Matcha is finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea that was brought to Japan by a Zen Buddhist monk in the 12th century. Nowadays, matcha is enjoying a global resurgence, but rather than just for the traditional tea, everything from sweets to desserts and even drinks are now utilising this matcha ingredient to add some extra taste – a taste that especially people who have not been brought up in Japan may not be familiar with.
Matcha Green Tea is ubiquitous in Japan and was introduced by a Buddhist priest from China long, long ago. However, unlike traditional Chinese teas, which are pan-fired, Japanese green teas are steamed, and this gives them a more “vegetative” taste. In fact, Japanese green teas are categorised by the age of the leaves. The best Japanese green tea is said to be from Fukuoka Prefecture and from the Uji region of Kyoto.
Matcha Ice Cream is one thing you should definitely try when you visit the Land of the Rising Sun! Even in cold weather (and Japan does get VERY cold in winter), you should seek out this Japanese delicacy. While Matcha Ice Cream could be included in the list below, I felt it necessary to give it its own gallery, such is the popularity of this ‘green tea’ ice cream in Japan – even multi-national ice cream companies have cashed in on the craze!
So what other foods can be matcha-flavoured? Let’s get matcha-making!
Matcha Shibuya Toast. Now for some delicious starter of matcha desserts, look no further than the world-renowned Shibuya Toast. This gigantic thick slice of toast is topped with matcha ice cream and possibly served up with some extra fresh fruit for added pizzazz. The contrast in cold ice cream with the warm, thick toast is heavenly!
Matcha Kakigori. This is a popular shaved ice dessert that is eaten all over Japan, especially in the summer months. It is sold in convenience stores and cafés, and is very popular at music festivals! A lot of condensed milk does into making Kakigori, and it is not uncommon to see additional toppings on the shaved ice, such as almond and raisin.
Matcha Hokkaido Milk. This creamy milk tea from the Japanese island of the same name is a form of bubble tea. I guess this is very similar to a traditional milkshake in terms of thickness, but it just tastes much better! I have tried this in Taiwan, Singapore, and in Japan of course, and when flavoured with matcha the drink is a great way to complement a meal anywhere.
Matcha Waffle. Waffles in Asia are a big deal, whereas in the west we just seem to take them for granted. In Japan particularly, you can sure that Matcha flavoured waffles are going to be on the menu, and these can be eaten on their own or topped with some soft serve ice cream!
Matcha Anmitsu. Although Anmitsu is a Japanese desert in its own right, it can be complemented by matcha ice cream. It is actually the most recent matcha dessert that I discovered, and I have only eaten Anmitsu from a convenience store, but it was still tasty (and good value). Anmitsu basically is jelly with fruit, and served with red bean paste, and the inclusion of matcha comes from the jelly flavouring.
Matcha Yuzu Cake. As a great way of ending a big meal, a yuzu cake flavoured with matcha cannot be beaten! This is like a cheesecake from western culture, but with a fluffier texture. I have found most cakes in Japan to be much more fluffy than cakes from other regions, and I guess this is down to the ingredients.
Matcha Chococro. I have only ever tried this in Singapore, but it was so tasty and delicious that I just cannot forget about it, even if it’s not true Japanese! I think a chococro is basically a croissant which is filled with delicious matcha chocolate.
Matcha Nikuman. These delectable little steamed buns are quite rare in matcha form, but their taste is something that all Japanese people want to try from time to time. These buns are regularly filled with chocolate or coffee, but the exact flavours usually depend on the vendor.
Of course there are many other Japanese foods that are served in a matcha flavour (mochi, dango, frozen yogurt, etc.) but which are your favourites? Have you tried any of the items listed above?