaten by dipping strawberry, rice-flour dumpling, nama-fu (fresh gluten cake), and cracker into melted matcha flavored chocolate. You can pour the matcha chocolate on vanilla ice cream and enjoy matcha chocolate ice cream at the same time. The price is 920 yen.
神楽坂 茶寮 (Kagurazaka Saryo)
Business hours: 11:30 a.m.~11:00 p.m. (Mon~Sat), 11:30 a.m.~10:00 p.m. (Sun and Holidays)
Address: 5-9, Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
The nearest station: Kagurazaka statin of Tozai line. It takes about five minutes on foot.
(3) Matcha pancake
The pancake is very thick, and it takes about twenty minutes to ready to be served, but it’s worth waiting! Matcha powder is used in a dough, so the color of the pancake itself is green. Sweet bean pastes and whipped cream are on the top, and you can add matcha syrup if you want. Neither pancake or syrup is very sweet, and you can enjoy the bitterness of matcha. The price is 800 yen.
There are other flavors such as plain, cream cheese, blue berry, pumpkin, lemon, chocolate, straw berry and etc.
雪ノ下銀座 (Yuki no shita Ginza)
Business hours: 11:00 a.m.~9:00 p.m. (Tue~Fri), 11:00 a.m.~7:00 p.m. (Sat, Sun and holidays), Closed on Mon
Address: 3F, 1-20-10, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
(4) Matcha fondant au chocolat
The original name in French is Gateau fondant au chocola, but it is called “フォンダンショコラ(Fondan shocora)” in Japanese. It is a dessert composed of a small chocolate cake with mellow filling that is served hot with vanilla ice cream on a plate. They use matcha flavored chocolate and it is little bit bitter, so the combination of matcha chocolate cake and sweet vanilla ice cream is very good. The plate in the above photo is “kawara”(a tile for roof). Kawara CAFE&DINIG has unique service and they use kawara as a plate to serve the matcha fondant au chocolat.
Kawara CAFE&DINING 新宿東口(Shinjuku Higashi-guchi)
Business hours: 11:45 a.m.~5:00 p.m. (Lunch), 5:00 p.m.~11:00 p.m. (Dinner) *The last order time is 10:30 p.m.
Address: 8F, 3-23-12 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
The nearest station is JR Shinjuku station (East Exit). It takes about two minutes on foot.
(5) Matcha Tiramisu
Tiramisu is an Italian dessert made of ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of sugar, eggs, and mascarpone cheese. Instead of using coffee, they use matcha. The matcha’s bitterness matches mascarpone cheese’s richness. I usually have desserts with unsweetened black or green tea, but I’d like to have sweet drink with this matcha tiramisu since the tiramisu is not sweet.
丸の内 CAFE会 (Marunouchi CAFE kai)
Business hours: 7:00 a.m.~11:00 p.m. (Mon to Fri), 8:00 a.m.~11:00 p.m. (Sat), 9:00 a.m.~10:00 p.m. (Sun& Holidays)
Address: 1F KITTE, 2-7-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
The nearest station is JR Tokyo (Marunouchi Exit). It takes about two minutes on foot.
I hope you enjoy matcha desserts when you have a chance to visit Japan(^U^)♪