Everyone loves green tea — especially matcha, premium Japanese green tea leaves ground into a fine powder.
Drunk hot, this traditional brew of camellia sinensis leaves is carefully whisked till foamy and smooth. But its earthy and bitter notes, sometimes vegetal and sweet or astringent, also work extremely well as a counterpoint to the sugariness in desserts.
Gone are the days where half-past-six green tea confections made with food colouring and artificial flavouring would satisfy me. Nowadays, I seek out the spots in Singapore that infuse their confections with the real deal, to instantly send my taste buds to Japan.
Plus, with a slew of credit cards that offer dining perks and rebates, I could happily pig out and get more bang for my buck.
1. Matchaya – Kakigori ($14.90)
If you love the rich, intense flavour of matcha, the aptly named Matchaya is the place to go. In addition to drinks, its authentic green tea creations come in many iterations — from rich and creamy soft serve to warabi mochi, parfaits, fondue, and my favourite, kakigori (Japanese shaved ice).
Sure, this $14.90 indulgence from Matchaya is definitely much pricier than your food court $2 ice kachang, but when done well, kakigori is airy, fluffy and delicate, a tasty mound of extremely fine ice shavings. And the one at Matchaya certainly doesn’t disappoint with its excellent execution of this Japanese dessert.
Matchaya’s owners also often travel to Japan to source for premium and seasonal ingredients, and they work directly with the country’s tea farmers to get a steady supply of excellent matcha (also sold on its website).
Matchaya has outlets at Icon Village and The Cathay.
2. Kagurazaka Saryo – Matcha Frozen Smore ($9.90)
Thanks to Japan Foods Holdings, popular Tokyo café Kagurazaka Saryo is now in Singapore.
Its Instagram worthy Matcha Nitro Drink is definitely something novel, but as we are on the topic of desserts, check out its unique creations such as the Matcha Frozen Smore ($9.90) — bittersweet Uji matcha ice cream topped with caramelized marshmallows.
Also on its menu are fondue and kakigori, but a staple for takeaway diners is its matcha and hojicha mixed soft serve, a twin swirl that sits in a freshly made and extremely fragrant waffle biscuit cone.
Kagurazaka Saryo has outlets at VivoCity, Changi City Point and Junction 8.
3. Tsujiri – Matcha Parfaits from $7.70
I remember when Tsujiri first landed on Singapore shores over five years ago — I was ecstatic!
The matcha was rich, adequately bitter and authentic, like the ones you’d queue up at quaint tea shops in Kyoto to buy.
It’s a 158-year-old brand that was established in Uji in Kyoto, said to produce the best green tea, in particular, the highest quality gyokuro variety.
My go-to orders are usually something hot and something cold — a traditional whisked hot matcha drink in one hand ($6.20 for the Signature O-matcha), and a matcha parfait (from $7.70).
Tsujiri has outlets at 100AM, The Centrepoint and The Central; menus may differ.
4. Maccha House – Warabi Mochi Tiramisu ($8.99)
Let your spoon sink into this layered matcha delight — the Warabi Mochi Tiramisu ($8.99) — a September seasonal special from Maccha House, only available at its Orchard Central outlet.
But if you miss it, don’t fret. Maccha House regularly rolls out monthly specials that it announces on its Facebook page, so there’s something awesome (and green) every time you visit.
Its Orchard Central outlet also launched a new menu earlier this year, with items like the Maccha Cheese Dorayaki (once a monthly special in November 2017) and more. Savoury main courses are available so you can have a hearty lunch with lots of matcha desserts after, in one convenient café.
Maccha House has outlets at Orchard Central and Suntec City Mall
5. Nana’s Green Tea – Matcha Nama Chocolate Parfait ($13.80)
Another matcha café that has been around for a good number of years is Nana’s Green Tea. In fact, it’s so specialized that nearly half its menu is dedicated to its green tea drinks and confections; the other half to savoury mains and sides.
What I enjoy about its parfaits is that they are elegant, stately and taller in stature than brands such as Tsujiri’s.
Try the Matcha Nama Chocolate Parfait ($13.80), built from the base up with kanten jelly and matcha syrup and topped with vanilla ice cream for contrast in both flavour and colour. Next are the cornflakes for texture and crunch, then matcha ice cream, a generous dollop of red bean paste and chunks of smooth matcha chocolate ganache. The towering creation is then topped with whipped cream and more lashings of matcha syrup.
But if you’re into traditional Japanese desserts, try the Shiratama Zenzai with Matcha Green Tea (like a thicker version of red bean soup), available in both hot and cold versions.
Nana’s Green Tea has outlets at Plaza Singapura and DUO Galleria.
6. St. Marc Cafe – Nara ($8.20)
Home to the Chococro (chocolate-filled croissant), St. Marc Cafe also does its green tea desserts well — and its prices seem to have stayed constant since 2013.
Wrap your taste buds around the Nara ($8.20), named after Japan’s Nara prefecture, which is home to many 8th century relics and structures, as well as its polite bowing deer.
Enjoy the smooth vanilla soft serve in the middle, surrounded by key elements such as red bean paste, a scoop of matcha ice cream, green tea jelly, and lashings of kuromitsu.
You can also try other bowl desserts like the Gion, paired with shiratama and zenzai (similar to a thick red bean soup), or Miyako, which has warabi mochi.
St. Marc Cafe has outlets at Raffles City and Parkland Green.
7. Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory – Matcha Cheesecake ($33)
Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory’s signature cheese cookies and cheesy soft serve are awesome, but have you tried its cakes?
Go for its delicate yet rich Matcha Milk Cheesecake ($33). It’s the best of both worlds — Japan’s most famous matcha and milk.
The pure Uji matcha is blended with premium mascarpone and cream cheese for the top layer, on a base of Hokkaido milk mousse with Hokkaido fresh cream ensconced in a crepe.
Definitely, recommend getting this for a matcha and cheesecake lover’s birthday.
Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory has outlets at Raffles City, ION Orchard, and Paragon.
8. Chateraise – Affordable Matcha Sweets from $1.70
Almost everyone has had a Chateraise dessert at this point, as the patisserie chain from Yamanashi prefecture has 24 outlets in Singapore to date.
But there is no dessert fatigue, for there is always something new to try.
From its Double Fantasy Cream Puffs (cream and custard), I’ve moved on to its famous strawberry shortcake, then stocked my freezer with lots of its ice cream products. Then, sipped on a latte from its Toa Payoh dine-in outlet and bought countless cakes for friends’ birthdays because of its convenient location.
This time, the Uji Matcha Charcoal Monaka (costs $2.20, according to shop staff) caught my eye in a Facebook post, with its elegant black colour and bright green ice cream within.
Deceptively simple, yet complex with its astringent yet umami notes of Uji matcha and bamboo charcoal monaka shell coated in white chocolate. The making of monaka is another art, as these crisp rice wafer shells are delicate, thin and carefully shaped.
However, when I visited the Toa Payoh outlet, this popular black beauty was unfortunately sold out.
Thankfully, there were many other matcha delights to keep me happy. After going on a buying frenzy at the shop, I went home with the Double Fantasy Matcha ($1.90), a cream puff filled with a duo of fresh cream and Uji matcha custard fresh cream; the Mochi Cream Matcha ($1.70); a slice of Fluffy Cream Roll Uji Matcha ($2.20) with homemade red bean paste made from beans produced in Tokachi, Hokkaido; a Taiyaki Ice Cream Uji Matcha wafer sandwich ($2.20); and the pretty Japanese Style Parfait Uji Matcha and Hojicha ($5.60).
The last item comprises shiratama dumplings, hojicha jelly, red bean paste cooked with Hakushu mineral water, Uji matcha fresh cream, kuzumochi (mochi made from Japanese arrowroot starch) and yuzu nappage (a clear jelly-like glaze made from yuzu) — major yum!
9. Hvala Singapore (Chijmes) – Matcha Soft Serve ($6)
One of the newest matcha kids on the block, Hvala always seems to be super-crowded on weekends, so go early to secure a seat. Note: some of the green tea beverages such as the smoky Iribancha cannot be ordered to go as the staff says the taste will deteriorate.
Its dessert selection may not be as extensive as its myriad tea choices, but do try its premium matcha soft serve ($6, top-up $1.50 to add azuki), as rich and umami-laden as its Japanese peers. This melts quite quickly but is not so cloying or creamy. Would be better if it were smoother though.
Meanwhile, the Matcha Azuki Slice ($7.80) is pricey but is fluffy, moist and well-balanced with the layers of light sponge, fresh cream, azuki paste, and stronger-tasting matcha sauce.
Its classy Chijmes outlet is gorgeous, with an industrial-chic vibe, traditional touches, natural light, and many Instagram-worthy spots. Great for an afternoon catch-up.
10. Riz Labo Kitchen’s Singapore pop-up – Matcha Pancake ($18)
The stack of matcha pancakes at Riz Labo Kitchen is quite pricey at $18. Luckily, I can enjoy 6% dining rebate on my OCBC 365 credit card.
But the draw is that this Tokyo café’s pancakes are not just extremely airy, fluffy and wobbly — they are also gluten-free and a healthier alternative to its usual wheat counterparts. They are made with organic rice flour, brown sugar, organic soya milk, and rice oil.
The matcha pancakes are dusted with top-grade Uji matcha and served with maple syrup, whipped cream, and red bean paste.
Get your fix at this famous Omotesando brand quickly, as it is a pop-up concept at Wisma Atria’s Japan Food Town from now to 20 October 2018 (shared space with Bar Nippon, which opens after 5pm).
Be prepared to queue (and wait) though!
Riz Labo Kitchen is located at Japan Food Town, Wisma Atria (11am to 5pm daily).
11. Kyushu Pancake – Matcha MontBlanc ($18)
From one pancake brand to another that’s also a healthier alternative, but still as pricey.
Kyushu Pancake incorporates wholegrains — seven types of “100% Kyushu finely selected grains” to be exact — into its pancakes, which as a result as chewier with a nutty taste and texture. But the higher fibre content helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. HPB would approve.
Here’s a list of ingredients and their sources, according to the café’s website:
- Wheat (Oita Prefecture)
- Aigoma farmed Sprouted brown rice (Aya, Miyazaki)
- Millet (Unzen, Nagasaki)
- Pressed barley (Saga)
- Purple rice and red glutinous rice (Kumamoto and Fukuoka)
- Non-glutinous rice (Kagoshima)
- Raw sugar (Okinawa and Kagoshima)
Go for the Matcha MontBlanc ($18), a tall beauty with matcha Montblanc sauce, matcha mousse, fresh cream, and vanilla ice cream. But if you want your red bean fix, another option is the Matcha & Azuki Pancake.
Kyushu Pancake is located at Novena Regency.
12. Pablo – Freshly Baked Matcha Cheese Tart with Shiratama & Azuki ($19.90)
Pablo’s rare cheese tarts are so unique, I have yet to find another cheese tart shop that replicates this gentle flavour and texture, complete with that super soft cheesy ooze.
Previously, I had to fly to Japan just to ease my craving, but with a good number of Pablo outlets in Singapore now, not only can I eat my fill but enjoy its localized flavours like the pandan cheese tart and mini kaya with toasty coconut flakes.
But one of my favourites is the classic Freshly Baked Matcha Cheese Tart with Shiratama & Azuki ($19.90). It’s got all my favourite elements: chewy shiratama rice balls, red bean, and green tea!
By the way, the tart is rather substantial and can feed up to six people. Even though I’ve managed to finish it in a single sitting with just one eating buddy in Osaka, I ended up extremely full. Nevertheless, I am always happy to help where food is concerned!
Pablo has outlets at Wisma Atria and Nex.