You have to go all the way to Kyoto to taste these decorative desserts, but a matcha medley this magnificent more than merits the trip!

If you’re a Japan fanatic there’s one classic flavor you’ll want to get acquainted with as soon as possible: matcha. Originating in its first form in China in the seventh century, it was brought to Japan about four centuries later by monks and steadily brewed into the cultural tour de force we know it as today. Sweets, ice cream and even ramen feature the finely ground green tea as a main ingredient – and if you’re especially matcha mad you’ll definitely want to go to Kyoto, Japan’s green tea capital.

Itohkyuemon is one of the specialty matcha teahouses you can find in Kyoto, and they’re serving up a seasonal special that we just had to try!

▼ What does Itohkyuemon have in store for June…?

June is famously known in Japan as tsuyu, or the rainy season, and it’s a time when you can find rich purple and blue hydrangeas cropping up throughout the country. The hydrangeas in Kyoto’s Mimurotoji temple are especially beautiful, and are on display up until the end of June – just like this specialty menu. Hydrangeas serve as this menu’s main inspiration, so you can look forward to deep violets and oceanic blues to complement your traditional Uji matcha green.

▼ A typical Japanese hydrangea bush.

We sent our reporter on the ground, Great Muromachi, to enjoy these floral fancies in our stead. He hastened to the chain’s flagship shop in Uji, hoping to test all of the new menu offerings – the availability does vary by branch, so double check the website before starting your pilgrimage.

The Uji store was bustling with customers despite it being a weekday, and no wonder. Great Muromachi perused the special menu…

Ajisai means “hydrangea”. Yuzushizuku is a gelatinous, sweet mochi flavored with Asian citrus.

With the hydrangea parfait costing 1,280 yen (US$11.80) on its own, you can pay more to add a drink or sweet mochi to the experience. Great Muromachi was here to experience the hydrangeas to their fullest, so he put down a cool 1,980 yen to enjoy a hydrangea parfait, sweet yuzu jellies on the side and whatever beverage he liked from the options of matcha, espresso or cappucino.

▼ What drink did you think he was going to choose? Really, now.

▼ Order one of the seasonal items over 1,500 yen and receive a pearlescent coaster in hydrangea-tastic colors!

The parfait looked resplendent, capped with its majestic swirl of vanilla ice cream. It truly had a majestic, mature air about it…this is no cute kiddie parfait! But…how did it represent hydrangeas?

▼ Aha!

On the other side of this Instagrammable dessert are a soft flurry of purple and blue petals, fashioned out of kinton (mashed sweet potato) and sprinkled with agar sugar to give it that morning-dew glisten. A thin stick of matcha-flavored cookie protrudes from the glass, just like a hydrangea leaf – and this floral arrangement is adorned with blueberries, whipped cream and red beans. The glass itself is filled with a treasure trove of creamy matcha ice cream.

“It looks like a beautiful woman,” Great Muromachi declared, “emerging like a hydrangea flower from the greenery!”

We couldn’t really see how it looked like a woman, but Great Muromachi insisted its classy, refined form could easily be compared to the French actress Sophie Marceau.

▼ We’ll let you be the judge.

“Sophie” wasn’t content with only being admired. Her perfect petals and rapidly melting matcha ice cream were crafted to be enjoyed! Great Muromachi took a spoonful of parfait, making sure to scoop up a generous portion of hydrangea petal kinton

And down the hatch it went. A sumptuous mouthful of cream, red bean and matcha syrup, it was everything he desired in one gulp. It tasted exactly as good as it looked…and at Itohkyuemon, renowned for its high quality delicacies, that was no mean feat.

Oh, but there was still something else on the plate!

▼ The yuzushizuku shimmers in its bowl

The gelatinous mochi sweet is flavored with yuzu citrus and served with matcha syrup. The tart, sour tang of the yuzu mingles with the bitter sweetness of the matcha to culminate in an extraordinary flavor that feels neither spring nor summer, but unmistakeably of the “rainy season”. A great way to clean the palate after the parfait!

▼ The matcha syrup adds a flash of verdant color!

Itohkyuemon is also selling two kinds of sweets that can be purchased and taken home to enjoy. The first is a set of three gorgeous matcha-flavored hydrangea kinton balls, the same as what is served atop the parfait. They cost 777 yen for the set, and are a great purchase for anyone who fell in love with the kinton topping from the parfait.

But especially breathtaking is the Uji matcha hydrangea panna cotta. Blending tart blueberry with the grassy, potent flavor of high-quality matcha, the colored gelatin that tops the panna cotta looks like a bed of crushed jewels that catches the light a thousand times over.

While it may seem a little pricey at 540 yen for a single pot, Great Muromachi implores you to just think of it like a kind of beauty tax for getting to look at it while you eat. Those Instagram likes don’t come cheap, you know!

And once you’ve eaten your fill and bought snacks to take home, the teashop even has its own store where you can purchase various other green tea goods, including matcha-flavored sake!

The weather may be dreary, but sparkling gems like the Itohkyuemon seasonal menu are worth the bother of armoring up in a raincoat and umbrella. With the tea shop providing us with gastronomic green tea goodies throughout the years, such as matcha white wine and matcha-coated strawberries, we can’t wait to see that they have in store for when the clouds clear!

Cafe Information
Itohkyuemon Uji Main Branch / 伊藤久右衛門 宇治本店
Address: Kyoto-fu, Uji-shi, Uji Aramaki 19-3
Open 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (last order 6:00 p.m.)
Closed New Year’s Day only

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