There’s no match for Matcha
Of all the diverse options of green tea that exist, there’s one variety that leaves the others trailing in the dust. With its bracing earthy flavors and numerous health benefits, matcha stands in a class of its own, brimming with potent antioxidants, detoxifiers and metabolism boosters. And, of course, there’s its wildly bright green — almost neon — color and trademark powdered consistency that don’t resemble a single loose leaf tea in sight.
As someone who craves green tea-fla-vored anything — ice cream, macarons, mochi, cupcakes, you name it — I’ve always wondered how matcha gets its distinct flair. As it turns out, the mystery unravels in the way it is produced, as the tea plants used to make matcha are uniquely grown in shaded areas and specially processed without stems and veins to render such a potent powder.
Luckily for dessert lovers everywhere, the resulting bold flavor blends wonderfully with sweet ingredients to make those trending matcha must-haves. So while I tip my hat to those who sip on matcha tea the traditional way, I’ll go ahead and take mine in the form of devilishly good sweets from the following Ono, You Know knockouts.
JJ Bistro and French Pastry
Nowadays, it seems that matcha-fla-vored treats are everywhere we turn. When searching for the cream of the crop, I steer clear of novelty items and go straight for time-honored matcha fixes, such as those found at JJ Bistro and French Pastry.
Head chef JJ Luangkhot started experimenting with green tea more than 20 years ago, long before it was trendy, while cultivating his French baking techniques at the onset of his fine-dining career in New York City.
Today, patrons can enjoy the fruits of that labor by sampling Le Matcha ($4.95), a cloud-like French-style bavarian cake, which is a type of dessert that’s even lighter and airier than mousse. This ultra-sweet and creamy treat is reminiscent of green tea ice cream and is perfected with one of matcha’s best friends, a moist layer of chocolate cake.
After seeing Le Matcha shine with popularity, Luangkhot decided to create Green Tea Cheesecake ($5.25), an ideal treat for those who prefer something a little less sweet. “It’s a nice blend of the creamy New York-style cheesecake plus the bitter taste of the powered green tea, so it has a very nice balance, and it’s doing very good for me. For the past 18 years, people still come back for it,” he says.
And to cap it all off, the bistro offers a fun twist on traditional drinking matcha with Green Tea Latte ($3.75, served hot or cold, sweetened or unsweetened), showcasing the pure, unadulterated flavors of matcha mixed with a splash of milk.
JJ Bistro and French Pastry
3447 Waialae Ave.
As a popular snack in Japan and the centerpiece of a Japanese Tea Ceremony that’s been practiced for centuries, matcha’s roots are steeped in the Land of the Rising Sun. Thus, when I want a classic matcha experience, I head to Minamoto Kitchoan, the authentic Japanese confectionary at Ala Moana Center.
“You can find a lot of matcha items in this store,” says office manager Yayoi Akana. “Matcha is not too sweet, it’s more like a sophisticated flavor. The bitter and sweet combination is very refreshing.”
While sampling the array of cakes, cookies, candies and more, patrons also can treat Mom to some matcha madness with Minamoto’s Mother’s Day Gift Pack ($35 May 8-10, $47.60 regular price). In addition to Oribenisiki, Japanese cake filled with chestnut paste and sweet red bean paste, the set showcases loose-leaf green tea and a box of Kasuteira Maccha, a divinely fluffy and moist green-tea sponge cake prepared with rice powder.
The upscale confectionary also offers Mother’s Day Gift Boxes ($35 each, May 8-10), presenting 12 goodies housed in three customizable packets. The standouts of the set are, of course, the matcha items, including soft-baked pancakes packed with green tea paste known as Ayasirabe Maccha. Addicting waffle cone-like cookies called Maccha Senbei also are must haves, as they’re lined with buttery green tea filling.
Ala Moana Center 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. Ste. 1110