If you’ve ever seen a bright green drink sitting on the counter of your local coffee shop, then you’ve likely seen matcha — the current star of the tea world, praised for its health benefits and ability to provide caffeine without the jitters.
The finely ground green tea leaves date back centuries in countries like Japan and China and are traditionally combined with hot water to create matcha. In recent years, the tea has seen a spike in popularity on this side of the Pacific — and now, you can find matcha-flavored products (ice cream, doughnuts, cakes, lattes and even cocktails!) in just about every way and any cafe.
Some might find matcha’s grasslike flavor a bit too earthy on its own — but transformed into a dessert, along with common base flavors of vanilla and cream, it becomes an interesting bicultural progeny between European desserts and Asian flavor profiles.
Here are some of my favorite places to get matcha desserts around Seattle, ranked in order from lightest green tea flavor to strongest.
11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; 600 Fifth Ave. S., Seattle; inside Uwajimaya; dochicompany.com. (There’s also a location in Tukwila at 17348 Southcenter Parkway — inside Lam’s Seafood Market.)
If you’ve ever seen the fun bubblelike doughnuts floating around a Seattle food influencer’s Instagram profile, then you’ve likely seen Dochi’s doughnuts. Dochi stands for “mochi doughnut,” and they’re a Japanese take on the traditionally fried American doughnut. The bubble-ring shape of these sweet treats allows for easy sharing among friends (or yourself, no judgment here).
I recently tried the matcha s’mores dochi ($2.75), which had a pleasantly sweet flavor profile that reminded me of a classic vanilla glazed doughnut. The dochi carries a hint of marshmallow and graham cracker from the adornments affixed to the bubble ring with the light green matcha frosting. With a soft and chewy inside (thanks to the rice flour used), this matcha dochi is the perfect introduction to matcha desserts.
Noon-4 p.m. Tuesday, noon-6 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; 2224 N. 56th St., Seattle; instagram.com/hirokidesserts
Hiroki is a particularly quaint bakery in Wallingford. Jazz music drifts onto the street from the tiny cafe’s blue brick walls, and tables with wicker chairs line the entrance in true Parisian style. With overflowing flower baskets and an outdoor chalk menu, Hiroki entices guests inside before one has even sighted the glass display full of various cakes, cheesecakes and pastries.
Of course, I tried the green tea tiramisu ($6.75), their signature matcha dessert. With its delicate creaminess, this tiramisu carries a hint of cream cheese flavor along with green tea’s earthiness. Its light, melt-in-your-mouth goodness makes it the perfect matcha dessert for those who may want a less forward green tea flavor.
7 a.m.-2 p.m. daily; 1112 Fourth Ave., Seattle; tracemarketseattle.com
Matcha is commonly mixed with nutty flavors, a technique that highlights its earthy profile. The matcha coconut scone ($4) from TRACE Market is well balanced. The sugar and icing on top soften matcha’s natural bitterness, and the coconut flakes throughout add a unique textural element. This scone could easily be enjoyed alongside a matcha latte with almond or coconut milk to complement its base flavors.
Nana’s Green Tea
11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily; 1007 Stewart St., #103, Seattle; nanasgreenteaseattle.com
Think of Nana’s Green Tea as the ultimate mecca for matcha lovers. With just about every type of matcha in drink form (I’m talking hot, iced, blended or even combined with soda or ice cream) to various matcha concoctions, Nana’s has it all.
Jessmin Lau, owner of the Nana’s Green Tea in Seattle, brought the Japanese franchise to the United States in 2018. Lau says the brand is so popular in Japan it is similar to what Starbucks is to America. Today, the Seattle location is unique in more than one way — it’s the only Nana’s in the U.S., and it’s the only Nana’s in the world where one can find a matcha cream puff.
And find a matcha cream puff I did. On a recent visit to Nana’s, I tried two desserts — the matcha cream puff and matcha roll cake (both $5.75). The matcha cream puff is an explosion of matcha flavor. The top of the puff pastry is dusted with green tea powder, highlighting the nooks and crannies of the crackled cookie crumble crust. Inside the cream puff, the flaky layers of pastry create a delicate and airy pocket, perfect for the filling of bright green matcha cream. The matcha cream carries green tea’s traditional bitterness, as well as a hint of its oh-so-familiar grassy profile and nutty undertones. A bite of matcha cream and puff pastry is balanced and satisfying. If you’re a serious matcha lover, then the matcha cream puff is for you — out of all the desserts I tried, it had the strongest green tea flavor.
The matcha roll cake is satisfying to look at and even more satisfying to eat. Although it looks dense, the matcha cake proves to be light and fluffy. The sweet cream swirl tastes slightly of cream cheese, and it holds a dollop of super-concentrated matcha cream in the middle.
Lau’s decision to bring Nana’s to Seattle stemmed from her visit to a Nana’s in Japan. She says she didn’t even like matcha before she tried Nana’s — after all, she’s a huge coffee drinker. She knew that if the matcha-centered cafe could convert someone like her, then it would be successful.
In a city famous for its coffee, I think Lau had the right idea about introducing a new emerald wave.