9 Matcha Treats to Get Excited About Around O‘ahu
The best drinks and snacks featuring Japan’s fluorescent, famously bitter matcha green tea.
I grew up in western Japan, where my grandpa and I liked to wander the grounds of a temple. Right across from it was a tiny ice cream store. I loved sliding open the shoji door and breathing in the sweet scent of vanilla. “Matcha kudasai,” I would say. Green tea ice cream, please. Going to that shop with my grandpa started my lifelong love for matcha.
To this day, every time I see matcha on a menu, I have to have it. So it only feels right to pay homage to my Japanese roots by rounding up my favorite matcha treats around O‘ahu.
Matcha Chia Pudding, Arvo Café
The matcha chia pudding ($9.30) at this Kaka‘ako cafe known for its healthy quick bites and trendy art district atmosphere is topped with fresh fruits and matcha whipped cream. I savor every bite and when the pudding is gone, I lick the sides of the cup to get every last bit of that matcha whipped cream. Do not underestimate the deceptive size of this protein-packed, high-fiber pudding: It is very satiating and leaves me full for hours.
324 Coral St. Suite 1A-104b, (808) 312-3979, arvocafe.com, @a_r_v_o
Matcha Bowl, Lanikai Juice
True story: This matcha bowl ($8.15) at Lanikai Juice was so good that in her excitement my stepsister, Angie, forgot her phone at the store. We had to drive all the way back to Kāhala from Waikele to pick it up. Açai bowls have been my number one food item this summer; Lanikai Juice made theirs better by incorporating a matcha flavor. The base of this bowl combines deep, loamy matcha with the sweetness of bananas. Toppings include more banana, granola and my favorite, cacao nibs. Sharing this bowl with Angie, we locked eyes in a moment of surprise and delight and gave a mutual nod of approval.
Multiple locations, lanikaijuice.com, @lanikaijuice
Matcha Parfait, Matcha Café Maiko
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Matcha Café Maiko is my go-to spot for everything matcha. The extensive menu has everything from matcha ice cream to matcha lattes and my personal favorite, the matcha parfait ($8.35). A layered concoction of matcha chiffon cake, cornflakes, mochi and matcha ice cream, it is the best of three worlds: chewy, crunchy and soft. I find Maiko’s matcha to be the strongest among all the matcha places around the island—it comes from Kyoto’s famous Harima Garden and is organic. To put into perspective how much I love this place, instead of a birthday cake, I insisted that my family make a special trip to Waikīkī from Mililani just so I could have this sweet treat.
2310 Kūhiō Ave. #143, (808) 369-8031, matchacafe-maiko.com/eng/, @matchastand_maiko
Matcha Mochi Donut, Modo
Mochi + donuts = a match made in heaven. Of Modo’s icing flavors, of course my favorite is matcha ($1.95). The doughnut itself is slightly bland, which turns out to be a good complement for the sweet yet bitter icing. The soft, pillowy texture is most satisfying as you bite in.
2330 Kalākaua Ave. #250, (808) 376-5362, modohawaii.com, @modohawaii
SEE ALSO: My 9 Favorite Bakeries in Honolulu
Strawberry Drink with Matcha Milk, Chaya
Inside Kāhala Mall toward the middle is Chaya, a cute stand that sells drinks, boba and taiyaki. Two Japanese ladies saw the colorful strawberry drink with matcha milk ($5.50) in my hand and said, “kawaii.” I agree. The only downside is having to mix the aesthetically pleasing layers. Chaya’s matcha is quite bitter, so mixing the drink is essential as most of the sweetness comes from the house-made strawberry purée, which has actual chunks of strawberries.
4211 Wai‘alae Ave., @chayahawaii
Matcha Liliko‘i Latte, Dean & DeLuca
“Hmm, interesting” was my initial reaction to this matcha liliko‘i latte ($6.50). Along with a matcha soda, it’s part of Dean & DeLuca’s limited-time matcha collection, available at the Royal Hawaiian Center store until the end of July. The shop grinds dried matcha leaves into powder to order for each drink, producing a matcha flavor that is as delicate as the bright green leaves. Think of this as a liliko‘i milk with a hint of matcha.
2233 Kalākaua Ave. Building B #B110F, (808) 492-1015, deandeluca-hawaii.com, @deandelucahawaii
Matcha Lemonade and Matcha Liliko‘i Soda, Daily Whisk Matcha
On a scorching hot summer’s day I came across the matcha lemonade ($7.75) and matcha liliko‘i soda ($9) at Kaimukī’s Daily Whisk Matcha. After much debate on which one to get, I thought, why not get both?
The matcha lemonade is sour and bitter in the best way possible. The lemonade tastes like lemons purchased at the farmers market that morning and freshly squeezed. The bitterness comes from the unsweetened matcha at the top. Initially, my mouth puckered at the unexpected sourness of the fresh lemonade at the bottom. And then I mixed the layers and everything made perfect sense.
You know the sharp pain of a fizzy soda bubbling down your throat? You don’t get that with this matcha liliko‘i soda. Daily Whisk has found a flawless balance: a drink that is refreshingly bubbly, yet doesn’t feel like you’re swallowing pins and needles. I was worried that liliko‘i would be too sour to pair with a bitter matcha, but the liliko‘i at the bottom is more of a sweet purée rather than the fresh fruit. Six people replied to my Instagram story with a heart eye emoji when I posted this photo.
1114 11th Ave., (808) 490-3436, dailywhiskmatcha.com, @dailywhiskmatcha
SEE ALSO: Here’s the Scoop on Kaimukī’s New Matcha and Coffee Spot
Matcha Latte, Rabbit Rabbit Tea
You can never go wrong with a classic. This matcha latte ($7.19) is made with organic matcha powder from Kyoto, Japan’s main matcha producing region. Having tried matcha at a tea ceremony in Kyoto, I can say that there is nowhere you can find a stronger blend. I have been craving Kyoto matcha ever since. Luckily, Rabbit Rabbit serves up a strong matcha latte that will transport you to Japan.
Multiple locations, rabbitrabbitteahi.com, @rabbitrabbittea_hi