Hong Kong’s zeal for all things matcha show no sign of abatement. Here are our top picks for climbing onto the green-tea-powder bandwagon.
ONE – Nakamura Tokichi Hong Kong Ten
The brand has been around a century and a half, but this establishment in Hong Kong is maybe just over a month old. Food is appropriately good after the long wait. They’ve got creamed whipped from Hokkaido milk, rice crispies, matcha cake, red bean paste, green tea jelly, matcha and mocha soft-serve ice cream. Any discussion of early favorites here would have to start with the maruto matcha parfait (98 HKD), one of our favorites as well.
For another day: the ky no fukiyose (98 HKD) features four pieces of matcha-chocolate flavored angel cake, a scoop of matcha ice cream, sweetened chestnut, mochi, red bean paste and cream. The angel cakes are perfect: soft and light, especially nice with the cream.
The current owner, 63-year-old Nakamura, is the sixth generation of the Nakamura family to work steadily at ensuring the quality of the output of the Hong Kong store, two of Nakamura’s sons and six staff from the main Kyoto outlet run this Tsim Sha Tsui branch of Nakamura Tokichi. According to the family’s tradition, when the father passes away the son can become the brand’s owner and change his name to Nakamura Tokichi. Besides serving tea-related food and rink, the store also plans to hold irregular workshops (50 HKD) in which masters flown from Kyoto teach the art of grinding tea the Nakamura way.
Add: 18/F The One, 100 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: 00852 2426 6111
Open Hours: 11:00 – 20:00
TWO – Fairy Tale Café
Since its March opening, this café has been capturing the hearts of matcha lovers with its signature matcha red bean mochi toast (53 HKD). As that name suggests, the dish features green tea flavored mochi clamped between two slices of toast. A generous helping of sweet red beans and a scoop of green tea ice cream complete the scandal.
Head chef and owner Karl Yiu Ka-ho invents most of the recipes himself. “My girlfriend is the main reason behind most of the products I make- she loves matcha flavors,” said the thirty-two year old. After training under a Japanese head chef, Yiu opened a cake shop in Yuen Long, but was forced out by raising rents. He moved to a bigger, cheaper establishment in Tai Po.
You’ll want to try the matcha bavarois (53 HKD), a creamy green tea pudding served with rice balls, and probably the red bean matcha roll (36 HKD), filled with red bean and green tea ice cream. The latest addition is a matcha parfait called Autumn (58 HKD). Autumn is a scoop of green tea ice cream on layers of red bean, cream, cornflakes and yogurt.
Add: Shop 2, Yan Hing Street, Tai Po
Tel: 00852 2653 0123
Opening Hours: noon – 23:00
THREE – Kale
With a menu that emphasizes healthy and nutritious dishes, Kale might not be the first establishment to spring to mind when you think of confections. But their new matchalo is definitely worth your time, love and attention. Matchalo (58 HKD) is a Filipino-inspired dessert. Known as halo halo in the Philippines (“mix mix”), the dish consists of a scoop of green tea ice cream over a mix of crushed ice, coconut meat, jack fruit, sweet potato, mung beans, palm nuts and ube (purple yam). To keep it even more healthy than fruit, ice, and a little bit of dairy, Kale’s matchalo skimps on the evaporated milk and added sugar of its inspiration.
“We started Kale because it’s difficult to find places in Central that serve healthy food for low pirces,” says co-founder Hero Leung Hei-noh, 22. Recently having graduated with an economics degree, Leung decided to start her own restaurant with Brian Christopher Aguilar, 30, a Filipino who has been working in the food industry for years.
“I’m 100 percent into the food industry and I don’t want to waste time doing things I don’t want to do,” says Leung.
Also on the menu: a delicious gluten-free vegan green tea doughnut (12 HKD). So you’re not going to turn that down.
Add: Room 1301, Cheungs Building, 1-3 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan
Tel: 00852 2320 5808
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat 11:00 – 21:00
FOUR – Sense Dessert Café
This claims to be the first Hong Kong establishment pedaling molecular desserts, although what that means is anyone’s guess. The brainchild of the three Poon brothers, Ricky, Joe, and Jan, the café originally opened in Yuen Long in 2012. Last year they expanded to a Jordan location. Their signature dish is a tiramisu, always a favorite with customers there. Instead of serving it on a plate, the good folks at Sense Dessert Café serve their tiramisu decorated to resemble a potted plant in one of three flavors: original, matcha or white chocolate (45 HKD). The bed of “soil” which supports the tiramisu is made of chocolate and isomaltulose, and looks so real that you might hesitate to taste it. The matcha version has soft green tea cream under the soil, and isn’t too sweet.
They do another dessert over there that’s literally very cool. Vanilla and sesame ice cream granules are added to -197-degree-celsius liquid nitrogen, then served with a matcha lava cake. The waitress warned us to mix the warm lava cake into the ice cream before tucking in, so as to prevent frostbite.
Second brother Joe is the brains behind the menu. “One thing Hong Kong lacks is original desserts,” says Joe. “Ours are 100% original.” While Joe is responsible for new dishes, Ricky takes care of business planning and Jan manages the two stores.
“Working in the food industry is very tough and sometimes I do regret changing fields,” says Joe. “But the sense of fulfillment returns every time I get some feedback from our customers.
G/F Ho Shun Lee Building, 9 Fung Yau Street South, Yuen Long, tel: 2886 0499. Open: Monday to Sunday 3pm-midnight
Shop 6-8, Wah Chi Building, 286-294 Temple Street, Jordan, tel: 2886 0949. Open: Monday to Friday noon-12.30am;Saturday and Sunday 3pm-1am
FIVE – Hiroshi
Since its opening three years ago, Hiroshi has been a haven for lovers of matcha. Named after Ouchi Hiroshi, Hiroshi’s seventy-one-year-old founder and owner, this spot is renowned for its desserts in general and cakes in particular. The most popular dish by far is the matcha cake roll, extremely reasonably priced at 30 HKD. It’s not too sweet and is essentially glazed in a very fine layer of cream. Store manager Gene Cheung Ka-shun assures us that the finest Kyoto green tea powder and Hokkaido milk are used for the preparation. Other must-tries include the house chiffon (30 HKD). It’s a moisty and light cake topped with milky cream spread. The green tea parfait (44 HKD) is a tower of ice cream, mochi, cream, jelly and, obligatorily, cereal, topped with butter cookie, that is not soon forgotten (as you can probably surmise).
“When Mr. Hiroshi retired from Sharp in Japan fifteen years ago, he came to Hong Kong to open an electric company,” said Cheung. “He said it was difficult to find food with an authentic Japanese flavor here, so he decided to open a restaurant and fill that gap.”
Add: G/F The Lamma Commercial Centre, 15 Parkes Street, Jordan
Tel: 00852 2737 2665
Opening Hours: Sun – Thu noon – 23:00; Fri – Sat noon – 23:30
SIX – Sinmei Tea
This is a charming, second-story affair in Sheung Wan has got your back with a killer watermelon tea (60 HKD), showcasing thick matcha cream on chunks of earl gray angel food cake, on a foundation of fresh watermelon. They also serve up a mean sizzling matcha brownie (78 HKD), served hot in a cast iron skillet. Pour a cup of hot matcha mousse on the provided scoop of vanilla ice cream for optimum results. In case you were wondering whether all this mousse, vanilla and brownie business was in conflict with the matcha flavors- it’s not. Trust us.
Founder Cheung Sin Mei, thirty-six, has worked with food for a long time. She started her first restaurant in Brisbane fifteen years ago. An avid tea lover herself, Cheung calls herself fhte Tea Lady, and the shop is decorated Chinese antiques. “My idea was to create a trendy tea café brand that is unique to Hong Kong, so we can carry on the tradition and promote it overseas,” said Cheung. “I like tea not just for the taste and health benefits, but also for the philosophy behind it. From a Confucian perspective, tea means harmony, calm, and etiquette.”
Add: 5/F CS Tower, 50 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan
Tel: 00852 3690 8238
Opening Hours: 11:30 – 19:30
SEVEN – Kyoto Matcha Café
Kyoto Matcha Café uses only the highest quality matcha, and they source it from Morihan. It was also the first café in Hong Kong to break into the matcha trend. Come take a few hours off here, chill with a matcha, and you’ll see why this is still one of the best in the game.
The brand itself got started in 1836 in Uji, Kyoto. Morihan has always made quality the first priority. Delivering matcha to Japan and over sixteen other countries around the world, the company has high hopes of enhancing the pleasures of people’s everyday lives through the appreciation of traditional Japanese tea. This extends from planting, to choosing teas, to open air drying and even the grinding of leaves. Morihan is meticulous in its approach, going so far as using stones to grind leaves into granules less than three microns wide. The highest quality matcha is, it almost goes without saying, fine, and floats when placed in hot water. It should also be fragrant, rich in taste, and deep green. Good matcha is rich in chlorophyll, catechin, vitamins C and E, and carotene, which combats hangovers, neutralizes toxins, and beautifies the skin.
Add: Shop 2009A, 2/F, Miramar Shopping Centre, 132 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: 00852 2628 0590
Opening Hours: Sun – Tue 12:00 – 22:00; Fri-Sat 12:00 – 23:00
EIGHT – Via Your Tastebuds
Via Tokyo is a testament to the underlying obsession Hong Kong has for green tea. It was part of the very first wave bringing matcha desserts to the good people of the SAR. Unless you manage to catch the café on a very, very slow day, don’t expect a lot of elbowroom at your table. Long queues are the default at this point, with people vying for the famed soft serves that come with a variety of fruity toppings, as well as the refreshing matcha smoothies and iced lattes. The proprietors have recently added a line of matcha pastries, including napoleons and éclairs- so get over there.
Add: Shop 1A & 1B, G/F, Lei Shun Court, 106-126 Leighton Rd., Causeway Bay
Tel: 00852 2895 1116
NINE – Old-School Charm
The tempting aroma of green tea is going to get you in here whether you like it or not, and it only gets better when you step in the door. This has been a mecca for matcha lovers in Osaka for the last hundred years. At the Hong Kong branch, the sixth generation of the Nakamura family has exported the authentic Kyoto experience into the rest of Asia for the first time. They’ve brought literally everything with them: from the ingredients to the furniture, ice-cream shaver, the tea grinding instruments, tea room, and of course their Kyoto-style hospitality. With ingredients flown in every day, you’ll be taking in top-notch sweets like green tea jelly, rice cake matcha and red bean soup.
Add: 18/F, The ONE, 100 Nathan Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: 00852 2426 6111
TEN – Affogato ‘Bout It
Opened by a Japanese-Chinese couple with a solid grasp of English punning, this dessert café, also known as I Cremeria, takes many cues from Italy: from the name and décor to the affogato (flavored with rich Japanese match and, sadly, no espresso). The soft serves and shaved ice are delectably complemented by a variety of toppings, including chewy daifuku mochi, wagashi sweet chestnuts, jelly and pudding. There’s also a heavy focus on the highest possible quality fruits flown straight from Japan. The fancy muskmelon is one such signature fixture, and you can always ante up for a milky soft serve served in a half-melon for a cool 220 HKD.
Add: Shop OT-G03A, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, 3-37 Canton Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: 00852 2897 1118