I signed up for the matcha green tea walking tour at the end of last year and it turned out to be the perfect January treat. Yannick was a great guide - as well as an in depth knowledge of matcha and the best places in London to try it, our walk through Fitzrovia and Soho was a chance to learn about hidden corners of the city and snippets of its history which were a revelation even for a seasoned Londoner. It really isn't possible to tire of this city, even on a freezing January day - there's never not going to be an unexplored corner or a new coffee shop to try out (this is why we do this crazy property prices and yes-my-flat-is-the-size-of-a-shoebox thing, am I right?).
Back to the tea, matcha is thought of as a Japanese delicacy but it was actually brought over to Japan from China by a Zen Buddhist monk nearly one thousand years ago. The word matcha literally translates to fine tea (ma = fine, cha = tea) and the production process means that it really does merit its name - it can take three hours to grind just 50g of matcha which explains the high price of this precious green powder. Matcha has many health benefits - it contains ten times the antioxidants of regular green tea and is said to promote good health and long life. Traditionally the powder is mixed with a bamboo whisk and hot water to make a strong tasting, dark green tea but in more recent times patisserie chefs have found it an exiting ingredient to add to their creations for both its colour and flavour (the health benefits from a matcha cheesecake may be dubious though).
I don't want to reveal all of the matcha secrets of the tour because you should definitely go on it - £20 gets you five tastings and a hot drink so it's great value and no two tours will be the same so you may end up trying totally different matcha goodies to the ones I did:
|A soft matcha cookie from Store Street Espresso as we explored Fitzrovia. A modern take on matcha this still had a really strong, authentic flavour.|
|Matcha cheesecakes in the window of L'Eto, Soho. Matcha is starting to be used in traditional desserts - the colour and the flavour adding a twist to a cheesecake recipe. We didn't sample these on the tour but it was a good photo opportunity!|
|Matcha tea in My Place. Matcha tea has a strong taste but I love it, especially when paired with sweet treats. Matcha lattes made with frothed milk are milder and a good way to introduce yourself to matcha.|
|Matcha Pocky from the Japan Centre outside JP Books on Denman Street. A typical Japanese snack - I loved these as a child! The tour has a mix of Matcha snacks to have on route and ones to take home to enjoy later.|
Matcha DirectorySoho / Fitzrovia - these matcha stops are in walking distance of each other, some were visited on the tour but others are on my list for future matcha cravings...
Store Street Espresso, Store Street - for matcha cookies (pictured above) and pretty matcha lattes
Moba, Charlotte Street - Franco-Vietnamese cafe serving up matcha brownies and a matcha croissant (not open on weekends)
L'eto, Soho - for matcha cheesecake and matcha cookies, a sweet modern take on matcha
Crosstown Donuts, Broadwick Street - for matcha donuts, made every other day (call ahead to check if you're after one!)
My Place, Berwick Street - for matcha lattes and pure matcha teas, the non-matcha lunches looked great, too
Japan Centre, Shaftesbury Avenue - for matcha pocky (pictured above), matcha tea, matcha bakery treats...and all things Japanese in Central London. The Selfridges Food Hall currently had a Taste of Japan exhibition with Pocky, matcha kit kats and traditional Japanese teas.
Rest of London
Eat - the only coffee chain to offer a matcha latte despite Starbucks in other countries doing green tea lattes and frappes!
Le Pain Quotidien - a matcha latte is a new addition to the menu, I love it with almond milk and its served French-style in a cute drinking bowl.
Notes - a matcha madeleine is now on the menu at this small chain.
Tombo, South Kensington - a Japanese cafe if you're visiting the museums here
William Curley, Chelsea - a super high end chocolatier, William's wife is Japanese and has inspired his patisserie to incorporate matcha (I had dessert here five years ago and still dream of it, must go back)