Tea company that’s been in business for more than 300 years takes Japanese sweets to a pitch-black frontier.

By this point, it’s pretty safe to say that matcha sweets are here to stay. Though they used to make up only a small part of the Japanese confectionary pantheon, over the last decade the popularity of green tea sweets has skyrocketed, with many of Japan’s most respected tea companies branching out into desserts. Take, for example, Yamamotoyama, a tea merchant founded all the way back in 1690. In May, Yamamotoyama began selling a gorgeous Matcha Terrine green tea cake, and last month they rolled out a hojicha, or roasted green tea, version.

This week Yamamotoyama added a third flavor to the lineup, and some might have expected them to go with yet another variety of Japanese tea, like sencha or genmaicha. However, what people sometimes forget is that Yamamotoyama also produces nori, or roasted seaweed, and that’s the special ingredient in their newest, and most unusual, dessert: the Nori Terrine.

Yamamotoyama is very upfront about it, too. “Nori,” written in big, bold hiragana characters as のり, is right there on the wrapper for the stately wooden box the Nori Terrine comes in.

Because the Nori Terrine is sold frozen, there’s an additional sealed wrapping inside the box. Remove that and you’ll find…

a jet-black brick. Seriously, it almost looks like it’s been coated with that ultra-spec light-absorbing black paint. That color is a result of the roasted seaweed powder that’s mixed in with the high-cocoa butter-content couverture chocolate.

▼ The frost from the still semi-frozen surface made it resemble a block of marble.

The Nori Terrine can be eaten before fully thawing, and so we grabbed a knife and sliced off a piece. Doing so gave us a look at its cross-section, which is an even darker black thanks to having no frost on it,

As we lifted our fork for a bite, the color forced us to remind ourselves that this was cake, and not a piece of tire rubber.

Compared to its startling appearance, though, the Nori Terrine’s taste isn’t so shocking. The chocolate and bits of orange peel in the base provide the biggest flavor sensations, and there’s not all that much of the salty and bitter notes of roasted seaweed, and overall it’s a very pleasant and refreshing flavor.

Just to be sure the semi-frozen cake wasn’t chilling our taste buds and dulling the flavor, we let the Nori Terrine thaw out completely in the refrigerator, then took it out for another round of taste testing.

▼ The only thing better than eating cake for work is eating cake twice for work.

The thawed cake had a smoother texture, but the nori flavor wasn’t any more noticeable than it was before. If anything, thawing the cake seemed to bring out more of the chocolate’s flavor, so if you want to experience it at its sweetest, this is the way to go.

Either way, though, the Nori Terrine isn’t cloying, and overall it’s a sophisticated dessert in both how it look and tastes. It’s more the sort of thing to eat when you’re craving sweets and want just a touch of nori flavor, rather than a way to get your nori fix, which makes sense, since it’s, after all, a cake.

The Nori Terrine is priced at 8,640 yen (US$75) and can be purchased at the Yamamotoyama shops inside the Shibuya Tokyu Food Show, Shinjuku Takashimaya, and Nihonbashi Takashimaya department stores in Tokyo, as well as through the Yamamotoyama online shop here.

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