Like so many of our ancestors before us, many of us all well versed in the palate-stimulating properties of food. We are familiar with its integral relationship to the culture of a destination and I would like to think that we are increasingly being made aware of the health benefits and concerns around different food groups – but that is a debate for a different day. Certainly what I had never really clocked onto was the prophetic qualities of food…
A couple of years ago, I found myself in a predictable state of January blues with no confirmed travel plans for the year ahead. As I whiled away the wintery evenings with tasty cuisine at local restaurants, I ended up reviewing a local Argentinian restaurant that had opened up (one, I might add, which seems to have flagged in customer service since). 7 weeks later, I ended up in Argentina, watching Tango and indulging in dulce de leche at every opportunity. It seems my palate knew, even before my heart did, which destinations I was yearning to visit.
As time went by, I went on to twirl my chopsticks, sip on Hojicha tea and crave treacly miso glaze, as I have done ever since first discovering Japanese cuisine and never even imagining the winds would transport me eastwards.
We hear of the term, gold dust in fairytales but fine, green, elusive Matcha powder, with its soothing, calming qualities and hefty price tag, is perhaps the closest real life alternative I have found. Whilst its just-off bitter property is not to everyone’s liking, I have always considered it a welcome addition to the food and drink items in which it tends to feature.
Imagine my delight therefore when I learned that London Unravelled was now launching a matcha food tour in my hometown. This is niche in its truest definition but rather happily (for my taste buds and for tour guide Yannick’s creative concept), it was one I toppled right into.
To join me for the pilot tour, I grabbed my sister (my matcha in crime) and having previously been privy to his Piccdilly and Petit Fours Tour, I knew we were in for an afternoon of green treats and great conversation.
A Matcha Food Tour of London
As I am increasingly learning on Yannick’s food tours, you take home a lot more than calories, as you are almost guaranteed to step back on the underground wondering how on earth you could have walked these streets so many times over the years without even a morsel of the knowledge that he seems to possess about them.
Who even knew such colourful murals and quirky museums existed in the heart of Zone 1?
And, as a signature aspect of Yannick’s tours, we were led to undiscovered corners of the city that prove estuaries of calm exist even in the core of a heaving metropolis.
Sampling a cup of matcha latte on the tour was no surprise but the hip, relaxed café where it was served to us, as a resting point during the tour, enhanced the experience by boasting coffee art, soya milk alternatives, rosy red crockery and one of the most ornate vintage coffee machines in London (even if my sister did end up photographing the brand new modern one by mistake after hearing the anecdote!)
What did come as a surprise though was to observe the versatile ways in which London restaurants and cafes are embracing and innovating with matcha, which not so long ago I could only ever find in specialist Japanese shops around the city.
Since taking this tour, my newfound knowledge of the existence of a matcha croissant in London has brought out a disloyal side in me, as I now spot myself casting aside the almond, apricot and plain varieties in pursuit of the earthy, matcha alternative.
And the neatly carved slabs of matcha brownie with its dainty white chocolate snowdrops dispelled the notion of brownies always being dense, dark and sultry. Yannick had asked us whether we wanted to try the brownie or croissant and it didn’t take us long to realise we wanted both. Greed is an unattractive trait but there’s no denying that it leads to some insanely tasty exploits 😀
And our run of indulgent matcha treats had only just commenced. You’ve heard of the Cronut (croissant and doughnut combination) but have you heard of the biskie? No? Don’t worry, neither had I but believe me when I tell you that these squidgy round discs of heaven destroy the recovery prospects of all struggling dessert-holics by sandwiching together three of their weaknesses, the cake, the cookie and the biscuit.
Many people who are new to the food tour concept worry about portion sizes and feeling over-stuffed but from most of the food tours that I have experienced, generally, a real effort is made to get the balance right and after the more solid goodies mentioned so far, our lighter bites came in the form of a small matcha chocolate and a wafer thin matcha langue du chat biscuit from a serene Japanese bakery that oozes class from every inch of its premises.
Considering that this was a pilot tour, I have to say, this matcha food tour was exceptionally well run and the only technical glitch that arose was when our doughnut stop weren’t stocking their matcha flavour that day but we took one for the team and settled on the orange blossom instead – it’s a hard life when you still have another dozen or so flavours to choose from!
For those who have never tried it, matcha is a bit of an acquired taste and camps seem to be divided between those who cannot bear the thought of it to those who border on fanaticism for matcha, a club that my sister and I are proud to be part of. If you are the person who always looks at the dessert menu when you’re out for Japanese food, hoping to see matcha mochi, matcha ice cream or even something a little more creative scribbled on there, you need to be booking yourself onto this tour!
And, sure enough, the spell of prophecy worked its magic once again – approximately 6 months after I took this tour, I find myself packing for Japan at this very moment. Something tells me my matcha consumption is about to sky rocket!
Disclaimer: We were invited to the test-run of the matcha food tour at a discounted rate but my fondness for matcha and for Yannick’s tours were a done deal even before I arrived on this! All views, good or bad are entirely my own.