Roasted peas and gyokuro tea
How much do you love your green tea?
If you're not sure of your response, the test is easy. Try the green tea healthy lunch set at Taka Tea Garden.
I'd always been intrigued by the lunch counter at Taka Tea Garden at World Square (for some reason marked as Rosa Tea House above the door despite all the Taka Tea Garden brochures inside). Sure the tins of loose tea leaves behind the counter sounded enticing, the vacuum-packed bags of superior green teas looked impressive, and the Japanese tea pots and drinking sets were unsurprisingly elegant and demurely stylish.
But it was the other side of the shop that always caught my attention. There a man stood whisking green tea for patrons, as they supped on a lunch of all things green tea. I had to try it, and I convinced Rebecca to join me.
Menu pagination isn't one of their strong points here. A jumble of words, photos and menu options was far too confusing to even attempt to comprehend, so I went for the easiest option and chose the most expensive: the green tea healthy lunch set for $15.00. It could only offer more food I figured, and besides, I was sure that I spotted the words "green tea cake" amongst the clutter.
A glazed ceramic dish with roasted peas was quickly presented to each of us. Unfortunately not flavoured with wasabi, but they made an addictive crunchy and salty snack whilst we waited.
Whilst our ochasuke was being prepared by a nodding quiet woman, our tea was being brewed with care. Boiling water was poured from a kettle into a glass bottle, almost as though it were being decanted, then poured over a strainer of gyokuro tea leaves into individual glass tea pots.
Gyokuro tea is apparently one of the top grades of Japanese green tea available. According to the Taka Garden website:
"The youngest leaf of the old tea plant is grown in the shade under a special cover for approximately 20 days before harvesting is commenced. Removing direct sunlight in this way has the effect of reducing soft leaf photosynthesis, which increases the proportions of sugars amino acids, flavanols and other substances responsible for fresh tea aroma and robust taste."
The tea was indeed delicious and complex in flavour. There was no bitterness at all, in fact it almost tasted sweet. The second brewing with fresh water was even better (the first brewing will always be more bitter than the second).
Ochasuke with salmon
Ochasuke is simply rice in green tea, and is commonly served at the end of a banquet. It is also popular as a late night snack, fed to the sick, or used as a hangover cure.
I choose the salmon version, Rebecca hasd the chicken.
Ochasuke with chicken
A light green tea broth is poured over a bowl of plain white rice. Roasted rice puffs added waves of sweet nuttiness. It's a simple dish that is both comforting and nourishing, the chopped green shallots providing health-giving clarity.
Close-up of salmon
The bowls are huge and swollen grains of rice are deceptively filling. Halfway through our bowls though, we do start to notice that our cups of tea no longer taste so strong, as our palates are awash with the flavour of green tea.
Green tea jelly
Dessert is a two stage affair. First up is a dish of green tea jelly (you can also choose red bean or taro). The firm squares of jelly--set with agar--don't taste much of green tea though, but it does look pretty with its pattern of swirls.
Matcha green tea cake
For stage two, I choose the green tea cake, a wedge of sponge that is as light and fluffy as a chiffon cake. There's not much matcha flavour to it though and it starts to feel a little dry partway through. I soon find myself secretly wishing for an accompanying scoop of ice cream (flavoured with green tea of course).
Green tea jelly with green tea on tofu
For her stage two dessert, Rebecca chooses the green tea tofu which turns out to be silken tofu topped with a scattering of matcha powder and a light sprinkling of rice puffs.
Silken tofu topped with matcha powder
Rebecca doesn't seem to be taken with this but I quite like it. It's like a Japanese version of do fu fah, the silken tofu in a sweet ginger syrup served at yum cha. It's also a dish that could quite easily be recreated at home, I ponder.
As we dissect our dining experience, I'm about to say "I wish there had been more green tea" when Rebecca says "Whoah, I think I'm a little green tea'd out".
It definitely wins points on novelty value and really, when you think about it, it's probably about as close to being a judge on Iron Chef (secret ingredient: green tea) as you'll ever get for a $15 outlay.
Taka Tea Garden at Rosa Tea House
World Square Shopping Centre
Shop 10.54, 644 George Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9268 0008
Open 7 days 10am-7pm (Thursdays until 9pm)
Taka Tea Garden Double Bay
320 New South Head Road, Double Bay, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9362 1777
Open Tuesday to Saturday 1pm-6pm
Taka Tea Garden Mid City Centre
Shop 313, Mid City Centre
197 Pitt Street, Sydney (George Street Entrance)
Tel: +61 (02) 9222 1577
Open 7 days 9am-6pm (Thursdays till 9pm).
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9/27/2006 11:57:00 pm