We get a surprise as we continue our search for Japan’s best cafe shaved ice.

We’ve still got a lot of summer left, and a lot of summer heat too, So in her continuing quest to stay cool through the hottest part of the season, our Japanese-language reporter Saya Togashi has been making the rounds to Japan’s major cafe chains to find out whose shaved ice is worth the potential brain freeze.

Last time, she hit up a branch of Coco’s, finding that the American-born chain serves up some very tasty Japanese-style shaved ice. Today she’s visiting a home-grown branch, Hoshino Coffee, which is now offering shaved ice at select locations.

▼ Hoshino Coffee

▼ Hoshino Coffee’s coffee

Saya is making it a point to try two types of shaved ice at each cafe, and as it turns out, Hoshino is offering only two types of shaved ice this summer: strawberry and matcha green tea, each priced at 830 yen (US$6). This actually presented a bit of a problem, which we’ll get to in a minute.

But starting things off with the worry-free part of the meal, here’s Hoshino’s strawberry shaved ice, which comes with a container of condensed milk on the side to add to your taste.

What it’s already topped with, though, is a pulpy strawberry mixture that feels closer in consistency to jam than syrup. This gives it a more substantial texture, and the large pieces of fruit create a rustic, nostalgic atmosphere. It reminded Saya of the strawberry jam your grandma would make and keep a jar of set aside especially for you when you visit.

You don’t get a ton of milk, but Saya felt like it was just enough that she could use it all without the cream overpowering the fruit. Adding the milk made it sweet enough that she slowed down and savored each bite of the soft, finely shaved ice, resulting in the perfect pace to cool her body down without freezing her brain.

Then it was on to Hoshino’s matcha shaved ice, and here was where she was worried. See, Saya is kind of an outlier among Japanese foodies with a sweet tooth in that she’s not all that into matcha desserts. She likes a cup of green tea just fine, but as a dessert flavor, she finds it a little harsh.

Even still, she couldn’t deny that Hoshino’s matcha shaved ice looks absolutely gorgeous.

To use its full name, this is the Uji Matcha Milk Kintoki, which, in Japanese sweets parlance, means that it also has anko (sweet red beans).

▼ Usually the anko is already on Uji kintoki when it’s served, but Hoshino lets you do it yourself.

Ordinarily, Saya wouldn’t choose matcha shaved ice for herself, but since she wanted to taste-test two flavors, this was her only second option. She started with a spoonful of just ice and matcha syrup, and…

…yep, this is matcha all right! The tea notes are intense…and yet somehow mellow too. It was like Hoshino, or their Kyoto tea supplier Kamitsuen, had managed to remove any edges from the flavor and left just the gentle essence of tea, entirely free of bitterness. The result was delicious and refreshing, and quite possibly Saya’s favorite green tea dessert she’s ever had.

Obviously, the main flavor here is still matcha, so true-blue (true-green?) matcha fans will enjoy it too. But if you’re someone, like Saya, who usually like green tea more than green tea desserts, Hoshino’s matcha shaved ice just might change your mind too.

Photos © SoraNews24
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