There’s a lot of buzz going on about Japanese matcha, but what exactly is it? The characters for “matcha” (抹茶) literally translate to “powdered tea” so saying “matcha tea” would be a bit redundant. It’s made of finely ground green tea leaves and has a smoother, more bitter flavor compared to regular steeped green tea.
It’s well-known for being used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, but tea-lovers can also enjoy the flavor of matcha in many forms! In fact, many Japanese snacks have matcha-flavored varieties that can be brought back as souvenirs. Here are a few you should definitely pack with you.
Perhaps the most popular matcha snack to take home for tourists is the matcha KitKat sold throughout various stores in Japan. While there are numerous other flavors available, matcha-flavored KitKat continues to be one of the most sought after. It’s a blend of matcha powder mixed with white chocolate coating a crispy wafer stick. But take note: there isn’t just one kind of green tea KitKat available in the country. There’s one variety sold at convenience stores and supermarkets, but regional varieties are also available from time to time. If you can find them, buy a few and do a taste test with friends back home to discover the difference.
If KitKat’s not your thing, there are several other chocolates to try that showcase the taste of matcha. Meiji, one of Japan’s most well-known chocolate brands, sells a wide assortment of matcha snacks.
Though most people recognize Meiji for their plain chocolate bars and nutty varieties of chocolate, one must-try matcha snack is their seasonal Meltykiss chocolate. This chocolate is sold only during the winter season as the chocolate has a very soft texture and melts quickly. But if you’re in Japan during the colder months, be sure to grab a few boxes of their matcha Meltykiss to enjoy a soft and delicious mix of green tea and chocolate. Just be sure to pack them carefully so they won’t melt on the trip.
Another popular snack to bring back as gifts or personal enjoyment has often been featured in many Japanese anime shows: Pocky. Yes, matcha Pocky exists and it’s a great way to experience the flavor of matcha with an added crunch. But if Pocky seems too common, try to look for the matcha variant of Morinaga’s BAKE chocolate. It has a crumbly, cookie-like shell with a creamy filling and also available in most convenience stores. The company also produces matcha caramels that are chewy and sweet with just a hint of that signature matcha bitterness. They’re great to keep in your bag when you crave a bit of matcha to bite into.
When we think of snacks, we usually think of food to eat. But also consider what you can drink when you’re taking a break. Matcha is, after all, a tea you can drink. It’s easy enough to find matcha in its basic powder form and preparing it at home just requires some water. However, there are ways to enjoy a nice cup of matcha during your snack break without sticking to regular tea. Blendy Stick is a common brand of instant coffee in Japan, but it also has packs of matcha latte available. It can be enjoyed hot or cold in convenient single-serve sachets and can be found in supermarkets and grocery stores.
As you travel, don’t forget to explore local stores and traditional Japanese sweet shops. Plenty of them are great places to find snacks and most carry a few flavored with matcha. If you really want a taste of Japan, look for sweets like daifuku (mochi filled with a sweet paste) or dango (a sweet rice dumpling) which can be infused with matcha. And be sure to pick up a few packages of pure matcha so you can add it to your own favorite snack recipes!
*Featured image by TY Lim via Shutterstock