Taste of Japan: Fancy green tea concoctions at Tokyo's Atelier Matcha

Photos by Denisse Rauda
Photos by Denisse Rauda

Taste of Japan: Fancy green tea concoctions at Tokyo's Atelier Matcha

by Denisse Rauda
Stripes Japan

When you’re in Japan, you’ll find matcha green tea everywhere. It’s in ice cream, in vending machine bottled drinks, sprinkled on cakes, and even used as an ingredient in noodles. For some, this is a blessing, but for others, the powdery, very rich green powder might take some time to grow to love or, at the very least, like.

As a matcha tea lover, I knew I had to visit Atelier Matcha in the Ningyocho district in Tokyo. What makes it special is that this is 180-year-old tea wholesaler Yamamasa Koyamaen’s first café. The tea house opened in August and offers a modern twist on green tea favorites as part of what it calls the “Matcha Third Wave,” signifying the spread of matcha worldwide.

According to the shop’s website, the drinks and sweets on the menu feature farm-to-table matcha and boldly promises a new experience to both Japan and the world.

When I arrived at the store, it looked like it was a shared business space— part café, part bookshop on the first floor and a showroom upstairs. It was a weekday, and two of the six two-seater tables were occupied. The décor was very sleek with minimalist grey concrete and light wooden pieces and shelving resembling Norwegian-esque design.

The menu had a variety of hot and cold drinks— mostly matcha. Wanting to try a little bit of everything, my friend and I ordered the matcha jelly cider, matcha water, matcha cookie cream shake, matcha affogato and a matcha classic chocolate sweet. They also have a matcha cotton candy milk shake, which on the menu looks like it would make a great pic for Insta. Unfortunately, it’s only available on the weekend (their website did not say this).

First, we tried the jelly cider (660 yen or $5.82). This is a cider drink with a slice of lemon and cubes of matcha jelly. Visually the glass was striking with its half clear, half deep green color. I tried the cider first and it was bitter. The matcha jelly, however, was sweet and brought a distinct flavor when combined with the lemony-bitter cider. Though the consistency of the jelly was weird, the drink as a whole was refreshing.

Next, we tried the matcha water (275 yen). As unspecial as its name, the matcha water tasted just like it sounded. Not even the rich matcha could justify paying for this. Not a fan and I would say skip this one.

To make up for the letdown of the previous drink, we tried the matcha cookie cream shake (748 yen). The presentation was lovely and a rich matcha syrup was served on the side to pour over. If you like Oreo ice cream or shakes like I do, you’ll love this. The matcha syrup adds a mature taste to the classic without either overpowering the other. This was the perfect ratio of green tea to cookies and cream.

We ended our drink tasting with yet another sweet dessert drink— the matcha affogato (660 yen). This was two thick scoops of vanilla ice cream in a glass with a shot-glass of what looked more like a green shot of espresso than green tea on the side. Before pouring it over the ice cream, we inspected the shot. Both of us had been baristas in our college years, so we wondered whether they used an espresso machine to accomplish this complex shot. Eventually we stopped nerding out and poured it over to give it a try. This affogato was delicious. The vanilla ice cream wasn’t too sweet but the matcha shot over it created almost like a syrup/ice cream sundae situation. The affogato and the shake were definitely the best of all the drinks we ordered.

Not one to shy away from a serious sugar coma, I bit into the classic matcha chocolat (550 yen). This sweet looks like a tiny slice of poundcake, but one bite in and it melted like a soft fudge or delicate cheese. It had just the right amount of sweet, but it made me want coffee, not tea, to wash it down (there are two coffee drinks tucked away on a corner in the menu, but I did not notice them at the time).

We had a great time sampling a few of Atelier Matcha’s unique drinks inside its fancy café area. We left regretting our sugar highs but still feeling healthy due to all the green tea we had technically consumed. If I go back, it will definitely be on the weekend to try the matcha cotton candy milkshake. Because what’s healthier than green tea and cotton candy?

Ride the Matcha Third Wave
Address: 1-5-8 Nihombashi Ningyocho, Chuo, Tokyo
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Website (Japanese only)
Phone: 03-3667-7277

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