The mystery remains as to which side of my family I acquired my sweet tooth from because neither of my parents was big dessert eaters. I, on the other hand, will eat almost anything sweet you set in front of me.
At the close of 2017, with the unexpected help of a nasty mono infection, I weened myself off of chocolate, and now I’m all about the matcha flavored sweets. So to kick off food-related posts this year, I thought I’d introduce my neighborhood to you through my favorite matcha sweets and where I frequently buy them.
Matcha Milk Tea (Boba)
1-32-3 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo
Let me start off by saying this. I’m an avid boba drinker, but Kikusuido is not my favorite boba shop in all of Tokyo. My favorite is a place called The Alley Lujiaoxiang, but unfortunately, it is a 40-minute train ride away so it’s not always convenient to go. When desperate cravings call for desperate measures, Kikusuido will do. I like that there is only one size, and it’s small so I don’t feel like I’m inhaling a great deal of sugar or dairy. However, I don’t care for the fact that their tapioca quality is not consistent and sweetness levels cannot be adjusted. When you find yourself wandering through Nakamise (the inner market street leading up to Sensoji Temple), stop by to try their boba and let me know what you think.
Feb’s Coffee & Scone
3-1-1 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo
I have a confession to make. In the winter, I stop in at Starbucks for a matcha latte more than I care to admit. In my defense, however, it’s only because Starbucks is conveniently located on my walk to the train station. Though their matcha latte and matcha flavored sweets are not to be discounted, with this post I’m aiming to spotlight the more local side of the neighborhood. The place I genuinely call my local coffee joint is Feb’s Coffee and Scone.
With a maximum of 8 counter seats and only one table for 4, this place is truly the definition of tiny. That’s what I love most about it (lattes aside of course). For that reason, I usually get my latte to go, but on the days when I sit in it feels like a friend is serving me coffee over the kitchen counter. Because maximum capacity is so small, if I spend a couple hours there, I really can take it easy like Sunday morning.
Matcha Ice Cream / Gelato
Kaminari Issa (ice cream)
1-15 Hanakawado, Taitō-ku, Tokyo
In the summer, I trade in the hot matcha lattes for matcha ice cream. For my ice cream fix, I have two favorite spots. The first is a shop called Kaminari Issa which has a beautiful indoor seating space to beat the heat in the summer as well as an array of other matcha flavored sweets. Some sweets are seasonal so there is something new to look forward to all year round. Plus, the shop is a short walk away from the Sumida River so I can take my ice cream to go, sit by the water, and enjoy the breeze.
Suzukien x Nanaya Collab Shop (gelato)
3-4-3 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo
Suzukien is more of a green tea specialty shop, but here you can also stop in for a selection of different gelato flavors including 7 different types of matcha gelato each with a different bitterness level. Choose two for a cone or split all 7 flavors with a group of friends to see which one you like the best. Expect lines out the door in the summer especially on weekends.
1-32 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo
Taiyaki is one of my newest favorite desserts. It is essentially a fish-shaped sponge-cake/pancake sandwich with different fillings inside. Though sweet red bean paste (known as adzuki beans) is most commonly found in taiyaki, the shop near my house also does flavors like plain cream, chocolate, and of course, matcha cream. It is served warm, and the bread is so soft and the middle so creamy it’s like a hug for your mouth. This is my new go-to Japanese comfort food.
2-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo
Japan doesn’t have a dining-out breakfast culture so if for some reason, I don’t get a chance to make breakfast in the morning, I will stop at Kokonoe on my way to the train station and get a matcha agemanju. Agemanju is a traditional Japanese sweet which has a fried bread bun on the outside and different sweet fillings inside. Think of it as a Japanese pastry or donut. Similar to taiyaki, sweet red bean paste is the most common filling, but Kokonoe also has other options like pumpkin, sweet potato, cherry, chocolate, and curry. This is by far my favorite sweets shop in the neighborhood, and even though it’s in a very touristy area, I always take my customers and friends alike here. So if you come to visit me, it’s best to expect that I will take you here at least once.
Matcha Soy Milk
2-16-11 Kaminarimon, Taitō-ku, Tokyo
On the days when I crave something sweet but don’t actually want to eat a whole dessert, I stop at Ozeki Supermarket on my way home to buy a matcha soy milk. It takes the edge off of my craving for sweets and fills me up quickly. As someone who, over the years, has had minor issues digesting regular dairy, matcha soy milk is my saving grace and makes me feel like I’m cheating the system. What’s more, I always take a moment of nostalgia standing on a street corner sipping from my kid-size juice box. It takes me back to childhood and is always a highlight of any day.
Matcha Melon Bread
1-23-3 Asakusabashi, Taitō-ku, Tokyo
Last but not least: Melon Bread (known in Japanese as Melonpan). Oh melonpan, my first love. Though it is not melon in flavor, it is meant to be shaped like a melon though even that is up to interpretation from the eater. Melon bread is not overly sweet and absolute heaven when served fresh from the oven. It has a bit of a crunch when you first bite in quickly giving way to a fluffy, soft interior. For the matcha melonpan specifically, the 70% bitter to 30% sweet ratio may surprise some at first but the closer you get to finishing, the more it will grow on you. At least, it did on me anyway. While I prefer plain melon bread, I will never say no to matcha melon bread.