Drinks & Eats

Pastry Chefs Exhibit Versatili-tea in the Kitchen

Matcha Ice Cream
Matcha Ice Cream

Chefs - particularly those in big cities - are known for pushing the envelope when it comes to using ingredients in ways they were never meant to be used. You just have to tune into Iron Chef - where you'll see sardine-flavored ice cream, or coffee-crusted rib eye - to see these culinary mad scientists at work creating new ways to look at food and the use of ingredients.

And so, our intrepid Dr. Frankensteins of Food turn their sights on the world of desserts, finding new and innovative ways to pleasure our palates while expanding the landscape of their own gastronomic palettes.

Enter tea
In both its liquid and leafy forms, tea makes for a surprising and clever ingredient in modern dessert dishes - turning the familiar on its ear and making it new again. Why have tiramisu, when you can have Green Tea Tiramisu at New York's Panya restaurant? Here the pastry chefs infuse a vanilla sponge cake with a light and airy Matcha mousse.

The term "Matcha" refers to a finely milled Japanese green tea that has become a popular flavoring for various kinds of foods: from soba noodles to cookies and candies and even ice cream. It also can be used as a food dye, in tempura mixtures, or mixed with milk and sugar to make a drink.

Large crowds clamored inside Matcha Box in New York City this summer for drinks and pastries made from the versatile green powder. Matcha Box is a small pop-up café that opened exclusively for Summer 2010. One of its more popular drinks was Iced Matcha, served unsweetened, although customers had the option to add lime, ginger, or lemonade. In addition to the Iced Matcha, this quirky little cafe also offered a Matcha Latte drink to wash down their tea-infused pastries. Some of the more popular creations included shortbread cookies, Madeleines, marshmallows, and a lemon tea cake with a Matcha glaze. While the café closed at the end of July, owner Alissa White still maintains an online store, Matcha Source, where she continues to sell Matcha merchandise.

Kyotofu, a Japanese dessert bar in Hell's Kitchen, continues the green tea trend with a lunch dessert plate, which offers five courses of dessert dishes, several of them made from green tea. The Mochi Chocolate Cake is topped with a sweetened puree of Matcha mixed with white beans and sugar. Another staple of their dessert lunch plate is soft serve ice cream made with chocolate and roasted Matcha.

The delicious appeal of making desserts with green tea can be seen across the globe, particularly in Asia. Hong Kong's Tong Pak Fu Restaurant is making a name for itself with its innovative green tea shaved ice dessert. Similar to a snow cone, shaved ice is a popular dessert treat in Hawaii and across Asia. Whereas the snow cone is made with crushed ice, the shaved ice is made from shaving ice from a large ice block and turned into a fine powder that is easier to eat. This icey powder is placed on a cone and flavored with syrup. At Tong Pak Fu, Matcha syrup is used to flavor their shaved ice.

As chefs across the globe continue to discover tea's extraordinary versatility, new and delicious treats are on the horizon, through the creative innovation flowing through the world's kitchens. Who knows - maybe one day we'll all be dining on green tea-Fluffernutter sandwiches with Matcha syrup.