In January, I had the chance to travel to western Japan with my college for three weeks. While exploring Osaka, Hiroshima, and Kyoto, I adventured in the food options that the cities had to offer. The best part? Matcha. Flavored. Everything.
I found out that powdered green tea was introduced in Japan in the year 1139. Zen Buddhists adapted the tea as part of religious rituals. As the centuries wore on, it became a luxury item for the Japanese elites. However, in the 18th century, a faster way to produce the powder made it accessible to the public, making matcha the staple in Japanese life it is today.
Matcha is a superfood in itself. You have to drink ten cups of regular green tea to get all the antioxidants matcha gives you in just one. The tea itself is an acquired taste due to its bitter flavor, but when added to snacks and sweets, it makes an incredible variety of treats.
In particular, matcha ice cream in Japan was to die for. At every temple, shrine, and castle we visited, you could almost guarantee that you’d find a stand selling this delicious green soft serve.
It was your basic soft serve ice cream, but the slightly bitter taste of matcha mixed with the sweetness of ice cream. It may sound strange, but it was an unquestionable favorite among the people on the trip.
Needless to say, whenever I saw it, I got it. Even in 30 degree weather. The matcha and vanilla twist was my go-to, since the vanilla balanced the green tea taste out perfectly.
Later on in the trip, I discovered in Kyoto a place that sold hojicha soft serve ice cream. Hojicha is a type of green tea that has been roasted, giving it a distinct smokey flavor. I ordered the matcha and hojicha mix, and it was tea-flavored heaven, despite having to wear gloves to eat it.
I found the ultimate tea-flavored experience in the famous Nisshiki Market in Kyoto, where I had a hojicha and matcha mix over tea-flavored popcorn. It was definitely the perfect way to end my three week adventure in tea-flavored ice cream.